Migration placed Rosetta Jamieson-Thomas’ dream of getting published on hold. More than 20 years passed before her daughter re-read her 500-page manuscript and encouraged her to publish the story. Now, with five published books between them, the mother-daughter pair is sharing their experience to empower other Caribbean writers to pursue their dream of becoming published authors in the American marketplace.
“We’re inviting aspiring writers to meet us at the Flatbush Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, June 26, at noon for a celebration of Caribbean culture,” said Rosetta. “We bring our culture to life through the stories we write and leave as a legacy to future generations, particularly those raised in the United States.”
The market for fiction by and about multi-cultural Americans has grown in recent years, but few Caribbean authors have secured contracts with major publishing companies. Among them are Edwidge Danticat, a multiple award winning Haitian-born author, whose work has been featured on Oprah, and Jamaican-born author Colin Channer, a founder of the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica which recently marked its tenth year. Countless other Caribbean authors have been writing and self-publishing their stories.
The mother-daughter pair has published four novels. Rosetta’s debut novel is an epic love story set on the island of Jamaica that weaves together the universal struggles of race and class. The title, “Centre of the Labyrinth,” refers to the maze the main characters find themselves lost in when they fall in love with each other, but the existing social structure threatens to keep them apart.
“The first time I met with an agent in New York to try to get the story published, she wanted me to rewrite all the dialogue in grammatically correct English, removing the Jamaican dialect,” Rosetta explained. “This is one of the challenges Caribbean authors face when they try to publish their stories in the American marketplace. Yet, there are ways to maintain a Caribbean voice when we write and still tell a story that Americans and readers of all backgrounds can understand.”
Rosetta’s novels are popular with readers of various nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Her daughter, Shauna Jamieson Carty, worked as Rosetta’s publicist before publishing her own novels. She was inspired by her mother’s success. With the image of her mother typing the pages of her first novel on a typewriter on their back verandah in Jamaica while her father was at work etched in her memory, she pressed on.
“As children, my brothers and I could hardly wait to read the pages,” Shauna said. “I re-read the story as an adult and felt it was of the same caliber of literature as the great American classics—only that this was a great Caribbean classic. God made a way for us to finally get it published.”
Caribbean writers who live in the United States often write from a cross cultural experience. They unite the memory of life in their native country with their migration experience and their life in the United States. Rosetta’s second novel, “A Margin of Hope,” captures one such migration story that begins on the island of Jamaica and follows the main characters to Florida and New York, where they struggle to forge a life for themselves and their son who has autism.
Shauna’s debut novel, About Wendy, and its sequel, Cover Me: The College Years, is aimed at teenage and young adult readers, and the dialogue in the novels reflects their vernacular. “I would describe the main character as being JA-American, a term often used to describe people who live in the United States but maintain a strong Jamaican heritage,” Shauna said. She and her husband Ricardo Carty also write By Faith, a monthly inspirational column which they publish online. “Caribbean immigrants are usually praying people who work hard to carve out a place for ourselves in American society. We have to apply that same faith and tenacity to publishing our stories in the American marketplace.”
All of the authors’ books will be on sale at a discounted price at the booksigning and empowerment session on Saturday, June 26 at the Flatbush Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, from noon to 4:00 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Brooklyn Public Library’s Support Our Shelves Campaign.