Kemosha of the Caribbean by Alex Wheatle

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Recommended by Stephen Dilley @stephenjdilley

Author: Alex Wheatle

Form: Historical Novel

Length: 320 pages

Brief synopsis: Kemosha is born into slavery in 17th Century Jamaica but takes the opportunity to escape and learns the art of swordfighting before travelling the high seas on a pirate ship.

Age recommendation and challenging content: A fair amount of violence related to slavery (though not as relentless as in Wheatle’s previous novel Cane Warrior) but this is sensitively explored, particularly the impact of killing on those who kill. Suitable for Year 8 upwards.

Notable reasons for recommending this book: Important historical fiction with a strong Black female protagonist which offers a harrowing and unsanitised account of life in 17th Century Jamaica, including the brutalities of slavery and the realities of piratical adventures. Kemosha’s voice is compelling and the use of dialogue in Jamaican patois and Spanish is effective. The story is gripping and Wheatle gives all the Black characters agency throughout. The story also features an interesting white character who is flawed but good without being a white saviour.

Any other useful information for teachers: Cane Warriors, also by Alex Wheatle, is another excellent historical novel about slavery – probably suitable for Year 9 upwards.

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