Brodber presents Nothing’s Mat
Dr Erna Brodber explained the title of her new book Nothing's Mat, published by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Press, to a near full audience at the main library's multifunctional room last Thursday.
It is deeply connected to personal family history, much as the book is about the interwoven lives of its genetically related characters.
"The mat is the big sister's mat in her home," Brodber said, Dr Velma Pollard (who was later thanked for taking the book's cover photograph) standing as requested for the audience's acknowledgement.
"The 'nothing' takes me into my family archive," Brodber said, going on to explain about a 'Cousin Nothing' who she never met. "In this work I try to reconstruct her," she said, before reading two sections from Nothing's Mat.
Dr Michael Bucknor, head of the Department of Literatures in English, made another personal connection, this time with a previous Brodber book and its ripple effect. He spoke about reading her book Myal in the very early 1990s and doing his first conference paper on it.
"It shook up my literary sensibilities in a significant way," Bucknor said of Myal, describing it as an 'awakening'.
Afterwards, when Bucknor went to teach at the University of Western Ontario, where he taught Commonwealth literature he made Myal a core text. Someone who was in his class recently contacted Bucknor to speak about how being taught about Myal influenced him in writing his own book. It was noted that "it is Brodber who taught Bucknor how to read literature."
"Creativity inspiring creativity is at the core of what writers do," Bucknor said.
One of the persons well accomplished in a related creative field, playwright, actress and broadcaster Dahlia Harris, introduced Nothing's Mat. "All families have secrets," Harris said, pointing out some elements of a text with "siblings who are not quite siblings."
Complimenting Brodber on Nothing's Mat, Harris said "as they say in Jamaica, Nothing's Mat tun up the things". And although it is often painful, Harris said the process allows Princess (a character) to connect to a family.
Still, Harris noted, Princess has her own secrets as well, but knows the secrets do not need to be revealed.
"Dr Erna Brodber, you good bad," Harris concluded.
That quality was evidenced in Brodber's launch reading of two extracts from . Both included births which were very different in character. The first was in a bathroom by an ignorant child who knew nothing about sex, much less pregnancy, the other delivery of twins by a cosmopolitan woman from the USA who chose to give birth in a home setting very different from what may have been expected.
Music at the launch was provided by Rosina Moder and Joel Ashbourne, fulfilling a wish - and plan - of Brodber's.
"About four years ago, I came to a launch like this, hosted by the Department of Literatures in English. I told myself that I would write a piece that the Department would want to launch and ask Rosina to perform," Brodber said.