Earl Lovelace

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Earl Lovelace is an award-winning Caribbean writer and playwright praised for his ability to capture the spirited essence, vernacular, and culture of ordinary people. Lovelace was born in Toco, Trinidad on July 13, 1935, but moved between Toco and Tobago during his childhood to live with his grandparents. His family eventually settled in Port-of-Spain, the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, where Lovelace attended high school and obtained his Cambridge School Certificate in 1953. He worked as a proofreader for the Trinidad Guardian newspaper following graduation, and later transitioned to working in rural parts of the country for the Department of Forestry and later the Department of Agriculture. These experiences in rural Trinidad and Tobago were instrumental in shaping his future literary works and provided him with the opportunity to become immersed in diverse parts of its vibrant culture.

Lovelace began writing seriously while working as a forest ranger, and published his first novel While Gods Are Falling in 1965, which would go on to win the British Petroleum Independence Literary Award. The novel draws upon Lovelace's experiences in moving between rural areas and busy Port-of-Spain as it tells the story of a young man struggling to find his place in an urban slum.

Lovelace then moved to Washington DC the following year to attend Howard University before returning to Trinidad and Tobago in 1967 to work as a columnist for the Trinidad and Tobago Express. Lovelace published his second novel, The Schoolmaster, in 1968. Like While Gods Are Falling, The Schoolmaster examines rural Caribbean life, this time through the lense of an urban schoolteacher who disrupts the traditional way of life in a rural village. Lovelace returned to the United States in 1971 to begin his MA in English at Johns Hopkins University, which he completed in 1974. He taught at Federal City College (now the University of the District of Columbia) during this time, before moving back to the Caribbean in 1977 to teach at the University of the West Indies. He produced a number of plays during this period as well, all focused on everyday life in the Caribbean. His acclaimed novel about carnival and its intricate ties to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, titled The Dragon Can't Dance, was also published in 1979 and followed by The Wine of Astonishment in 1983. Both novels were later adapted by Lovelace into plays.

Lovelace was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, allowing him to spend a year as a visiting writer at the University of Iowa. Despite his work in the United States, Lovelace remained tied to Trinidad and Tobago; an aspect that separates him from other Caribbean writers. Following his year at the University of Iowa he worked as a resident writer at the London Arts Board in England from 1995-1996, as a visiting professor in the Africana Studies Department at Wellesley College from 1996-1997, and as a Distinguished Novelist at the Pacific Lutheran University from 1999-2004. He published his novel Salt in 1997, which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and explores the impact of colonialism on Caribbean culture. When not teaching in the United States Lovelace chose to live in rural Trinidad with his wife and children; remaining immersed in his culture and people. He continued to work for the Trinidad and Tobago Express , and also served as artistic director for the Caribbean Festival of the Arts (Carifesta) in 1992, 1995, and 2006. To honor his contributions to literature and culture, Lovelace was appointed to the University of Trinidad and Tobago's Board of Governors in 2005. He published several literary works...

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during this time including plays, an essay collection titledGrowing in the Dark (2003), and the film Joebell and America which was directed by his daughter in 2004. His most recent novel, Is Just a Movie, was published in 2011 and awarded the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2012.

Today, Lovelace continues to live in Trinidad with his family, and serves as the president of the Association of Caribbean Writers. This long-term connection to his country has arguably had the largest impact on his literary work; allowing him to capture the Caribbean culture and portray it in the dialogue and development of his characters. His connection also allows him to examine the complex influence of colonialism and slavery on his country's people; how they resist and adapt to foreign influence and the tension between distinct rural/urban experiences.


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