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Fiction Reading: Sharon Leach and Kei Miller

By Shivanee Ramlochan, 2012 Bocas Lit fest blogger

Kei Miller reads from his work.

I’ve been wildly excited about hearing Kei Miller read his work, but it turned out that I should have been every bit as enthused to hear Sharon Leach. This was Bocas 2012’s first full-length fiction session, and it launched that author-reader sharing space in encouraging, warm fashion.
Both writers are Jamaican, and it was thrilling to observe some telling similarities in their work (they both, unbeknownst to each other, chose to share passages that deal with the discussion of acute violence), as well as to notice the ways in which their styles diverge.

Leach’s reading was prefaced by the promise of impending violence, and for the entire time she read, I was poised for the rupture to come… she ended her reading on a high note, on a “rush out to the library atrium and buy this book immediately” sort of note. Miller’s reading was no less spellbinding, as he favoured the audience with a sneak preview of his work in progress novella, entitled The Rather Raunchy Obituary of Everton Campbell. If the title alone isn’t enough to convince you, I hope you were at the reading – the prose I heard was bitingly intelligent, delightfully tongue in cheek, scathingly funny. Here’s one line that lingered:

“Despite the promises of red-haired nurses, life is no one’s destiny.”


Sharon Leach responds to a question from the moderator.

The question and answer session that followed the readings offered up no less food for thought (in a Bocas morning that had already been any literary gourmand’s paradise). Moderator Nicha Selvon-Ramkissoon asked both writers about the challenges inherent in crafting strong female protagonists. Leach’s response was that she’d read so many narratives wherein the women represented hapless, naïve ingénues incapable of standing on their own feet (I found myself nodding in agreement), and that much of her writing is populated with strong female leads as a response to that possibly hegemonic institutionalization of women in fiction. Miller’s thoughtful reply to the question shared with the audience that the literary voice in his head had largely been formed by powerful voices in female fiction writing, and so the crafting of compelling women is entirely within the orbit of both his experience and his aspiration.

I think that most of these author reading sessions will leave you with the distinct impression that you mustown the works you’ve heard, and I can’t blame you. I’m trying to rationalize buying ALL the titles on display at the various booksellers’ tables, myself. Both Leach and Miller’s works are, of course, available for purchase, and will be throughout the festival’s duration, so treat yourself to a copy or two (or three!)

Photos by Rodell Warner, our official 2012 Festival photographer.