Jamaica (Enchantment Of The World), by Ruth Bjorklund
Of the various books I have read directed towards younger readers, this is by far the most entertaining and engaging and complete of the books I have read so far. If you are a younger reader (or you happen to like reading short books with lots of pictures that do not make too many difficult demands as far as vocabulary is concerned), this is certainly a book I would highly recommend to find out more about Jamaica as a country. I do not know, nor do I particularly care, about the personal and political views of the author, as they do not intrude upon how the author handles the material in the book, but it should be noted that the author provides enough information that the reader can make conclusions as to what they think about the nation of Jamaica, its politics, and the sorts of struggles that it faces as a free and independent nation. I suppose I am a more critical reader and certainly a person with perhaps fiercer opinions than many who read this, but the author was able to handle material that provoked thought and a reaction without making her own bias or opinion too heavy-handed.
This book is between 100 and 150 pages and it is divided into ten chapters. The author begins with an account of a young Jamaican boy that serves as an entrance into various discussions of Jamaica, including the distribution of its population, its vulnerability to hurricanes, the ties of extended family, and so on (1). After that the author moves to a discussion of the physical geography and historical geography of the country (2), which serves to place the discussion of the country on a firm basis. This leads to a look at Jamaica as an island in the sun (3), full of interesting plant and animal life, from sea turtles to mongooses. After that comes a discussion of the turbulent history of the country, including issues of piracy and slavery (4). This leads naturally into a discussion of the politics of Jamaica in the period after independence (5), as well as a look at food and economics in Jamaica (6). The author then turns her attention to Jamaica’s claim of being one people (7), a thoughtful examination of the spiritual life of Jamaica (8), the richness of Jamaica’s artistic and musical heritage (9), and matters of family and fun (10), after which the book closes with a timeline, fast facts, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
There are at least a few areas that make this book a very strong one and that can serve as a model for other writers who deal with the same kind of material to do well. The book has a strong narrative and begins with an engaging discussion of the life of a Jamaican child, showing the human interest angle of the material of learning about a foreign country to good effect. There are plenty of sidebars in the book that are also informative and provide additional context to the main narrative. This is a way of dealing with the fruits of one’s research and also provide a nice break and change of pace and digression from the main contents of a chapter. On top of this, the author does a good job at dealing with some of the thornier issues of Jamaican culture, including the legacy of slavery as well as the long resistance to slavery that took place on the island, and the somewhat incestuous nature of the politics there where both of the main political parties took as their base blue collar labor and were founded by cousins in a rivalry with each other, trying to out-do each other in extremism sometimes, it would appear, all of which has major contemporary relevance to those who are traveling to Jamaica, obviously.