Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Jacob Ladder

I first heard the story of The Jacob Ladder as it was told in the streets of Oracabessa where the story actually happened.  The storyteller was Uton Hinds, a cab-driver, oil painter and family man.  I loved the story so much that I asked Uton "Tall T" Hinds if I could record it and help him to make it into a book.  He agreed.  Four years later the book was published by Orchard Books, a division of Scholastic.  It became a classroom text in many schools in America and the Caribbean.  Life in Jamaica is rough economically.  But, culturally, there's a lot of love in those St Ann hills where this story unfolds.  Uton's message about forgiveness and love, about how his father -- no matter how badly he treated everyone -- was still his father and respect was due for the one "who gave me life" is worth remembering.  The Christian Science Monitor commented on how carefully written this book was, and how "... native words enhance the educational value and multicultural appeal of this inspiring autobiographical story."  (Courtney Williamson, The Christian Science Monitor, 2001.) Uton has traveled about the U.S. selling his book door-to-door, he is its best salesman.  I heard not too long ago that some students in Miami were sad when they saw Uton's picture.  "He's older than we thought."  Well, that happens.  The story took place in the Fifties and Sixties and Jamaica was a different time and place then and Uton was a little boy.  But the story holds.  It is one of my favorite books on the subject of "love your family whoever they might be" -- and I thank Uton for being tough enough to tell it the way it really happened.