Kei Miller | Jamaica
It’s hard not to have anything but respect for Kei Miller’s writing. When an author has multiple books, I tend not to fuss on which book I start reading first but with Miller I felt the need to be strategic. I took my time researching the books I was interested in and waited until I collected certain titles before I began reading. For some reason, there was just a certain level of care I wanted to give to his work that made me choose my first book from him wisely.
Augustown is a story that looks at some of the societal issues in Jamaican culture that affect the lower income, mostly black residents of this valley. But to make things interesting, there are light skinned, upperclass residents living on a hill that overlooks Augustown, whose affluence juxtaposes against the poverty of those living geographically beneath them. There also exists animosity between law enforcement (Babylon) and the young men who continuously challenge them.
From Ma Taffy to Mr Saint-Josephs to Gina to Clarky to Alexander Bedward. I love the story telling, the history, the exploration of class, race, skin color, violence, community, and religion. Miller does a masterful job at weaving all of these voices and themes into this one small place. There is such depth and authenticity and familiarity, because all of these characters have a legitimate place and space in this narrative.
The concept of the flying preacherman and his role in uplifting his followers is such a powerful narrative and I found that, in conjunction with the discrimination and persecution of the Rastafarians in Augustown, there’s a freedom that everyone is searching for in this place. And when everything reached a crescendo, the final reckoning left me with a tragic feeling.
If you run a bookclub, this book will generate all kinds of interesting conversation. Miller didn’t just rip off the plaster to examine the ugliness of the scar underneath the surface of Augustown, he fully immerses you in the despair, the untapped potential, the anger, and the ignorance of some who are blinded by their own accomplishments. I fully intend to read more of Miller’s work.
First published: 2016
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August Town was also my first book from Kei Miller, and it most certainly won’t be the last.