Reviews praise ‘The Moon Has Its Secrets’

by Barbara Blake Hannah

coverThe hardest part of being an author is waiting to hear what readers think of your work. You, of course, think it’s the greatest literature since … well, whoever! But deep down you know that you need to hear other opinions before you can be sure that you were not wasting time and creative anxiety putting all those words together, with a storyline, characters, drama, tension and eventual resolution, and then being confident enough to publish it to the world.

That was my condition when I celebrated Jamaican Independence August 1st, 2014 by publishing ‘THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS’ on Amazon.com, through its innovative e-publishing portal CreateSpace.  Since then my anxiety has subsided somewhat as — one by one — comments have been coming in that are positive enough to have enabled me to heave a sigh of relief.

Claudette Beckford-Brady, a Jamaican raised in England who is herself an author of 4 novels, wrote a Customer Review at Amazon.com:

“Not much is historically known about Jamaica’s only female hero, Nanny of the Maroons, affectionately referred to as Grandy Nanny by Jamaicans, but this novel by Barbara Makeda Blake Hanna is a credible depiction of her story. An interesting and entertaining fictionalised account, it begins in Africa in the 1600s chronicling the story of a young girl captured by slave traders and brought to Jamaica, and continues with the stories of her female descendants over several centuries, culminating in the 1970s with a white British girl seeking to find her slave ancestor, and illustrating Jamaica’s motto, “Out of many, one People”. … This fascinating novel “The Moon has its Secrets” speaks to her talent as a writer and should be required reading for all Jamaicans, and particularly high school students. It would also be good to see this book turned into a movie.”

brady bookIt’s a singular honour to be praised by another author, especially one whose work I respect as I do Claudette’s. Check out ‘YARD AND ABROAD’,  her new collection of short stories set in Britain and Jamaica,  full of amusing, poignant and entertaining scenes of both countries.

flakoIt’s an equal honour to have my work endorsed by a leading Rastafari Elder, historian Ras Flako whose books on the Coral Gardens incident are an accurate record of the gross acts of injustice that happened when a private act of revenge was turned into a wave of government brutality against any man professing the Rastafari faith.

Ras Flako wrote of my book: “The Moon Has Its Secrets” captures the many horrors of captivity and inhuman treatment by ones supposed to be humans themselves. The book also shows the willpower of human endurance against stockpiled odds and the yearning to be free.There are many lessons to be learned from this book, as many are still trapped in mental slavery and have completely ignored their roots and their allegiance to mother Africa because they are born in the Diaspora.”

connollyINVITING COMPARISONS      Jamaican journalist Michael Conally, now running a successful PR agency in London, also gave his opinion. “The Moon Has Its Secrets tells a compelling story, one which draws in selected parts of Jamaica’s wide cultural mix and weaves a story around characters hung together by history, ancestry and drama, connecting the past to the present and perhaps painting a signpost to the future. It is a book that, genre wise, will invite comparisons with historical slave novels but that would be an unfair box to plop it in.”

geisterCanadian film maker and TV director Michele Geister, who lives in Jamaica with her two children, made a lengthy review:  “Finally a new novel that is the first to celebrate the legacy of the island’s iconic, sole female national hero: Nanny of the Maroons. “The Moon Has Its Secrets” is eloquently drawn from Jamaica’s complicated, yet rich and fascinating history. Knowledge about this warrior queen exists only as legend so many thanks are due to the author for constructing a most feasible scenario for Nanny’s life.

Accomplished filmmaker, journalist and novelist Barbara Blake-Hannah has created an important work, weaving the country’s gritty, turbulent heritage and folklore into an adventurous page turner via the lives of five Jamaican women across the ages. Readers are taken on an intricately detailed journey of a nation’s maturation into self-awareness commencing with the horrors of Africa;s 17th century slave to colonialism then independence and all the way to the 1970’s international emergence of the Rastafari movement.

It is wonderful that this story is told from the female perspective as the country’s matriarchal lineage was/is Jamaica’s silent, unheralded strength.  The many annotated academic references heighten the experience of Blake-Hannah’s honest look back that is nuanced with feminine mysticism.  This book is a must have for all Jamaicans, high school students, visitors and lovers of this Caribbean island and its citizens’ feisty zest for life.

Nanny-of-the-MaroonsEMOTIONAL  REVIEW           Certainly, the most emotional review came from a US-based FaceBook friend, who had kept me informed with delightful comments as she read the first few chapters.  Then I didn’t hear from her for a while, until she sent this message:

“Blessings B.Makeda! Your book “the moon has its secrets” is forever united with me strong and even painfully,because first of all it touch my heart and soul from word one and secondly because it was my company during the last days of my beloved mother who has just left me little over a week. I was day and night at her bedside (she became almost 98, a history book herself) and at times she was sleeping I was reading thru…..finished the book little b4 she , as I want to say, flew away, because she always wanted to fly…..you see the connection how the book moved me? Just tellin u. When I am back on my feet and have my brain functioning proper I ll write the review on amazon….but I need some time now to get over this loss of my mom, a person that has always been there, all my life…….Highest Respect to you one love”

I was so startled. I wrote her back: “Wow!!! This is better than a ‘review’. I am so glad my book kept you company with your mother’s flight to Paradise!!! As the book showed you, she is just waiting to embrace you while you are still in flesh. Commune with her always, her spirit is real. Be comforted that JAH sent the book to keep you company. Your mother has good company with Nanny, who stayed with you both to the end. Never forget the spirit world. It’s real when the spirit is formed by LOVE.”

She wrote me back:  “This is such a beautiful picture!!!! Thank you, it imprint in mi mind and helps me…..I hope she can meet and reason with all these blessed elders that passed away lately …….some real great people leaving this earth rite now, isn´t it……. autumn leaves are letting loose of their trees, wild geese are gathering to fly to Africa….and all Mandela there too…… str8″

Definitely my favourite review!

nanny falls
Nanny Falls, Portland

THE MOON HAS ITS SECRETS is available by Kindle download or by ordering a paperback copy at Amazon.com.

(c) Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jamaica – Ian Fleming’s Lasting Love Affair

goldeneye-cover-lg

Matthew Parker’s biography “GOLDENEYE – Where Bond Was Born; Ian Fleming’s Jamaica” is as much about the noted author as it is about Jamaica’s history between the end of colonialism and the start of Independence. Parker’s book is a refresher course of all the interesting and important events that took place during this important period of our national history and he reports well on Jamaican people, places and events of the time in a vivid description of the island’s mix of wealthy English residents, snobbish Jamaican Whites holding on to the tatters of Empire, and the Black patriots and political leaders whose actions led to Jamaica today.

Most of all, the book shows the great love Ian Fleming had for Jamaica. It was not just the place where he wrote his books. Jamaica, and his simple home Goldeneye were the true and deepest loves of Fleming’s life. The small beach below his house, the sea in which he was as much at home as on land and where his daily adventures were catching fish for lunch and challenging barracudas, moray eels and sharks, indeed the entire country itself were the only places where Fleming felt truly at home.

MEMORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE             Falling in love with Jamaica after his first visit as a British Intelligence officer in 1942, in 1946 Fleming bought land and a small strip of beach at Oracabessa and on it built a simple house where he lived as often as he could escape his life in England, hosting occasional visitors including playwright Noel Coward who became neighbour and a close friend, British aristocracy including his wife Ann (former Countess Rothemere) and eventually British PM Sir Antony Eden recovering from the disaster of Britain’s failed attack on the Suez Canal. Economic needs made him turn his travels and writing experience into a series of books that served not only to pay his bills, but which came to be the dramatic fantasies that kept alive the last embers of the fading British Empire through a hero who embodied the noble and heroic qualities that had built England into a world force.

DrNoBondJamaica is always depicted as the place where Bond would find a welcome and rest from his adventures and, in the stories with Jamaican locations — “Doctor No” and “The Man With the Golden Gun” — the place that refreshes his life.  “As ever,” Parker writes, “Bond is soothed and reinvigorated by Jamaica … while listening to cicadas singing from the lignum vitae tree.  For Fleming, Jamaica evokes fond memories of his many assignments and adventures on the island … for him Jamaica was the oldest and most romantic of former British possessions.”

Fleming kept the house simple to escape the social circle of the times that included the English colonial governors, relics of an era now fortunately long gone. Also pictured are the wealthy White Jamaicans and British millionaires with palatial homes for winter visits, maintaining a thin crust of upper-class pretentiousness and racial superiority, while ignoring the very real Jamaica that was developing around them.

RECORD OF JAMAICA’S TRANSITION             Parker’s carefully researched book is full of excerpts from Fleming’s personal letters, as well as those of his wife and friends. Through these we get a clear picture of a man who, despite his love of women, clearly preferred his own company, writing each morning as a ritual, then satisfying his love of the sea with snorkel, flipper and spear gun,  with which he regularly used to catch meals of fish and lobster. His wife Ann liked neither the sea nor the house, quite the opposite of Blanche Blackwell – his Jamaican lover in whom he found the perfect person to share Goldeneye with, whether Ann was there or not.

For me, the strength of Parker’s book is its value as a record of Jamaica’s transition from colonialism to Independence. He traces the development of Jamaica’s tourist industry that was highly influenced by the attraction to Fleming’s Goldeneye and Coward’s Blue Harbour home of a long list of famous Hollywood and British film and stage stars, citing this activity as a major factor in the building of North Coast hotels such as Tower Isle near Oracabessa, Sans Souci in Ocho Rios and Round Hill in Montego Bay. Parker quotes Fleming’s disgust at the development of “… the rash of millionaire hotels” that Bond, with mixed feelings notices as he flies in over Jamaica’s North Coast in ‘Doctor No‘ and quotes Jamaican critics who observe that “… tourism had turned Jamaican youths into touts, beggars and parasites”, stating that “…while the economic benefits of tourism were meant to mitigate the problems of Jamaica’s colonial past … the industry actually shored up many core features … and trapped the island in the grip of neocolonialism.  For some it was a trade off between dignity and much-needed dollars.”

PrincessMargaret19620810SHAKING UP SOCIAL LAYERS             Parker observes with some pleasure that Jamaica’s social layers were about to be shaken up, as things that had been accepted up till then were now being seen as wrong and in need of correction.  As Jamaica moved from Britain’s attempt to unite its Caribbean colonies into a manageable, but ultimately failed, political Federation, Parker writes of the lifting of what Norman Manley called ‘the dead hand of colonialism’, noting that the 1955 visit of Princess Margaret to celebrate Jamaica’s 300 years of British rule was observed without any reference to what had taken place in those 300 years.

But Fleming shows that he recognizes that the days of White elitism are over, when Bond in ‘Doctor No’ says of the Queens Club (a perfect copy of Kingston’s then-racially exclusive Liguanea Club) that “Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day it will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground.”  As we learn in Parker’s book, “Fleming’s proudest boast was that he had ‘learned about living amongst, and appreciating, coloured people – two very different lessons I would never have absorbed if my life had continued in its pre-Jamaican metropolitan rut.’”

For Fleming, Jamaica provided a place of recovery as it did for his hero Bond. “Jamaica … made Fleming ‘a different person from how he was in Britain. The island smoothed Fleming’s rough edges and in the six years between building Goldeneye and writing his first book, he explored Jamaica as thoroughly as he explored the sea and coral reefs outside the house.”  Writes Parker, “… each year Jamaica had soaked into him, with its creative spirit and cocktail of luxury, melancholy, imperialism,, fantasy, sensuality, danger and violence.”  Fleming not only uses Jamaica as a location for his stories; he adds Jamaican characters and names of Jamaican friends in his stories.  In ‘Casino Royale‘ Bond signs his name as ‘James Bond, Port Maria, Jamaica’, the town where Fleming’s marriage to Ann Rothemere took place. In ‘Live and Let Die’ Fleming takes Bond to Negril in the days before tourism arrived and which, for Bond, “… is the most beautiful beach he had ever seen, five miles of white sand sloping easily into the breakers and, behind, the palm trees marching in graceful disarray to the horizon.”

ian_fleming14LASTING LOVE FOR JAMAICA.        England was Fleming’s home and the patriotic affection he had for his country can be seen in every Bond novel.  The symbolism of Queen Elizabeth 11 declaring the 2012 Olympics open with a spoof Bond moment, is an indication of how much Bond represents to England and its reputation as a world leader.  But Parker’s book shows that the love Ian Fleming had for Jamaica overshadowed Fleming’s life and loves, and was amply displayed in each Bond book.

Indeed, Jamaica as seen through the eyes of Ian Fleming is a most beautiful, wonderful, magical place, as much a celebrity in its own right as the many titled and famous people who visit him at Goldeneye. Parker’s book made me even more happy to be a Jamaican, and made me know and love Ian Fleming even more than I already do. A thoroughly satisfying read that will both inform and delight Jamaicans, as well as fans of that dashing, perennial hero James Bond.

© Barbara Blake Hannah

JACKIE O & THE EMPEROR’S GOLD PURSE

THE EMPEROR’S GOLD PURSE

I am privileged to be a member of a very select private group on Facebook, where Ethiopians descendants of the royal family of Emperor Haile Selassie and his closest advisors and executives now living in exile exchange photographs, history and memorabilia about His Imperial Majesty and the history of modern Ethiopia.

One of the most beautiful and interesting stories shared on the page is the story of the Gold Purse, a pure gold ladies evening handbag carved with a filigree pattern and carried on a gold chain. The purse first came to our attention in a post which informed that it was going to be sold by a major auction house. Auctions of Ethiopian treasures, especially gold objects and medals, take place often much to the sorrow of the Ethiopians in this group, for whom these were not only works of art, but pieces of history. The massacres of the Emperor, the Royal family and his closest advisors by the Marxist leaders of the Derg revolution scattered those relatives who escaped, and who now live in exile unable to do much to salvage the treasures of an era.

The group’s founder and administrator Abbe Fekade brought good news that the Gold Purse was withdrawn from the auction, but the curiosity that was sparked by the immensely beautiful object led to interesting revelations from other members.

Pres. Lyndon Johnson Reception

Edward L. Buddy King: Gifts to be presented at State Dinner in honor of HIM visit to USA. Notice the gifts, most likely jewelery work done by Solomon Kibriye’s father…

Hannah A….. It’s that stunning gold purse again!

Barbara Blake Hannah: Wow, that gold purse it’s beautiful! Where is it now?

Jackie Kennedy with Gold Purse & Leopard coat

STATE VISIT TO USA

I learned that the gold purse was a gift from H.I.M. To First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy on the Emperor’s first State Visit to the USA. He also gave her a full length leopard coat, and gave carved ivory toys to John John Jr and Caroline.

Emperor Haile Selassie I gives a carved ivory warrior to John John

What then happened to the Gold Purse?

Edward L. Buddy King: Mrs.Kenndey did not turn the purse into the government as required for all foreign gifts. Several months ago it was due to go to auction by members of her family?

Barbara Blake Hannah: So who owns it now? Presumably it was sold after she died.

Bro Adam Simeon: It was in this exhibit:

Notable – and notorious – women of the 20th century

    • Eight years ago, former magazine editor Judith Price launched the National Jewelry Institute in New York to preserve and exhibit fine jewellery. Against the backdrop of New York fashion week, she is opening her 16th jewellery exhibition, Notorious & Notable: 20th-Century Women of Style. Here she describes the curating process.

                    “To stage the show, it was necessary to tell the story of women who made their mark– whether notorious or notable.

                 “We began by making a list of women, those from café society, the art crowd, fashionistas and celebrities, using old newspapers, books and magazines for research. Collaborating with the Museum of the City of New York, we used 50 dresses and 40 pieces of jewellery from 80 such women.

The yellow gold handbag Haile Selassie gave to Jackie Kennedy

Among them would be the Duchess of Windsor in Christian Dior haute couture, Lauren Bacall in her Tissue of Diamonds gown, Lena Horne in blue silk Giorgio St Angelo, and Babe Paley in Valentino – as well as writers/collectors Amy Fine Collins and Barbara Taylor Bradford – all placed next to vitrines containing accessories, such as the yellow gold handbag Haile Selassie gave to Jackie Kennedy and the bling bracelet of Joan Crawford.

MORE THAN ONE GOLD PURSE

My Ethiopian group friends enlightened me further. This was not the only Gold Purse given by H.I.M. Solomon Kibriye the son of the goldsmith who crafted this and other treasures, is a member of our group.

Solomon Kibriye: About the purse, my father made several evening bags of various designs that were given as gifts by H.I.M.

Edward L. Buddy King: ‎Solomon, that explains why this gold purse is on the display at the State Dinner for HIM given by President Johnson….both your father and Grandfather did excellent work.

So where is the golden purse now? It is quite the most beautiful handbag ever made. Not a single red carpet diva has anything like this!

Without an answer, I can only end with a photo of Jackie O’s face when she met His Imperial Majesty. I can see why she is so happy!!!

Reggae Film Festival @ Rototom, Miss Jamaica Universe

  REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL @ ROTOTOM

The REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL was presented in Spain last week as a special 3-night feature of the ROTOTOM REGGAE SUNSPLASH – Europe’s largest annual event celebrating Jamaica’s music culture. A special programme of feature, documentary and animation films, including 5 made by Jamaicans and some of the Honour Award winners of the February 2010 event, were presented to an interested audience in a special showcase that began after the live stage performances ended each night.

Peter Gittins & BBH, Reggae Film Festival 2008

Though the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL went to Rototom, I did not. The films were introduced each night by Peter Gittins, the UK-based co-director of the Reggae Film Festival who has been the ‘other half’ of the event since we both conceptualized it in 2007. Though I had been provided full travel and accommodation by the Rototom organizers, I could not get an early appointment for an interview to renew my US Visa before my scheduled departure date, and had to miss the flight. (Yes, I got the renewal, but a day too late!)

It was a disappointment, as I looked forward to the chance to be at Rototom in person and see and report on what the event is like. The Rototom invitation was important, because it shows the opening of an international distribution link and exposure for films from and about Jamaica. With attendance of 150,000, the enormous potential for access to the young European market was clear. Peter reports that people were so interested in everything Jamaican that we could have sold not only our films, but also products such as T-shirts, banana chips, jerk sauces,  beer, books.

The Reggae Film Festival will return to Rototom next year, and we are presently negotiating invitations to present the event in the USA and in Africa. In its 3 short years the Reggae Film Festival is fulfilling its objective of assisting the growth of the Jamaican film industry and the spread of Jamaican culture through film.

THANKS ROTOTOM, FOR THE RECOGNITION AND OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT OURSELVES AND FLY THE JAMAICAN FILM FLAG HIGH ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE! 

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YENDI PHILLIPPS MAKES JAMAICA PROUD

Last June at Caribbean Fashion Week a slim, sparkling Yendi Phillipps just back from South Africa posed for my camera and told me she was entering the Miss Jamaica Universe competition. I encouraged her to keep doing what she was good at. Now that Yendi’s winning appearances in the Miss Universe finals has broadcast Jamaica’s positive image around the world, those who questioned my early support for our newest Jamaican beauty queen now see what all the fuss was about.

Yendi at CFW

Looking good in all her personal appearances from the early days of the Miss Universe contest, Yendi brought a sparkling personality that showed in her bright smile, her classy poses and her charming interviews. The Judges voted her the ‘beach beauty’ and 2nd best evening gown, so when she made it to the final 5 of the judging, Jamaicans all over the world held their collective breath, bursting with pride just to see her standing there.

Then there were just two, and as Yendi stood in the spotlight with Miss Mexico, Jamaica’s hopes were high. When Miss Mexico was announced the winner, I know I am not the only Jamaican who felt the decision was wrong, but Jamaicans still smiled as it was so clear that Yendi was definitely the prettiest girl.

#2 National Costume winner

Congrats to Yendi Phillipps for joining the ranks of Jamaicans who made their country proud by showcasing what wonderful, great and beautiful people we are.

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LENA HORNE FILM TRIBUTE

Last Wednesday the United States Embassy division of Cultural Affairs screened the classic feature film “STORMY WEATHER’ starring the late, great singer and acress, Lena Horne as part of a series of American musicals being shown each week at the Tom Redcam Library in Kingston.  The film, which was a showcase of Black American talent of the 1940s and 50s, gave the world a classic song that became forever identified with the great Black beauty and it was wonderful to see the full version of the film for the first time on a big screen with a full house audience.

Not only did the film feature Lena Horne singing several songs and dancing with Bill ‘BoJangles’ Robinson, but showcased the big band of flamboyant band leader Cab Calloway, the classical dancing of leading Black dancer Kathryn Dunham and her troupe, and the incredible tap-dancing acrobatics of the Nicholas Brothers who had the audience gasping for breath with their splits. 

The screening was a special tribute to Lena Horne and a rare opportunity to experience some of the best Black entertainment talent ever filmed by Hollywood. It brought back memories of an era of glamour and class personified by this great lady that we will never see again.   Those were the days!!!

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“We are ready to go and Buju is looking forward to his day in court.”

David Oscar Markus of Buju Banton’s legal team.