Westward - Harold Alexander Munnings Jr.


By Harold Alexander Munnings Jr.

  • Release Date: 2009-09-21
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
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Westward Harold Alexander Munnings Jr. Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

1. This is unusual, a memoir written by someone under fifty years of age. What made you write?
My parents were growing old, and I wanted to record their stories for my children. My father, who is halfway through his ninth decade, was born during the heyday of Prohibition, twenty years before the discovery of penicillin and thirty years before the hospital that I was born in was even built. He was the first Bahamian qualified civil engineer, and his connection to the public board of works helped to influence development of the City of Nassau at a critical time in its history. As president of the Bahamian Amateur Athletic Association, he traveled with our Olympic team to Rome in 1960. He is really the one who ought to have written a biography, and so should have my mother, whose story is equally compelling, but it was never going to happen. So I took it upon myself to write their stories, and over time, the narrative became my own.

2. Why the title Westward?
The title reflects a dual movement, figuratively, toward a sunset that is hopefully still a good ways off, and physically, I have moved house farther and farther westward on the island of New Providence over the last twenty years. I grew up in the eastern community of Danottage Estates, moved to Westward Villas after marriage, and lately, farther west to Old Fort Bay. The subtitle Walk is a reference to life and how it is lived. Walk good is a well-known expression in our region of Jamaican origin that means good-bye and be well.

3. Why do you tell crime stories?
Firstly, I am a true crime buff, a fan of Forensic Files and truTV. When I discovered that a man who shared my last name appeared on the list of persons sent to the gallows in the Bahamas, I simply had to research the event, and the fascinating story that I unearthed ended up in the book. Two decades ago, our neighbors were slaughtered, and story of the familys grisly murder is recounted in Westward. Other harrowing crime stories retold in Westward appear because on top of being so interesting, they mark important signposts on my journey, or they help to underscore a general theme. I did not want to write a mundane memoir.

4. Other doctors have written about their medical school and internship experience. Whats new here?
Nowhere in the publicly available literature is there to be found a personal account of the making of a doctor in the Caribbean. This is a process that has relevance outside of this region because the University of the West Indies in Jamaica has been producing doctors for sixty years, and hundreds of its graduates have emigrated to the USA, Canada, and Great Britain where they practice and teach. While the university adheres to the standard model of a grueling course of preclinical and clinical studies followed by a punishing internship, there are significant differences in the education style and substance. The West Indies style is evident in Westward.

5. Why do you say that Westward is a sort of spiritual journey?
Looking backward over ones life, the benefit of maturity almost always takes on a spiritual dimension. I have had a Christian upbringing in a nation that has written our recognition of these values into the preamble of our Constitution. My mother has always told me that I am blessed, and in Westward, I probe the interplay of luck, hard work, and divine intervention in my own personal achievements. The conclusion is by no means foregone.

6. Have you any regrets in writing your memoir?
Ten years ago, two old men, Gasper Weir and Cleophas Adderley Sr., who were friends of my late grandfather, invited me to their homes to talk about the bygone days. I wish that I had taken them up on the offer.

7. What was your most memorable experience in researching Westward?

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