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Me Dying Trial

Author: Patricia Powell

Establishing Powell as a major voice in Caribbean literature, Me Dying Trial is one woman’s poignanat struggle to define herself.

With a New Introduction by Edwidge Danticat

Me Dying Trial, Patricia Powell’s masterful debut novel, establishes her as a major voice in Caribbean literature. Gwennie Augusta Glaspole, a schoolteacher, is trapped in an unhappy marriage and quickly saddled with six children. Gwennie resists Jamaican cultural expectations of playing dutiful wife and mother, struggling in a loveless, often abusive relationship, she eventually relocates to Connecticut. Dealing with issues of religion, sexuality, immigration, domestic violence, and gender inequality, Powell has proven to be “a Generation-X vanguard for the Caribbean literary world” (Boston Magazine), and much more.
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“One of the most gifted voices among the new generation of writers from the English-speaking Caribbean. With her flawless ear for the poetic vernacular of her native Jamaica and her in-depth understanding of the complexity of island society, Powell continues to affirm the Caribbean’s rightful place on the literary map of the world.” -Paule Marshall, author of Praisesong for the Widow

“In its appropriation of the singsong accent of Jamaicans, its vivid portrayal of landscape, and its stark portrayal of the trials of womanhood/motherhood, Me Dying Trial is a remarkable first novel.” -World Literature Today

“Powell weaves a compelling plot . . . developing a whole cast of characters worth caring about. A bold writer, she takes on economic and political issues.” -Belles Lettres

“She paints a colorful and evocative portrait of rural Jamaica that captures the rhythms of everyday life and shows how complex webs of extended family and close-knit Community can both nurture and suffocate.”
—Charles Coe, The Boston Phoenix Literary Section

“In its appropriation of the singsong accent of Jamaicans, its vivid portrayal of landscape, and its stark portrayals of womanhood / motherhood, Me Dying Trial is a remarkable first novel by the Jamaican-born writer Patricia Powell.”
—Adele S. Newson, Florida International University


About the Book

Patricia Powell’s debut novel, Me Dying Trial, is about a schoolteacher, Gwennie Glaspole, who struggles in a loveless marriage and against the traditional expectations of her Jamaican community. Her husband Walter is jealous, uncommunicative, and abusive. Gwennie is friendly with Luther, a gentleman worker boarding with her parents; he reminds her how Walter used to be and as the story begins the friendship becomes an affair. Her relationship with Walter is complicated further when she becomes pregnant with Luther’s child, Peppy. Peppy is the image of Luther and Gwennie is in constant fear that Walter will discover her infidelity. The novel deals with issues of domestic violence, gender inequality, sexuality, religion, and immigration while following Gwennie’s difficult path toward independence and a better life for her children.

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About the Author

Patricia Powell was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1966. She was raised by her great-aunt from the age of 3 months and immigrated to Boston when she was sixteen. She wrote her first novel, Me Dying Trial, while studying for her English degree at Wellesley College. She has also received an MFA in creative writing from Brown University. Her awards include the Bruce Rossley Literary Award, the Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and the PEN New England Discovery Award. Powell has taught creative writing at Harvard University, Wellesley College, and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Currently she is Martin Luther King Visiting Professor at MIT.

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Questions for Discussion

  1. Powell’s novel focuses on social issues within a largely fundamentalist religious community. What is the role of religion in this novel? How does this compare with the role of religion in your own community?
  2. When Luther invites Gwennie to the party, she responds, “Me is a big respectable married woman, Luther. What you think people would say?” ( p.6). Discuss what this quote implies about the expectations of Gwennie’s community. How do these expectations affect Gwennie’s decisions?
  3. Gwennie’s marriage to Walter is marked by his resentment, possessiveness, and brutality. Discuss how religion and alcoholism might influence Walter’s behavior. Discuss the ways in which Gwennie’s relationship with Walter affect her later relationships.
  4. “But when the little girl finally born…her grin and dimple cover up her face just like Luther’s…Gwennie start notice too that Walter was looking hard at the little grin and dimple, and everytime him look, his forehead wrinkle over. So Gwennie start to keep the baby out of his way as much as possible, but it never spell sense to hide it from him, for it was Walter’s house and, supposedly, his daughter too” (p.11). Discuss how Gwennie’s feelings of guilt play into her difficulties relating to Walter? How might religion affect Gwennie’s sense of guilt?
  5. How is Gwennie’s decision to leave Peppy with Aunty Cora perceived by the other characters in the novel? Aunty Cora can’t understand why Gwennie won’t let her adopt Peppy. How does this manifest itself within the family? What does this foreshadow?
  6. “Walter light into her with his head, his fist, his feet, his shoes, knock her down flat; she and the box hitting the ground at the same time. She never fight him back, for normally when them fight, she hit him back…But this evening different. Somewhere deep inside, she have a feeling this was her punishment from God because of what she do with Luther” (p.19). What are the personal and cultural implications of Gwennie’s acceptance of Walter’s abuse? What does this suggest about what Gwennie values?
  7. Gwennie immigrates to Connecticut leaving her family behind. What does this tell us about her character?

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Me Dying Trial

ISBN: 978-080708365-9
Publication Date: 12/1/2003
Pages: 208
Size: x 8 Inches (US)
Price:  $18.00
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.