by Howard Campbell
SOUTH FLORIDA – Typical of many West Indian parents whose children are born in the United States, Trudi Tolani wanted hers to know about her roots. In her case, rural Jamaica.
Six years ago, Tolani wrote Winnie: The Beginning, a book about the life of a young girl in Manchester, a rural parish in central Jamaica.
The 67-page easy-reader was independently re-released in June 2020, with a new cover and layout. Twenty-five percent of the book is autobiographical. Other parts are based on things observed by the author.
According to Tolani, the book was inspired by a chat with her four children who were bemoaning their lack of leisure activity. “I had the idea one day when my kids kept saying how bored they were. Growing up, I was never bored so I started sharing some of my childhood memories with them and what we did,” Tolani explained. “I figured that there were other children just like them with Caribbean Heritage that could benefit from conversations with their families.
It took me about six months to write because I wasn’t very focused on it. The heroine is Winnie, a precocious eight year-old who aspires for a life beyond her home in (fictional) Piper district. ” Throughout the book, the reader is introduced to life in rural Jamaica, circa the early 1980s. They discover the joy of ring games, marbles, picking fruit from trees and a deep sense of community.
There are also the challenges, like the lack of basic amenities including electricity and running water.
Tolani, who lives in South Florida, was born in St. Ann, Jamaica’s largest parish. She has lived in the United States since 2001 and is a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University. After working in the pharmaceutical industry for many years, she decided to devote some of her time to writing, something she has always loved. A book based on her childhood in Jamaica seemed only natural for her debut project.
“Growing up in Jamaica, and with the family I had, shaped my life to be the person I am today. My family is Pentecostal so I grew up really strict. I learned very early the value of respecting everyone, and being polite. I learned to be humble and satisfied with what we had, and to be thankful,” she said. “I didn’t realize just how much all that meant to me until I got older, because growing up you think your family was being hard on you. My time in Jamaica, my experiences and my family are invaluable and very much responsible for who I am today and also how I raise my children.”