DGS graduate Joanne Skerrett has won a publishing contract with Los Angeles publisher Red Hen Press for her latest novel titled “Island Man.”
Skerrett grew up in Roseau and Bath Estate before emigrating to the United States in the late 1980s. She has been an editor at various newspapers in the U.S. and is also the author of Abraham’s Treasure published by Papillote Press.
“Island Man” follows Hector Peterson, a Bostonian man, who upon mourning his mother, visits Dominica in 2017 with his estranged father when Hurricane Maria strikes. The remaining time in Dominica leaves Hector and his father struggling to understand each other amid the ruins of the hurricane as Hector uncovers a tumultuous family history dating back to the 1960s.
A significant portion of “Island Man” is told from the point of view of Winston Telemacque, the father. The story chronicles Winston’s life in the yards near Kennedy Avenue in Roseau during the 1960s and 70s, as a teen in a Rastafarian commune where Winston meets the love of his life Jemma and where his son is conceived. An explosive event in the late 1970s eventually leads both Winston and Jemma to lead separate lives off the island. Decades later, Winston is a middle-aged man living a successful life in Boston when Jemma, the son he did not know of, and the ghosts of his past reemerge.
Skerrett believes the novel will resonate deeply with Dominicans who lived through those tumultuous years of the 1970s and for immigrants abroad who always yearn for what is left behind and what may never be recaptured.
Although some of the stories are painful and evoke difficult periods in the island’s history, including the Dread Act era, political unrest in 1978-79, and natural disasters like Hurricane David and Maria, Skerrett cautions that the novel is not meant to serve as commentary on political or historical events, and takes some authorial liberties with actual historical occurrences. Instead, Island Man really is an exploration of complicated familial bonds within the immigrant experience and our unique small island context. One early reviewer has described the novel as “a riveting exploration of family bonds and secrets, set in a vividly written world of wild nature, bright colors, old superstitions and deep emotions.”
The book is expected to be published in 2023.