Genuine Herstory: Documythographies

Raised in Jamaica, writer Marcia Douglas reflects the Jamaican experience through a lyrical and seamless hybrid of poetry and prose.

Artist Bio

Genuine Herstory: Documythographies is a three-volume, hybrid, and cross-genre writing project culminating with a performance installation. Exploring themes of African diasporic fugitivity and migration, this project layers fiction, poem essays, memoir, visual and material documents, and voicescapes—altering and inscribing, in an effort to excavate and rechart history.

Award Year

In Progress

2021 Artist Retreat Presentation

Excerpts by Marcia Douglas

Hear this:
A woman at the bus stop has a gun in her brassiere/ the light turns red and/ a grandmother dreams of Zion-high/ a schoolgirl sucks salt-water tears/ pigeons pick mold from a piece of dry bread/ green mangoes fall before they can ripe/ sorry, no jobs/ the baby’s milk spoils in the hot sun/ the clouds over Kingston heavy with cares-of-life tears/ public works on strike/ weevils in the flour/ an eviction notice nailed to the door/ rotten chicken-back in the market/ sorry, no job/ the children’s coffins are made of pine/ sorry, no/ the goat tied to the ackee tree cannot bleat/ sorry. The people are vexed with sufferation. Their tears smell like kerosene; soon Kingston will catch fiah.

Marcia Douglas, The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: a Novel in Bass Riddim, New Directions Publishing, 2018.

I was fully rooted in Jamaican identity when I arrived, at eighteen, in Miami en route to Newark, New Jersey. I had a three-week visa to visit my sister. I also had a jar of peeled Bombay mangoes from the tree in our yard, and ten US dollars wrapped in a piece of toilet paper. A Jamaican teenager with a three-week visa and very little money was apparently cause for suspicion. In Miami, I was stopped for questioning and brought to a separate office in the airport. The officer emptied my purse and looked through all of my belongings. He unwrapped my ten dollars from the toilet paper. He also opened the letter my mother had written to my sister, which, unbeknown to me, urged her to keep me in the US and not send me back. She thought I would do better there. But staying past my visa would make me an “illegal alien.” The officer read the letter. Then he held up the little book of daily devotions my mother had also given to me. He said, “I have one of these too, but unlike you, I live by it.”

Marcia Douglas, “Becoming the Girl in the Ring,” The New York Review of Books, April 2018.

A woman in profile with dread locs piled up on her head, smiles quietly to herself.

Marcia Douglas

Boulder, CO

Raised in Jamaica, writer Marcia Douglas reflects the Jamaican experience through a lyrical and seamless hybrid of poetry and prose. She is the author of the novels, The Marvellous Equations of the Dread, Madam Fate, and Notes from a Writer’s Book of Cures and Spells, as well as a poetry collection, Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom. Douglas’s work has appeared in journals and anthologies internationally. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a UK Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Marvellous Equations of the Dread was longlisted for the 2016 Republic of Consciousness Prize and the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. She performs a one-woman show, Natural Herstory, and is on faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she teaches creative writing and Caribbean literature.