The Next Chapter

Why Nadia L. Hohn wrote a picture book about a Jamaican role model that all kids should know more about

The Toronto-based writer and educator is the author of A Likkle Miss Lou, about the life of legendary poet Louise Bennett Coverley.
Nadia Hohn's new book is about how a young Louise Bennett found her voice and embraced patois, despite being told to “speak properly” and only use standard English by her teachers in Jamaica. (Submitted by Nadia L. Hohn/Owlkids Books)

Nadia L. Hohn is a writer, musician and educator based in Toronto. She was named one of six Black Canadian writers to watch in 2018 and is the author of several popular picture books, including Malaika's Winter Carnival and Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter

Her latest is A Likkle Miss Lou, a picture book about Louise "Miss Lou" Bennett Coverley, a Jamaican poet known for bringing international attention to Jamaican patois.

Hohn spoke to The Next Chapter about why she wrote A Likkle Miss Lou.

The legacy of Miss Lou

"Louise Bennett was probably Jamaica's first biggest star. We know Bob Marley and we know of Harry Belafonte. Bob Marley would have grown up hearing Miss Lou's poetry on the radio. Harry Belafonte sang some of the songs that she had collected from Jamaica. 

Louise Bennett was probably Jamaica's first biggest star.

"Along with being a poet, Louise Bennett was a playwright, a radio personality, an actress, a dramatist and a drama educator. She had a children's show for 12 years in Jamaica. She is the first Black person on the BBC to have a radio show.

"She had quite a name for herself and the story is basically the moment that really started her career, as told with a lot of Jamaican patois."

Featured VideoLouise “Miss Lou” Bennett recorded music, hosted radio and television programs, published books and taught folklore. She spent the last 20 years of her life in Canada, where she helped inspire generations of Caribbean-Canadians. Michael’s guest is Nadia L. Hohn (PRON. Hahn) -- a teacher, writer and author of a new children’s book, A Likkle Miss Lou, to mark the 100th anniversary of Miss Lou’s birth.

Why Miss Lou matters

"When I learned about Miss Lou, I was 10 years old. This was Toronto in the 1980s. There weren't a lot of role models, especially Caribbean role models, for me at that time. I really admired a lot of what she stood for in finding her voice using the local dialect or the local language of Jamaican patois and bringing it into a public sphere. 

Now we have such a rich tradition of Jamaican music that's gone global.

"She did that at a time when a lot of people were ashamed of the language. Now we have such a rich tradition of Jamaican music that's gone global. We hear patois added into a lot of songs and I think that's thanks to Miss Lou."

Nadia L. Hohn's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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