Book Reviews

Mother’s Day Book Review – For my Grandma, Mother and Big Sis

Hey guys. Happy Sunday and Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there. I hope you have a great day, you deserve it. I spent all of 8 hours this week with small children and every time I do this, I have newfound appreciation for mothers and teachers. How you all do it is beyond me 🙂

As it’s Mother’s Day, I wanted to review a very special book, “When Me Was a Boy” by Charles Hyatt. As I mentioned in a previous post (somewhere), my big sis messaged me one day and asked me to see if I could find this book. Apparently this book was my grandmother’s favourite and it always used to make her laugh. I spoke to my mum about it and she said yes, that book used to bring my grandmother to tears she laugh so hard. Mum thinks she has grandma’s copy but she cant find it so you can imagine how happy I was to see it on sale at a book festival and promptly purchase it for my big sis. I of course had to read it first.

when me was a boy

“What was it like to be a small boy growing up in Kingston of the 1930s? When Me Was a Boy tells exactly what it was like. Charles Hyatt remembers his boyhood in vivid detail and, in his own inimitable voice, talked about it in his radio programme When Me Was a Boy. In this selection from those pieces, Charles brings his school days to life: the tramcar and horse-and-buggy days, when cars were few and far between and taking a walk was a social occasion. There are hilarious moments – look out for the Black Heart Man – and historic ones, and Charlie’s sharp observation and remarkable memory put us right on the spot, sharing his feeling and experiences.”

This book provides an amazing glimpse into Jamaica’s past and it’s done in an authentically Jamaican way. All the stories are told in patois, our Jamaican dialect and the stories so vivid, you feel as if you are actually seeing it. It helps that I’ve lived here my whole life and already knew most of the places he was talking about. The book is also told from the perspective of a child which just adds to the feel good vibe and innocence. This comes across so well when the author speaks about major events in Jamaica’s history such as Colonial Rule, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, Emancipation Day celebrations, World War 2, the release of Alexander Bustamante from prison and his walk through the streets with his lawyer Norman Manley (these two men would become the founders of our two major political parties and our first Prime Ministers). When you study these events in history, you get all the seriousness of the subject matter. In this book, you see it through a child’s eyes. Mr. Hyatt witnessed all these important events and never realised what a big deal they were. He was a kid and was there for the fun and excitement of it all. It made me smile.

Reading these stories reminds me of when my grandparents and grand aunts and uncles talk about back in the day, stories of the going to the theater, riding on the tramcar, not having TV or fridges, how everyone had livestock in their backyards (my own grandfather had a cow) and how laundry and ironing was a week long process. What I really loved was reading about those parts of our culture and everyday life that have not changed. For example, making “suck suck” which is really frozen bag juice, when thyme used to come free with the scallion, the excitement and planning that went into a school trip (I lived for class trip days in school!) how the uniform have to clean and press because you are representing your school, big Sunday breakfast with the breadfruit, liver, dumpling, callaloo, plantain, green banana everyting! (Sigh, why did I do this to myself?) It reminded me that the more things change, the more things stay the same and I love that about my little island.

I can understand why my grandmother loved this book, it’s her childhood and upbringing detailed in these pages with the same type of humour she was known for (although, hers was a bit more “mature” to put it nicely). It makes me happy that I have a book like this to share with my Mum and my sisters, it’s like a nice bond between us and another great memory of my grandmother for us to share. May she continue to rest in peace and power.

Takeaway Lines

Ah discover that ah wasn’t ready to communicate with mi ancestor that day when me was a boy – hilarious story of a rich family’s pet monkey throwing mangoes at the author. Random I know.

Now in them times children were expected to be seen an not heard but when sweepstake ticket come out if yuh want to be seen an heard then start talk ’bout the dream yuh had las’ night. Everything yuh seh will get translated into numbers an if any combination of numbers look interestin’ then the search is on for tickets to match – Bwoy, Jamaicans and our lotto ticket dreams.

Runnin’ away from the scene as fast as yuh can is the one thing me did know fi do good, when me was a boy.

Them days wi use to have respec’ not only fi wi ‘elders’ an the law but mos’ of all fi wiself an fi one annada when me was a boy.


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