Garn Press Author Ruth Finnegan on Some Ways to Introduce Black Inked Pearl to Students
By Ruth Finnegan
Black Inked Pearl arose in dreams, although as one reviewer put it (and I hope this makes you smile), “only someone of Ruth’s personality and experience could have had such dreams!”
Several reviewers, backed up by similar unsolicited comments from book clubs and enthusiastic readers, have suggested that Black Inked Pearl would be “great for literature courses to study in schools and colleges.”
I have read again and again, “I wish I could have studied this in my literature course, I would have loved it.”
And, “I always find something new each time I read passages from Black Inked Pearl. There’s so much to unpack and ponder – some of it of a metaphysical and religious nature.”
“It tells me about myself and remains with me,” another says. “It’s become part of my thinking.”
But other reviewers and commentators have described the book as “challenging.”
As a teacher I have always been impressed by students’ capacity to read challenging novels, even so I have found they often need some material to start them off. I think Black Inked Pearl would benefit from such a study guide. Sometimes I think I need a study guide myself! I have no idea how much classic literature and mythology and archetypal works are ingrained in me.
Here are some examples of how Black Inked Pearl could be used to lead young readers:
- Start with passages that are puzzling or unusual – sometimes quite small phrases – to expand their knowledge of things that are puzzling or unusual;
- Encourage personal insights – relate to their own experiences;
- Make a list of authors who had the greatest influence on the writing of the novel;
- Discuss the ways in which other writers may have influenced the story.
There are also many questions that can be asked to create opportunities for discussions centered on the Black Inked Pearl:
- The novel has been called “sonic” and “rhythmic” – do you agree? And if so, in what sense?
- Similarly the novel has been described as “oral” and “African” – again, do you agree? And in what sense?
- Reviewers have referred to Black Inked Pearl as a “classic work” – what could be meant by this and do you agree?
- The novel has been called “genre-breaking” – what is meant by this and do you agree?
- Is Black Inked Pearl prose or poetry?
- The novel has also been called “a feminist odyssey” – what are your thoughts on this and do you agree?
Here are some of my own thoughts about the Black Inked Pearl that I have thought about in hindsight after writing the novel. With regard to style, I have found Homer, Hopkins, Joyce, Faulkner, Yeats, and Whitman influenced my writing. I feel the influence of African story-telling running through the novel. It is multisensory, and sonic and rhythmic. I consider the prose-poetry of Black Inked Pearl genre breaking. I am aware that the novel grows out of my Irish, African, classical and anthropological experience. It is metaphorical, and sometimes directly autobiographical. Its dream origin is less easy to explain. Nevertheless it is essential to any study of the novel.
I hope you find these musing of worth and that you will read Black Inked Pearl and share it with your students. Enjoy!
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-16-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-942146-17-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-18-6
Hardcover and Paperback: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones
eBook: Apple iBooks | Kobo eBooks
“A highly unusual story filled with literary and biblical illusions and new words.”, Joyce Irene Whalley, Author ofThe Art of Calligraphy and A History of Children’s Book Illustration, Previously Keeper, Victoria and Albert Museum London
“Amazing! I enjoyed it tremendously; it’s light, floating, visual – I am back in Donegal of a long time ago – good …” –Dasck Eve Defin, Literature teacher, Birmingham, Author of the historical memoir Indulgence
“It all started to hang together for me and become increasingly clear as a message for me and where I am at the moment – to open myself to new areas of experience, some of which may be painful (I hope not!); the message of the book is that there is a route to be found. I welcome the contact with things beyond my normal frontiers. It has been a valuable experience reading it.”- Jim Graham, School Counsellor, Southampton, England
“The book-poem-narrative is very exciting and touches my heart in many ways — poetic, personal, verbal/creative, emotional …“ – Patrick Bond, Nature poet, Lewes East Sussex
“It’s certainly a big change from Ruth’s earlier books, which I happen to admire very much. I loved the bits where the poetry is so closely linked with her childhood memories.” – Professor Paul Thompson, Oral historian, London
“I’m reading (and enjoying) The Black-Inked Pearl. Echoes of Joyce, and Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s narrative style in Sunset Song …” – Morag Grant, Scottish music researcher
“I’ve been enjoying the very evocative chapters on Donegal. I like the way it plays with language and the poetic stream of consciousness. and there’s definitely a strong sense of a teenager awakening to adulthood in all sorts of ways!” –Janet Maybin, Schools literacy specialist, The Open University
“A lovely novel. What an extraordinary achievement, to switch from academic writing to this imaginative and exploratory fiction. I saw some of the author’s scholarly preoccupations coming through, notably the role of memory and quotation, and I loved the way Kate’s reflections are so bound up with poetry. The assemblage and juxtaposition of genres struck me as having an effect very much in keeping with African-language prose fiction, where genre boundaries are constantly breached and where long passages of oral poetry might be incorporated into a descriptive or narrative sequence. Very many very warm congratulations on pulling this off. I was fascinated to read about the starting point in a long series of dreams: the novel itself is a dream.”, Professor Karin Barber, Departments of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham, UK
“Different, fresh. I loved the stream of consciousness Joycean style. Trance-like.” – Denise Saul, Poet and fiction writer, Winner of Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice 2007, London
“Thoroughly enjoyable.” – Yvette Purdy, University Course Manager, Milton Keynes
“Gripping.” – Rachel Backshall, Classics student, University of Oxford