Speaking of Good Writing

John W. Evans, author of Songs and Stories of a Digger's Son

John W. Evans, author of Songs and Stories of a Digger's Son

W. B. Garvey, author of Panama Fever, Digging Down of Gold Mountain

W. B. Garvey, author of Panama Fever, Digging Down Gold Mountain

by Lydia M. Reid

While we are on the subject of writers of our days as The Silver People of Panama, we are excited about two new books.  They were both written by authors of Westindian descent who give a precious view of the Panama of our forefathers’ era and fill in more gaps in our collective memory about who and what we really are.

Songs and Stories of a Digger’s Son, written by John Weldon Evans and published by TJMF Publishing is a rather personal account of life, as he lived it, in the once vibrant town of La Boca, Canal Zone. His inspiration for writing the book, he admits, was that, “These memories are too precious to be lost forever. For this reason I was motivated to record some of them in Songs and Stories.” We agree with him.

John Evans was born in La Boca and attended La Boca Elementary, Junior High, and Normal Training School during the 1930s and 1940s.  You can refer to our article on La Boca, Canal Zone for a basic history of this once dynamic “Silver Township.”  He taught in the Canal Zone “colored schools” in the towns of Silver City and La Boca, Canal Zone, until 1956 when he, like many other Canal Zone youths, left to further his education and career in the United States.

In the U.S. he received his Bachelor of Arts degree and two Master of Arts degrees.  He worked as a lecturer and subsequently as an administrator at the State University of New York Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center, administered by the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where he served as Associate Director in charge of Academic Affairs until retiring in May, 2009. It was in December of 2008 that John published a book of poetry and stories about his experiences as a young man growing up in the “silver town” of La Boca, Canal Zone.

We are thrilled that one of the sons of our venerable ancestors has been blessed with the time and skill to document in a very appealing way his life as a digger’s son.

Panama Fever, Digging Down Gold Mountain, a novel written by W.B. Garvey and published by Jonkro Books was inspired by what Garvey, who is a relative of the great Marcus Garvey, says were his inspiring visits with Marcus Garvey’s widow, Mrs. Amy Jacques Garvey.

“I was a scruffy schoolboy living in Kingston when the refined Mrs. Garvey used to invite me for tea,” he relates.  “She had recently finished Garvey and Garveyism, her loving biography of her distinguished husband and her memories of his work and their dramatic life together were like vivid crystal.  She was clearly pleased by my eagerness to hear stories about my famous relative  and seemed determined that I grasp both the essence and the complexities of her great man.  I remember her stressing that it was the abuse of his Jamaican countrymen working in Panama that convinced Marcus Garvey to start the Black nationalist movement that would finally “destroy the old slave mentality.”

In brief, “Panama Fever narrates the adventures of two young Jamaicans who seek glory by joining the French in their valiant but vain attempt to build the canal during the 1880s. The two protagonists, Thomas Judah and Byron, find themselves caught up in a cycle of political corruption, murderous insurrection, natural disaster, and deadly disease. A story of love, ambition and corruption that explores the antagonisms of class, nationality, race, and gender, Panama Fever brings to life the experiences and tragedies of those who worked on the monumental Panama Canal project.” A great deal of good writing went into this book as well as formal research.

We believe that Panama Fever and Songs and Stories of a Digger’s Son have hit the literary scene at a crucial time when quality reading is sorely needed in a world filled with a great deal of irrelevant literature- irrelevant to culture and lifestyle and the promotion of a good quality of life.  In fact, neither one of these authors had to make up stories; these books are founded on real life experiences and achievements.  Besides, they make for wonderful and exciting reading.

We, of the Silver People Heritage Foundation, highly recommend these books for everyone but especially for students of Black history and American history in general.

Click the links below for ordering information.

Songs and Stories of a Digger’s Son by John W. Evans


Order through Amazon by clicking here.

or, contact John Evans directly at his e-mail jweldone@aol.com

Panama Fever, Digging Down Gold Mountain by W.B. Garvey


Order through Amazon by clicking here.

or, contact W.B. Garvey through his book’s web page here.

2 responses to “Speaking of Good Writing

  1. Hello Roberto,

    Thank you for your kind words about my book, Songs and Stories of a Digger’s Son, in your article, Speaking of Good Writing.

    Your foundation’s continued celebration of our heritage through your web site gives me a great feeling of kinship with you and the work you do. I cannot compliment you enough for helping to bring to life the history and culture of our ancestors, the Silver People who helped build the Panama Railroad and the Panama Canal.

    Theirs is a story too sadly neglected yet so full of human drama, sacrifices and triumphs. Keep up the good work.

    John W. Evans


  2. Thank you kind folks at the Silver Heritage Foundation for featuring “Panama Fever”. I had originally intended my tribute to the West Indians who made the Panama Canal possible to cover its entire 30-year construction but as I began to write I realized their stories were so richly varied and historically complex that a single work could not do them justice.

    The failed French effort which “Panama Fever: Digging Down Gold Mountain” details was notable both for its broken promises and extreme cost in lives (as you know, over 20,000 died). That experience had profound and lasting consequences for the region, Jamaica in particular, yet growing up I found it barely mentioned, even in my schoolbooks.

    The American period remains similarly obscured, although recently historians are beginning to “disinter” the often heroic contributions of your Westindian “Silver People”. In recovering some of their stories for my sequel to “Panama Fever” I was struck both by the tremendous pride these men and women took in taking up the challenge and the hostility they earned for their troubles.

    It is my hope that my efforts will prove merely the beginning of a long overdue retelling of a rare and courageous achievement that truly changed history.

    My thanks, Roberto and Lydia for all that you do!


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