Rain on a Tin Roof
Rain on a Tin Roof
By: Gabriel J. Christian
Rain on a Tin Roof is a captivating collection of Caribbean short stories set on the island of Dominica. Dominica, a hauntingly beautiful island of dark green brooding mountains which gave us the renowned author Jean Rhys is where the author Gabriel J. Christian grew up. And really, this is a thinly veiled memoir of Christian’s childhood and adolescence from his birth in 1961 to his departure for college and law school in Washington DC in 1982. Born to an urban civil service family of modest means, the conservative grip of Roman Catholicism, a British Empire on the retreat, the influence of the Cuban Revolution, the US Civil Rights movement and Pan Africanist thought encapsulates a work which begins with the Carib rebellion of 1930, and ends with Christian’s departure for studies abroad. In between we are exposed to the joys of carnival, the contours of local cuisine and the gaiety born of a people striving amidst the strictures of a colonial past to build an independent state. The energy of a youthful nationalist zeal for Caribbean liberty is intertwined with romance, superstitions of the day and a people whose story is well told in dazzling array of incidents from a Caribbean childhood.
Rain On A Tin Roof is a sparkling collection of Caribbean short stories set mostly in the 1960s and 1970s Caribbean when author grew up on Dominica. The stories present sharp, vivid portraits of life on the island of Dominica. Distance has sharpened the author's love for his homeland and people. Delving into stories of colonial rule, family, romance, exile, rural life, gossip, superstition and political upheaval, this is a passionate work which immerses the reader in images which are robust, extremely funny and sometimes deadly serious.
The critically acclaimed 1st edition of Rain on a Tin Roof went to earn 5 stars on Amazon.com. The 3rd edition (2015) has a preface by the distinguished Canadian jurist and author Dr. Irving W. Andre who is of Dominican heritage. The latest edition also pays tribute to the local and international aid workers who aided Dominica following the 1979 Hurricane David disaster and the devastation inflicted by Tropical Storm Erika. The short story collection is anchored in by the vivid second story in the collection which is based on the author’s own experiences during the passage of Hurricane David. In the 3rd edition, Christian pays special tribute to the crew of HMS Fife which was the first aid vessel to the island’s rescue following the 1979 Hurricane David disaster. In a warm reconnection mini memoirs from some of the crew of HMS Fife are added as footnotes to the essay – Hurricane David and the Generosity of Nations - which follows the preface by Judge Andre. A portion of the proceeds of the 3rd edition will be donated to www.rebuilddominica.org, a nonprofit aid organization set up by Dominicans, and friends of Dominica in the United States, dedicated to the island’s recovery.
Gabriel J. Christian
Gabriel J. Christian attended the Dominica Grammar School and Sixth Form College. He taught History at the Dominica Grammar School before attending the University of the District of Columbia College of Business and Public Management in Washington, D.C. where he graduated with a BBA in Procurement and Public Contracting. Mr. Christian studied law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. graduating with the degree of Juris Doctor in 1991. Mr. Christian was admitted to the Bar in 1991 and now practices law in Maryland. In 2007, Maryland Governor Martin O Malley appointed Mr. Christian to the position of Judicial Commissioner, Maryland Court of Appeals. André & Christian co-authored In Search of Eden: Dominica,The Travails of a Caribbean Mini-State (1992) and In Search of Eden: Essays on Dominican History (2002). Mr. Christian also authored Rain on a Tin Roof in 1999. In 2012, Christian was appointed to the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Caribbean Affairs– the first of its kind in the state’s history – by then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
Review of Gabriel Christian’s Rain on a Tin Roof
By: Irving Andre, PhD
A short story is the distillation of a life experience into a compressed imaginative whole. Like a poem, it usually ensures a moment in life and exposes it for the scrutiny and fancy of every reader. Through the use of language, symbolism, and the evocation of landscape, the short story resonates with the reader and in so doing, has a significance that transcends the seemingly innocuous events or experiences on which it is focused.
In Gabriel Christian’s Rain on a Tin Roof, the essential elements of good short story writing reach their zenith. Whether he is providing vignettes of his childhood, writing about his father’s adherence to a strict Victorian ethos, local superstition or about carnival, Christian is at his imaginative best. His use of imagery, metaphor and alliteration are the main ingredients of an artistic stew, or broth, if you will, which the reader will enjoy, without any help from the pepper from Mrs. Jack’s famed backyard.
Christian’s extraordinary talent for writing did not happen overnight. He honed his craft at the Dominica Grammar School and the Sixth Form College (as it was then). He benefitted from a number of close encounters of a literary kind at the Roseau Public Library and imbibed copious amounts of the ideological brew manufactured in underground, ideological stills and safe houses that sprouted in Dominica during the mid1970s. Energized by this exhilarating brew, Christian has creatively reduced his experiences and that of a whole generation of Dominica youth to a wonderful collection of short stories.
But Christian’s stories are not merely about the loss of innocence, superstition or childhood pastimes. A few deal with more serious issues including class prejudice and political instability. One story highlights the attempted 1981 coup in Dominica. Christian does not pontificate about the event; rather, he portrays the transformation of a childhood friend, “Benjy”, who as a youth, delighted in playing with a wax fire starter, into a soldier who participates in an attempted coup to overthrow a government. Benjy pays the ultimate price but the rhythm of life continues unabated.
This semblance of normalcy or resiliency however, is illusory. The society that Christian writes about continues to be affected by the erosion of its traditional values. In the decades following the attempted coup, the pernicious effects of the drug trade and the criminality it has engendered, a pervasive immorality in governance and the sale of the island’s most precious symbols of nationhood, have tragically undermined its democratic traditions. The internal reverences that Christian writes about have been perverted and discarded. And as Chinua Achebe has shown, “things fall apart”, when the core values of a community cannot hold.
The very act of writing however, rescues Rain on a Tin Roof from being a literary epitaph or autopsy of a society which has long gone. Indeed, the showers of rain, trapped in sunlight as it cascades onto a galvanized roof, possesses a redemptive and cleansing quality which symbolizes the hope, that, in the words of the Look Us band, “Dominica will rise again”. Gabriel Christian’s volume of short stories is an important addition to the burgeoning literature on Dominica.
Review from The Washington City Paper-1999
By: Ayesha Morris
"Dominica." "Identity." "Colonialism." The words cascade easily off Gabriel J. Christian's tongue as he weaves the names and dates of almost every major event in Caribbean history into his conversation. From the Cuban Revolution to Sammy Sosa, Christian can tell you just about everything about Carib people--and somehow, despite all his historical allusions and unexpected tangents, it all makes sense. He is, after all, a lawyer. Your first impression of him is that he is a man well-suited to writing lengthy, carefully argued works of nonfiction. Not surprisingly, his first book, In Search of Eden, co-authored with Irving Andre and published in 1992, chronicles the history of the island-nation Dominica. But his latest endeavor, Rain on a Tin Roof, is a collection of short stories Christian calls "quirky." It shows an unexpected side of the guy who works 12-hour shifts at his own law firm, goes home to watch C-SPAN, and then settles into a political book before going to bed at 1 a.m. Recently, instead of penning letters on behalf of his clients, he has been spending much of his time sitting at the computer in his "cubbyhole of a basement," contemplating name changes for the characters he has drawn from his childhood memories. In his vibrant stories Christian captures the complex realities of a people whose long histories have been aching to be told, embellished with his own recollections and flair. Rain on a Tin Roof's adventure-starved little boy, who dashes to a window to watch a hurricane swipe the galvanized-iron roofs off the island's houses, is Christian. The hormonal adolescent who five-finger-discounts his mother's kitchen rum to set the mood for a day of carnival, hoping to "wriggle on his classmate Tessa's behind," is Christian. And Christian is also the protective brother who gives the evil eye to a crowd of jeering kids hurling stones and insults at his developmentally challenged sister. Christian is eager to focus his attention on his home--and not to contribute to the brain drain that seems to plague most Caribbean countries, where children leave for education abroad but never return, physically or otherwise, to strengthen the islands that nurtured them. Pond Casse Press, Christian's publishing company, has offices in Roseau, Dominica as well as in Upper Marlboro, Md., and Brampton, Ontario. And his involvement in the Dominican Association of Washington D.C. and the Institute of Caribbean Studies makes Christian the perfect poster boy for Caribbean nationalism. But his approach to the role is subdued. Maybe it's because, for him, entertainment is strapping on a satchel and heading down to Martin Luther King Memorial Library. Or perhaps it's because, deep inside, he knows he cannot really return to Dominica, a place that has irrevocably changed since he left it 17 years ago.