Heading Down the Homestretch

It's a joy to be featured in the latest issue of Interviewing the Caribbean, a wonderful journal published by The University of the West Indies Press. The two latest issues (Winter 2019 and Spring 2020) of the journal are dedicated to the theme 'Caribbean Childhood: Traumas and Triumphs.' Editors Opal Palmer Adisa and Juleus Ghunta have done an incredible job curating a rich gathering of voices bearing witness to a sacred part of our lives that⁠—as Floella Benjamin always says⁠—lasts forever: our childhoods.

A collective stock-taking of Caribbean childhoods like this is timely and overdue. In many places in the Caribbean, we don't talk about our childhoods nearly enough, yet we carry our childhoods within us always. At a moment in history when an unprecedented threat to humankind has plunged a lot of us into the interior life, repressed childhood traumas may be resurfacing for many. I'm not a psychologist (my bachelor's degree in psychology wasn't enough to convince me I could handle the pieties of the field) but as I share in my featured essay in Interviewing the Caribbean, "The Nature of Belonging: Making a Home for Children’s Literature in the Caribbean’s Literary Landscape," I know from personal experience that there's tremendous healing adults can access just from reading children's books. If you aren't the type of adult who reads children's books, now is a good time to change that.

In my essay I open up about the psychological homelessness (a term coined by social scientists to describe feelings of not belonging in one's home country) I experienced as a child/teen growing up in Trinidad and during my early years as a young immigrant in America. I reflect on how I discovered a healing sense of identity and belonging in (what at the time seemed like) unlikely places—nature and children's books. I also write about returning to Trinidad with a newfound understanding of what 'home' means and using this insight, through work with children's books, to help young people establish a sense of home in the world. The issue also includes an open "Letter to a Child Leaving Trinidad" that I wrote giving them the kind of advice I wish I'd been given when I was younger and about to take that big step.

Some of my most difficult life experiences are what motivate me to advocate for Caribbean children and youth and their need to see themselves reflected in all kinds of stories, whether it's books or movies or even songs. I think it's important though, that young people in the Caribbean know that they can't wait for 'those people/adults out there' to acknowledge them to start feeling seen; feeling seen and heard is something they can cultivate for and within themselves by telling their own stories and helping others do the same.

This is my last post on the Anansesem website for the foreseeable future. Later this month, on Anansesem's tenth anniversary (May 24), I'll be stepping down as editor-in-chief (as previously announced), but the privilege of helping Caribbean children and youth find their way home will always be a prime concern for me. When we think of our priorities as adults, nothing is more important than making sure the young people who look to us for guidance grow up with an expanded sense of possibility when it comes to their identities, dreams and thinking. No child should have to grow up feeling unseen, stifled, unworthy or like they don't belong. As adults we have to do the work to heal these traumas in ourselves so we can help the current generation of Caribbean children and youth do and feel better.

About the Author

Summer Edward is Anansesem's founder and editor-in-chief emeritus. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her first children's book will be published by HarperCollins UK in 2020. Her home on the web is

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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