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Calabash 2012 Gives Taste of Commonwealth Prize 2012

Olive Senior

In 2007, the Calabash International Literary Festival teamed up with the Commonwealth Writers Prize so that the 2007 awards were announced at that year’s festival.  While a repeat is not slated to occur in 2012, audiences at this year’s Calabash will get a taste of the the CW Prize as three of the writers, Olive Senior, Alecia McKenzie and Kerry Young, shortlisted for the CW Book Prize 2012 are among the readers slated to converge on the black sands of Treasure Beach.
Calabash 2012 takes place under the theme Jubilation, and the presence of these three writers suggest that Jamaica has more than its 50th year of independence to celebrate. Senior, McKenzie and Young are all members of the Jamaican writing Diaspora. The triple nomination of writers in the much coveted CW Prize, to be announce in June 2012, is a good indication for the strength of writers coming from the island. Of course their presence in the Diaspora highlights that writing, or rather publishing from the Caribbean homeland remains a difficult task. Indeed, of the three shortlisted writers, McKenzie is the only one who was entered under the Caribbean region, with Senior and Young both being entered under their curren t homelands.


Alecia McKenzie is the sole writer shortlisted for the Caribbean region, for her first novel Sweetheart, published by Peepal Tree Press. Her other works include Stories from Yard,  the novella for young readers When the Rain Stopped in Natland, and Doctor’s Orders. McKenzie already has a CW Prize under her belt having earned the regional prize for Best First Book with her first collection of short stories Satellite City. Born in Jamaica, she has has set down roots in numerous locals including the US, England, Alecia McKenzieBelgium, Singapore and France, where she currently lives. McKenzie is also an artist and journalist.


Senior’s first novel, Dancing Lessons, is has also been shortlisted for the CW 2012 Prize but she too has previously copped a Commonwealth Writing  Prize. Senior’s first collection of short stories, Summer Lightning, won the inaugural CW Prize for Best Book.  A celebrate poet, author and writer or non-fiction, Senior’s collection of poetry Over the Roofs of the World was a finalist for Canada’s Governor General Award. Her first children’s book, Birthday Suit, was recently published by Annick Press. Senior is also the recipient of the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Gold Medal and is the author of the seminal work, The Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage.

Kerry Young’s first novel Pao is among the books vying for the regional prize for Europe and Canada and ultimately the CW Best Book Prize. Published by Bloomsbury,  Pao is set in Jamaica’s underworld, and was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the East Midlands Book Award 2011. Young, born in Kingston, migrated England where she now lives at 10 years-old. Kerry has a long history of non-fiction writing and editing and is currently completing her sophomore novel Gloria.
The slew of authors, poets and performers for this year festival also includes the highly acclaimed Chimamanda Adichie, who won the CW Prize for her novel Purple Hibiscus (2005). Purple Hibiscus also copped the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Adichie’s second novel Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize (2007) and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Other celebrated writers for Calabash 2012 include Orlando Patterson (Children of Sisyphus and An Absence of Ruins), poet Kevin Young (The Grey Album and For the Confederate Dead), and Carolyn Forche (The Angel of History and Blue Hour). Calabash 2012 takes place at Jakes, Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, May 25 - 27, 2012.