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