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  • Writer's pictureJayma Anne Montgomery

Unintended Outcomes of Publishing My Book

Last time, I highlighted two of them: the triggering of my mental health issues and getting healed of some past traumas. These things may seem to contradict but they happen to be simultaneously true. It’s possible to heal old wounds while struggling with the present. I'm going to elaborate on three more things that are happening as a result of this darling little book of mine.

First, I am uncharacteristically motivated to promote my work. I have always strayed away from self-promotion but, for some reason, promoting my work doesn't feel like promoting myself. This is yet another way in which having a pen name has been helpful in safely distancing me from certain discomforts. From the very beginning of the process, I honestly didn't intend to do much promotion because I wasn't doing it to achieve fame or fortune. This is still very much the case. But the thing about creativity is that it generates a longing within the creator to share the creation with others. You pour your heart and soul into this work and emerge with this masterpiece that is somehow exactly what you have always dreamed it would be but also far beyond anything you thought yourself capable of. It’s beauty and art for the sake of beauty and art. The sales matter to some extent, of course, but I don't just want my book to sit on the shelves and coffee tables of people I know collecting dust. I want it to be read and shared and discussed among strangers. I want it to transform people the way that writing it transformed me.

This leads me to the second unexpected outcome: I have come to see the small amount of good that can come from social media. By engaging in small ways, at the behest of many, I have connected with some avid readers and reviewers who have given me valuable feedback about my work. Flattery is unhelpful but substance-filled praise is invaluable. The fact that there is a financial incentive involved for many of them does give me pause. But is it worse to rely on the biased, surface-level feedback of people who know me and are being careful to preserve my feelings or to be approached by people who do this for a living and are genuinely interested in my work?

These reviews are the farthest thing from fluff. They are in-depth, thoughtful, and multi-faceted analyses. I get to hear how my work has spoken to people on a personal level, how they have connected to many aspects of my story and the lessons they have learned. Some of them admitted that memoirs are not their preferred genre and that they had reservations about reading the book. Is anyone from this crowd likely to full-on bash the book? Probably not. But there is no shortage of vitriol and venom permeating our society these days, so I am very sure that this kind of response will come in due time. I'm most certainly not about to solicit it.

I credit the overwhelmingly positive response that I have received thus far to the excellent team of editors at Write My Wrongs who didn't hold back their criticism when I needed it the most. This work is infinitely better because of them, and it was worth every precious penny to make it so. Not everyone has the discipline, backbone, and budget to get their work thoroughly edited before publishing it. My editors delivered as promised and, as a result, my book is holding up under fairly intense scrutiny.

These reviews have resulted in other reviewers requesting to collaborate with me for interviews and other promotional activities. All of this from the comfort of my home and without a live audience to trigger my intense agoraphobia. I have personally connected with some readers who tell me that my stories sound like I am talking about them and/or directly to them. One reader told me she is rereading the book simply because it gives her comfort. No amount of money can incentivize that kind of heartfelt response and she certainly has no financial incentive to read my book a second time. These are the words and memories that I will cling to when (not if) the negativity and deconstructive criticism starts rolling in.

The final outcome (not to imply that there won't be more outcomes, but I need to bring this thing to a close) is that the book is apparently doing quite well in India. At the beginning of the social media tour, I was approached by several reviewers from India who had very large followings (anywhere from 10K to 150K followers). The requests and offers continue to roll in. This is particularly interesting to me for multiple reasons. As I was writing this book, I felt very strongly that some of my audience would not be Christian but that they would be open to learning more about people of the faith. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why.

Furthermore, Jamaica has a significant subpopulation of East Indians dating back to the time when slavery was first outlawed in the country. They are considered the third-largest ethnic population in Jamaica. This is likely a gross underestimation given that it is rare for anyone from the island to claim a single ethnic origin.

Some Indo-Jamaicans have fully assimilated into Jamaican culture, blending the cuisine, interweaving the fashion, and intermarrying. However, some Indo-Jamaicans have observed strict ethnic purity, going so far as to fly in a spouse from India rather than choose a spouse from among the largely Afro-Jamaican population. Despite starting out as tenant farmers and indentured servants in the 1800s, many have become wealthy business owners, skilled tradespeople, and merchants catering only to tourists and other wealthy Jamaicans. This might be due, in part, to the fact that their wages as indentured servants were less than liberated West African descendant slaves. The reversal of their fortunes in the interim may not have healed this rift. The remainder can largely be explained by a desire to preserve Hinduism and aspects of the abolished caste system within their ranks. Nowadays, many dark-skinned, African-featured Jamaicans find themselves employed as drivers, housekeepers, and cooks in Indo-Jamaican homes. And, so the enmity continues. I always say that humans will find ways to create and maintain hierarchies among themselves no matter how much they have in common.

The derogatory slang that we used for the Indians in our midst was learned from our British colonizers—"cooley”. “Those coolies think they are better than us.” I remember people saying, “Well, they squat and go number two just like everybody else!” Could my book become a bridge for healing racial divides between some Jamaicans and Indians? Who knows?

As of 2020, people from India are the second largest immigrant group to the US. I won't get into any of the complicated reasons for this here. However, the newest housing development adjacent to our little patch of the Charlotte metro attests to this. Entire families and townspeople have helped each other relocate, obtain work, and secure nearly the entire housing development in masse.

I have taken to affectionately calling this area "Little Bombay." It has not escaped my attention that, often, when I tell people about this, I am met with a sympathetic eye roll or irritated grumbling. It's as if I need to be consoled about a colony of termites moving in rather than a rich community of human beings who happen to differ from me greatly in terms of appearance, language, culture, and religion.

I wonder what the Sovereign LORD might be up to in providing the opportunity for us to relocate to the Charlotte metro area all while transforming my heart towards other cultures and nations. I find myself hoping and praying for opportunities to connect with them and show them the love of Christ. Some of them speak to me out of intrigue regarding my head wraps and the henna art I sometimes wear. I never thought my book would be an opportunity to connect with cultures beyond my own but this has certainly been the case. In talking virtually with my readers from India, who are all too familiar with classism in their mother country, I am surprised by how easily they relate to my stories. Many have been to America on school, work, or travel visas. Others have family members in America who are helping to support them and are planning to immigrate themselves at some point.

They know what it is to carry the weight of your family's hopes and expectations--how often it ends up vying with the desires we have for ourselves. You’re faced with the unpalatable choice to either disappoint them or disappoint yourself. The thing to keep in mind is that you will have to live with yourself and the consequences of your choices for the rest of your life. I try not to disappoint myself if I can help it. I encourage them to do the same, tempering their assertions with grace and humility towards their well-intentioned loved ones. You will never know how the things you do might impact the world around you until you simply go out and do them.

Stay ThoughtFul.

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