Kiskadee Girl

Kiskadee Girl
Maggie Harris



Powerful forces surge through British Guiana as it transforms into independent Guyana, South American forest a bare step away from the towns. Old World chilly proprieties smack against everything the New World embodies. Margaret must navigate her own independence. Scottish, Portuguese, African: all and none of these, this teenager of the emergent Caribbean learns seduction Hollywood-style, but she belongs to more than a century of transgressions. She kisses forbidden faces, the living colours of colonial history. Love and loss come home to her in two men of the river. When Margaret is just fifteen, her father dies. Soon after, she packs up her dreams, leaves her riverman and makes the Atlantic crossing. But the spirits of her old geography keep whispering.

Non Fiction  | ISBN: 9781908446114  | eBook

Winner Commonwealth Writers Prize (Caribbean Region)
Maggie Harris was born in Guyana and has lived in the UK since 1971. She is an author and poet and writes for both adults and children. Her first collection of poetry, Limbolands, won The Guyana Prize for Literature in  2000 and  After a Visit to a Botanical Garden  was shortlisted for the prize in 2011. Her recorded poems for children, Anansi Meets Miss Muffet are available from the author.

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'Spellbinding! This book is a triumph! In her beautiful memoir Kiskadee Girl Maggie Harris recalls the Guyana of her childhood in the 1950s and 60s, enchanting the reader with a sensual depiction of New Amsterdam life and a family narrative shadowy with foreign influences and secrets. Yet, simultaneously, she strums those chords of shared experience which make reading such a pleasure. When I reached the end I did not want to be released.'
Elizabeth Porter, Librarian, Cardiff
‘The Kiskadee is a colourful tropical bird so named for its beautiful, arresting singsong whistle. So sweetly it sings its kis-ka-dee, kis-ka-dee tune that it plays with the senses.  As the Kiskadee Girl, Maggie Harris is a voyager in the post-colonial Guyana – the land of many waters.  Like the bird that she aptly names her book, she flits through her coming of age in a lyrical fashion, immersing the reader in a narrative scattered with references and words that are so Caribbean: - You dare not eyeball an adult, walk far girl, potagee, suck teeth and betterment - no reader will get lost though as she conscientiously explains the meaning of these words throughout.  The Kis-ka dee Girl plays on your senses … she touches you as she frees the ghost of her father from a conch shell, feel sadness at her homesickness, smell the perfume of the hibiscus and oleander flowers, hear her whisper to her lover, see her as she spreads her wings in flight, and you fly with her as she soars higher and higher.’
Clare Lilley, New Zealand, Facebook reviewer
‘One of the great achievements of Kiskadee Girl - and there are many - is that it sustains a vital energy from first to last page. It is there in the speech of the people of Guyana as Maggie Harris re-creates it in this autobiographical memoir of her childhood and teenage years. It is there in her naturally figurative imagination which sees 'shame' as a 'traveller' and church-goers as a 'scatter of butterflies' and 'Book' as her living companion, to take only three examples. It is there in the shifting viewpoints she adopts as she tells her story, one moment narrating her life-story, the next addressing her Daddy or confiding in the reader or invoking 'Book'. Unfamiliar terms and beliefs - jumbie, dounze tree, go on the lime, that sorceresses are born with the caul, the power of subtle racial gradations - mingle with the familiar concerns of any child growing up. Schoolyard rhymes, remembered conversations, fragments of song lyrics, poetry, school reports, diary entries, the voices of family and neighbours, preachers and teachers, all combine to realise a past world of Guyana in the 1950s and 60s. It is a magical world where there are dreamtime visitors and premonitions of death and the mysteriously lingering smell of funeral flowers in the home. At the same time, it is an authentically recalled world of harsh realities and tender joys, as Maggie Harris imaginatively re-occupies the mind and heart and sensations of the Guyanese Potagee girl that she was.’  Derek Sellen, Poet

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