Bun or Fire Bun? Wily Women and Survival Slackness in Jamaican Popular Fiction

By Kimberly Anne Robinson-Walcott.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Commentators on Jamaican dancehall music often bemoan the dearth of ‘conscious’ or ‘fire bun’ lyrics, in contrast to lewd immorality. ‘Bun’ can mean something entirely different, however. In dancehall diva Macka Diamond’s song “Bun Him”, the woman as victim of her partner’s infidelity is advised to do likewise – to ‘bun’ him. Such productions foreground the image of the ‘cunny Jamaica oman’ whose cunning has been touted as a survival response to oppression and victimization in a traditionally male-privileged society.

Inevitably, there are echoes, reverberations and other sound connections between dancehall music and other branches of popular culture. My particular interest is in popular Jamaican fiction. The figure of the cunning female protagonist who transcends victimhood appears in a number of recent popular Jamaican novels discussed in this paper, many of which have some if not all the familiar dancehall cultural features of explicit sexual references, crude language and often, pornographic content.

Yet Macka’s recently published novel Bun Him!!! plays a different version: Sandra is no victim. Against a background of raging societal amorality/immorality, in an environment of female ascendancy and male marginalization, Bun Him!!! reflects burning contemporary societal issues of gender relations and sexual politics, and disturbing trends of materialism, crumbling values and questionable attitudes.

Unsurprisingly, the book Bun Him!!! is a bestseller. Surprisingly, the book, seemingly fitting very comfortably into the category of ‘trash’ and often verging on pure, unadulterated pornography, in the end perversely emerges as a ‘fire bun’ moral tract. In a country with high levels of illiteracy, the success of Bun Him!!! may, again perversely, signal new hope for the development of a tradition of reading and use of popular fiction as an educational tool.

Keywords: Popular Fiction, Morality, Literacy, Educational Tool

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp.103-112. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 553.138KB).

Dr. Kimberly Anne Robinson-Walcott

Publications Coordinator/Editor, Books and Monographs, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica

Kim Robinson-Walcott is editor of books and monographs at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona. She is also the editor of Jamaica Journal, a publication of the Institute of Jamaica. She holds a PhD in Literatures in English (UWI, Mona, 2001). Her book Out of Order! Anthony Winkler and White West Indian Writing was published by the University of the West Indies Press in 2006. Her other publications include the children’s book Dale’s Mango Tree (1992) which she also illustrated. Her scholarly articles, feature articles, short stories and poems have appeared in a number of anthologies, journals and magazines. She was the regional winner (Americas) of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition 2005.

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