Tue | Jul 27, 2021
Women of Distinction

Diana McCaulay, championing the environment and keeping the scribe’s pen alive

Published:Monday | May 10, 2021 | 1:44 AMLennox Aldred/Gleaner Writer
Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay is a proficient Jamaican writer who has earned herself a multiplicity of awards and recognition as testament to her ability at the craft.

McCaulay, who resides in St Andrew, has written and published four novels. 'Dog Heart' (2010) and 'Huracan' (2012) were published under the Peepal Tree Press in the United Kingdom while 'Gone to drift' (2016) was published by Papillote Press from Dominica and the UK and her widely read 'White Liver Gal' (2017) was self-published.

McCaulay, born into what Jamaicans would call the 'upper-middle class', spent a lifetime ruminating on significant matters regarding race, class, colour, and privilege in Jamaican society. The bulk of her writing has stemmed from eye-opening observations made throughout that middle-class upbringing.

McCaulay's novels are laced with the contemporary intricacies and social conventions of modern Jamaica and are uniquely Jamaican, striding to epitomize the culture of its people. The novel 'Dog-Heart' is a captivating and theatrical story of one woman's attempt to make a difference in the life of a young man from a disadvantaged community in Kingston, while Huracan, which is very loosely based on McCaulay's family history is a part contemporary and part historical novel that tells the story of Leigh McCaulay, returning to Jamaica after 15 years in the US to make a home on the island.

McCaulay's third novel, 'Gone to Drift', was concocted for young adults, and it relays the story of a boy's search for his grandfather who is lost at sea. The novel explores fundamental choices facing Jamaican society and many developing countries: the casting away of traditional knowledge and the embracing of fast-changing modernity, the challenges of surviving in an economy mired in debt and unemployment, and the pressures of an unequal society, forcing people into daily acts of compromise and corruption.

'White Liver Gal' explores the traumatic events of sexual abuse over generations and the redemptive power of friendship between women. Her latest novel, 'Daylight Come', came third in the CODE's Burt Prize for Caribbean Literature in April of 2019 and was published by Peepal Tree Press in September 2020.  

Outside of her kingdom of books, McCaulay is one of Jamaica's most well-known environmental activists and is the founder of the Jamaica Environment Trust.

She retired as CEO in December 2017. In that capacity, she has interacted with all levels of Jamaican society from the Prime Minister and Cabinet officials to Jamaicans who live in rural areas.

She was a prominent newspaper columnist for The Gleaner (1994-2001) and her short stories have been published by Granta Online, Eleven Eleven, The Caribbean Writer, Afro-Beat, Lifestyle Magazine and Jamaica Observer's literary supplement, Bookends. She won the regional Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2012, for her short story, The Dolphin Catchers. In 2019, her story Picking Crabs in Negril made the shortlist of the Royal Society for Literature's V.S. Pritchett short story prize.

She was also the recipient of the Euan P. McFarlane Environmental Leadership Award for the Caribbean in 2006 and a Ripple Award from the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals in 2016. She was the recipient of a Bronze Musgrave Medal in 2009 for her environmental work, and in 2007 she was recognized for her contribution to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She was awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) in 2016.

McCaulay is currently working on a memoir, Loving Jamaica: A Memoir of Place and (not) Belonging for which she received the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize in 2014.