Land of My Birth

A Historical Sketch of the First Forty Years of the People's National Party of Jamaica

Non-Fiction - Historical
444 Pages
Reviewed on 08/16/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

In Land of My Birth: A Historical Sketch of the First Forty Years of the People's National Party of Jamaica, Leroy E. Cooke, a patriot, revisits the history of his country and pens an engrossing narrative that showcases the journey of the first forty years of the first political party in the country, the People’s National Party. While this narrative explores how the party was born, its mission, its leadership, and the challenges it has faced over the years, it is also a story of a people, a tale of independence and pioneering leadership. It is a story of discrimination and injustices orchestrated on the poor Jamaicans by the white minority. I have known about Jamaica only through music — thanks to Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff — but what I knew about this country was very superficial, until I stumbled on this book.

Leroy E. Cooke’s book is packed with information, and while it takes readers through some of the most important moments in the country’s history, it allows the reader to feel the scars of the Jamaican people, to visit its locales, and to feel the soul of its people. The author has a great sense of history and leaves the reader in no doubt that this book is well-researched. It features powerful references — speeches, newspaper clippings, journals, and other historic works. Land of My Birth: A Historical Sketch of the First Forty Years of the People's National Party of Jamaica examines the work of the first political party and unveils the challenges that must be overcome to move the country into the future. This is an invaluable tool for politicians, patriots, and anyone who wants to know more about Jamaica. Apart from being a fascinating history, it is a work that reveals the culture of the people.

Kimberlee J Benart

Land of My Birth: A Historical Sketch of the First Forty Years of the People's National Party of Jamaica by Leroy E. Cooke tells the story of Jamaica’s oldest extant political party from its founding in 1938 to the elections of 1980. A prologue describes the forces of discontent and change at work in Jamaica in the hundred years before, and an addendum provides suggestions for the future betterment of the country. A preface by PNP General Secretary Paul Burke, along with extensive references, quotations, and photographs provide valuable content for the reader. A major thread is the pivotal leadership and vision of Jamaican statesman and national hero Norman Washington Manley (1893-1969), especially in the party’s formative years leading up to independence and self-governance in 1962. Young party members will find it inspirational, and non-Jamaicans will find it educational.

Land of My Birth is more than an overview of a single political party, albeit one that exercised power to foster change consistent with its democratic socialist philosophy. Cooke provides a broader view of the social, economic, and political history of Jamaica through very turbulent times, times of great suffering and injustice for the mass of the people. While Cooke writes from the viewpoint of a party activist and is not an unbiased observer, his writing is impeccable in style, content, organization, and appeal. Whether you’re supportive of or opposed to the PNP’s political agenda, any reader can appreciate Cooke’s thorough, concise, intelligent, and well-referenced treatment of its early history.

I was also impressed by the commonality of current issues which we in the US share with Jamaica. Cooke notes that “a sustainable crime-reduction programme requires nothing less than a cultural revolution,” and that “If the aim was still to build a just society based on self-reliance, equality and democracy, the question remained: how to motivate most of the population to cooperate in this effort.” These are issues with which many people outside of Jamaica can relate. An informative, educational, and thought-provoking read.

Romuald Dzemo

Land of My Birth: A Historical Sketch of the First Forty Years of the People's National Party of Jamaica by Leroy E. Cooke is an interesting history of the People’s National Party, a history that explores its birth, vision, achievement, and challenges. This historical narrative covers a period of 40 years, from the birth of the party to the time it lost the general elections for the second time in 1980. This is a history that encompasses the journey of the Jamaican people to independence from Britain in 1962. It offers a comprehensive look at the role played by the party, explores the work of some of the key personages like Norman Manley, who defined the raison d’être of the party thus: “It is called the People’s Party because it will unswervingly aim at all those measures which will serve the masses of the country.” In these pages, readers will find the history and the impact of the oldest political party in Jamaica while experiencing the scars of the people and the pulse of their history.

Leroy E. Cooke has an impeccable gift for historical narrative and the reader is left in no doubt that the work is well researched, as evidenced by the copious and well annotated references. The history of the land of Bob Marley and the birthplace of reggae is contained in this book, a revolutionary period that uncovers the struggle against black marginalization and how the country reached the peak of economic prosperity under the oldest party in Jamaica. The narrative is filled with manifold social and cultural commentaries that unveil the soul of the people and the injustices they suffered like no equal pay for women, no fixed minimum wage, no paid vacation and a lot more. Land of My Birth: A Historical Sketch of the First Forty Years of the People's National Party of Jamaica demonstrates a political ideology and how it was implemented, a history that features some of the powerful names in the making of modern Jamaica. But the narrative also asks questions that need answers for Jamaica to move with confidence into the future.