SHOP CHRISTMAS GIFTS AND MORE Shop now

Back to index

An interview with.... Cherie Jones

December 4th 2021


For fans of Bernardine Evaristo and Diana Evans, comes this stunning masterpiece. Exceptionally executed, totally gripping and haunting. Author Cherie Jones bring us the beautiful, How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.

This book is from start to finish, astonishing. It’s intense and haunting, hopeful and strong. Atmosphere, character and plot are all 100% on point. It’s a story I’ll never forget.

We interviewed this amazing author about her work and what she's got coming next, have a read..


Author's Note

Dear LoveMyReader,

This novel has been a labour of love for me so to finally see it published is truly a dream come true. Barbados is, without doubt, Paradise on earth in so many ways. But for many of us who live here, it is also a place of contradiction and complexity, just as any other part of the world must be. I really hope my novel might make you curious enough to visit us sometime. I hope that you read it and understand that, while we are everything the postcards promise, we are so very much more.


While our differences may intrigue us, we are undoubtedly united by all the ways in which we are just the same.

Later,

~ Cherie



Q&A

In How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, you’ve created a thriller that thrums with black female power. What did you want to capture about Bajan womanhood and why did the book have to be a thriller?

I didn’t set out to write a thriller, I think that aspect of the novel revealed itself as I wrote, I just wanted to do justice to the story as I understood it. I also didn’t set out to make any general statement about Bajan womanhood, instead I wanted to ensure I did justice to the reality of Lala’s life, the lives of the other women in the novel and the lives of so many other women like them. Like everything else Bajan womanhood has many facets, and I sought to write the story in a way that is true to the aspects of our existence that are reflected within it.



Caribbean folklore goes to the heart of the story in the cautionary tale which gives the book its title. What did you want to explore about these folkloric stories?

The African oral tradition is a part of life as I know it, and is expressed in many ways in local and regional culture. For me the folktale in this book replicates one of our ways of communicating community wisdom and it’s also a way of scaring younger members of the community into accepting. It contextualises the rest of the book because the rest of the novel questions some of our received wisdom about women, and specifically violence against women. It’s complex because the folktale is also true in a sense – staying away from the tunnels allows us to avoid the monster – but what if adhering to the wisdom received is contrary to who we are? What if we’re not equipped to abide by that wisdom? What does that say about our place within that community?


Your book gives a voice to the lived experience of so many women in Barbados, behind the scenes of the tourist beaches. What responsibility did you feel towards women living in Barbados today, while writing this book?

Generally, I felt no loyalty to anything but the story I’m writing – I believe storytelling requires that. I wasn’t concerned about portraying any person or place, even the women of Barbados, in a particular light, flattering or otherwise.

Having said that, I did feel responsible to women who’ve experienced similar incidents of violence, for how I wrote the story. I wanted to ensure that the story was true to the lived experience of women like the women I wrote about, but I took great care in how I relayed the violence they suffered, for example, because it was important to me not to lose the wider impact of that violence in graphic depictions of the gore of the act itself. It was important to me that the story didn’t sensationalise the violent act, or dehumanise the victim, while allowing readers to appreciate the horror of it. I wrote the scenes involving violence with a lot of care as a result.



The generational trauma and poverty experienced by the women in this novel also serves to depict their strength. Do you think we ever know better than our ancestors?

I think our body of knowledge advances with every generation so in some respects, yes, we do, but in some ways we simply prove what we already know to be true, and that type of wisdom has been with us for generations. I look at ancestors as people who’ve reached the point of acceptance of the things they already knew. Honouring our ancestors is almost like coming home to self because I believe the fundamental wisdoms of life are within us all.


How did it feel to make the shortlist for The Women’s Prize for Fiction?

I floated on air for several weeks after finding out that I made the shortlist, it was a surreal experience, one I’m immensely grateful for. A WPFF nod is hugely validating and it was an honour for my book to be in the company of the others shortlisted. That’s an experience I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.



What’s next?

Right now I’m working on a novel and a collection of flash fiction. Hopefully they’ll both be finished soon.



Extract

Where you was, Stella? Answer me!’

‘My name is Lala.’

Lala is, at first, not fazed by the fact that she is already in trouble or that lashes are likely, and

her obstinacy makes Wilma’s right eye twitch.

‘Your name is whatever I say it is!’ Wilma yells.

‘I went for a walk, Wilma,’ Lala stammers. ‘It was dark in the house and I was frighten and I went for a walk.’

Wilma does not know whether to believe her. Lala ’s hair is intact, her dress is not unusually ruffled, she can look her right in the eyes – it is possible that she is telling the truth.

‘I say I would come out and meet the bus, but I lose track of time . . .’

Wilma removes the cloche hat, which she kept on until Lala walked through the door, just in case her head had to brave the cold wind to try to find her. She sheds her Chinese slippers and sits down. Suddenly she is too tired to share a beating. She is too tired to go to bed. She is thinking about the prospect of Carson dying, at last, and leaving her alone, alone except for Lala. She looks at her granddaughter – the only child of her dead only daughter. This granddaughter has not, up to now, really caused her any trouble. She does her schoolwork so well that her teachers say she can be anything she wants. She says ‘yes, ma ’am’ and ‘no, ma’am’ at the times and on the occasions that Wilma has taught her to. She stays well out of the sight and sound of her grandfather, Carson. What more, Wilma asks herself, can she ask for?

The child is not a beauty, but perhaps, thinks Wilma, this will work in her favour. She considers that this is the person who will have to help her in her old age, and so she softens her voice until it is almost pleading.

‘I ain’t tell you that young girls like you must stay indoors?’ she chides, mildly. ‘I ain’t tell you about the things that live in the Baxter’s tunnels? You walking ’bout to find out about them yourself?’ When Lala doesn’t answer, she says, ‘Let me tell you about a little girl like you that didn’t listen to her mother.’


Subscribe to LoveMyRead today to get your hands on a copy of this title and books just as brilliant delivered to your door every month.

Happy reading!

Vicki & The LoveMyRead Team x



Related Articles

Great books change lives

Sign Up

Follow Us