The above excerpt is from "My Jamaican Touch," the last story in Geoffrey Philp's latest collection of short stories titled Who's Your Daddy? And Other Stories. Two things in those lines made me pause and also dictated how I'd begin talking/writing about the collection.
The first is the statement about what happens when we (West Indians/Caribbean people) come to America. The inference is that we become changed regarding how we view money and the people we think have "made it" here in the United States. Some of the conflicts in the stories that are based in the United States concern the immigrant characters' experiences with the American dream (i.e., the belief that one can come to America with little or nothing and via the opportunities offered, become financially successful).
The second thing about the excerpt that drew my attention is the perception that being published (in some cases many times) somehow makes a person wealthy. In actuality of course, the number of writers who can live comfortably off their royalties is quite small compared to the number of writers in existence and the number of books published every year. It is the savvy writer then, who constantly does what it takes to attract, promote, and keep his or her audience interested and willing to buy and share the news about his or her work.
Today Geoffrey Philp will be reading from the collection and will be interacting with a mostly Caribbean/West Indian audience in New York, many of whom will surely become new fans of his. That's the kind of networking the savvy writer does; he doesn't sit back and publish and wait for the wealth to come on in. And even so (as many new and not so new writers have attested), the wealth isn't a guarantee. Many say they write for the love of it, not for the hope of riches.
But maybe a book's / a writer's riches can be quantified in other ways than money. Nevertheless, here are 10 reasons why Geoffrey Philp's Who's Your Daddy? And Other Stories is worth a read (and your money, of course):
1. It's funny. Sometimes the humor will cause you to shake your head and smile, and other times you'll laugh til you cry. No lie.
2. You'll read about folks in thought-provoking, discussion-provoking moral conflicts.
3. You'll appreciate the well-crafted narratives that grab you in from the first line, shake you, amuse you, disturb you, arouse you, and make you think, long after you've read the last line.
4. You'll appreciate the sometimes fluid crossings back and forth between Florida and the Caribbean (Jamaica mostly). A character or two will pack up traps and go back (so to speak) and do so (seemingly) with few adjustment problems. (A little too hard for me to believe, but some of you may find it optimistic or hopeful).
5. The stories about kinship ranging from good to severely problematic will be identifiable to many.
6. The characters' up and down experiences with the American dream will either be familiar to many or will be good learning experiences for others.
7. You'll be entertained, moved by (embarrassed to identify with) stories about forbidden love, clandestine love, jump-out-the-window-the-husband-coming love, and other stories of the heart (or of other organs).
8. You'll appreciate the occasional extra-literary devices (rolling calf, vampire, e.t.c.) that are used to explain the world in which we live, rather than give in to its mysteries.
9. You'll be engaged by many of the stories' characters who speak in a language--part patois, part Brito-American, part sheer wutlissness--we Caribbean people in the diaspora are forever changing and adapting to suit our environments.
10. The author, Geoffrey Philp, makes an entertaining appearance.
One of the most important lessons to be learned about the American dream is that you have to try and find a version of it that works for you if the original script doesn't fit. And part of my particular version of it is realizing and celebrating the riches I have gotten from the things I like doing...things that don't necessarily give me (haven't brought me) financial success. One of those riches is being part of the growing Caribbean book network (to give it a name) where I met Geoffrey Philp. But that's not the reason why I am recommending his book. I'm doing so because it's good solid creative work.
And if you'd like to read it for yourself, I'm offering a copy to the first commenter on this post.
Who's Your Daddy? And Other Stories, by Geoffrey Philp (Peepal Tree Press Ltd, 2009, 160 pp).