Book Abstract
"Colón Man a Come": Mythographies of Panamá Canal Migration uses songs, fiction, histories, memoirs, and original letters, a range of texts that spans the circum-Caribbean, to delineate the "imaginable" truths that inform the migration and labor of the famed Colón Man. Original in its formal study of literary, epistolary, and lyrical Colón Men and their migrations, this book complicates existing narratives by telling original Panamá stories as well as different versions of familiar ones. Works by George Lamming (Barbados), Herbert de Lisser and Michael Thelwell (Jamaica), Eric Walrond (Panamá), and Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe), in addition to songs, histories, and original archival materials, suggest that fictive renditions of isthmian migration and workers represent Colón Men’s "undocumentable" reasons for migration. Otherwise, how else might one explain why Caribbean men continued to migrate when death was almost certain and when possibilities for financial success were slim? Fictive narratives, spanning the 20th century, also begin to address what it meant to migrate in order to partake in the "freedom" that was legislated but denied in the Caribbean after Emancipation. This region’s literature and songs, as well as Colón Men’s recollections, re-create migration and canal histories, yet the import of fictive narratives lies in the imagined and imaginable truths that gave shape to Colón Men’s experiences with intra-regional migration, labor, ethnicity/race, and masculinity and that shaped fictional explorations of Caribbean subjectivity.

Reviews of "Colón Man a Come"

Table of Contents

  Series Editor’s Introduction vii
  Preface ix
  Acknowledgements xxiii
  Introduction 1
Narrating the Panamá Canal and Colón Men
  "The Money Was Paid Small, but We Live Big":
Epistolary Narratives of the Panamá Canal
  "Colón Man a Come":
Isthmian Migrants in The Harder They Come and In the Castle of My Skin
  "With him watch chain/a knock him belly":
Migration, Masculinity, and the Colón Man in Banana Bottom, "Window," and Tropic Death
  Disorderly Narrations and the Colón Man in Maryse Condé’s Tree of Life: A Novel of the Caribbean 169
  Conclusion: Panamá Woman a Come 197

Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas, entries on "The Colón Man" and "Jan Carew," forthcoming.

"Creole Performance in Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands." Gender and History 15.3 (November 2003): 487-506. Reissued as "Creole Performance in Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands ," Dialogues of Dispersal: Gender, Sexuality and African Diasporas. Edited by Sandra Gunning, Tera W. Hunter, and Michele Mitchell (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004): 91-110.

"Mythographies of Panamá Canal Migrations: Eric Walrond’s ‘Panama Gold’." Marginal Migrations: The Circulation of Cultures within the Caribbean. Oxford: Macmillan Press—Warwick University Caribbean Studies, 2003. Pp. 43-76.

"What If You’re an ‘Incredibly Unattractive, Fat, Pastrylike-fleshed Man’?: Teaching Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place." College Literature 30.3 Summer 03, 1-18.

"Colón Man Version: Oppositional Narratives and Jamaican Identity in Michael Thelwell’s The Harder They Come." Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research 2.2 (2002), 157-176.

"Jamaica Kincaid," The Columbia Companion to the 20th Century American Short Story, 2001.

"The Ethnic Consciousness Movement." The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Book Reviews
Review of Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Race and Gender in the Work of Zora Neale Hurston by Susan Edwards Meisenhelder (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999) for American Literature 73.1 (March 2001): 209-210.

Diana Wright, Mystik 1580 AM, "South Florida Speaks Out (Talk)" 12 pm - 1 pm, 29 September 2003,, TOPIC: "Jamaican Culture and Globalization" (Graduate course)

Works in Progress
    This project, tentatively titled "Pop-Fiction: Popular Genres and Black Diaspora Cultures in the Americas," explores a recently apparent trend in the works of black Americas writers, particularly Octavia Butler (US; science fiction/fantasy), Patrick Chamoiseau (Caribbean; detective/mystery fiction), Tananarive Due (US; horror), Nalo Hopkinson (Canada; science fiction/fantasy), Walter Mosley (US; detective/sci-fi/fantasy), BarbaraNeely (US; detective) and Colson Whitehead (US; speculative fiction). These writers assess their respective genres by deliberately crossing boundaries between different types of fiction and/or returning to these genres to their stated origins and intentions. I believe the possibilities inherent in their play with form and intentions explain why, when one examines recently published works in speculative and mystery traditions, one finds many books with racial, ethnic, working-class, as well as lesbian and gay protagonists and themes. This circumstance begs the question that structures this project’s argument: what is it about these popular literary forms that attracts black Americas writers, particularly since the above mentioned literatures are said to define and uphold a conservative worldview in terms of race, class, and gender?
    "Pop-Fiction" answers this question by attending to black Americas writers’ relationship to a black, pan-genre reading audience. "Pop-Fiction" argues that this attention to audience requires a complicated depiction of racial, class, and gendered "others," people/characters that traditional popular literatures used to reify male and upper class privilege. Secondly, writing for and/or imagining an a-typical audience allows for complex racial (et. al.) discussions about individual characters and behaviors, and, significantly, extra-literary social structures for which such characters stand as symbols, structures that traditional speculative fictions maintain.

Related Links

  1. Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection, Cushing Library, Texas A&M
  2. Nalo Hopkinson