Recently, I discovered the writing of Jamaican American writer Colin Channer during a bookreading at McNally Robinson on Prince Street. He read from his new novella, The Girl With The Golden Shoes published this year by Akashic Books.The writer has some prominent fans, including Russell Banks, who in his afterwood calls the book a “nearly perfect moral fable.”
Channer read flawlessly to the 20 or so audience members that were treated to free beer and his unique masala of Creolized and Queen’s English.
Set on an imaginary Caribbean island, a young woman (Estrella) is born with bad luck and a hungry mind. After her family and village shun her because of silly superstitions Estrella sets off to find her fortune in the capital with a head full of dreams including the desire to own a pair of new shoes.
Channer’s storytelling is magically melodic. The rhythms of his sentences set a perfect pitch for a tale that sings to your heart.
Estrella is not the easiest character to love but her endearing passion makes her human and by the end of the story she feels like family.
This passage (one of my favorite) gives you a taste of Channer’s wit, skill and honesty:
She must win and he must lose. He must like it more than me. I ain’t want to be no woman who exchange rum for man. I ain’t want to be no cockaholic. With a finger on her nipple, she began to stroke her tender parts until the air was crackled by a tiny scream. She lay there half-smiling till her strength returned.
If there is a bone to pick with this book then it is the ending, which ends far too abruptly. I read the last page thinking that Channer robbed me of 50 more pages that would’ve elaborated on Estrella’s adventures in Seville and the life lessons she learned. Perhaps I found her character so endearing that I simply wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
Either way, Channer has crafted a simple fable with a rich texture. I had the added pleasure of reading the book in the Carribean under the quiet rustle of palm trees and the calming rush of the sea. In that
setting Channer’s story seemed to come absolutely alive.