"Possessing Women's Faces" - lecture and reading by author and cultural ambassador Brenda Flanagan

May 18, 2011 / venue: Fuchs-Petrolub-Saal, Schloss O138 / time: 6:30 p.m.

Caribbean literature, with some exceptions, is still relatively unknown in Europe. Now and then a novel turns into an international success and is then also published in German - recently one could name Junot Díaz whose novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

But very often literature from the Antilles does not reach us, which is regrettable since the Caribbean is known to be a culturally diverse region. Due to its geographical location influences from all over the world converge there, which also manifests itself in the literary work of many authors.

We were all the more happy to welcome the author Brenda Flanagan, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, on May 18th. Mrs. Flanagan, a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State, gave a short lecture with the title „Possessing Women's Faces". In this lecture she addressed the above-mentioned influences by discussing how the faces of women all over the world have affected her writing.

Subsequently, Mrs. Flanagan read from some of her short stories and was then available for all kinds of questions. Later on there was opportunity for exchanging thoughts and getting an impression of the author's complete works while having a glass of wine. A book table offered copies of all her published novels and short stories.

We kindly wish to thank ABSOLVENTUM and Bücher Bender for their support.


About the author:

Brenda Flanagan was born in Trinidad as the twelfth of fourteen children. Her father was working as a barman, her mother as a laundress. The money for her schooling she partly earned on her own, working as a calypso singer. At the age of ten she started writing poetry, which she sent to different newspapers for publication.

At fourteen she left school and started working at a factory. She was lucky - her former principal was then working for Nation, the newspaper of the People's National Movement Party. He helped her to become a reporter and so at the age of fifteen a new life began for her. At that time the People's National Movement was still the party in government  and so Brenda not only gained insight into her country's politics, she also traveled with the Prime Minister, meeting people like Haile Selassie.

In 1967, at the age of eighteen, she arrived in the United States with the intention to study. For a start she found a job as a servant in New York. She got married, had children and together with her family moved to Arkansas. Only at the age of 25, by then a single parent, she enrolled herself as a student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she earned her Ph.D. degree.

Today Brenda Flanagan teaches Creative Writing, Caribbean and Afroamerican literature at Davidson College in North Carolina. A cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State, she has visited countries around the globe, among them Chile, India, Morocco and Chad. Her work as an author comprises two novels and a collection of short stories and has earned her numerous prizes. Currently she is working on her third novel.

Fiction by Brenda Flanagan:

2009: Allah in the Islands (novel, published by Peepal Tree Press)
2005: In Praise of Island Women & Crimes (short stories, published by KaRu Press)
1996: You Alone Are Dancing (novel, published by University of Michigan Press)

Excerpt from the short story "Snakes":

When my mother was in her late 50s and I was old enough to remember fear, a woman wise beyond our seasons told her that she would die from a snake's bite. Around this woman's right wrist was tattooed a ring of tiger wire, and in her face were deep gorges that told of her indenture. As a girl, she had come from India across rough waters to Trinidad to work in the cane fields of Couva. [...]

My mother relayed this prophecy of her death, pleased, I suspected, that it contradicted her own suspicion that she would die of pleurisy, a fate her own mother suffered after being drenched in dew. [...]

Terrified at the thought of my mother's death, I guarded her closely, giving up my interest in boys with whom I played hide-and-seek; fighting sleep, wishing I could prop open my eyes to watch her as she pressed clothes until two or three in the morning. Sleep would eventually overcome my vigilance, and my mother would place the iron on a pad so she could carry me to my cot. [...]

Years passed. My sister Velma and I went to America. To celebrate Velma's graduation from medical school, I invited my mother to join us in New York. On the long list of reasons that I had prepared in defense of the safety of flying was that America had landed a man on the moon. My mother wrote back that she would never believe that a human being had set foot on the moon, but she was proud of her girl-child, she would get on a plane. On the day she was to arrive, the plane emptied and she did not appear...

Copyright (c) 2011 Brenda Flanagan