Thursday, January 29, 2004

She sprinkles her novels with aspects of her life as a Jamaican immigrant: a gay friend abandoned by his family after he contracted AIDS, being raised by her great-aunt from the tender age of 3 months, the discovery in her teenage years that she was a lesbian.

Then she distances herself by turning female characters into male ones, young protagonists into old ones, and lesbian heroes into gay men. The intimate yet distant results can be seen in her first two Jamaica-based novels reissued last month: Me Dying Trial, about a family whose mother abandons it, and A Small Gathering of Bones, which explores how AIDS affects a community of gay men. Her last work of fiction, 1998's The Pagoda, tells the story of Mr. Lowe, a female Chinese immigrant to Jamaica who spends most of the novel pretending to be a man.

"Even though all of those characters have a part of me," says Powell ... as she protectively wraps her arms around herself, "I still haven't been able to write a female character. Not an adult one. It's too close. It also feels so exposing. Maybe I'm fooling myself by thinking when I'm writing these characters that I'm safely hiding out."

Today's Boston Globe runs a profile of Patricia Powell, the Jamaica-born writer whose novels tackle the subject of homosexual life in the Caribbean, in which she briefly discusses her current work in progress, "A Good Life".

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