Diana Thorburn is a Jamaican researcher, writer and editor. Born and raised in Jamaica, she is a graduate of the University of Virginia, the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Formerly a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona, she is currently the director of research at a Caribbean public policy think tank. This is her first non-academic publication.

In 1959 a young English doctor, doing a rotation in gynaecology at the University of the West Indies Hospital at Mona, met a young-ish Jamaican accountant, and in 1971 I came along, their third daughter. My mother was the daughter of an army dentist who served in World War II, and an artist-homemaker, and my father’s roots in Jamaica go back to his enslaved ancestors.

I embarked on an academic career in 1995 when I joined the UWI Department of Government as a research assistant, and followed a fairly typical trajectory—doing a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University; joining the UWI Mona Faculty of Social Sciences as a lecturer in international relations; and being seconded to the public sector in an area directly related to my academic expertise at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. In 2012 I left that to follow a new path as an independent researcher and writer.

It was then that I set about writing a book about Jamaica, and I chose to narrow the book’s focus to the life of one extraordinarily influential individual, who could serve as a lens on the contradictions and idiosyncrasies of my country’s paradoxical story. Every day I seek to answer the question: why is Jamaica the way it is? So poor, so violent, so wracked with disorder. Writing this book was an effort to pull apart the layers of gray, and turn them over and examine them, so that their lines and boundaries become clearer, and in so doing the relief of this island’s history, its political economy, and its psycho-social complexity is wrought sharper.

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