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we should know something about Jamaica. And I can tell you about
that year, because it was an important year for me.
I don't remember any specific reason why we, my sister and I,
were bundled off to Jamaica with my grandmother. My mother stayed in
America. Except, what I said, that they decided that we should be
Now, what did my grandmother do? During that year, she
took us around and showed us where they lived before she split from
her husband and took her three daughters to Panama. She showed us
the places they still owned there. I guess what she was doing, either
deliberately or inadvertently, was giving us some sense of origin
or roots, because whether she intended this or not, this is what
happened to me, you know. I got a feel for Spanishtown where my mother
was born. I got a feel for Kingston and Drummond Street, where my
But let me tell you -- and I've never said this to anybody --
it was also a very disturbing thing to me, because it was my first
contact with class and status differences, and I to this day believe
that my ulcers originated in Jamaica when I was eight or nine years old.
Because, what happened? Up until that time, I was struggling
with the Irish, and it was democratic -- it was, you know, equality.
I had no sense of class distinctions whatsoever in my early socialization
in New York.
When I went to Jamaica, we had nurses, nursemaid, who waited
an my sister and me night and day. We went to a public school, and
in this school,-- (there's a fascinating angle) -- the principal's
son and my sister and I were singled out, really, for special treatment.
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