photo of open door by MICHALIS PANAGIOTIDIS
SLIPSTREAM: A Daughter Remembers, by Rachel Manley, is a deeply thoughtful, exquisitely written book about the author’s relationship with her father, the handsome, dynamic and one feels (in private life: with his five marriages, love of gardening, and delight in roses) wildly sweet, Michael Manley, prime minister three times elected of Jamaica. It was because of Bob Marley and Michael Manley (who liked each other and discovered they could work together) that I was drawn to visit Jamaica several times. I did the boring tourist thing first, visiting old plantation ruins, because that was what was offered, having traveled there on an obscenely gross cruise ship whose appeal was that it promised my husband an opportunity to rest from his years- long lawyerly labors in the racial cauldron of Mississippi. Later journeys took me to Negril, when there was only one tiny hostel on the beach (as I remember it), and then to Nine Miles, birthplace of Bob Marley, where his body was laid to rest.
I was glad Michael Manley and Fidel Castro were friends, and watched with pride and then dismay as the reforms to benefit the working class and poor of Jamaica fell to the axe of the International Monetary Fund, as Michael Manley himself, once revered by Jamaicans, became relentlessly criticized and threatened.
Jamaica’s history offers a fascinating study of a people’s valiant efforts to rise from the shackles of colonialism and poverty, only to be put down again by forces beyond their reckoning.
Slipstream looks at what mattered most to the firstborn of Jamaica’s most admired, most hope-inspiring leader. To Rachel Manley it was as if her father belonged to everything and everyone but her. How she comes to a deeper understanding of the meaning of Michael Manley’s life (as he lies dying from cancer), and accepts, to the extent she is able, her place in it, is the exploration of this fine book.
This book was published in 2000. Life being as it is, I finished reading it yesterday, 2015.