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SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2020 OCM BOCAS PRIZE FOR CARIBBEAN LITERATURE
‘What are you?’
Tessa McWatt knows first-hand that the answer to this question, often asked of people of colour by white people, is always more complicated than it seems. Is the answer English, Scottish, British, Caribbean, Portuguese, Indian, Amerindian, French, African, Chinese, Canadian? Like most families, hers is steeped in myth and the anecdotes of grandparents and parents who view their histories through the lens of desire, aspiration, loss, and shame.
In Shame On Me she unspools all the interwoven strands of her inheritance, and knits them back together using additional fibres from literature and history to strengthen the weave of her refabricated tale. She dismantles her own body and examines it piece by piece to build a devastating and incisively subtle analysis of the race debate as it now stands, in this stunningly written exploration of who and what we truly are.
‘This remarkable meditation on beautiful, human bodies formed by the violence of slavery and by colonial shame resists categorisation, even as it shows up the ways in which categories of race and identity are no more than empty methods of social control. Reading this book I felt a profound sense of relief: that someone as wise as Tessa McWatt had the compassion and courage to write it. Though she doesn’t spare us, her ancestors or herself, as she travels from British Guiana to China, India and Scotland, we must go with her: and realise the power of recovering female lineage, and realise that there is no centre, except the one we ourselves can make with all the various stories we contain. It is a deeply moving, urgent and important book.’
‘Heartstopping and wise, exquisitely written, compellingly told, Shame on Me rises to a crescendo of such beauty and grace in its final chapter — a call to activism and resistance — that it left me breathless with the intensity of my own listening.’
‘Eloquent and moving.’