New release: The front cover of Goree: Point of Departure.
New release: The front cover of Goree: Point of Departure.

Where do you feel most at home? Is it about where you were born or is it about the colour of your skin?

These are the issues ­Angela Barry focuses on in her newly-published novel; Goree: Point of Departure.

The Bermuda ­College English ­lecturer looks at ­family and identity through the Atlantic holocaust.

The novel tells the story of a chance ­encounter between an African father and his Caribbean ex-wife who have to handle complex ­relationships within a large extended family. Their visit to the slave port of Goree reveals some unfinished business between West ­Indians and Africans.

Ms Barry calls her first novel “the historical reality of our world” and she will reveal more details at the book launch at Bermuda College Library on August 26.

She said: “It’s not a Bermuda book as such, but that doesn’t mean that Bermudians can’t read it and relate to it.

“It’s a story about family, a family divided by an ocean. It’s a story about the African Diaspora.

“It’s all about identity, looking at where people were born and the colour of their skin.

“It affects all our lives. It’s what Africa means to people, to who they feel they are.”

Ms Barry has had her work published in various journals, before her first book, Endangered Species and Other Stories, was published in 2002.

She decided to turn her attention from short stories to novels as she said she “felt as if she had so much more to say.” Ms Barry said her stories “were getting longer and longer and felt frustrated at having to ­finish them early.”

Goree is a small island off the cost of Senegal in West Africa, which is known for the part it played in the ­Atlantic slave trade.

The book’s front cover ­actually shows a striking image of the passageway of a Slave House, which ­became known as the door of no return.

Ms Barry has visited Goree several times, saying it initially “haunted her” that the coloured buildings reminded her of islands in the Great Sound.

She said: “I was very moved. It’s become a place of pilgrimage on the African Diaspora Trail, a place where great ills took place. It became part of my consciousness. I first wrote a poem about Goree then an essay.”

Ms Barry said the novel had been “in her mind” since about 1991 saying “ideas enabled themselves and just showed up.”

She said the book was a long time coming as she calls herself “a part-time writer with a full-time day job.”

She started writing the book when she was living in St. Lucia and continued to write when she wasn’t exhausted — which was usually during the school holidays.

Ms Barry doesn’t have one place that she likes to go to, to write, but she does prefer somewhere “where she can’t be disturbed by anyone.”

She said: “I start by ­inventing characters sometimes loosely based on ­people I’ve known.

Character driven

“Then everything is character driven. I don’t think of a plot, I just think of the characters and the ideas come.

“Writing is very difficult, I have to push, it’s a long, hard slog.”

Ms Barry, who has two grown-up sons, says she “enters a different world” when she is writing as everything is so absorbing.

However she says she is her own worst enemy as she can’t write something without tampering with it, saying: “I can always see flaws, I spend a lot of time rewriting.” 

The book has been ­published by Peepal Tree Press and a review by Geoffrey Philip calls it “a story of bridging distances, both physical and psychic, ­between Africa and the Caribbean, London and St. Lucia, damnation and ­redemption in the lives families torn apart by an estranging ocean.”

Ms Barry was born and bred in Bermuda and has been working as an English lecturer at Bermuda ­College since 1990. She has previously lived in England and the Seychelles and worked as a senior schoolteacher.

She would like to see more Bermuda authors developing their work and she hopes her published work will have “a domino effect.”

She says she is always telling her students to read “especially things that are challenging” and to “transform their personal experiences into works of art.”

In September Ms Barry will attend the University of Lancaster in England to do her Doctorate in creative writing for a year. She says it will “marry the two strands of her life; English teaching and creative writing.”

As part of her doctorate she has to write a novel and this book will be all about Bermuda.

She has already written the first three chapters and is busy researching. It is said to be about “the people of Bermuda and the sea that defines us.” The reoccurring theme is Teddy Tucker’s ocean discovery of the root of an ancient cedar tree, showing that Bermuda used to be bigger than it is today.

She said: “I’m very excited about this book. It’s going to be a bigger novel than Goree.

“The cedar tree roots are used as a kind of symbol or metaphor about our family roots, about how our roots affect us.”

When asked about the future, Ms Barry simply says: “I would like to focus more on my writing, I just want to continue.”