US-Jamaican launches book for black girls

Sunday, February 03, 2019

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The plot isn't unfamiliar — a young girl moves from a small town to a big city, leaving her friends and all that's familiar behind. To make the situation even more stressful, she encounters a bully in her new school. The ensuing events become a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, and eventually result in a refreshingly new perspective, and of course, new friends.

In a nutshell, that's Jade's Journey: The Newness, written by Jamaican-born New York resident Julieann T Randall.

You would be tempted to think the tale is a reflection of Randall's real-life story, since she moved from Allman Town in Kingston to the US when she was only five. You'd be wrong.

As she tells it, the major relocation aside, she and Jade are completely opposite.

“Hers is the life I wish I had,” she tells the Jamaica Observer. “Although there is a lot of newness in Jade's life, there is also normalcy — and that's something I, unfortunately, didn't have; and when you don't have something you know what's needed. That's how I was able to write from this perspective.

“Jade is an only child, I have many brothers and sisters. Jade has both parents in the household, I didn't — so the lives are not parallel,” she adds.

Randall and her husband Andrew, a second-generation Jamaican, were recently in the island to promote the book, which was published last August. Among the promotional activities were two book signings last week Saturday at the Springs Plaza branch of Kingston Bookshop and Kozy Korner Books down the street, on Central Avenue, respectively.

“There aren't many books that we, as people of colour, can relate to so...I intentionlly made my character as dark as chocolate and her hair as [coiled] as can be, because that's what our children look like. When they pick up Jade's Journey I want them to stare at this little girl and be in awe, because that's who they are. I want them to see themselves on the cover,” Randall said at the Kozy Korner signing.

“When I created Jade I was very intentional,” she continued. “These weren't just words thrown together...It's all about empowerment. So when you're reading [about] Jade you will see that not only is she confident, she is fearless; so she's guiding students in the right direction.

“Jade goes through many transitions — as young or as old as we are, we're always going through transitions in life — and our readers will not only see Jade's transitions, they will also see their own.”

The 70-page book features a vocabulary builder, glossary, word search, and crossword puzzle, and is accompanied by affirmation cards and a journal.

“Jade's Journey is a blessing for children of colour,” says US-based psychotehrapist Lloyd M Bowers. “At a time when our children are beset with enormous pressures, the author's character models insight and perseverance”.

Therapist and author Venice Garner Moore calls Jade's Journey “a must-read for young brown girls trying to find their way”.

Joi-Marie McKenzie, author and editor at Essence magazine, calls it “a classic tale of how life forces you to change and forces you to get used to it”.

Principal of Mannings Hill Primary, Paul G Messam, who took a handful of his students to the book signings, also recommended the book to young readers, telling them that as important as computer-based technology is, books wield a more awesome power. He also urged them to commit to learning five new words a day.

Randall is an accountant by profession. She published Jade's Journey independently and relied on freelance talent from web-based services for editing and illustration.

— Kimone Thompson

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