Book Review: “Jamaican Child” by Dr. Bertrand Bonnick

This review was written by Carlton Laing, a former high school class mate, and revised by The Language Shop.
I just finished reading Dr Bonnick’s (XLCR ’76) “Jamaican Child:The Story of Bighead.” It is a wonderful amalgam of coming-of-age experiences that evoke memories of one’s own Jamaican childhood or, if one is not Jamaican, provides a peek into what it’s like growing up in post-Independence Jamaica. What the story line lacks in seamlessness is more than compensated for by the hilarity and color of the individual chapters that in and of themselves are stories within the story. Altogether, Dr. Bonnick takes you on a ride as “hirky jerky” as the hog-and-goat country truck on which the protagonist, Bighead, makes his first journey from “country to town” [from the rural area to the more urbanized area of Jamaica, the Capital, Kingston]. But if you can hold on for the ride and the read, along the way you get a chance to see a slideshow of Jamaican life that takes you past family secrets and incest, “duppy stories and obeah” [stories of ghosts and of witchcraft], sexuality and violence, and yes, first love and “last lick” [a game played in Jamaica, the object of which is to be the last person to deal a harmless blow to your friend]. You will ask yourself where you can still “get a duppy fi rent” [a ghost for rent] in Jamaica, or how certain we are of our own paternity. You will wonder at the variations of the dialect spoken on an island as small as Jamaica, where in South St. Elizabeth, young people are discouraged from “courting” [having sex] too soon while in Kingston, the practice is condemned as “slackness.” In addition, you will wonder why in some parts of the island, the “rolling calf” [a duppy with fiery eyes and flames issuing from its nostrils] was the most mystical creature in the spirit world while in Big Head’s district, nothing was more fearsome than the ghost named the “Gullippa” duppy. Dr Bonnick’s narrative of his slice of Jamaican life makes you realize that as tiny as their island may be, Jamaicans have a unique and at the same time diverse culture that affords each person enough material to tell his or her own story from their own unique perspective. Dr. Bonnick has told his story forthrightly, humorously and tenderly. I hope it inspires more of us to tell our own story.

Information on “Jamaican Child” and the author, Dr. Bertrand Bonnick, another high school classmate, can be found at the following site: