Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 27th 2014 Contents A A C A
The inaugural issue of Susumba s Book
Bag, a digital quarterly literary magazine
based in Jamaica, was launched in June
2014. The Book Bag is the official mag-
azine publication of the contemporary
art and culture blog Susumba (which, in
turn, is named after a bitter Jamaican
bean). Issue One contains poetry and
prose fiction from Trinidad, Jamaica,
Antigua and Dominica, as well as writing
from the Caribbean diaspora.
In an e-mail interview, Book Bag s edi-
tor-in-chief Tanya Batson-Savage cited
multiple reasons behind her impetus to
establish the magazine.
"I was in part inspired to start the mag-
azine by the passing of Wayne Brown,
whom Jamaica borrowed from Trinidad
for so many years and who made such a
marked impact on our literary landscape,"
said Batson-Savage. She added that the
time was ripe for the emergence of new
literary endeavours, and attested that "this
is a very fecund moment in Caribbean lit-
erary history," as evidenced by the strength
of the yearly NGC Bocas Lit Fest in
Trinidad, and the biennial Calabash Inter-
national Literary Festival in Jamaica.
The work of Trinidadian Sharon Millar
opens Issue One of the magazine. Millar,
described by Batson-Savage as an impor-
tant emerging voice in Caribbean literature,
was the co-winner of the 2013 Common-
wealth Short Story Prize. Her story in the
Book Bag, entitled The Gayelle, is set in
the rural, forested village of Sangre Chiq-
uito, and centres on a small family devoted
to raising and training fighting roosters.
In The Gayelle, Millar writes: "Mannie s
mother knows of the things that live in
the forest and she worries about the souls
of the tiny babies that lie buried under
the silk cotton tree. When she finds the
shattered shells of the water crabs, the
red manicou crabs that come from the
mountain rivers, she visits the old woman
in the market to buy blue soap. She lathers
Mannie with the thin foam from the blue
balls and she untangles her mother s chap-
let and places it over the small cross around
Mannie s neck. No risk can be taken with
Baston-Savage expressed delight that
the range of contributors in Issue One
represented a diverse cross-section of
Caribbean voices, including some writers
whose work was previously unpublished.
Susumba s Book Bag, she said, seeks to
"provide a space where writers, regardless
of the stage in their career, can showcase
Issue One s featured writer is the
Jamaican author, Roland Watson-Grant,
whose novels Sketcher (2013) and Skid
(2014) are published by Alma Books. In
his interview with Batson-Savage, Wat-
son-Grant declares the need to escape the
reductive labels that cling to stock
Criticising the "Maas Joe" figure, Wat-
son-Grant says, "A lot of times if you
watch certain commercials you think we re
all coconut vendors with really white teeth.
A lot of times we see ourselves through
the eyes of people who see us and roman-
ticise us. [...] I don t think writers should
be influenced by the Tourist Board vision
of what their country is."
Other contributions to the inaugural
issue of the Book Bag include prose from
Geoffrey Philp and Dara Wilkinson, as
well as poetry from Andrew Stone and
The issue s cover art---a drawing of
Jamaican founding father Alexander Bus-
tamante smoking a spliff---is designed by
Jamaica-based illustrator, Matthew
McCarthy. Of the art and its creator, Bat-
son-Savage said, "It features a depiction
of Bad Friday, a critical moment in Rasta-
fari history, and a shameful moment in
Jamaica s. McCarthy represents an artist
who is willing to make bold statements
about the society and has a quirky sense
of humour while doing it."
Susumba s Book Bag is preparing to
open its call for submissions for Issue
Two, and will be accepting entries of poet-
ry, fiction and flash fiction. "We are looking
for heady stuff, for writing that ignites,"
Batson-Savage said, describing The Book
Bag as "a space for high grade writing."
The magazine s editor-in-chief looks
forward to the future of the Book Bag,
explaining that the digital format and dis-
tribution of the magazine "frees you from
the economic dictatorship of print, which
in an environment where funding options
are scarce, is a great benefit." Batson-Sav-
age concluded that "there are no islands
in cyberspace; we re all connected by a
hop, skip and click of the mouse."
July 27, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
BB AC B
The 100-Foot Journey, our July Sunday Arts Sec-
tion (SAS) Book Club choice, proves that even a
short journey can be the most meaningful journey
of your life. When the Haji family flees India and
England and decide to carry on their family restau-
rant in the French village of Lumière, the family
learns that the most important journey of their
lives might just be right across the street, where a
proud old Frenchwoman has a competing French
Using the metaphor of food and cooking, the author
recreates that journey we all take in life as we strive
to define ourselves and who we are in this world.
The Haji family learns that sometimes you have to
stand your ground and just believe that a rich foun-
dation in tradition will see you through times of trou-
ble.At the same time, Hassan, the narrator of his own
story, learns that sometimes you have to branch out
from the tradition that defines you and embrace new
experiences---like the professional relationship with
This is a moving vision of what it is to step out
of your comfort zone and confront prejudice.
Throughout The Hundred-Foot Journey, the Haji
family proves that the best experiences in life are the
simple joys: good food, close families, a fulfilling job.
The beauty of the book is the many lessons wrapped
up in the Haji family adventures: knowing when to
walk away from conflict and knowing when to con-
front a situation; knowing when to leave a place and
when to dig your heels in and settle; recognising
opportunity and being able to carry through with
The Hundred-Foot Journey also shows how to put
relationships in our lives in perspective, storing fond
memories in their rightful place without living in the
The characters are often based on stereotypic
images, but one of the great joys of this novel is to
witness the transformation of characters as they grow
beyond their cultural and personal boundaries.
Every metaphor in the book---or so it seems---is
created from food. What is most miraculous is that
the detailed food descriptions, anecdotes and endless
metaphors about food don t get in the way of a sur-
prising plot with unexpected twists and turns. There
is much to savour in this culinary journey.
As Chef Verdun says, "We toil and toil and nothing
we do is as grand as the simple things in life."
Isn t that the truth.
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