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How to Say Babylon
Cover of How to Say Babylon
How to Say Babylon
A Jamaican Memoir
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2024 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 'Vivid and empowering' GILLIAN ANDERSON 'Heart-stoppingly gripping' BERNARDINE EVARISTO 'Dazzling' TARA WESTOVER 'A story about hope, imagination and resilience' GUARDIAN An award-winning, inspiring memoir of family, education and resilience. Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where luxury hotels line pristine white sand beaches, Safiya Sinclair grew up guarding herself against an ever-present threat. Her father, a volatile reggae musician and strict believer in a militant sect of Rastafari, railed against Babylon, the corrupting influence of the immoral Western world just beyond their gate. To protect the purity of the women in their family he forbade almost everything. Her mother did what she could to bring joy to her children with books and poetry. But as Safiya's imagination reached beyond its restrictive borders, her burgeoning independence brought with it ever greater clashes with her father. Soon she realised that if she was to live at all, she had to find some way to leave home. But how? How to Say Babylon is an unforgettable story of a young woman's determination to live life on her own terms. 'I adored this book ... Unforgettable' ELIF SHAFAK 'Electrifying' OBSERVER 'To read it is to believe that words can save' MARLON JAMES 'Breathless, scorching' NEW YORK TIMES
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2024 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 'Vivid and empowering' GILLIAN ANDERSON 'Heart-stoppingly gripping' BERNARDINE EVARISTO 'Dazzling' TARA WESTOVER 'A story about hope, imagination and resilience' GUARDIAN An award-winning, inspiring memoir of family, education and resilience. Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where luxury hotels line pristine white sand beaches, Safiya Sinclair grew up guarding herself against an ever-present threat. Her father, a volatile reggae musician and strict believer in a militant sect of Rastafari, railed against Babylon, the corrupting influence of the immoral Western world just beyond their gate. To protect the purity of the women in their family he forbade almost everything. Her mother did what she could to bring joy to her children with books and poetry. But as Safiya's imagination reached beyond its restrictive borders, her burgeoning independence brought with it ever greater clashes with her father. Soon she realised that if she was to live at all, she had to find some way to leave home. But how? How to Say Babylon is an unforgettable story of a young woman's determination to live life on her own terms. 'I adored this book ... Unforgettable' ELIF SHAFAK 'Electrifying' OBSERVER 'To read it is to believe that words can save' MARLON JAMES 'Breathless, scorching' NEW YORK TIMES
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 5, 2023
    Poet Sinclair (Cannibal) recounts her harrowing upbringing in Jamaica in this bruising memoir. Forbidden by her militant Rastafarian father from talking to friends or wearing pants or jewelry, Sinclair and her sisters were subject to his unpredictable whims and rage. After her mother gifted 10-year-old Sinclair a book of poems, she turned to writing poetry, drawn to the medium’s structure and emotive capabilities: “In the chaos of our rented house, the poem was order.” With the help of scholarships, she attended a prestigious private school in Jamaica to study poetry, and eventually left for college in America (the proverbial “Babylon” of the title, and the main target of her father’s rage), where she funneled her conflicted feelings about the move into her work: “I try to write the ache into something tangible.” In dazzling prose (“There was no one and nothing ahead of me now but the unending waves, the sky outpouring its wide expanse of horizon, and all this beckoning blue”), she examines the traumas of her childhood against the backdrop of her new life as a poet in Babylon, declining to vilify her father even as she questions whether a relationship with him might be salvageable. Readers will be drawn to Sinclair’s strength and swept away by her tale of triumph over oppression. This is a tour de force. Agent: Janet Silver, Aevitas Creative Management.

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How to Say Babylon
How to Say Babylon
A Jamaican Memoir
Safiya Sinclair
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