"A native of Barbados, I
migrated to New York, earned a masters degree in economics, was a senior economist at the
New York State Department of Taxation & Finance where boredom, disillusionment, and
distaste for the cubicle-encased 9 to 5 office routine sent me on a search for a creative
outlet and led to my rediscovery of the creative joy of writing. The decision to bid
goodbye to the pseudo-science of economics (and Albany's frigid winters) and apprentice
under the tutelage of Paule Marshall at Virginia Commonwealth University was an easy one.
The embryo of my first novel, Flickering Shadows, was a short
story written for one of
Paule Marshall's workshops.
Pictures of a Dying Man is the second novel in a trilogy begun with Flickering Shadows and which will culminate with the book on which I am currently working. The critical response both published books have received has more than vindicated my decision to quit economics. In addition to the favorable reviews both books have garnered, for example, Flickering Shadows was listed by the Library Journal as one of the top 20 first-novels of 1996 and the Village Voice lists Pictures of a Dying Man among the top 25 books published in 1999. My objective is simple: to continue to place my tiny feet in the giant footsteps of the greats (Kamau Brathwaite, Paule Marshall, Earl Lovelace, to name a few) and to create literature that serves the needs of those of us scattered throughout the African Diaspora."
-- Agymah Kamau, January 6, 2000
Pictures of a Dying Man
Format: Hardcover, 227pp.
When Gladstone Belle is found hanging from a beam in his own house, everyone in the village tries to understand who he really was, and why he killed himself. In this Caribbean Citizen Kane, the voices of Gladstone's past accumulate, complementing and contradicting each other, to arrive at an understanding of Gladstone's true identity and the circumstances that complicated his life. And his death.
Is a human life merely the sum of other people's perceptions of it, a compilation of rumors and hearsay? What happens if those views are erroneous? Continuing in the vein of his critically acclaimed novel, Flickering Shadows, Agymah Kamau weaves a colorful story, full of deception, love, and loss, around a community's remembrances of a Gladstone Belle. We discover the intricacies of living in a small Caribbean community by seeing things through the eyes of an array of vivid characters, including Isamina, his wife; Esther and Sonny-Boy, his mother and father; Carl, the suspicious husband of his former lover; PeeWee, the village gangster; Theophilus Bascombe, a disgruntled coworker; and Marie Antoinette LaSalle, the histrionic clairvoyant.
In a diverse community and political world riddled with rumors of murder and disappearance, Gladstone's humble beginnings and honest manner win the community's trust. He quickly moves up the political ladder. But his life is cut short when he decides that he can no longer look the other way. He realizes that everything around him has suffered from this corruption: his marriage, his friendships, and his dignity. The narrative of Gladstone Belle's life and death illumines the complexity of class distinctions within a postcolonial community.
Shadows: A Novel
Format: Hardcover, 298pp.
Set on a fictional Caribbean island, Flickering Shadows is the story of the colorful and compelling inhabitants of a small ex-colony, a village called the Hill. Cephus' grandfather - arguably one of the most intriguing narrators to appear in fiction in some time - draws the reader into the lives and vivid dramas of the whole community. Cephus, Doreen, Boysie, Inez, young Kwame, the ghost, Dolphus, and an array of vibrantly depicted characters from a rich and hypnotic tale of love and betrayal, selflessness and honor, lust and dignity.