The verdict was in: my irons-his-underwear, Lysol-loving, doesn’t-smoke-anything, short-haired Type A new boyfriend wasn’t “what [my friends] expected” when they heard I was dating a Jamaican guy. When they met and got to know him: “Ok, NOW it makes sense – you guys are a lot alike!” We’re still married, so I guess they had a point.
Rasta Bob Marley was a groundbreaking musician who definitely put reggae and Jamaica on the modern map. (The Caribbean isn’t the South Pacific, but… like most Americans can pick out a small island country). However as a white girl from New England, I say with confidence: Bob Marley was no typical Jamaican. Rastas are maybe 10% of Jamaica’s population. My Jamaican relatives and friends seem to regard them as – at best – unshowered weirdos who are good for tourism. When we lived in a largely Jamaican neighborhood, my son and I encountered more than a few Rastas who don’t appear to buy into One Love.
In short, if I were to stereotype Jamaicans based on the ones in my life, “mellow” isn’t a word I’d use.
So teaching my kids to be knowledgeable and proud of that part of their heritage, means being a little more creative.
Anansi the trickster spider is hardly an obscure character if you’re familiar with Jamaican folklore. And to be clear, he’s more unique to “West Africa and the Caribbean” vs just Jamaica. But I was in a used bookstore on Bob Marley’s birthday immediately after a frustrating job interview. I was destined to drop $2 to educate my kids (and possibly improve my next book).
It’s sad I had to find Anansi so randomly and probably out of print, but… isn’t that a big reason I started writing?
My six-year-old son wasn’t interested in a word of my spiel about “Jamaican art outside Bob Marley”. I mean… I was holding a book about an obnoxious, giant bug.
“Right, Mom. I am proud! Let’s read about the spider who plays tricks on people.”
Well-played little man. 💖