Icons in Ink: Books Celebrating the Best of Jamaica and Jamaicans

by Kellie Magnus

books 1Jamaica is a country of magic – magical people creating magical moments. No-where is that magic better captured than in the books celebrating Jamaican life and culture. Jamaica’s local publishers work tirelessly to create books that celebrate the aspects of Jamaica that are beloved the world around – our outstanding people, our flora and fauna, our language, music, food, history, culture – all the iconic aspects of our way of life.

The catalogues of three of Jamaica’s largest publishers – the University of the West Indies Press, Ian Randle Publishers and LMH Publishing – reveal a plethora of books on iconic Jamaican subjects. From UWI Press, Anansi’s Journey details the journey of the Anansi figure from West Africa to Jamaica and the cultural and historical significance of the Jamaican Anansi folktales; the Dictionary of Jamaican English and Jamaica Talk respectively codify and trace the history of the development of the Jamaican Language; Rastafari: Roots and Ideology chronicles the development of the religion birthed in Jamaica; Jamaican Food: History, Biology, Culture examines Jamaican food; Jamaican Gold: Jamaican Sprinters details our gold-medal tradition in track and field; and The Jamaican Theatre: Highlights of the Performing Arts in the Twentieth Century explores our rich theatre tradition. UWI Press also has published biographies on outstanding Jamaicans including Rex Nettleford and His Works and Edward Seaga and the Challenges of Modern Jamaica.

In its twenty year history, Ian Randle Publishers has embodied its slogan “From the Caribbean to the World” specializing in publishing scholarly and general interest titles that serve up Jamaican and Caribbean life for the rest of the world to enjoy. Its flagship titles this year — the Usain Bolt autobiography, My Story – 9:58; Jamaica Fi Real, an insider’s account of Jamaican life and culture and Tastes Like Home, a cookbook for lovers of Caribbean food worldwide – reflect the company’s focus. Its catalogue of 350+ titles is a treasure trove for Jamaicaphiles, including titles on sports: The Longer Run: A Daughter’s Story of Arthur Wint and Black Meteors: the Caribbean in International Track and Field; the arts: Albert Huie: Father of Jamaican Painting and Barrington: 50 Years of Drawing 1958 – 2008, which includes over 200 drawings of Jamaica’s master painter Barry Watson; history: Pieces of the Past: A Stroll Down Jamaica’s Memory Lane; and outstanding biographies and memoirs such as Hugh Shearer: A Voice for the People, Marcus Garvey, The Manley Memoirs, No Stone Unturned: The Carl and Rosie Stone Story and Jamaica’s Gifts to the World, a collection of biographies of famous and lesser-known Jamaicans who have made outstanding contributions at the national, regional and international level.

LMH Publishing is perhaps best known for its spirited tradition of capturing and packaging Jamaican culture in bite-sized portions for both locals and tourists. Its bestselling LMH Official Dictionary Series catalogues Jamaican Athletes, Reggae and Dancehall Stars, Jamaican Religious Practices and Revival Cults, Jamaican Herbs and Medicinal Plants, Jamaican Words and Proverbs, Popular Jamaican Phrases, Sex Island Style and Jamaican History. Its celebration of the Jamaican lifestyle extends to titles on Jamaican Cocktails & Mixed Drinks and its Likkle Jamaican Cookbook Series which includes titles on Ital Food and Jamaican Jams, Marmalades and Jellies.

LMH also provides a rare channel for writers of Jamaican fiction to be published and has published biographies and memoirs including Bustamante – Portrait of a Hero, Lady Bustamante’s Memoirs and Jamaica’s Michael Manley — The Great Transformation. No look at books on Jamaican icons would be complete without those devoted to Bob Marley and LMH has three: Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World, Marley and Me and Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Definitive Discography.

Small publishers and self-publishers add to this rich tradition, with books celebrating other key figures, our cities, towns and historical sites as well as many of our best known schools and institutions. And as Jamaican culture continues to reinvent itself and attract wider international attention, books that capture and cater to that inter-est are sure to follow. Books on rum and Red Stripe Beer, perhaps?

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