Title: Batty Bwoy
Author: Max-Arthur Mantle
Length: Novella (85 pages)
Publisher: Max-Arthur Mantle (14 April 2015)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts
Blurb: The coming of age story of Mark Palmer, a black, gay, Jamaican where “Boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head” (meaning, gunshot to gay men) has replaced the island’s motto “Out of many one people.” The son of an overbearing, absentee, neglectful mother, he is thrust in an environment that requires a thick skin from torments and socio-economic disparities. Suppressing his “gay tendencies” to detract being bashed or murdered, he migrates to America and breaks free from the closet to a world where he is disenfranchised and arrested. As his life spirals from bad choices, he clings to desperate measures and finds hope.
Review: When I first received this book for review, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. I have to admit the title had me a little reluctant because when I see the word “batty” I think of it as the slang for “crazy”, as in “the lady’s gone completely batty”. Instead, batty bwoy (and other variations), I found out with a quick bit of research, is a Jamaican phrase for gay, bisexual or simply an effeminate man. At this point I was now intrigued.
Batty Bwoy is the first book published by Max-Arthur Mantle and is an interesting and riveting read. The writing style is more like a memoir rather than a traditional third person narrative but it was still engaging. The best way I can describe it is that the story links up a number of events in the life of a character making a very cohesive and pleasing narrative. It follows the life of the main character Mark.
Literally, from conception where we are introduced to his parents’ way back in 1969 a couple of years (I think) before Mark was even born. The moment that Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ is mentioned, for those familiar, not only will you instantly get the song in your head (and now you have it in your head too! Ha!) But you will also know that we are towards the end of the eighties by now. But as soon as I made that realisation, we were going through the nineties too.
This is culturally very interesting as well. Mark, the ‘batty bwoy’ of the title, was born in Jamaica – lived in Jamaica too – though it gets rather complicated when I start thinking of his home life. Being that the author is Jamaican, who am I to argue with his reflection of Jamaican society. I also like how Jamaican characters spoke “in Jamaican”, for lack of a better word. I, for someone whose only knowledge of Jamaica is from some reggae and watching the movie Cool Runnings as a child, this was a learning experience.
This is an interesting and gritty read; this is basically a quick tour of gay rights, etc. through the eyes of one person. Really, all I can say that this is a story about a life, a man who just happens to be Jamaican and gay, and it’s a real interesting life that has been woven for him.
I particularly like the ending; it gives hope without giving too much away. It’s interesting to see how Mark as a character has changed through the years of self-discovery from a child to ending up as a 29-year-old man who hasn’t quite finished growing up. But as I said, there is always hope.
* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through http://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com *