Uncle Brother unfolds a tale of unflinching devotion against a tapestry of neglect and exploitation. Under the curious eyes of a succession of children glimmer fragments of stories that interlock to produce the saga of Nathan Deoraj – brother, uncle and teacher. The young boy on an early twentieth- century cocoa estate in Trinidad begins his own story, and soon the opportunity for education and Nathan’s own passion for books opens the way to a brilliant future. Then a crippling loss reshapes his path.
However, the very limitations that close on him provoke him to unleash his mind into the awakening consciousnesses around him. Others who have taken up the tale reveal how Nathan’s subsequent choices lead to a recharting of countless lives and to the forging of connections that cross Caribbean social divides.
Yet, running alongside Nathan’s devotion to family and community are stories of those children who had no Nathan. Resentments arise and smolder, shocking injustice leads to tragedy, and, in old age, Nathan must tap yet deeper reserves of strength and endurance.
Uncle Brother speaks to audiences of all ages in and beyond the Caribbean by exploring bonds between children and older family members, and, uniquely, between a girl growing to awareness in the light and shade of a powerful male relative. Then, threading the tale of the living legend are cries for help from a child who enters the story late in Nathan’s life, when nothing more should have been required of him.
BARBARA LALLA is Professor Emerita, Language and Literature, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. Her publications include Postcolonialisms: Caribbean Rereading of Medieval English Discourse, Defining Jamaican Fiction: Marronage and the Discourse of Survival, the companion volumes Language in Exile: Three Hundred Years of Jamaican Creole and Voices in Exile: Jamaican Texts of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
(co-authored with Jean D’Costa), Caribbean Literary Discourse (co-authored with Jean D’Costa and Velma Pollard), and the novels Cascade and Arch of Fire.