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Talking and Writing Divorce - Opal Palmer Adisa

Opal Palmer Adisa

It is the season of sorrel and cake, but a platter of prose and poetry by Opal Palmer Adisa was also served up at Redbones the Blues Cafe. Palmer Adisa’s menu included selections from the anthology she co-edited Caribbean Erotic and her second novel Painting Away Regrets.

Painting Away Regrets chronicles a woman’s journey from romance through marriage to divorce and beyond. Palmer Adisa revealed that although the novel is not autobiographical, she didn’t believe she could have written it without having gone through divorce herself. She explained that it was important to her that she fully explore the complexity of divorce. Her research process was therefore extensive as Palmer Adisa sought to gain insight from many who had gone through divorce not just her friends and family.

“If people are in love and express a commitment to each other, when they get divorced it’s a kind of death,” Palmer Adisa said. However, divorce doesn’t get the same treatment. “If you have a loved one who dies, you can get a week off. You can’t get a week off if you’re going through divorce, but it is that kind of trauma.”

Yet Painting Away regrets doesn’t only deal with the tragic nature of divorce. The novel also treats with its protagonist’s healing process after her traumatic divorce, and Palmer Adisa explains that this is of critical importance for her.

“For me as a writer, as a Jamaican, as a woman, it’s very important for me to explore healing and what it means,” she explained.

Opal Palmer Adisa (right) in the audience before her reading at Redbones the Blues CafePalmer Adisa took five years to complete the story, which spans the United States, Jamaica and Uganda. The protracted period was also because while writing  Painting Away Regrets, she was also teaching full time and raising her family. She explains however, that even during the periods when she focused on teaching rather than writing her characters were still with her.

“Even when I wasn’t writing, the characters were in my head and something about them would pop up,” she said. “And so I was like, I’ve got to be done with this. I’ve got to get beyond this.”

The characters in Painting Away Regrets are not the only ones which walked around with Palmer Adisa, as she explains that it is a normal state of affairs. At present she is seeing a character, a man who building is own coffin, who is yet to be written and says she will probably soon be writing his story so that she can get him out of her head.

Angel, a character from her first novel, It Begins With Tears is also trying to make a come back. “She’s now coming to me very strongly,” Palmer Adisa said. As such she is contemplating doing a sequel to the novel.

Palmer Adisa Remains interested in writing about Jamaican people and that is because growing up she didn’t see sufficient representation in literature. So writing for her is also an active process or cultural preservation and keeping the Jamaican culture outside of the margins.

“I do believe that a lot of our folk culture is disappearing,” Palmer Adisa said. “I think there has to be certain things that define us, not just reggae music and not just our language. “We need to go back and retrieve certain things.”
For Palmer Adisa writing is the key to this and she remains committed to excavating what it means to be Jamaican.

“Our culture is rich and varied and we must immortalize it,” she said.