PREE is proud to announce that one of our writers, Sharma Taylor, has inked a deal with Virago for her debut novel, WHAT A MOTHER’S LOVE DON’T TEACH YOU. Taylor’s feat in accomplishing this is a tribute to her determination and ambition for in a 2013 Observer article about the young attorney not once does she mention her desire to become a writer. Yet in a mere 7-8 years Taylor is creating waves in the literary world with her first novel. The excerpt below gives an idea of the road Taylor has traveled to get here and serves as an exemplar for other talented writers out there who want to excel globally:

“But then her insecurities, which have been her nemesis, followed her to the all-girls institution where her classmates were predominantly girls from upper and middle class backgrounds. Up until the ninth grade, she just cruised along until one day she walked into her English class and heard her teacher reading a short story she had written and declaring to the other students that it was the best one of all the others she had graded.
“It gave me that initial confidence and I thought to myself, well, if I can write a good short story for English class, maybe I can do this, and that moment was a sort of watershed and I realised that I was as good as anybody,” said Sharma Taylor.

A powerful story of belonging, identity and inheritance, What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You brings together a vivid host of voices to evoke 80’s Jamaica’s ghetto, dance halls, criminal underworld and corrupt politics, and at its beating heart a mother’s unshakeable love for her son.

The storyline of Taylor’s first novel is simple: At eighteen years old, Dinah, a Jamaican maid, gave away her baby son to the rich American couple she worked for before they left Jamaica. They never returned. She never forgot him.

Eighteen years later, a young man comes from the US to Kingston. From the moment she sees him, Dinah never doubts – this is her son. What happens next will make everyone question what they know and where they belong. 

‘From the moment I read the opening lines of Sharma’s novel in Dinah’s patois, I was hooked,” says Rose Tomaszewska, Senior Commissioning Editor at Virago: “When we met over Zoom I fell completely for her extraordinary creative force and love for her characters. She is a writer of voices, a ventriloquist who brings us into the real Jamaica, and her energy springs off the page. I am excited to launch her as a debut talent at Virago.”

According to Sharma Taylor: I wrote this book to showcase Jamaican culture and to explore the relationship between mothers and their children. I was captivated by Dinah’s voice the moment she came to me in the kitchen of my apartment in Barbados. I can’t wait to work with the delightful Rose, who is as passionate about these characters as I am, and as I hope readers will become.

About the author:

Sharma Taylor is a Jamaican writer and attorney living between Jamaica and Barbados. She holds a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, obtained on a Commonwealth Scholarship and has completed various writing courses, including at Arvon and postgrad courses at the University of the West Indies. She has been shortlisted twice for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (in 2018 and 2020) and has won the 2020 Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Prize and 2019 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize for emerging writers. Her short story How You Make Jamaican Coconut Oil won the 2020 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. An earlier version of this manuscript was awarded Second Prize in the 2020 First Novel Competition (organised by Daniel Goldsmith Associates Ltd, UK). What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You is her debut novel.