King's alumna and retired employee publishes memoir
March 8, 2022
Erma Jacob, ’94, who worked at King’s for over 40 years, including as the Administrative Manager at the Academic Dean’s Office, returned on February 28, 2022, to celebrate the launch of A Dougla’s Tale, her first book and memoir.
A Dougla’s Tale is a collection of autobiographical tales, told from Jacob’s perspective as a young girl growing up in an interracial family in the idyllic, inter-cultural village of Flanagin Town in central Trinidad in the 1950s and 1960s. Life on the island is vividly described through the use of Trinidadian Creole and Standard English and told with humour as the illiterate, bold, clever, yet flawed matriarch of the family, Popo, works tirelessly to ensure that her children will have an education and an easier life than she had.
“King’s played an important role,” says Jacob, who graduated in October 1994 with a degree in English Literature. During her last few years working at King’s, Jacob began to reflect on her mother’s life and how it might have been different had she received a formal education.
While she had plenty of experience in writing minutes as part of her job, she did not know how to write the memoir. Jacob wanted to use the book as a way of telling her grandchildren about her childhood in Trinidad.
Jacob attended a workshop, held by The Write Place, about memoir writing. Jacob says Dr. Srividya Natarajan, now Assistant Professor, and Assistant Coordinator, Writing, “encouraged and supported me in my efforts to pursue my dream of writing a memoir about my mother and growing up in a small inter-cultural village in Trinidad.” Jacob would go on to read an early short-story version of a chapter at The Write Place’s Reading Between the Wines event.
“The audience loved it. What started as a small and demarcated project became so absorbing that she expanded it into a full-length memoir,” says Dr. Natarajan, who calls A Dougla’s Tale “a fascinating narrative.”
It took approximately a year for Jacob to write and edit a draft of the book. One obstacle she had was writing Creole, which is spoken but not written in Trinidad. Jacob called upon the assistance of her sister, who still lives in Trinidad, to help her capture the essence of the language.
Writing the book allowed Jacob to understand her mother better. “Writing about her revealed her personality. I can see her differently. My mother was very intelligent and very different from traditional women. She was a modern woman; she spoke out and took action. She had a sense of self-worth.”
“I love looking back,” Jacob says, adding that she enjoyed being able to look back as she wrote the memoir. She could remember her neighbours and their behaviours, the names of streets, etc. She says that in her village, “people lived in a harmonious way. Why can’t we just see each other as people?”
Jacob says that her time at King’s reminded her of growing up in Flanagin Town. “I got to know everyone, and everyone knew me. I liked the sense of community (at King’s),” she says.
The book launch celebration, held as part of Black History Month, was presented by the King’s Anti Racism Working Group and The Write Place. It was one of the first in-person events that King’s has held since the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Dougla’s Tale can be ordered on Amazon.