More to Jamaica than 'anti-gay Gestapos': Man Booker winner Marlon James

Tue Jun 7, 2016 2:06pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Rebekah Kebede

TREASURE BEACH, Jamaica (Reuters) - Living as a closeted gay man in Jamaica drove novelist Marlon James to such despair that he once wrote he knew he had to leave "in a plane or a coffin."

He left, on a plane for the United States, seemingly confirming Time magazine's 2006 headline that the Caribbean island was "The Most Homophobic Place on Earth."

Back for the Calabash International Literary Festival, which features poets, novelists and writers from across the globe, the 2015 Man Booker Prize winner said his own story was actually more complicated.

"The thing about Jamaica, for such a small country, is that there are 10 different Jamaicas and the one you live in is not necessarily the one that everyone else lives in," said James, 45.

He described his milieu as for the most part "uptown," very different from the Jamaica that makes headlines as a place where gay people are beaten to death by mobs. International media painted a one-sided picture of his home country, James said.

"They have a narrative that Jamaica is a place where these anti-gay Gestapos are running around killing people that they are just so desperate to get that narrative."

Rather than a fear of being killed, the "coffin" comment he wrote in a 2015 New York Times article referred to touching rock bottom and contemplating suicide as he struggled with his identity.

"I didn't think I could live here as a gay man. But I didn't need a beating to find that out," he said.   Continued...

 
Marlon James, author of "A Brief History of Seven Killings", poses for photographers after winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015 in London, Britain, October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo