Barbadian author, Cherie Jones. (Photo: @csajthewriter)

Last evening, Barbados’ diplomatic missions in North America got the opportunity to engage with Barbadian author, Cherie Jones, as she discussed her writing career and debut of the fiction novel How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.

Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Donna Forde, expressed her pleasure in joining colleagues from the diplomatic missions in Washington DC, New York, Miami, the High Commission in Canada and the Consulate General in Toronto.

“The Government of Barbados welcomes every opportunity to engage with the diaspora and friends of the diaspora and thankfully the technology and the increased use of the digital platforms for our engagements is allowing all five of our North American missions to jointly host Cherie in one sitting.

“And through this evening’s engagement by cultural diplomacy, we are offering you a taste of home and a glimpse of Barbadian culture through the uniquely Barbadian personalities set in the context of Cherie’s novel,” Ms. Forde said.

She noted that some of the themes and scenarios in the novel explored some of the realities of class and race and other societal issues, which made for “compelling storytelling”, and has garnered the book excellent reviews in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. The book was also on Oprah’s list of the best 20 books of February 2021, as well as the Barnes and Noble ‘Discovered Picks’ for February 2021

DPS Forde stated: “Barbados has always been a country that punches above its weight, and Cherie, you are another shining example that we can compete with the best.” 

She wished Ms. Jones continued success and expressed the hope that Ms. Jones’ efforts would serve as encouragement to other Barbadian and Caribbean writers in the diaspora and at home.

During her discussion about the book, Ms. Jones, an attorney-at-law by profession and a mother of four, revealed that she started writing a short story in 2008 and it turned into a novel, which she completed in early 2018. 

She said How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is about a woman called Lala, who works as a hair braider on the beach in Barbados, and it is about this one summer in 1984, when her life just changed. 

“And in these really fundamental ways, it’s about a murder that takes place on the beach on the same night that her daughter is born, her first child, and it’s about how these two events, the murder and the birth of her baby, impact Lala’s life in some really amazing ways.  It’s also a bit of a love story. There’s a very touching, I think, love story between Lala and one of the characters in the book called Tone,” she shared.

Ms. Jones disclosed that her “absolute favourite” part of the book is chapter 25, when Lala and Tone, explore underground tunnels in Barbados. 

“And Lala starts the chapter by asking, how you learn to love a man, and by the end of the chapter, she gets the answer, but what happens in between is really exciting,” she said.

The author who made an appearance on Good Morning America in February, thanked everyone for their support, including the missions of North America for hosting the event, and expressed how elated she was to receive news that same evening that she was one of six authors short-listed for the UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.

Founded in 1996, the prize is open to female English fiction writers from around the world. The 2021 winner will be announced on July 7, and the winner will be awarded £30,000, along with a bronze sculpture called the Bessie.

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