Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hay Festival 2016: Booker Prize-winner Marlon James on why he had to leave Jamaica or die

Marlon James in the Bronx
Marlon James in the Bronx Credit: New York Times/Redux/Eyevine

I had just left my parents’ house in Portmore, a suburb outside Kingston, Jamaica, for my own apartment in the city: a studio, barely 600 sq ft, with yellow shag carpeting, a tiny terrace enclosed in jail bars, a bedroom looking out on somebody else’s bedroom and a ceiling I could reach. I locked myself away from the neighbours with two deadbolts.

At 28 years old, seven years out of college, I was so convinced that my voice outed me as a fag that I had stopped speaking to people I didn’t know. The silence left a mark, threw my whole body into a slouch, with a concave chest, as if trying to absorb impact. I’d spent seven years in an all-boys school: 2,000 adolescents in the same khaki uniforms striking hunting poses, stalking lunchrooms, classrooms, changing rooms, looking for boys who didn’t fit in.  MORE

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