Telling Tales from Saint Lucia and the author’s other title, Time for Poetry, have already sold out once at The bookYard. The author, Nahdjla Bailey, kindly returned with plenty more autographed copies. Bailey has travelled to many places in Saint Lucia and beyond to teach. She has had several works published and received multiple awards. Both her teaching and writing have been dedicated to youngsters and this particular book is to children who have been deprived of the privilege of literacy.
Telling Tales from Saint Lucia is a collection of short stories with story lines, situations and settings all familiar to the island. The ten stories are set in various communities and in different eras, from the days of slavery to the present day “vaval” fever.
There are some folk tales, like the story of ‘The Devil’s Bridge’ which Bailey doesn’t tell in quite the same way as has been traditionally relayed. All of her versions have an optimistic approach and even the villains sometimes find happy endings. This gives all the stories a personalised twist, because it’s never really how one would think, or remember it to end.
Bailey also proves to have properly researched the different elements of stories and storytelling in Saint Lucia. There is mention of the wars fought, existence of brigands and obeah. In ‘Grandma Dora Helps Out’ she creates an active story-telling competition with participants recounting Konpe Lapen stories, some not mentioned in Jacintha Lee’s collection. (See Book Review in the July 16 edition of The STAR.)
‘Mountain in the Mist’ was most interesting for me. The two young boys in the story are particularly fascinated with the mountain La Sorciere and gather as much information about it as they can. The number of stories associated with one mountain, and how they differed in the generations and cultures that live on the island, was intriguing. The boys eventually climb the mountain, with raw determination, to prove that most of the stories are myths. However, they are surprised to find some of the elements of the stories on the mountain.
Telling Tales from Saint Lucia is definitely meant for children. The writer’s ability to be uplifting and to portray good traits of kindness, wit and determination through most of her characters would be an inspiration to young people. Just as importantly, this collection is culturally and historically enriching for local young people who are constantly being undermined for not knowing enough about their country.