“A Critical Exploration of the Women of Marlon James’
A History of Seven Killings and Jennifer Rahim’s Curfew Chronicles

Author: Zakiya McKenzie, PhD Candidate, University of Exeter, UK

Abstract

Trinidad and Jamaica share much in common – they have contributed famous music genres to the world, tourists visit annually for the culture – yet the social and economic environments do not allow easy access to education, employment and mobility for a majority of the population. This insecurity, fuelled by poverty and violence, are regular themes in contemporary Caribbean literature. Jennifer Rahim’s Curfew Chronicles (2017) and Marlon James’ A History of Seven Killings (2014) are written from the precarious place of political upheaval in the Caribbean islands. They are set in historically violent times where people feared the places they lived. The novels are fiction, nonetheless based on real events; the 2011 State of Emergency in Trinidad and Tobago, and the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1978, Jamaica.

The books present women in insecure contexts and share the grim experiences from their point of view. Being a woman itself is precarious in societies where inequality is rife, but the situation is even more nuanced because of the hostile environment in which the stories take place. In this paper, I will compare the lives of Rahim’s characters and the morphing character of Nina Burgess in James’ novel to highlight the challenging situations women in Caribbean nations face in times of extreme (real or perceived) insecurity. It will explore how women in the novels react to the bloody reality and contrast their reaction to male counterparts. I will posit that the writers’ use of female characters to expound upon the instability of the Caribbean is a nuanced exploration that has earned them (at least in part) major awards and recognition. Yet, the authors are a woman and gay man. I will argue that these precarious positions give critical perspective to the Caribbean literature, though often on the fringes of mainstream consumption and acceptance.

Discussion

This paper will be presented at CARISCC’s 4th Postgraduate Research Conference on Caribbean In/Securities and Creativity, University of Amsterdam, Roeterseiland Campus, The Netherlands, Wednesday 13 June 2018. Please feel free to participate in CARISCC’s online conference discussions by using the “Leave a Reply” space, shown below, to submit any questions, comments and feedback.