Literature, News

Award-winning writer Monique Roffey: “We became a chapter of Extinction Rebellion and a platform where writers could join the movement”

0 105

Featured image: Manchester Met

The first words Monique Roffey, esteemed writer and activist, said to me were: “Is that a Trini accent I’m hearing?” To which I eagerly reply, “Yes!”

For as long as she can remember Professor Roffey, like myself, has travelled frequently between Trinidad and the UK.

The Trinidadian-born British writer’s novels are critically acclaimed and she has received multiple accolades since she began writing ten years ago, including the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Currently a Professor of Contemporary Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University, Roffey tells me, “You’re the first Trinidadian I’ve ever come across at the university”. She describes her time at Manchester Met: “I’ve loved working at the Writing School from the minute I started writing here”. During her time working at the university, Monique has released three novels including her award-winning novel, Mermaid of the Black Conch.

Monique explains that her time at Manchester Met has been an “amazing journey” with interesting work, surrounded by unique opportunities and diverse individuals. She says, “It’s a great place to be teaching.” Monique describes her appreciation for the support she received during her MA and Ph.D. in Creative Writing in England: “I’ve received so much mentoring and support here, which has allowed me to develop a long-lasting career based here. That’s what being in the diaspora can do”.

Monique explains her fascination with her West Indian roots: “I find that Trinidad is so much richer than the UK in terms of its complexity and history and it’s hard for me to look away.” She describes Trinidad, where her family has been since the 50s, as a “melting pot” of cultures.

According to American sociologist Nancy Foner, when West Indians move abroad they begin to see themselves differently; that is how the West Indian identity is found in the diaspora.

She reveals that the author that resonates with her the most is British novelist Jean Rhys: “She speaks to European people like me and my family who came to the region and became part of the diaspora.” The works of Rhys have heavily influenced Monique’s writing, which too draws inspiration from the traumatic Caribbean landscapes.

Monique’s new novel, Passiontide is set on a Caribbean island like Trinidad. The book highlights the lasting impact of colonialism on the West Indies, as corruption is embedded within our societies and crime and murder rates are rising. The story is based on true events that took place in the calm after Carnival Monday and Tuesday. On Ash Wednesday, a woman is found murdered which sparks a revolution. The women of the island dare to imagine a different world.

For Monique, everything leads back to her West Indian roots. She became involved in climate activism because of her brother in Trinidad. She explains, “The way it all started was an extreme weather event in Trinidad which flooded my brother’s house. The shock of it caused knock-on effects.” The climate issues that affect the Caribbean and Monique’s family led to her involvement in climate activism connecting to the diaspora.

This event triggered an autoimmune illness for Monique’s brother, causing their family to suffer. Monique wrote her novel Archipelago in the wake of what happened to her brother. The novel highlights the ongoing crisis faced in the Caribbean of rising sea levels, pollution, and coral reefs being destroyed.

As research for her novel, Monique embarked on a journey throughout the Caribbean and parts of Latin America to gather information on the environmental impacts of tourism. This was at the same time that Extinction Rebellion appeared in Oxford Circus. Monique wanted to join the movement, asking, “What can writers do?” She says, “A handful of us set up what is now called Writers Rebel that was it. We became a chapter of Extinction Rebellion, and we became a platform where writers could join the movement.”

Rather than recollecting the traumatic landscapes of the Caribbean, Monique employs the ‘Green Writing’ approach. ‘Green Writing’ is writing that entertains and informs about ecological understandings and inspires solutions and behaviours towards a sustainable future. Monique is a passionate environmental activist and is dedicated to challenging the ongoing climate crisis. She recently co-launched an elective in Green Writing at Manchester Met. This unit will explore how creative writers can engage with ecological emergency during a time of crisis and demonstrate ways to respond creatively to contemporary climate science.

Monique Roffey’s new novel Passiontide will be available from June 27th.

About the author / 

Makenna Ali

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • Opinion: “Our real legacy at university is the friends we make along the way”

    We all prioritise different things in life: our relationships, academic achievement, and financial success. While these can be great catalysts for short and long-term goals, making us resilient,  fixating on these goals can become overwhelming, even detrimental. Focusing on what we feel we have to achieve can make it easy to lose sight of the present. This also applies to university life.

  • Reading and Leeds Festival 2024: The best bands to see this year

    Featured image: Georgina Hurdsfield Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of choice on offer at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival? Don’t worry, we’ve got you. We’ve trawled the lineups to bring you a cluster of acts to watch on the August bank holiday weekend. From jungle to riotous punk, there’s a bounty of brilliant bands…

  • Film Review: The Idea of You – A sappy feel-good rom-com

    Featured image: PA Media In this sappy, heart-warming rom-com, two lovers meet at Coachella as Solène (Anne Hathaway) takes her daughter to a meet and greet at the Californian music festival. Known for her iconic roles in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and The Princess Diaries (2001), Hathaway plays the role of a 40-year-old divorcee…

  • Travel: Tips for multi-country trips abroad while keeping your bank account happy

    Featured image: Georgia Pearson The summer break from university is approaching and conversations about travel plans can be heard across campus. But with the cost of living at a high, students and young people are looking for cheaper ways to travel this summer. Travelling to multiple countries during one trip can be a budget-friendly way…