What book reveals a Kingston that Kingstonians don’t know?
Kerry Young’s “Pao.”
Don’t be surprised for those who didn’t know that Kingston once had a Chinatown: Chances are high your Jamaican friends have never heard of it either. Within the mid-1800s, tons of of Chinese immigrants were shipped to Jamaica to make up for the post-emancipation labor shortage, and, as happened in all places they landed, they built their very own neighborhood to survive. The novel opens in 1938, 100 years after the abolition of slavery but a long time before independence, in a Jamaica no one would recognize today. Pao, the book’s namesake, flees the Chinese Civil War to land in Kingston and faces no prospects and little future. Quick as a stray thought, he turns to small-time racketeering and petty crime, eventually rising to change into the Godfather of Kingston’s Chinatown. But Pao is not any odd gangster, and the humanity he shows doesn’t fit with the brutality he needs. Kingston is not any odd city either, throwing off its colonial past but hurtling toward an uncertain future — what’s the place of a Chinese man on this latest order? There’s little or no trace of this Chinatown in the town that survives, however the novel takes the reader back to when it was each tumultuously and thrillingly alive.
Kingston is all the time changing. Kingston is stubbornly the identical. To know this city is to comprehend that each statements are all the time true.
Marlon James’s Kingston Reading List
“Summer Lightning and Other Stories,” Olive Senior
“Heartease,” Lorna Goodison
“The Pagoda,” Patricia Powell
“Brother Man,” Roger Mais
“The Marvelous Equations of the Dread,” Marcia Douglas
“Wide Sargasso Sea,” Jean Rhys
“The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament,” Orlando Patterson
“Augustown,” Kei Miller
“Here Comes the Sun,” Nicole Dennis-Benn
“Pao,” Kerry Young
Marlon James is the writer of 5 novels, including “A Temporary History of Seven Killings,” about politically tinged gang violence in Jamaica, which won the 2015 Booker Prize, and “The Book of Night Women,” about an enslaved woman on a sugar plantation in 18th-century Jamaica, which was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award, amongst other accolades.