An introductory reading to ‘Becoming Bessy’, a historical romance set in the Caribbean where I was born and raised.
This is a ‘women’s fiction’ coming of age story, a romance … yes, but also a redemptive story of becoming both for a young woman and the fledgling shoots of a post-emancipatory colonial society within which her very soul is embedded.
‘There is a thin veil’, that’s what Mama used to say,
‘like the rarest of silk, separating the seen from the unseen,
the living from the dead, us from our ancestors.’
And, no matter what form this veil takes, it is there all the same,
like mist on a lake at dawn
or the wafting of holy smoke in dem people’s church.
All you need do is hold on to it,
and get to turnin’ some good outta all that bad.
This story is testimony to that kind of faith.
A story of becoming.
One woman’s journey from the edges of Empire to the mother country and back again.
A story of struggle, of loss, of nation-building and ultimately
… a story of redemptive love.
“Who would’ve thought it would end this way?
Mama’s voice whispered in my head.”
“Don’t forget to write it down, Bessy.
Less people forget.
So dat long after we dead and gone,
passed to dat other side,
dis story gonna take on wings of its own … and fly.”
Set at the end of the nineteenth century, in the fictional island of Castells in the West Indies,
‘Becoming Bessy’ is a post-emancipation diasporic story of a girl’s journey to womanhood
at a time of Empire and early nation-building.