Kei Miller | Jamaica
This is probably the most hard-to-find book on the planet! After many months of searching, I was able to get my hands on this out-of-print classic from Kei Miller, his first collection of short stories, and his second published book. Fear of Stones and Other Stories was published as part of the Macmillan Caribbean Writers Series that included novels, plays, non-fiction, and short story collections written by Caribbean authors. Miller’s anthology is a collection of twelve short stories centered in Jamaica.
Though I haven’t read many of his books, I feel this this collection establishes his writing that focuses on the outcasts and poor of Jamaican society. These stories look at the lives and fears of the closeted homosexual, the overweight woman looking for love, the loner young man turned gunman, the Rastafarian seeking redemption from an oppressive society, and many more. But he also examines the mores and customs of Jamaican culture (the undertaker and the shoes!) as well as events that spotlight the religious fervor of his characters. This book is probably where Miller began to explore themes that he grew up with and incorporated into his writing.
Is this Miller’s best writing? I don’t think so. Are the stories intriguing? Yes, I feel that they are, but I can also see where the finesse of his writing that is prevalent in Augustown, is still in development in Fear of Stones. If you’ve read his later books, don’t go into reading this one expecting the same writing style. It’s there in this book, but it’s not completely polished. Keep in mind, like everyone else who is growing and learning, that this is his first published book that isn’t poetry.
However, if you’re a fan of his writing like I am, get this book to experience not only his exploration of Jamaican culture and the plight of his characters, but the trajectory of his writing style from novice to expert.