Carolyn Ali tells the story of Bahia Girl
Calypsonian David Rudder’s Road March-winning 1986 Bahia Girl forms the basis for Carolyn Ali’s romance novella of the same name.
She self-published the 139-page book in January. It's dedicated to her daughters Jo-Ann, Tammy, Patti and Judi and her grandchildren, Liam, Izabel and Abi.
Its blurb says, “During the covid19 pandemic lockdown in Trinidad, aspiring calypsonian Roger uncovers the secret thwarted romance of his great-grandfather. Intrigued by his great-grandfather’s beautiful pen pal Felicia from Bahia in Brazil, Roger undertakes to find Felicia’s offspring and discover what really kept true love apart all those years ago.
“What unfolds is an exciting journey to Bahia and to Trinidad and the meeting of two different cultures and two different people.”
Some of Ali’s life experiences with her late husband – the host of popular TV series Rikki Tikki, teacher and artist Ian Ali – also form part of the story. He died in 2007.
She is also the author of five other books, including Stories and Recipes from the Indian Dancer.
She recalled that the part of the book where one of its characters, Felicia does a mural at a hotel was inspired by her late husband being commissioned to do a mural in the dining room of Turtle Beach Hotel, Tobago (now called Starfish Tobago).
When his daughters Patti and Jo-Ann were working on the ianali.com website they called the hotel to arrange photos of the mural. His daughters were told the painting had been painted over and no longer existed.
Last year June, however, when her daughter Judi came from Minnesota, the family took a trip to Tobago and went to Starfish. They asked about the painting and were surprised to find it was still there.
“My daughters all burst into tears. They were so emotional when they saw it,” Ali said.
Sharing how the story was born, Ali said, “I wrote it last year during the height of the covid19 pandemic. I wanted to focus on something happy, something that would make people less sad about the whole situation of covid, having our country locked down.”
A Gayelle documentary film about Rudder going to Bahia, Brazil also helped to give birth to the story.
Ali was impressed to see Brazilians “so happy and joyfully singing Bahia Girl.
“I was really impressed with that, to see how his lyrics and music had crossed the ocean, crossed the culture, crossed so many barriers, and that is the main reason I wanted to do it. I saw the effect of his lyrics and his music.”
It took her six-seven months to write the novella and she got permission from Rudder to use his work. Ali’s daughter Patti e-mailed Rudder last July asking to use his material and he replied, “Tell your mum she has my blessings.”
He was sent a copy of the book, Ali added.
The success of the global romance storytelling market was also another reason. A 2022 Observer.com article says that the romance novel industry is worth US$1.4 billion and quoted a 2018 study which said 25 per cent of all books and one out of two mass-market paperbacks sold were romance novels.
Ali said, “I think people want to read something that would leave them in a happy frame of mind, leave people happy and satisfied that everything came to a happy conclusion.”
She said Caribbean writers do not always focus on the romance genre.
“Not always but maybe to an extent. Not all Caribbean authors focus on love and a happy conclusion.”
To tap into a younger audience, she used e-mails to move the story along, as opposed to letters.
Ali said she was not currently working on another romance novel but a book for infant-level students called Shapes in Art. She added that she used some of her late husband’s paintings to expose children to the basic shapes in art.
Sales for Bahia Girl have been coming from friends and family so far. She decided not to put the book in bookstores, but preferred a more personal exchange.
People interested in purchasing the book can do so through Amazon’s Kindle Store or by e-mailing the author at email@example.com.
"Carolyn Ali tells the story of Bahia Girl"