A South Florida capacity crowd of well over 350 listened in rapt attention last Thursday evening as Beverley Anderson Manley, veteran journalist, international speaker and gender specialist regaled the gathering with tantalizing excerpts from her recently launched autobiography, The Manley Memoirs.
The novel chronicles the events from her family home into the home of the island’s “first family” through her marriage to one of Jamaica’s most prolific leaders, Prime Minister Michael Manley. The excerpts ran the gamut from the tear-jerking to pure comedy, and Anderson Manley delivered with sensitivity and panache.
Under the distinguished patronage of the Consul-General of Jamaica C.P. Ricardo Allicock, the event at the South Regional Broward County-BCC Library in Pembroke Pines kicked off with a prelude of lively and provocative Jamaican folk songs, performed by the Jamaica Folk Revue and Mento Band, with contributions from past students of the South Florida Chapter of the St. Hugh’s Alumnae Association, the main sponsor of the function, Anderson Manley herself a past student.
In her opening statement, the author spoke of pockets of disapproval that stemmed from her decision to share the details of her life with the public, and stressed the need for the society to be more open. “We have kept secrets for too long in Jamaica,” she declared, also making reference to the current community code of silence, “and it’s high time we let go of the ‘informer fi dead‘ mentality.”
The author explained the cathartic release she experienced of writing her story, and her exhilaration when she placed the manuscript in the hands of the publisher. “I just forgot about it after that,” she said, “it was as if a great weight was lifted from me.”
The event was chaired by Dr. Carol Boyce-Davies, dynamic scholar of African Diaspora Studies, author, editor and professor, who also delivered a brief but riveting introduction to the themes in the novel.
The book signing saw the audience patiently waiting in line, some for well past an hour, to get their copies of their novels autographed by the author.
Anderson Manley has worked tirelessly to promote developmental issues in the interest of women and children both at home and abroad. Her work contributed to changes in laws that discriminated against women and children in Jamaica during her tenure as First Lady during the 1970s.
She continues to be a sought after speaker in Jamaica, and regionally throughout the Caribbean and North America and also participates in numerous conferences and research groups focusing on developmental issues.
Caption: Jamaica Folk Revue and Mento Band perform at book launch. (Damion Woolock photo)