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message 1: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Happy October 1st everyone!

Our discussion for this month is Augustown by Kei Miller.

Have you read it? Just started it? Waiting on a library copy?

The book is a modern day fable set in Jamaica and based on an actual event, apparently. Has anyone read anything else by this author or any book based in Jamaica this year?

How about we start the discussion on the 4th. A reading schedule will follow.


message 2: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Surprised to see that this little book has already been read by so many I follow or friends with on Goodreads. No one has given it less than four stars (including myself). This to say, if you’re hedging on reading it for one reason or another, hedge no more and dive right in. Come on and join us!


message 3: by ColumbusReads (last edited Oct 01, 2017 08:51AM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Awards, nominations and honours:

*Augustown, won the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the most prestigious international award for Caribbean writing.

*Augustown was shortlisted this year for 2016 by the Green Carnation Prize which seeks to champion the best LGBTQ author, regardless of subject matter.

*Received a Kirkus star review in the March 2017 publication of the magazine for Augustown.

*Fear Of Stones And Other Stories, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book.

*The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, won the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry in 2014.

*Shortlisted for the Phillis Wheatley Book Award in Fiction, The Last Warner Woman

*Shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, A Light Song of Light


message 4: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2873 comments Mod
Columbus wrote: "Awards, nominations and honours:

*Augustown, won the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the most prestigious international award for Caribbean writing.

*Augustown was ..."


Augustown also received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal.
So along with the Kirkus starred review - this is important as they are trade publications which allows those in the industry (libraries, bookseller, prize award judges) to be aware of the book.

Augustown was also one of the 25 fiction books longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.


message 5: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2873 comments Mod
I have read Augustown.

I have also read The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller.

I have not read his poetry or his short stories.

The only book I have read this year that took place in Jamaica is the short story collection Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke where a story or two had Jamaica as the setting.


message 6: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 103 comments I am in the waiting for library copy group, and may not get it until mid-month. I am more anxious for this one than I've been for a book in a long time!

I haven't read other books by the author, but was introduced to him through a craft talk he gave in an online writing workshop. If anyone is interested, there's a YouTube video of this talk:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxOZw...
where he discusses poetry, the politics of power, and a little about Jamaica. Toward the end he reads a poem of his--a powerful treat not to be missed.


message 7: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Kathleen wrote: "I am in the waiting for library copy group, and may not get it until mid-month. I am more anxious for this one than I've been for a book in a long time!

I haven't read other books by the author, b..."


Thanks for sharing this, Kathleen, and hope you’re able to get your copy soon and join us.

Going by YouTube videos alone, he seems to be invited to quite a few writer panels, conferences and book signings. I enjoy seeing authors who are on small indie presses get exposure to the wide reading world. Although many seek to keep their anonymity and eschew writing for the mainstream or conventional public.


message 8: by ColumbusReads (last edited Oct 01, 2017 10:27AM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Awards, nominations and honours:

*Augustown, won the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the most prestigious international award for Caribbean writing...."


Beverly, that’s amazing to see these trade publications not only give your book this important exposure but give it a starred review as welI. I was just searching for something else on him and saw that the book also was shortlisted for the prestigious RSL Ondaatje Prize. It says: The £10,000 award is for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry that evokes the "spirit of a place", and is written by someone who is a citizen of or who has been resident in the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. Appears he’s been honored and/or won awards in the Caribbean, Ireland, Scotland, England and the United States. Who knows I may have missed somewhere.


message 9: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2873 comments Mod
Columbus wrote: "Beverly wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Awards, nominations and honours:

*Augustown, won the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the most prestigious international award for Ca..."


I actually became aware of him years ago when looking up some British Caribbean writers and saw he was active on that scene and with the Calabash Literary Festival.

But I am certainly glad that he is making a hit in the US now!

So many writers yet to read!!!


message 10: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2873 comments Mod
Kathleen wrote: "I am in the waiting for library copy group, and may not get it until mid-month. I am more anxious for this one than I've been for a book in a long time!

I haven't read other books by the author, b..."


Thanks for sharing this.

Now that I live in a place that is not considered on the author circuit place to visit, I have found You Tube to be a wonderful source to hear authors speak and read from their works.


message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 563 comments I look forward to reading this and will try to start next weekend. The reading schedule will help, no doubt.


message 12: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) Columbus wrote: "...Have you read it? Just started it? Waiting on a library copy?

The book is a modern day fable set in Jamaica and based on an actual event, apparently. Has anyone read anything else by this author or any book based in Jamaica this year?"


I've just finished Augustown last night. I will follow this discussion and add my comments later.

Actually this year one of my book clubs ("The World's Literature" book club) is spending one year reading Jamaican literature. We started the year with Kei Miller's poetry (The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, There Is an Anger that Moves) and his other fiction The Last Warner Woman. Other Jamaican authors we read are Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Lorna Goodison (poetry & fiction) and the 3 books by Marlon James.

Kei Miller's writing is very lyrical, which is no surprise because he also writes poetry. He puts on quite a show during his recitals. One of my favorite recitals can be seen here. Look forward to this discussion.


message 13: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 103 comments Missy J wrote: "Columbus wrote: "...Have you read it? Just started it? Waiting on a library copy?

The book is a modern day fable set in Jamaica and based on an actual event, apparently. Has anyone read anything e..."


Missy J--thank you for sharing that video! Loved it, and looking forward to reading that collection.


message 14: by ColumbusReads (last edited Oct 02, 2017 02:20PM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Augustown is divided into three sections: The Flying Preacherman, This Is How It Starts & The Autoclaps. Although we could discuss each section separately, that would require reading large parts of the book before we have a chance to discuss it. There’s an epigraph and 27 chapters, how about we break it up into 5/6 chapters each. Is that ok with everyone?


message 15: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Reading schedule:

Epigraph - Chapter 6 / Oct 4th thru Oct 10th
Chap 7 - Chap 12 / Oct 11th thru Oct 15th
Chap 13 - Chap 18 / Oct 16th thru Oct 21st
Chap 19 - Chap 22 / Oct 22nd thru Oct 26th
Chap 23rd - end of Book and full discussion begins Oct 27th



message 16: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 563 comments Columbus wrote: "Augustown is divided into three sections: The Flying Preacherman, This Is How It Starts & The Autoclaps. Although we could discuss each section separately, that would require reading large parts of..."

Great suggestion and schedule. Thank you!


message 17: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Now we begin our discussion of the book:

*I’ve been fixated lately on the epigraph in books when previously I paid scant attention to them. The one here basically gives a brief history of the actual August Town, Jamaica and its rather charismatic and flamboyant Revivalist preacher, Alexander Bedward. (Note: the ebook lists this as the epigraph but not the actual paper book). More about this legacy can be found here: http://jis.gov.jm/preserving-bedwards...

*What’s your impression on the author’s writing style and your thoughts on the first couple of chapters of the book? It didn’t take long for me to realize this was the work of a poet cum-prose master with the beautiful, sterling metaphoric sentences told partially in the familiar Jamaican patois.

*What’s your initial thoughts on Irie Tafari or more familiarly known as Ma Taffy, Gina and Kaia? Particularly the circumstances surrounding a Taffy’s blindness.


message 18: by Joelle.P.S (new)

Joelle.P.S | 65 comments Thanks to Missy J for the poetry video link & to Columbus for the Bedward info link. :-)

My thoughts so far: fascinating characters, richly drawn. Re: Ma Taffy's blindness: what a horrifying scene! & described in such a succinct, matter-of-fact way. Wow.


message 19: by Karen Michele (new)

Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 220 comments I have it coming from the library. I hope to get it soon.


message 20: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Augustown made the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence: Longlist 2018 for Fiction. Shortlist will be announced on 10/25.

Has anyone else started the book yet?


message 21: by Louise (new)

Louise | 138 comments I finished it last week and loved it!


message 22: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Now discussing Chap 7 - Chap 12 / Oct 11th thru Oct 15th


message 23: by BernieMck (last edited Oct 11, 2017 07:00AM) (new)

BernieMck | 97 comments I am a little more than half way through the book. I really like the storey so far. Sometimes, I find it quite challenging to interpret what the characters are saying. Ok, most of the time; I'm not too good with understanding a lot of the phrases that Caribbean's use.


message 24: by ColumbusReads (last edited Oct 11, 2017 04:19PM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Bernie: I’m glad you brought up the fact that you’re having difficulty with the phrases, language or Jamaican patois. I saw a review online the other day of Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. This reviewer was rather brutal about the language or dialect used in that book. He said: He didn’t understand it; it wasn’t unnecessary; what’s the purpose of it, and on and on he went ad nauseam....Needless to say, he hated the book because of this as well as some other issues he had with it. I figured after a while one would just get used to it but that’s just me and of course everyone is different.

One of the first books I struggled with was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It liked to have killed me the first time I read it. The second time I was prepared for it and now it’s one of my favorite books of all time. The dialect is part of the charm for me.

I just wonder if others have difficulty with the language here or in other books. While looking over this book today after Bernie brought it up, I can see how one might have some difficulty with it.

Incidentally, watching that wonderful video that Missy J was kind enough to share. I admit I had to rewind it several times because I couldn’t quite make out some of the words. Thought I was gonna need close-captioning like I use for the bbc.


message 25: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
What are your thoughts on “how” this story is being told?

There were several books I thought about when reading this book. One that came immediately to mind is The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Mr. Obioma also has a way with creating beautiful sentences, reminding one of the incredible tales told by a griot. This resonated with me throughout the book.

Some questions I have up to chapter 12:

1) what made this cutting off of Kaia’s dreadlocks so awful and/or political?

2) does the interweaving of storylines work for you? Is it confusing or not?

3) what do you think of a Kei Miller’s writing and storytelling thus far?


message 26: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2873 comments Mod
Columbus wrote: "Bernie: I’m glad you brought up the fact that you’re having difficulty with the phrases, language or Jamaican patois. I saw a review online the other day of Marlon James’ [book:A Brief History of S..."

I find that when I say patois or dialect out loud I understand a little better. :)


message 27: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Columbus wrote: "Bernie: I’m glad you brought up the fact that you’re having difficulty with the phrases, language or Jamaican patois. I saw a review online the other day of Marlon James’ [book:A B..."

I’ve never tried that Beverly but I intend to the next time I read a book with a dialect or patois.

It’s likely a conundrum for many authors on if they should use it or how much it should be used. I often think it brings a sort of authenticity to many of the works I’ve read. It has a long history too in that many of the black dialect was used for racist means by white writers in the past. I guess that’s why so many people have varying opinions about Zora Neale (or did) and others of its ilk.


message 28: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 331 comments I didn't seem to have trouble with the dialect in this novel, but for "Their Eyes Were Watching God" I was stumped until I went with the audiobook (narrated by Ruby Dee), and that was an incredible way to experience the novel.


Ricardo Goodridge | 4 comments I love the dialect in the book. I had no real issues deciphering its meaning. I thought it made the book more authentic. It helped put me in the setting of the town


message 30: by Louise (new)

Louise | 138 comments I am also a fan of dialects when I'm listening to audiobooks. I admit it's a bit more difficult when I'm doing the reading as I can't really hear the real voice. As Columbus mentioned, I too was thrown for a loop when I first read Their Eyes Were Watching God and I did struggle a bit. But I absolutely loved listening to the audiobooks A Brief History of Seven Killings, The Polished Hoe, Augustown etc. for that very reason. For the poetic dialects.


message 31: by Monica (new)

Monica (monicae) | 460 comments Reading the patois for me in this novel was not difficult at all. In fact it seemed appropriate to the story keeping my mind firmly planted in Jamaica. I read this one, but I listened to A Brief History of Seven Killings and Here Comes the Sun. I think that I have heard enough Jamaican patois that it comes to mind easily on the page. My take away: A well done audiobook can enhance reading sensibilities in other works.


message 32: by Karen Michele (new)

Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 220 comments I'm starting this one tonight or tomorrow. I'm looking forward to catching up with the discussion.


message 33: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Karen Michele wrote: "I'm starting this one tonight or tomorrow. I'm looking forward to catching up with the discussion."

Let us know what you think, Karen. It reads pretty quick.


message 34: by Karen Michele (new)

Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 220 comments I'm really enjoying the book. I am not having much trouble with the language. I did get better at it as I read Brief History. I find that I do best when I read it like I read plays ---- I don't actually read out loud, but I definitely concentrate on hearing an a voice in my head. I definitely had to work hard long ago when I read Hurston! That's a book I really should re-read. I hadn't thought about The Fisherman, but I agree with the comparison. I keep thinking of Song of Solomon because of the flight theme. The writing is quite good. The change in time periods threw me a little, but I like the way Miller put in a date reference every so often to keep you in step. I've finished part one and I'm looking forward to part two.


message 35: by ColumbusReads (last edited Oct 15, 2017 12:03PM) (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Karen Michele wrote: "I'm really enjoying the book. I am not having much trouble with the language. I did get better at it as I read Brief History. I find that I do best when I read it like I read plays ---- I don't act..."

Karen, I’ve never read Song of Solomon but I need to get to it soon. Well, it’s not going anywhere so I have time. Isn’t it funny the different ways we tend to read certain types of books. I just finished Shakespeare’s The Tempest and at one point realized I was walking around the house reading and acting out the Prospero lines. Voice fluctuating and becoming louder at the more dramatic parts. Strange.

Glad you’re enjoying the book!


message 36: by BernieMck (last edited Oct 15, 2017 01:00PM) (new)

BernieMck | 97 comments I just finished the book and I really liked it. Though I did not understand some of the Jamaican patois, that did not stop me from inferring the meaning and forging ahead. I am glad that I am not ignorant enough to criticize or dislike a book because the writing is not tailored to my understanding or my way of speaking.


message 37: by Monica (last edited Oct 15, 2017 01:35PM) (new)

Monica (monicae) | 460 comments I really liked the book. I've since returned it to the library so I can't make comments until we can talk about it completely. One of my main questions is about the role of Ma Taffy. Is there more to her role in all this besides the obvious? (view spoiler) Also, can someone refresh my memory as to how she lost her sight? An important point that I seem to have missed.

Columbus asked:

1) what made this cutting off of Kaia’s dreadlocks so awful and/or political? The self-loathing that seemed to have motivated the teacher. Self loathing due to inadequacies as well as apparent jealousy over skin color. Obvious abuse of power. He was so twisted he thought he was saving the child because of his view of how polite society would see him.

2) does the interweaving of storylines work for you? Is it confusing or not? I thought the interweaving storylines were very effective. Not confusing for me. I enjoyed how the story unfolded.

3) what do you think of a Kei Miller’s writing and storytelling thus far? I really like Miller. I have held off writing a review until our discussions. I'm still pondering the book, but Missy J has helped see a few things I hadn't considered and I hope to learn more. Clearly, the power of the story and key to understanding it lies in knowing some of the history of the culture in Jamaica. I've discovered quite a bit through reading this book and subsequent discussions. I hope to learn more...


message 38: by Efundunke (new)

Efundunke (dunke) | 1 comments I instantly fell in love with Miller's writing, lingering on each sentence. The way in which characters are developed in the initial chapters (starting 7 soon) is like a cool breeze caressing a flashback. Mr. Saint-Joseph is delusional within his insecurities. His resemblance to Marcus Garvey hints that he may be perceived as a traitor to his race. Excited to read on!


message 39: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Monica wrote: "I really liked the book. I've since returned it to the library so I can't make comments until we can talk about it completely. One of my main questions is about the role of Ma Taffy. Is there more ..."

Yeh, Ma Taffy may be blind but she sees more than many. I loved her character a lot. Particularly her strong presence at the latter part of the book.

She was blinded by a colony of rats that were breeding on the roof. The ceiling collapsed and instead of closing her eyes for protection she opened them for anticipation “of the coming autoclaps.” What a scene!


message 40: by BernieMck (last edited Oct 16, 2017 05:55AM) (new)

BernieMck | 97 comments 1) what made this cutting off of Kaia’s dreadlocks so awful and/or political?

Kaia was Rastafarian and as part of their religion they do not cut off their dreadlocks. Mr Saint-Josephs imposed his values on Kaia by cutting his hair in a fit of rage. Regardless of why he did it, he had no right to because Kaia was not his child. This act when performed by the police and or Mr Saint-Josephs was another way to disrespect poor blacks and treat them as less than human.

2) does the interweaving of storylines work for you? Is it confusing or not?

I like books that interweave storylines it makes the book more interesting. I don't find it confusing.

3) what do you think of a Kei Miller’s writing and storytelling thus far?

Kei Miller's writing is delightful. He uses a lyrical language with the capacity to depict scenes so clearly that I feel like I am there. As I read and became more engaged in the storey, I think I was able to feel and empathize with every emotion his characters must of felt.


message 41: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) Columbus wrote: "Yeh, Ma Taffy may be blind but she sees more than many. I loved her character a lot. Particularly her strong presence at the latter part of the book. ...."

So true, Ma Taffy sees more than many. I thought her blindness symbolized her poor and uneducated background. One would think a blind person is helpless and lost. But in fact, despite her blindness, Ma Taffy is actually very aware of her surroundings and uses her other senses to "make sense" of the world.

One part that stood out for me was how Ma Taffy knew about the guns under her house and how she told the "yute" to get rid of the guns because she has a feeling that Babylon police will be around in the afternoon/evening.

What do you make out of the story of the "flying preacherman"?
Why did the author decide to add this story to the novel?


message 42: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Discussing Chap 13 - Chap 18 / Oct 16th thru Oct 21st


message 43: by Joelle.P.S (new)

Joelle.P.S | 65 comments I was pleased to find the long "autoclaps" definition/history/etymology at the beginning of section 3. Etymology & language are so interesting.

I've enjoyed the building tension throughout the earlier parts of the books. Autoclaps is coming...


Ricardo Goodridge | 4 comments At first the interweaving was confusing but the more and more I read, the better understanding I began to have about the book. I feel like the interweaving showed the shared experiences of the characters despite some who live in different worlds.

I love the way Kei is letting the suspense build on the consequences of Kaia's dreads being cut off. As I was reading the book I dying to know the outcome will be but Kei is very good in his storytelling and hint dropping at what will happen.


message 45: by Louise (new)

Louise | 138 comments Eleanor Wachtel (who's a great interviewer) of CBC's Writers and Company interviewed Kei Miller a couple of weeks ago on her show. You can listen to the full episode here:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/writersandcom...


message 46: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Chap 19 - Chap 22 / Oct 22nd thru Oct 26th


message 47: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) Louise wrote: "Eleanor Wachtel (who's a great interviewer) of CBC's Writers and Company interviewed Kei Miller a couple of weeks ago on her show. You can listen to the full episode here:

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/..."


Thanks Louise for putting this link up. It's a lovely interview.

During the second half, Miller talks about "Augustown". Fun fact mentioned during the interview: Growing up, Kei Miller lived on the hill that overlooked Augustown (or as he says, the middle class folks living on the hill "looked down on Augustown"
not just geographically, but also literally). That setting inspired him to write a novel about racism in Jamaican society.

His voice is also very soothing to hear.


message 48: by ColumbusReads (new)

ColumbusReads (coltrane01) | 3720 comments Mod
Entire book open for discussion

What’s your thoughts on this book? Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it? Would you read more by this author?


message 49: by Alex (new)

Alex R. (alexjholmes) Read Same Earth and An Anger That Moves by him.


message 50: by Louise (new)

Louise | 138 comments Columbus wrote: "Entire book open for discussion

What’s your thoughts on this book? Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it? Would you read more by this author?"


Yes, yes and yes. I told a Jamaican friend of mine that she must read it.


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