Dimensions:8.25in x 5.5 x 0.45 in | 0.43 lb
Page Count:212 pages
Tessa comes of age as the advent of Independence on a small British Caribbean island disturbs the status quo and establishes a new class and race hierarchy in a country that historically was a polyglot nation. As East Indians living in straitened circumstances in a city in which the social mores are now dictated by the white, mixed race, and well-to-do Blacks, Chinese, Syrians, and Portuguese, the family is under siege as they struggle with financial hardship and discrimination when they are forced to move from their beautiful home in Port of Spain to a much smaller house in the impoverished suburb of San Juan de la PIna. The family's social life is centred around the Catholic Church and their extended family, and they have their own prejudices as Tessa discovers when the restrictions placed on them by being Catholic hampers her family's ability to improve their circumstances. Winning entrance into the most prestigious Convent School in the Port of Spain is Tessa's only hope to get the education she needs to climb out of poverty and break free of the racism that seeks to define and restrict her life.
Madeline Coopsammy was born in Trinidad, West Indies, when it was still a British colony. She immigrated to Canada in 1968, where she attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with B.Ed and M.Ed degrees. Her poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies and journals across Canada and the United States, and her poetry book, Prairie Journey, was published in 2004. She is a regular book reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, Prairie Fire , and the Indo-Canadian Telegram. Currently retired from teaching, she is enjoying writing, reading, international gourmet cooking, entertaining, and her three grandchildren.
"Coopsammy's novel opens another window to the Trinidad of the 1940s and 1950s. lt's a good example of the kinds of stories the literature community is calling for."
"This novel has been tagged as young adult fiction, but it is more than a coming-of-age story. It is a detailed and rich portrait of life on the island in the era just before it gained independence in 1962."
"The novel is ambitious in its themes which include family, education, racism and independence. A chapter on Carnival and Hosay provides foreign readers with basic information about these cultural and religious events. I found the juxtaposition of these two chapters quite interesting for their discussions on religion vs entertainment and their ability to show the cultural complexity of Trinidad."
--Trinidad and Tobago Newsday
"The Old Songs, in tackling potentially difficult subjects like poverty, racism, access to education, and religious differences, is a book with a very timely subject matter. Set against the backdrop of a country as it struggles to redefine itself the book would be well used to help broach these topics while focusing on an area of the world, at a time, not always focused on."