“What does ‘black’ look like?”

by Nicholas Laughlin on November 2, 2013

Writer Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe. Photograph courtesy Tim Ridley

Despite the swell of her belly, Hannah Lowe is perched, apparently comfortably, on a wide bench at the British Library in London. The child who is coming will bear her father’s name, she says. “It’s important for me not to lose the name, because the child won’t feel the connection to the Caribbean that I do.”

In the November/December Caribbean Beat, Melissa Richards profiles British writer Hannah Lowe, whose debut book Chick is both named for and inspired by her Jamaican father, a professional gambler. Lowe talks about her “childhood full of contradictions,” growing up “within the façade of white middle-class family life” with a mixed-race immigrant father.

“I was always having to explain him to other people,” she says, “but it wasn’t just the fact that he was black and I was white. It was the fact that he was so old. He looked like a grandfather, and often he’d just got out of bed because he’d been playing cards all night, so he was this old dishevelled man with his hair stood on end.”

The resulting questions about personal history and ethnic identity — “what is race, what does ‘black’ look like?” — are the meat of both Chick and Lowe’s forthcoming memoir (due in 2014). And Lowe herself raises fascinating questions about how we can or should define what it means to be a Caribbean writer.

Hannah Lowe reading from Chick at the 2012 Norwich Showcase (your Antilles blogger was in the audience!):

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