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The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica. Ian Thomson
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The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica. Ian Thomson

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  126 ratings  ·  26 reviews
The Dead Yard Jamaica used to be the source of much of Britain's wealth, a tropical paradise for the planters, a Babylonian exile for the Africans shipped to the Caribbean. This work focuses on the all-pervading influence of the USA; and the increasing disillusionment felt by its people, who can't rely on the state for their most basic security. Full description
Paperback, 370 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Faber & Faber (first published 2009)
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Marc Nash
The first few chapters were strong, but then the rest of the 300pages just seemed to go round in circles as the Jamaicans interviewed gave an infinite variety of opinions as to whether Jamaica was better off after gaining independence from Britain, or actually worse. How much had it retained a class and ethnic divide reflecting old colonial attitudes, and how much had it come under the influence of the American Dream and consumption patterns? The author fails to give much more than his impressio ...more
John Pappas
Thomson's episodic account of post-independence Jamaica is a harrowing, heartbreaking read. Though he attempts to bridge the gap between hagiographic travelogues of the island as a paradise and the sordid tales of violent city life to paint a more realistic picture of Jamaica in the 21st century, those interviewed and observed seem lost -- caught between the abandonment of the British crown and a bleak future of continuing poverty, exploitation and corruption. Peppered throughout with panoramic ...more
Jennifer
To say that this book makes me want to read a more general history of Jamaica is in no way a criticism. Thomson's account of his wanderings in the Caribbean island, and his encounters with locals from many different ethnic groups and backgrounds, paint an eloquent portrait of a troubled country. A long history of slavery and economic oppression, violence and political wrangling--not to mention a rich artistic and musical culture, and noted thinkers and innovators--has given Jamaica an outsized i ...more
Risa
Review from an ex-professor that I couldn't agree with any more:

"There is so much about it that is xenophobic and irresponsible. I threw it across the room when I finished it. If it wasn't for my deep reverence of books I'd throw it in the bbq and burn it. When old people who left Jamaica for England in the 1940s became experts on contemporary Jamaica, I don't know. What I've decided to call documentary tourism is not even the least of this books problems. "

All in all, the Jamaica that Thomson
...more
Leyoh
I read this whilst in Jamaica and it made me feel incredibly 'present'. My knowledge of the country was passable but this enriched my trip and experience by filling in the gaps whilst adding cultural and historical highs but mostly lows. This is a sad book because Jamaica's story is sad. Ian doesn't pity or mock, in fact his diary like telling comes across as sincere and I think he genuinely loves the island - as do I.
Gweneta Maragh-borden
As a Jamaican, I was skeptical of this book because of its title. After reading the praises from other authors, acknowledgement and introduction, I threw it down in anger (I would love to speak to him face to face on why I got angry) but my curiosity got the better of me and returned to it and could not put it down until my curiosity was satiated. I still have eight more chapters to go. I love the time Ian spent on interviewing all the different people from England and the Island of Jamaica, tha ...more
Johann Brandstatter
Ian Thomson is a very thoughtful, humane and well informed writer. " The dead yard " is well researched and backed up by numerous trips to Jamaica. This is not by itself, a " travel book ". It goes into history, past and very recent. It is at times, a less than pleasant read, but, reality is like that.
This is an honest book that you should read before you take a trip to Jamaica. You need information like this. It could save your life.
Overall, in the travel/history/politics section ( your chice
...more
Allison
At the Calabash 2012 International Literary Festival (held annually in Treasure Beach, Jamaica) this book was described as "controversial," and when Ian Thomson took the podium he apologized to the mostly Jamaican audience for any harm he may have caused by what he'd written.

In my opinion, this book's shortcoming is that it is driven by the very Euro-centric (and paternalistic) question: "What has Jamaica done with its independence [from Britain]?" (p21). Thomson calls Jamaica a "baneful place"
...more
Brien
I assigned this book as part of the course I taught in conjunction with the trip I led to Jamaica. The book is the story of modern day Jamaica. It chronicles the violence, poverty, drugs and lack of education. It details the political corruption that results from the country's new-ish independence (1962), its dependence on foreign aid and loans, and huge amounts of American political and economic pressure. The book also deftly describes the island's history with slavery and the resulting race an ...more
Tishon
An fun and insightful read on post-colonial Jamaica, The Dead Yard is definitely a must read for anyone looking to get a real sense of what the island is like today. Though, or perhaps because, it's written from the perspective of an outsider it gives a sense of the varied experiences of Jamaica's multiple ethnic and social classes. Thomson also doesn't shy away from the possible causes of Jamaica's problems whether they're endemic or the result of the island's colonial history.
Kate
I found this book almost disrespectful at certain points. It was very obvious that Thomson already had a point of view before experiencing certain parts of Jamaica. I am not disagreeing with everything that is said, but there is a much better way to articulate without being so offensive. I also felt that his interviews were very selective, and he targeted people who would share his point of view. I read about 75% of the book, and did not enjoy it very much at all.
Kiki Marriott
An unflinchingly honest look at modern day Jamaica,

product of a history of slavery, an inescapable fact of life. Thompson asks the question, "What has Jamaica done with its independence?". The answer is discomforting. Jamaicans will not find this an easy read and I have no doubt that it will upset many. It is not a tourist brochure and Ian Thompson deserves much praise for his brave and beautiful prose.
Kathryn Morris Burgess
I finished it. This was a tough read, with pictures of a beautiful, ravaged country. 'Hateful and hating', he called it at the end of one chapter, in a tone that reminds one of Jean Rhys's portrait of Paradise Ruined in Wide Sargasso Sea. Even so, I'm glad I finished it. The meetings with a wide variety of Jamaicans stands as valuable accounting of voices that would otherwise have been lost.
Lou Alexander
After a trip to Jamaica that meant we spent a lot of time on a resort, I wanted to know a bit more about the real Jamaica. Reading another review, I agree it is a bit Euro-centric in it's perspective but it asked a lot of the same questions I did after visiting the country. I can see why he approached it in this way. Very readable and interesting.
Akin
Excellent, well researched reportage, if a bit overlong. I was tempted to argue with the author's ultimately depressing portrait of modern Jamaica; but he works very hard to keep his own projections out of the narrative, instead relying on the voices of native Jamaicans to back up his impressive research
Erica
An important and readable work on modern Jamaican history. I had quibbles with a few of his narrative tactics, but on the whole felt I got a great (although highly negative) account of major cultural players in Jamaica over the past several decades.
Carl
Ultimately disappointed by the book. Obviously thorough, but at times too much of a travelog rather than a commentary on Jamaica and it's history. Too many incidental characters for my liking.
Douglas
A brilliant travelogue of contemporary Jamaica always aware of the historical setting. Ian Thomson is thoroughly conversant with the literature and music of Jamaica. A really good read.
Kathleen McRae
An interesting but not very uplifting writing on Jamaica today with some history on how it reached this troubling point.Racism and greed have again worked their hideous magic.
Melisa
I found this book inexplicably fascinating. The organization was a bit odd but the stories are engaging and eye opening.
Andrew
Loved it. Perfect blend of historical review and anecdotal musings of modern day Jamaica.
Samantha
An enlightening look into Jamaican history and how they came to be where they are today.
David
Gave up on this one...too bad, but really dull and one dimensional
Grace P.
A little bit long but a great travel read.
Christine Cox
Informative but hard to get into.
Andrew
Nov 02, 2010 Andrew marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Winner of Ondaatje Prize 2010
Doug Irvine
Doug Irvine marked it as to-read
Dec 10, 2014
Nicki Willoughby
Nicki Willoughby is currently reading it
Dec 04, 2014
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