“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
—Adele S. Newson, Florida International
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
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- “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?
- 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?
- “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?
- Gwennie immigrates to Connecticut leaving her family behind.
What does this tell us about her character?