There are stories, and then there are stories. Trini author Lawrence Scott reawakens the discussion on fictionalising history, and is the season finale guest on Bios and Bookmarks this Sunday, October 10.
London-based Scott closes off season five of the Facebook Live series, which focused on telling complex family stories, with readings from his historical fiction, Dangerous Freedom, delving into his re-imagination of the story of Dido Belle, who was born into slavery but raised in her great-uncle’s home as a member of the aristocracy, alongside her white cousin.
Dido’s story is indeed that of complexity in families, but also of the complexities in dealing with race-led and gendered versions of slavery and colonialism. A BBC Culture article calls her “Britain’s first black aristocrat,” and is appreciative of Scott’s perspective, which, in contrast to other works, including films and series, does not seek to romanticise notions of blacks in British upper classes.
“There's this kind of whitewashing of these bits of colonial history – not really owning these details, these conflicts,” Scott is quoted in the article as saying.
How much of the present comes through a historical retelling? Scott in another interview notes that "I bring my own emotional experiences...to empathise and learn how to inhabit her, so as to discover her and to imagine her for readers...but, yes, she does in some ways express my views on the politics and horror of 18th-century African enslavement.”
Dangerous Freedom, published by Papillote Press, which is devoted to books from the Caribbean, has been hailed as a revelation of “how powerfully an act of fictive empathy can dispel long shadows of historical forgetfulness” by English historian and writer, Marina Warner.
Bios and Bookmarks was launched in 2020 by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest during pandemic lockdowns when in-person events were not possible. Past guests have included Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, and Roger Robinson, 2019 TS Eliot Prize winner. Season five included writers Shara McCallum and Celeste Mohammed, with guest host Andre Bagoo. The all-virtual discussions have been bringing audiences in touch with writers across the world and across genres in one-hour sessions, featuring readings from their latest publications and candid questions about their work and publishing careers.
The sixth season, which will have an environmental focus, will run from November 7-December 12. All conversations take place on Facebook Live on Sundays at 3 pm (TT time), and viewers from the region and beyond are encouraged to participate by commenting and posting questions in real time.
This season’s past episodes are available for viewing on www.facebook.com/bocaslitfest.