Story and photos by Dixie-Ann Belle
Educator, poet and children’s author, Charisse J Broome is on a mission: to help reshape the literary world of the children of Trinidad and Tobago.
She has already taken steps to achieve this with the release of her first published children’s book, the lyrical Awesome Father. The book is her love letter to Trinidad and Tobago and God, the Father, a story which integrates vivid images of local culture and her native creole.
With rhythmic language, she goes on to describe many beloved cultural experiences of Trinidad and Tobago, like drinking coconut water, playing cricket and visiting Maracas Beach, while celebrating her young readers’ sense of self and their relationship with God.
She liberally sprinkles local creole throughout this poetic tale. In her foreword, she explains, “Our language is an important and integral part of our identity.”
Broome reveals that the inspiration for her self-published story stems from a deep spiritual connection with nature. “During one of my quiet times outdoors with the Lord, I was simply captivated by His goodness and His majesty,” she recalls. “Just taking in all of the intricate, exquisite, beautiful things that He’s made, thought of, planned out just for me to enjoy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and admiration.”
While working with the book’s illustrators, Pandalific Graphic Design Studio, Broome says she strived to depict authentic images of her culture. “I wanted to capture ‘us’ on the pages of Awesome Father,” she states, “so that our children and grandchildren for generations to come can see themselves in the pages, identify with the pictures and be proud of their culture and country.”
Broome’s dedication was instrumental during the challenging process of self-publishing and finding funding. Her advice to other aspiring writers is “Be authentic. Be relevant.”
Her determination and enthusiasm are not focused only on publishing a simple children’s story but on making significant change to what local children consume for entertainment.
“We have an excessive amount of western influence in our media and culture that over time erodes and chips away at our authentic Trinbagonian-ness,” she observes. “This is heartbreaking because our children are growing up knowing more about strangers across the seas and valuing their contributions rather than studying and celebrating our own heroes.”
Broome also dreams of “young readers” and “not-so-young readers…at home and abroad” being inspired to experience this country and being as enchanted by it as she is.
She is encouraged by the response to Awesome Father. Parents and children are charmed and moved by the illustrations and content. On Amazon, it has drawn reviews from parents in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
“They excitedly exclaim, ‘This looks like me!’ or ‘This looks like my daughter!’, or niece or cousin,” explains Broome. “I just love that.”
Broome is already planning her next literary contributions. Influenced by her experience as a private language tutor, she is working on a Spanish-language version of Awesome Father.
She also has sequels in the works. The book is meant to be the beginning of a continuing series. “This first publication is less than one quarter of the entire poem penned, so I hope to continue publishing.”
She is also developing one of her humorous poems, ‘Mango Mouth Marlon’ to include reading comprehension modules and what she calls ‘mangomatics’, where she uses her character’s love of mangoes to teach mathematics modules.
Through her work, Broome is determined to create a gift, a cultural heirloom, which she hopes to pass on to the nation’s children as well as the ones she and her future husband will have one day.
“I want our children to value what Trinidad and Tobago has first, over what other places do. I want my writing to leave a legacy of truth, love and pride of country, culture and language for our children and great-grandchildren for years to come.”
Awesome Father can be purchased in paperback or as an ebook on Amazon. It is also available locally at Christian Literature Crusade bookstores, Bold Print Book Shop and My Reflection TT bookstore.
Dixie-Ann Belle is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. She writes about her work, advice for writers and creative people on her blog https://belleworks.wordpress.com/