'Beautiful Blues' (Vanguard Editions Social Action, 2017)
Vanguard Editions is committed to publishing books that support and promote marginal voices. To that end, we will publish books under the Vanguard Editions Social Action imprint. This is the first in that series. Thanks Jacqueline Crooks and Jacob Ross for the hard work you have put into this book. It's amazing. This book is funded by the Arts Council of England.
from the Foreword
I've seen numerous initiatives aimed at recording the oral biographies of older Caribbean pioneers － the generation that came to the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 1960s to play a critical (though often overlooked) role in rebuilding post-World War II Britain. Beautiful Blues is simply the most fully-realised anthology of its kind I’ve seen and I must admit to a sense of being privileged while editing and reviewing the six luminous lives so richly represented here. I’ve been struck by the quality of attention, and the sensitivity with which these elderly West Indians have been listened to and transcribed by Jacqueline Crooks.
There is also a lyricism here that derives partly from nostalgia, and partly from the striving of these elders to get at the heart of their experience, and to present it in a deep and sincere way. They are stories from humans who are in the twilight of their lives (the average age is 80), who look back in wonderment － oftentimes astonishment － at their journeys. They do so with humour and acknowledgment of a sustaining spirituality that has seen them through the toughest times.
Richard Skinner’s extract from from his forthcoming novel The Darks and Desiree Reynolds’ "Rain Falling" are explorations by a far younger generation of the fictional possibilities of the lives of those who have come before them. Skinner imagines the arrival of a West Indian - who could easily have been one of the elders in this anthology – and the sense of isolation and displacement they must have all felt in the early days of their being in England. Desiree Reynolds’ "Rain Falling" offers an insight into one of the people who was left behind, or who chose not to make the transatlantic journey. He, like the people in this anthology, is now an old man. We see the disconnect that time and distance have created between him and his visiting relatives. There is an encouraging and growing tradition of a younger generation of writers mining this heritage to stunning literary effect – Andrea Levy’s Small Island; Jacqueline Crook’s The Ice Migration; Leone Ross’s Love, Silk, Food, etc.
In the editing and reviewing process, I found myself thinking that everyone should read these stories for the sheer beauty of the telling and the powerful lessons in forbearance and overcoming they offer up to us.
pp.46 / £5 incl. p&p (please add £4 for outside the UK)
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