“Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?”
A synopsis of “Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?” A book of Caribbean stories by Dr. Richard A. Byron-Cox showing its direct relation to the historical, cultural and literary heritage of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?” is essentially a literature book of a collection of 5 West Indian stories set in the period 1900 to 1960. These stories are tales of experiences taking place in various islands of the Caribbean. They describe the lives of ordinary people, their trials, tribulations, joys and happiness in a funny and yet serious and profound manner.
While the book is entitled “Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?” this is merely the name of its cover story. The book contains four other sorties, namely “The Dead Man living with us”; “How Japheth met Lucifer,” “Sattou’s Pains, Mr. Penniston’s Burden” and “Lord Orator in the Calypso Tent.” In these 5 stories, the author paints an interesting landscape of Caribbean life during the period covered. Undoubtedly, this is a book which is as serious as it is funny, which is as simple as it is profound, and which is as enjoyable as it is tearful. And while it is only a very small window from which to view life in the Caribbean at that time; the view it provides is truly wonderful in that it is full of all the colours of Caribbean life of that period.
“Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?” is one of those simple storytellers, which provokes your imagination to such a point where you become so involved in the motif that you unwillingly find yourself becoming not only involved with the characters, but at times being transformed into the characters. The magic of this literature book is in its simplicity, thoughtfulness, honesty, and genuine feeling. It is obvious that the author just does not describe a period or invent characters, but rather relates a reality that, even though bygone, haunts the Caribbean today. It is a period which those who have experienced it look back upon not only with pride, but with passion. It is a period which those who have lived, happily recall and those who have only heard of it, are always overjoyed when they have the opportunity to glimpse into the same.
This, therefore, is the essence of “Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?” It is a beautiful record for those who wish to remember this golden period of the Caribbean’s slow but sure movement from innocence to independence. This moment in time when the true Caribbean civilisation as we understand it today was being formed; when Calypso, Reggae and ultimately Bob Marley, Sparrow, cricket, Eric Williams and Gary Sobers would come of age. Yet, it provides a reference for those who were born after this period and only have heard of it, and wish to understand it in its historical and cultural beauty.
Consequently, it is therefore correct to say that while this is first and foremost a literature book, designed for the joy and pleasure of the ordinary reader, who would like to relax after a long day. It can also serve as a textbook for those who have to use it for literature in forms 3 or 4 at high school. At the same time it is a historical, sociological and economic record of the Caribbean during those years.It is difficult to miss the island mentality and psychology of the people as portrayed by the author. It is equally difficult to miss his portrayal of the development of independent political thought and ultimate desire in the Caribbean people for freedom from want, and a dedication to personal achievement and success. This therefore shows that while “Were Mama’s Tears in Vain?” is an excellent literature book, it is indeed much more.
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