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August 26, 2006 &
August 27, 2006

Jean Dacosta

Jean D'Costa

Jean D’Costa (nee Creary) was born on January 13, 1937, the last of three children. Her parents were both elementary school teachers who lived and worked in various parts of rural Jamaica. Along with her elder sister, Pansy (now Mrs Hay), and their brother Aubrey, Jean attended the schools where her parents taught. In 1948 she won a government scholarship to St Hilda’s High School in Brown’s Town. Here she spent six years, three of them in VIth Form (1949-54). After two more terms at St Hugh’s High school in Kingston in 1955, she entered the University College of the West Indies and read for an honours degree in English (1955-58). An overseas scholarship took her in 1959 to read for an M.Litt. in Jacobean drama at Oxford University (1962).

She was hired to teach Old English and linguistics at U.C.W.I., Mona (1962-77). Between 1977 and 1980 she was engaged in research into archaic Jamaican creole and culture, along with freelance writing. She then taught creative writing, linguistics, Caribbean literature and Old English at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York (1980-98).

Her first formative years were passed in rural Trelawny and St James, where the language and culture made a lasting impression on her mind and tastes. Coming to Kingston in December 1944, she discovered the Junior Centre, the children’s library at Half Way Tree. This library made as deep an impression as did the stories told her in St James.

Her children’s fiction includes Sprat Morrison (1972; 1990), Escape to Last Man Peak (1976), Voice in the Wind (1978) for ages ten to twelve. For children aged seven to ten, she has published Duppy Tales (1997), Caesar and the Three Robbers (1996), along with Jenny and the General (2006) and, with Velma Pollard, co-edited and co-authored an anthology of short stories, Over Our Way (1981; 1993).

With Professor Barbara Lalla, she has produced Language in Exile: Three Hundred Years of Jamaican Creole (1990), and also Voices in Exile: Jamaican Texts of the 18th and 19th Centuries (1989).

She retired as Leavenworth Professor Emeritus from Hamilton College in 1998, and lives in Florida with her husband, David D’Costa.

Abstract: “Born inside the stories: the relationship between audience and fiction-maker in Jamaica, Jean D’Costa’s experience.”

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