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An African American man confronts a heart of darkness when his family moves from Los Angeles to a small town in Norway.

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Sean Keith Henry’s Account of an Akashic Trip to Jamaica

Five Akashic authors were recently invited to the Calabash Literary Festival from May 28-30 on the remote Treasure Beach in Jamaica. The authors—Sean Keith Henry, Nina Revoyr, Arnaldo Correa, Kaylie Jones and Yongsoo Parkjoined Akashic publisher Johnny Temple at what all of them now regard as one of the finest literary festivals on the planet. The following is a diary of the trip by Sean Henry (author of Limbo):

My very first trip to Jamaica made me feel as if I had returned home to the island of Trinidad, where I was born. Much of what I thought I had forgotten about Caribbean life and culture simply returned with a mixture of feelings and loss. Jamaicans have a very rhythmic, yet deep, dialect and the more exposure I had to their dialect the more my speech seemed to revert back to sounds that were vaguely familiar, yet comfortable.








Treasure Beach, Jamaica


The Calabash Literary Festival, was held at Jake’s Resort under a large white tent with capacity seating for 1500 people. It was located a few yards from the remote Treasure Beach’s beautiful sands and its columned stage reminded me of a magnificent outdoor amphitheaterwith roaring waves as a backdrop! A brisk five-minute walk from my hotel room to Jake’s on cozy and narrow country roads would often take an extra thirty minutes on cool sands as I meandered my way along the beach. It had been years since I had climbed a coconut tree so when I saw a few trees laden with coconuts along the beach, I not only stopped and took pictures but attempted, awkwardly, to scale the trunk of one. Of course, I slid back to the sand. As I looked around to see if anyone had seen my failed attempt, I remembered what it felt like growing up on a tropical Island where on any given day I would have long stretches of beach entirely to myself. For the next four days, as the Calabash Literary Festival blossomed into a spectacular event, I roamed the beach barefoot, nodding to people who were not only also enjoying themselves, but like me, seemed to be in a state of disbelief that we had the beach to ourselves.

I met Johnny Temple and his wife, Kara Gilmour, on the beach the day I arrived. I decided to devote a whole roll of film to pictures of Treasure Beach’s blue horizon. And although it has been less than a week since my return to California, for me there is already a sense of nostalgia. Not many writers can boast of meeting their publisher on a beautiful beach in Jamaica. We stood and talked, occasionally looking around at our surroundings as if we still couldn’t believe we were there.

I had sat with Nina Revoyr (author of Southland) on the bus from Montego Bay Airport to Treasure Beach and immediately knew that the authors that were sent to represent Akashic at “The Bash” (there were five of us Akashic authors in total) would simply shine. Nina’s intellect knows no boundaries (except where the Los Angeles Lakers are concerned) and I immediately liked her charm and enjoyed listening to her dissect US national politics with the equally astute Akashic tough-guy author, Arnaldo Correa (author of Cold Havana Ground and Spy’s Fate), who had traveled to Jamaica from Havana, Cuba. I am not sure when or where I met Yongsoo Park (author of Las Cucarachas and Boy Genius), but shortly after we met, Nina, Yongsoo, Kara, Johnny and I were on a boat piloted by a stocky captain named Joseph, and his first mate, Colin, as we skipped across breaking waves on our way to visit crocodiles at the local Black River.








Nina Revoyr and Jamaican poet Opal Palmer Adisa


Of course, one cannot visit Jamaica without enjoying its national meal, ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a vegetable which, when prepared Jamaican style, looks and tastes like soft scrambled eggs. There is nothing like eating curry goat, rice and beans, plantains, cassava, and boiled figs while standing on the beach listening and watching waves break a few feet away. Oh Jamaica.








The Pelican Bar


I met most of the authors who participated in this year’s event. They were not only impressive because of their accomplished works, but were genuinely eager to meet their colleagues. We hugged and shook hands so often that at times I felt as if I was in the midst of a reunion. Chris Abani, Arnaldo Correa, Nelson Eubanks, and Glenville Lovell were not as tough as they were billed. And when Jamaicans Leonie Forbes, Barbara Blake Hannah, John Maxwell, and Minister of National Security Peter Phillips read passages from the 50th aniversary edition of Roger Mais’s Brotherman, I knew that I was in the midst of a memorable event. Poets Tim Seibles, Devorah Major, Harryette Mullen, and Dan Wideman moved us with their dramatic presentations.








Sean reading at the Calabash Festival


And on Sunday, when it was Akashic’s turn to present Jamaica with a taste of fine literature, we rose to the occasionme, Yongsoo, Nina, and Kaylie Jones (author of Speak Now and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries). We were received with overwhelming enthusiasm and it was clear that we had given the Calabash Literary Festival a buzz that I felt privileged and honored to be a part of. I am still enjoying that buzz, and although I have said goodbye and thank you to the organizers of the festival and my colleagues. There is no doubt in my mind that Akashic will again be invited back to Jamaica!

Sean K Henry, author of Limbo
Temecula, California