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Author’s novel on boycott attracts acclaim

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The story of Bermuda's 1959 theatre boycott to end segregation is in the spotlight in Bermuda and overseas thanks to author Florenz Maxwell's book Girlcott.

Girlcott, which took second prize in Code's 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature last year, has featured on one of New Zealand's most popular radio shows, Nine to Noon, on the online Caribbean arts and culture magazine www.susumba.com and has been Brown and Company's chosen book club text.

Now Ms Maxwell is preparing to travel to Trinidad and Tobago to perform readings of the book along with two other authors to help promote literacy in the region.

The writer was a member of the Progressive Group that organised to challenge segregation by boycotting theatres at great personal risk.

Published by Blouse and Skirt Books, Girlcott is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Desma, who learns about segregation and racism through the boycott.

Ms Maxwell said the book was not based on her life — but she added there are many similarities with her experiences in Bermuda in the 1950s.

New Zealand-based radio producer Jacob West, who was on the island to cover the America's Cup, saw an advertisement for Girlcott in a shop window and went inside to ask about it. Intrigued by the story, he managed to track down Ms Maxwell and invited her to be interviewed by phone on Nine to Noon, hosted by Kathryn Ryan.

He e-mailed Ms Maxwell after the interview to tell her it had gone down very well.

Mr West said: “Kathryn Ryan's programme is New Zealand's most listened to radio programme at that time of day with about 100,000 listeners.

“I owe you a carton of chocolates if Girlcott doesn't end up as a movie.”

The book was also highlighted on www.susumba.com, where reviewer Robyn Stephenson gave it a glowing report.

The review said: “Girlcott has the unique position of being entertaining as well as educational.

“Maxwell has taken a factual record of history and breathed fresh life into it by allowing the reader to experience the unfamiliar time and place through the relatable eyes of a teenage girl.

“Maxwell must be commended for the historical realism she brings to the story, with details of racist Bermuda that helped to build a solid argument for the end of segregation.

“By drawing on her knowledge of Bermuda's history and cultural idiosyncrasies she has delivered a manuscript that both teaches and inspires, and which will continue to do so well into the future.”

Girlcott was last month voted as the text of choice by Brown & Company's Bookmart book club members.

Bookmart manager Martin Buckley said: “It was chosen because it is an important book and it is the first book to make the story of Bermuda's theatre boycott accessible to young readers.

“At the same time it is a well-crafted novel that can be enjoyed by an adult audience as well.”

The club was full to capacity on the evening with 55 members discussing the book before Ms Maxwell spoke and answered questions.

Ms Maxwell is now considering writing a picture book.

Local inspiration: Girlcott author Florenz Maxwell gives a talk at the Bookmart's book club last month
Girlcott author Florenz Maxwell at the Bookmart's book club last month.

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Published November 02, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated November 02, 2017 at 7:14 am)

Author’s novel on boycott attracts acclaim

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