“No Telephone to Heaven” And “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land”

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A masterpiece created by Jamaican-American writer Michelle Cliff, published in 1996 reflects the encapsulation as to how Michelle Cliff conceptualizes her identity across gender, history, and nation, moving in between the worlds of black and white, voicing her preoccupation with histories of resistance and oppressed people intersection of the structures of linear time and fixed place by dialogically positioning African hymns. The black images highlighted in Cliff’s work revolves around the story of Clare, a Jamaican National, daughter to a white-skinned father and a dark-skinned mother and a sister to a dark-skinned girl reflects the personal relationships fractured by colorism are emblematic of the distorted relations that prevail in societies governed by racialized ideologies.

After searching and realizing her true identity as a black imaged girl relating to her black imaged mother and sister she joined a Resistance movement for an independence struggle which is later destroyed by military forces. (Mickey D’Loughy, Colonial and Post Colonial Literary Dialogues). Cliff’s “No Telephone to Heaven” is similar to the long poem of Aime Cesaire “Notebook of a Return to a Native Land” which later became an anthem of Blacks around the world, regarding racial fabrication focusing on the key issue of racism of the European and the African. In “Notebook of a Return to a Native Land” Cesaire presents a speaker keen to discover himself and aware of understanding of his African heritage as well as his relation to the white European world that has influenced him and his island community. The speaker believes his ancestry as masculine and feminine in terms of relating them to Mother Nature and the material structures of the world. Cesaire describes the land with images of femininity whereas the sky, the sun, and the material structures of the world seem masculine to him. The African appears more real to the speaker, it is easy to see the African presence in his life, his ancestry, and his world. Here we can compare both the characters. Clare is more drawn towards her maternal approach; her roots are from African culture whereas Cesaire’s speaker considers himself to be the son of both European and African, tending more towards the Jamaican culture, so both the characters are similar, they have ancestors from Jamaica and Europe but they like to call themselves “Black”.

Blackness in Cliff’s work refer to all those characters relating to African heritage including Michael Cliff herself because her physical appearance is white, however she considers herself as black, not a member of the social class but was raised as a member of the upper-middle class, the rich class, of Jamaica. Blackness in her work, seems like destroyed by the American soldiers but somehow it is felt that blackness remains logically in the form of Clare’s survival for the Jamaica. Clare acknowledges her black roots as much as her white ones. With this decision, Clare becomes identified with “black Jamaica” rather than “white Jamaica.” Furthermore, once she is identified with Jamaica, an interesting parallel is drawn between her and the island itself. Clare is motherless, and infertile in the book, in reality, Jamaica is similar. (Mickey D’Loughy, Colonial and Post Colonial Literary Dialogues).

From the first days of slavery, communities of Maroons, escaped slaves and free blacks, fought back, first against the Spanish, then the British. From hiding places in mountain bush, Maroon guerrillas rolled on the ground and leaped in the air. One shooter seemed like several to British militia struggling single file up steep trails, terrorized by taunts, beating drums, the abeng horn’s eerie call to arms, and the certainty of being picked off, one by one. By the mid 1700s, the colonial government was forced to treat with the Maroons, granting them freedom and a limited sovereignty they retain to this day. Slavery and colonialism are gone, but Jamaica’s 1962 independence masked the economic abandonment of an absentee plantation worked past profitability. The queen gifted her former colony, though, bequeathing Jamaica her church, Bible, and buggery laws. The Jamaican consciousness contains all the dim genetic recollections of pre-colonial Africa. Even the Rasta man who rejects church as part of the Babylonian West is not immune. Folded into his message of black self-reliance (and for some, separatism) and an African utopia are good old-fashioned King Jamesian fire and brimstone for Babylonian abominations like homosexuality. Yet mounting academic research suggests that the West’s legacy to Africa is homosexuality. (Elena Oumano, The Village Voice).

The U.S. hasn’t served its neighbor well either. After undermining Jamaica’s socialist economic policies in the ’70s, then offering International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans with onerous terms that tanked that nation’s economy, we unleashed a flood of X-rated images on Jamaica via media. When Jamaica became a major stop along cocaine’s route from South to North America, gang leaders spun out of the politicians’ control and became drug posse dons. Some Jamaicans opine that the island’s usual tolerance for all manner of outer self-expression was beginning to extend to the island’s homosexuals. (Elena Oumano, The Village Voice). The leading shift that has always been articulated through the legacies of the Western Europe, to the colonialized nation living in a day dreaming mode is still a matter of concern even today when both are infused into new relations of power and freedom structured through anti-colonial and nationalist struggles for political independence, appeared in the era of twentieth century.

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  1. (Mickey D’Loughy, Colonial and Post Colonial Literary Dialogues).
  2.  (Elena Oumano, The Village Voice).
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