The World is a High Hill by Erna Brodber

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

“That need to preserve might have come from my knowledge of how people’s history gets distorted and stolen.”

So says Erna Brodber, in an illuminating, wide-ranging interview with Keshia Abraham for BOMB Magazine in 2004. The sentiment resounds just as powerfully, this refusal of cultural appropriation, and insistence of writing against any and all empirical forces, in Brodber’s 2012 publication of short fiction (her first collection in this genre), The World is a High Hill: Stories about Jamaican Women.

A strong, unstinting selection of stories sees contemporary Jamaican society reflected for its moments of heartrending beauty, as much as in its faithful portraits of excess and unfairness. No matter the focus, Brodber’s prose is as unflinching as it has always been in her long-form novels. From each narrative, divergent yet solidly knitted portraits of “the modern Jamaican woman” emerge, and the revelation is a progressively more nuanced one, as the reader spends time with Beverley, Kishwana, Lily, Rosa and others. There can be no one, monochromatic identity for any measure of womanhood, Brodber espouses, and this is true for the Jamaican woman, too: she can, and does, represent a sargasso sea of possibilities, many of which are embedded into the miniature worlds created in this powerful, resonant collection.