Mon | Apr 22, 2019

Latoya Wakefield’s passion for writing goes ‘Back to Basics’

Published:Saturday | March 23, 2019 | 12:17 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer
Latoya Wakefield, freelance writer and author of ‘Irie the Caterpillar’, ‘Irie the Butterfly’ and ‘Xaymaca: A Dream is Born’ during a book reading session.
Latoya Wakefield, freelance writer and author of ‘Irie the Caterpillar’, ‘Irie the Butterfly’ and ‘Xaymaca: A Dream is Born’ during a book reading session.

Whatever you are passionate about, you should be doing it! Latoya Wakefield is passionate about many things, but one of the things she is most passionate about is writing.

Wakefield, who is a freelance writer and author of Irie the Caterpillar, Irie the Butterfly and Xaymaca: A Dream is Born, said writing is the best way to connect with people. It is not merely a connection on the surface, she said, but on an emotional level when someone can actually read her writings and the storyline resonates well with them.

“I am very passionate about the art. I doubt I can live without writing. It is just something I do and have always done since I was a child. Even if it is not published or another person never reads it, I will keep writing,” Wakefield said.

Her books are specifically geared towards children, and they take a much more open-hearted feeling on the pure joy of reading. The picture books gathered are just the tip of the iceberg (or the edge of the bookshelf?) for parents who want to plant and nurture the love of reading in their children.

“Children are amazing. They inspire me. My imagination is sometimes fuelled by their conversations and antics. I can’t help but write for them,” Wakefield said.

Her latest book, Back to Basics: A-Z of Dancehall, introduces an unconventional way to teach children reading through dancing. Back to Basics uses dancehall to inspire children to read and tells the story of Junior, who, despite this mother’s best efforts, disliked reading.

His mother noticed that he had a passion for dancing and she decided to utilise his dancing ability to develop his interest in reading.

“I love dancehall as a musical genre and dance form. I remember back in the days when grandma would teach me some of the moves such as the ‘Bogle’, ‘World Dance’ and so on. It was fun and forever ingrained in my memory,” Wakefield said.

“My family and I would dance on the verandah all the time. We still do as adults. I watch this generation doing the current moves, and they are so caught up. I chose to focus on dancehall because of that love for it. It belongs to us, Jamaica. It is ours to preserve and share,” she added.

Celebration of culture

Wakefield said she wants to celebrate the Jamaican culture with the world through books. “It feels wonderful being Jamaican. Our culture is so rich. There’s so much history and so much we do not know about ourselves. I believe that embracing our culture contributes to a wholesome identity. I embrace Patois, dancehall and other aspects of the Jamaican experience,” she said.

“Sometimes, I think the world knows more about us than we do. We don’t have enough literature, images and art about who we are. It’s hard to look to ourselves when we are in that boat.

I hope for our children to look to themselves for solutions to create their own opportunities, to build within. I read once that Louise Bennett said ‘De pickney dem learn de sinting dat belong to dem’.

Let our children and adults embrace our culture; it belongs to us,” Wakefield added.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Kavion Robinson, recognised most notably for his illustrative depictions of historical figures and scenes showcasing Jamaican dance moves.

Back to Basics is currently available on Amazon for paperback and Kindle for e-book. She can be contacted at wakefieldlatoya@gmail.com, or on Instagram @zartsyone

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com