Last year, I stopped in Jamaica as part of a seven-day cruise. I had heard horror stories about the country and so I was scared to leave the designated port area. According to "reports", every man would rape me and I would be hooked on drugs before returning to the ship. However, my son and husband were eager to check out the island so we decided to tour a nearby historic house--Rose Hall. (Rose Hall scared the crap out of me but for a different reason.)
At first, I was really scared. I felt men stared at me in creepy ways and everywhere we went, people wanted to sell us something. To top it off, instead of taking a proper taxi to the Hall, my husband just gave a guy with a van some money to take us there. I was sure we would be found dead by locals in some ditch.
That didn't happen.
In fact, we met so many wonderful people on that trip. Nothing bad happened to us. We ate delicious REAL Jamaican food in a local restaurant.
It taught me that though you should have common sense (because Jamaica does have crime), you shouldn't prejudge. In fact, I should know better. I live in Mexico, a country where prejudice and misconceptions about it abound. I think if I had read about it (from Jamaicans) before I got there, it wouldn't have been so bad. I should know better and that's why I am encouraging my children to read and learn about other cultures.
That's why I strongly recommend two MG books by Jamaican author JL Campbell. It's from the Simm Sibling Series and it's really good. (Click on the books to go to amazon.com.) They are about two siblings that have suffered a family tragedy and how it has effected each differently.
The stories are well written and discuss issues that affect young and old in the country of Jamaica. You really start to understand the cultures and traditions. I think it's a must read for all children, right along with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath.
Synopsis of book 1: Raised in a hotbed of arguments and fights, eleven-year-old Christine Simms is always at the centre of conflict between her parents. With each new day and unfolding drama, she suffers through her mother's temper and cruelty. A domestic dispute ends in tragedy, sending the family into a tailspin. Christine's siblings become wards of the state and she is taken in by her father's sister.
A shocking discovery sends Christine on a quest to find the stranger who abandoned her in Jamaica and changed the course of her life. Determined to unravel the mystery of her birth, Christine uses every tool at her disposal and treads with courage where no child should.
Synopsis of book 2: A young boy's future hangs in the balance when those sworn to protect him become abusers.
A tragic domestic dispute between his parents lands eleven-year-old Samuel Simms and his siblings in the Downswell Place of Safety. The challenges come hard and fast, but the one thing Sam doesn't count on is being left behind in the children’s home. Angry and disillusioned, he gives up hope of adoption.
A ray of light comes in the form of a foster family, but everything is not what it seems in the Miller household. After a harrowing five-month stint, Sam runs away. A victim of child abuse, he's determined not to repeat his mistake and opts to remain a ward of the Jamaican government until he’s eighteen. The burden of secrecy is more than he can bear and Sam's hair-trigger temper makes him disruptive.
Under pressure from his aunt, Sam caves in and shares a tale of horror surrounding his foster parents. With his ordeal exposed, Sam must make life-changing choices.
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