In Glynis Guevara's Black Beach, (Inanna Publications) Tamera is just 16-years old, but she's got adult-sized struggles to contend with as she strives to take care of her mother, who lives with mental illness, deals with the disappearance of one of her classmates, and lives through an environmental disaster in her rural Caribbean fishing village. Feeling left behind as her friends move on with their lives, she makes a decision that changes the course of her life and lands her at the centre of her classmate's mysterious disappearance.
Black Beach, which is part of Inanna Publications' Young Feminist YA series, is Guevara's second novel (and, impressively, also her second in as many years). Diana Fitzgerald Bryden praised Tamera as a character, calling her "gutsy and full of self-doubt. In other words, authentically human."
We're excited to welcome Glynis to Open Book to talk about Black Beach, focusing on the novel's powerful title as part of our Entitled interview series. She tells us about the disastrous environmental image behind the book's title, the word in her previous title that encouraged conversation, and the title that so grabbed her as a reader that it's remained with her for years.
Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.
The title of my newest YA novel is Black Beach. The sixteen-year-old protagonist, Tamera lives in a tropical fishing village where the beach is the centre of everyone’s existence. While Tamera struggles to find her place in the world, an environmental disaster creates havoc in the community affecting the villagers’ livelihood and health. I chose the name Black Beach because an oil spill literally turned the beach black.
What is your favourite title that you've ever come up with and why? (For any kind of piece, short or long.)
The title of my debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, is my favourite title that I’ve ever come up with. A zaboca is an avocado. The word, zaboca, is well known to people in many eastern Caribbean countries, especially inhabitants of island with a French colonial past. The first question people who are not familiar with the word zaboca usually ask me is what it is. On the other hand, the title of the book often evokes light hearted conversation with people who are familiar with the word. I love the fact that the title encourages friendly conversation with so many people and it also gives the book a Caribbean flavour.
What is your favourite title as a reader, from someone else's work?
My favourite title as a reader is Everything Good Will Come by Nigerian Author Sefi Atta. The title drew my attention to the book even though I didn’t know anything about the author or what the novel was about. This title has remained with me over the years.
How do you feel about single-word titles?
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I haven’t yet been able to come up with a single word title for any of my books or manuscripts. I think for a single word title to work, it will have to captivate the reader’s interest and the book will certainly benefit from an outstanding cover too.
Did you consider any other titles for your current book and if so what were they? Why did you decide to go with the title you eventually picked?
The title Black Beach came to me during the very early stages of the writing process and I never considered changing it. The title clearly describes the beach right after the environmental disaster occurred in the fishing community.
What usually comes first for you: a title or a finished piece of writing?
Sometimes the title comes first, but at other times I start off with a working title that I’m not especially eager about and eventually come up with one that I really like. I usually find a suitable title long before the manuscript is completed. There’s only one instance where I’ve changed the title to a manuscript after I’ve finished writing the book.
What are you working on now?
My debut YA novel Under the Zaboca Tree tells the story of a ten-year-old girl, affectionately called Baby Girl, as she moves from Canada to Trinidad with her single parent dad. I am currently working on a sequel to Under the Zaboca Tree. The working title is Poui Season. The manuscript tells the story of Baby Girl’s return to Canada at sixteen years old.
Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad. She is a graduate of Humber School for Writers Creative Writing Program and holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) degree from the University of London, England. She was also admitted to the bar of England and Wales and Trinidad and Tobago. Glynis was shortlisted for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. Her debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, was published by Inanna Publications in 2017. Black Beach is her second novel.