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How To Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair
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How To Say Babylon

A Jamaican Memoir
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Narrator Safiya Sinclair
Length 16 hours 48 minutes
Language English
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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2024 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION

‘Dazzling. Potent. Vital’ TARA WESTOVER
‘To read it is to believe that words can save’ MARLON JAMES
‘I adored this book … Unforgettable, heartbreaking and heartwarming’ ELIF SHAFAK

An extraordinary and inspiring memoir of family, education and resilience, from award-winning poet Safiya Sinclair.



There was more than one way to be lost, more than one way to be saved.


Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where luxury hotels line pristine white sand beaches, Safiya Sinclair grew up guarding herself against an ever-present threat. Her father, a volatile reggae musician and strict believer in a militant sect of Rastafari, railed against Babylon, the corrupting influence of the immoral Western world just beyond their gate. To protect the purity of the women in their family he forbade almost everything: nowhere but home and school, no friends but this family and no future but this path.
Her mother did what she could to bring joy to her children with books and poetry. But as Safiya’s imagination reached beyond its restrictive borders, her burgeoning independence brought with it ever greater clashes with her father. Soon she realised that if she was to live at all, she had to find some way to leave home. But how?
In seeking to understand the past of her family, Safiya Sinclair takes readers inside a world that is little understood by those outside it and offers an astonishing personal reckoning. How to Say Babylon is an unforgettable story of a young woman’s determination to live life on her own terms.

‘Electrifying’
Observer


‘A story about hope, imagination and resilience’
Guardian

‘An essential memoir’ Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing
‘Heart-warming, tender and fierce’ Lily Dunn, author of Sins of My Father
‘One of the most gut-wrenching, soul-stirring, electrifying memoirs I've ever read’ Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun
‘Full of courage and poetry … Has the power of truth telling’ Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch
‘Atmospheric and completely absorbing, this is a fascinating story lushly told’ Diana Evans, author of A House for Alice
‘Sinclair possesses a rare gift … Every sentence sings’ Imani Perry, author of South to America

Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is the author of Cannibal, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award in Literature, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Poetry, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Cannibal was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Notable Books of the Year, was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Seamus Heaney First Book Award in the UK, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Nation, Poetry and elsewhere. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is the author of Cannibal, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award in Literature, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Poetry, and the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Cannibal was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Notable Books of the Year, was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Seamus Heaney First Book Award in the UK, and was longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Nation, Poetry and elsewhere. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

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Reviews

‘An electrifying memoir’ Observer ‘A story about hope, imagination and resilience’ Guardian ‘Glimmering … laced with poetic voice’ Time ‘A breathless, scorching memoir’ New York Times Book Review ‘Electrifying’ Spectator ‘A stirring account of one woman’s break from the parameters imposed on her’ Elle ‘A narrative marvel … To read it is to believe that words can save’ Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings ‘Unforgettable, mesmerising, heartbreaking and heartwarming … One of the best memoirs in world literature’ Elif Shafak, author of The Island of Missing Trees ‘Sinclair's lush, lyrical language makes everything feel alive’ Raven Leilani, author of Luster ‘Full of courage and poetry … an instant contemporary Caribbean classic’ Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch ‘Atmospheric and completely absorbing … A fascinating story lushly told’ Diana Evans, author of A House for Alice ‘Essential … Sinclair’s devotion to language has been lifelong, and How to Say Babylon is the result’ Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing ‘Gut-wrenching, soul-stirring, electrifying’ Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun ‘Immersive, imagistic, honest … A quiet testimony, a loud prayer and a large gift’ Raymond Antrobus, author of All the Names Given ‘Destined to become a feminist classic’ Lisa Allen-Agostini, author of The Bread the Devil Knead ‘Heart-warming, tender and fierce’ Lily Dunn, author of Sins of My Father ‘Beautifully rendered and an incredible story’ Natasha Trethewey, author of Memorial Drive ‘A story with radiant transformative power. I couldn’t put it down’ Nadia Osuwu, author of Aftershocks ‘Stunning’ Imani Perry, author of South to America Expand reviews