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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Book of the week: If I Could Write This in Fire, by Michelle Cliff

We are a fragmented people. My experience as a writer coming from a culture of colonialism, a culture of Black people riven from one another, my struggle to achieve wholeness from fragmentation, while working within fragmentation, producing work which may find its strength in its depiction of fragmentation, through form as well as content, is similar to other writers whose origins are in countries defined by colonialism.

-- From "Journey into Speech", Michelle Cliff's introduction to If I Could Write This in Fire

Michelle Cliff is best known for her fiction--her novels Abeng, No Telephone to Heaven, and Free Enterprise, and her short story collection Bodies of Water. If I Could Write This in Fire is her first collection of non-fiction--and the Antilles book of the week.

From her publisher's website:

In her first book-length collection of nonfiction, Cliff displays the same poetic intensity, interweaving reflections on her life in Jamaica, England, and the United States with a powerful and sustained critique of racism, homophobia, and social injustice. If I Could Write This in Fire begins by tracing her transatlantic journey from Jamaica to England, coalescing around a graceful, elliptical account of her childhood friendship with Zoe, who is dark-skinned and from an impoverished, rural background; the divergent life courses that each is forced to take; and the class and color tensions that shape their lives as adults. The personal is interspersed with fragments of Jamaica’s history and the plight of people of color living both under imperial rule and in contemporary Britain.

You can read an excerpt from If I Could Write This in Fire and a short review here, at the NPR website.

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