By Neil Armstrong
In March, I met author, G. Barton-Sinkia, whose 874-page debut novel, By the Next Pause, would be launched in June at Ben McNally Books in Toronto. Most of the books I’ve read are under 500 pages (like Lawrence Hill’s novel, The Book of Negroes) with a few being over, like Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
There are other ‘big’ books that I’m yet to read, but having met this author and hearing her enthusiasm about By the Next Pause, I decided to read it mainly during my commute. I finished reading the novel on Sunday (July 29). Kudos to Barton-Sinkia on her engaging storytelling, clear development of characters and strong sense of the dramatic.
Barton-Sinkia is a first-generation Canadian of Jamaican and Barbadian descent who earned a Bachelor of Arts at Carleton University’s School of Journalism. She married her high school sweetheart, Anthony Farrell, now a writer and producer (The Office, The Thundermans, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Secret Life of Boys).
In 2000, they moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she worked a few years before moving to California. After nearly nine years in California working as a vice president at the Northern Trust Bank, she still had a strong desire to be a writer and began writing By the Next Pause while on maternity leave. Barton-Sinkia subsequently left her job to dedicate her time to writing her debut novel. In 2017, she, Anthony and their children moved back to Toronto – the city they always loved.
The cover of the book shows a cityscape of Toronto with the title and an inscription “Life rewinds and fast-forwards, but continues to always play.” The novel begins in the 80s, exploring a nostalgic journey through the lives of two disparate single parents – one Jamaican, and the other a racist – and their children who are best friends. “By the Next Pause is a reader’s delight, making binge-reading trendy again, just in time for summer cottage season,” notes a media release.
“After living in the United States for almost 17 years, I found myself homesick for Toronto and wanted to write a book that reminded me of my childhood,” says G. Barton-Sinkia. “There are so many stories about Toronto that have yet to be told. Especially novels that feature diverse stories and characters. I wanted to create characters that not only felt familiar but stayed with the reader long after the story has ended.”
Divided into seven parts, By the Next Pause could easily be adapted for a seven-part television series. Not only does the author introduce us to the lives of the main characters – Pam, Simone, Mike and Nolan – but we also meet their family and friends who come in and out of their journey throughout the novel. We rejoice in their triumphs, commiserate in their tragedies and empathize in their anguish.
B. Barton-Sinkia’s novel traverses not only the buildings, streets, landscapes and seasons of Toronto but also events, like Caribana. Simone and Nolan attend the grand parade of the summer carnival and the author vividly captures the sounds, music, dynamic colours and the movements of the festival. She also allows her characters to go beyond Toronto by introducing relocations to Halifax, Vancouver, New York and travels to Jamaica, Europe and beyond.
The author’s strong sense of the dramatic is keen in moments of surprise. After reading the book, one gets the impression that every character was fully developed from beginning to end. You could trace their entry, their journeys and their exits in the novel.
The use of a type of Jamaican Creole in the novel gives the characters of Jamaican descent a kind of authenticity that differentiates them from the Scottish Mike and Nolan, or Rowan and Tess of Halifax. What is captured in the use of the language is how it can also be strategically used in schools to draw a line between those who are Canada-born of Jamaican descent wanting to appear more Jamaican than students, like Simone, who were born in the island and immigrated to Canada.
There are several tragic events in By the Next Pause, but B. Barton-Sinkia was not afraid to deal with issues such as racism, immigration, LGBTQ issues, the 80s school system (which someone who is reading the book says reminds him of his high school years in Toronto), and more. It’s definitely worth reading!
My copy of the book came with a bookmark modeled after a mixtape.
“One of the themes of the novel is the idea that life resembles a playlist. A collection of music that captures life in progress. The moments we rewind & replay, Memories that shape our story. Each song in the bookmark’s playlist either inspired the corresponding chapter or reminded G. Barton-Sinkia of a scene in the chapter,” says the promotional material.
To listen to the playlist, one has to open the “Search” tab on their phone’s Spotify app, click on an icon and scan the Spotify code found on the back of the bookmark.
David Chariandy’s I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter written to his 13-year-old daughter. David, who was born in Canada, is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one’s birth.
What is really delightful about this book is how Chariandy uses ordinary moments with daughter to highlight life lessons. “In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to cultivate with her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.”
Roger McTair’s My Trouble With Books & other stories of short fiction is a collection of 13 stories set in Trinidad and Tobago, Toronto and the tourist fringe of Barbados. They are filled with memories of childhood and adolescence, as well as with snapshots of McTair’s flat, calm, stoic style of writing. These are valuable, humorous, poignant stories, moored in a Caribbean literary aesthetic while also touching on themes of diaspora and exile.
Roger has a sharp ear for conversations and reading his stories takes into the spaces of his characters – a taxi, a bookstore, a tourist resort – to listen to their interactions which will definitely make you – the observer -- laugh. You know as well when he is poking fun at some in these situations.
On July 24, educator, Andrew B. Campbell (Dr. ABC) held a book signing of his new book, The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom, at The 519 in Toronto.
He hopes it will lead to more inclusive classrooms for LGBT students in Jamaica.
In “The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom,” Campbell, a researcher and lecturer of diversity studies in education shares the experiences of gay males in Jamaica on their formal schooling experiences through reflection.
Campbell, a graduate of the University of Toronto with a PhD. in educational leadership and diversity and inclusive studies is passionate about “preparing educators and all stakeholders to increase their cultural competence so that no child is excluded from the teaching and learning process, and our schools become truly inclusive spaces.”
“There’s a lack of LGBT literature that focuses on the Jamaican experience,” says Campbell, noting that he teaches four online courses in Jamaica and Canada on issues that deal with inclusion and diversity.
He says LGBT is just one of those issues and like any other topic there is a lack of literature on such matters, including disability, sex education, and others.
“The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom,” which is self-published, will be launched on August 2 at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies during a conference of Pride JA, an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jamaica.
All of the books are self-published excepted Chariandy's which is published by McClelland & Stewart.