Good morning, WU Tribe, please welcome new WU contributor Desmond Hall! He’s taken the time to answer a few questions about his forthcoming novel, Your Corner Dark, releasing January 19th.
Desmond was born in Jamaica, West Indies, and moved to Jamaica, Queens. He has worked as a high school biology and English teacher in East New York, Brooklyn; counseled teenage ex-cons after their release from Rikers Island; and served as Spike Lee’s creative director at Spike DDB. Desmond has served on the board of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the Advertising Council and judged the One Show, the American Advertising Awards, and the NYC Downtown Short Film Festival. He’s also been named one of Variety magazine’s Top 50 Creatives to Watch. Desmond lives outside of Boston with his wife and two daughters.
“The best way to describe Your Corner Dark, is to say it’s a stomach-knotter. It’s one of those tales that ties you up, turns you inside-out, wrings you like a wet cloth. Desmond Hall leaves us no choice but to root for Frankie Green, a young man in Jamaica doing everything he can to claw himself out of the bear trap of his environment, that has transformed him, not exactly into a bear, but definitely into more than just a good boy. Take note—Hall is a hurricane of a writer.” –Jason Reynolds, author of New York Times bestseller Long Way Down
Congrats, Desmond, and thank you for making time for us today!
Q1: What’s the premise of your new book?
Frankie Green, a Jamaican teen who gets a full ride scholarship to study in the U.S. faces a sudden tragedy that threatens everything he’s dreamed of, and his very life. Frankie’s father is struck by a stray bullet, and Frankie is forced to join his uncle’s posse to get quick money to pay for his father’s medical treatment.
Q2: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
The title, YOUR CORNER DARK is taken from a phrase in Jamaican culture that refers to being stuck between a rock and a hard place with no good choices. And my story is a fast-paced, riveting page-turner that’s exactly about choices, impossible odds, and perseverance–and you’ll read it with a knot in your throat and hope in your heart.
Q3: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
I mentioned Frankie’s main obstacle already–but I also worked very hard to create compelling story arcs for the secondary characters as well:
-Leah, Frankie’s girlfriend, is an upper-middle-class art student who struggles with their societal differences, her own creativity, and her depression.
-Jenny, Frankie’s aunt, works in her brother’s posse as an enforcer and negotiator. She battles to rise up in the hyper-masculine world of the drug trade.
-Samson and Joe, Frankie’s father and uncle, respectively, are locked in a Cain and Abel style battle–with Frankie’s soul as the main prize.
Q4: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
Deciding on the right amount of patois (patwah in Jamaica) was tricky. At first, I wrote the dialogue in thick patois. But when my beta readers read an early draft they gave me conflicting answers. Some said it was enough potois, some said it wasn’t enough, and a few didn’t understand the patois at all. So, I experimented with several drafts, and finally found a balance where non-Jamaican speaking people understood the dialogue, and where I felt comfortable that I wasn’t doing a disservice to the language.
Q5: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
Two teachers have already reached out to me on social media to tell me how much they loved the book, and that they’re going to prepare lesson plans to teach YOUR CORNER DARK. I used to be a teacher (not a good one) so that news felt like a sort of redemption.
Learn more about Desmond Hall and his work HERE.
Readers, please check out this short video series to learn more about common Jamaican sayings HERE.