Blogger, freelance writer, author and editor Anne Lyken-Garner, a Berbice-born Guyanese now living in Bristol in the UK tells a story, hers, of growing up poor and battered in her book Sunday’s Child.
The true story is written from her child-like perspective, and though it deals with abject poverty and the dark side of physical, mental and emotional abuse doled out in what could only have been an attempt to break her, it offers hope in the glimpses of the unbroken spirit of a girl determined to survive.
In an interview with Stabroek News, Anne revealed that though cathartic, Sunday’s Child was a difficult book to write. She noted that some people, “Inexplicably look down on poverty and abuse as if they’re completely foreign struggles; even though these are limiting elements that affect their own day-to-day lives.
“I fought past this stigma and wrote this book for all those who feel they’re being held down by their past, whether it’s physical abuse, support deprivation, feeling unloved, downtrodden etc. I want them to see that it’s possible to lift the shackles they think they have to live under and think beyond the mind-conditioning we’re all subjected to as a people. Poverty is not a crime.”
She stated that the obvious challenge was exposing her life story. “It’s not and will never be a comfortable thing to do. Once it’s out there, it can be perused by anyone and be open to mockery and disdain. People can judge you because they think they can analyse you now that they know so much about your life – even though their own lives are bogged down with secrecy and shame.”
She added, “If you’re a criminal or an abuser, you ought to be embarrassed about your actions, but if you’re a victim, if you’re poor, if you were abused, you shouldn’t claim embarrassment that’s not yours. The only way you will be made free from the burdens of your past, is to stand up, take ownership of your story, claim it and show other people how to rise up and fly away from the dirt they may have in their own lives. Don’t live bogged down by secrecy and folly that was never yours to begin with. Don’t claim guilt you don’t own. It took me years to figure this out.”
Sunday’s Child can be purchased on Amazon, in both kindle and paperback versions. In addition, it is in the hands of Guyanese filmmaker and producer of the acclaimed, Cuffy: Face of a Rebellion Amanda Wilson, who is making a film of it. It is set in New Amsterdam and will be filmed there and Anne said funds are still being raised to realise this.
Meanwhile, despite several attempts on her part, Anne has been unable to get Austin’s Bookstore to make Sunday’s Child available locally. She had reached out to owner Lloyd Austin and was asked to send a copy of the book, which she did around July last year and which he confirmed he had received. Several follow-up emails and queries by individuals on her behalf yielded nothing.
Contacted by Stabroek News, Austin said that purchasing books he was not sure would sell was a risk, which was why he had asked for an advance copy of Sunday’s Child. However, he admitted when he spoke to this newspaper in November that he had not yet read it and could not say when or if he would do so.
Fair of Face
Anne’s second book, Fair of Face is also available on Amazon. Persons who are familiar with the old English nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child” might imagine they know where she is going with this. They would be wrong.
Fair of Face continues from where Sunday’s Child left off, Anne said, at a pivotal time in her young life. This book was written, she revealed, “To demonstrate that hatred, bitterness and revenge are futile. Whatever someone has done to you in your childhood was their responsibility and theirs alone. Once you become an adult, you’re responsible for your own actions. How you plan to deal with your life now, the path you take and the way you repair your life are all your responsibilities. I wanted to show that we’re created as people with talents, kindness and goodness. We’re not reactors – people who can only budge when others push.”
The last full stop in Fair of Face is where Anne ends the story she needed to tell.
The blurb about the book reads: “Anne has finally left her grandmother’s den. The moment she’s about to exhale, she discovers her troubles – of a different kind – are already brewing.
“At sixteen, she finds herself the only adult at home, and has to make tough decisions, and take dangerous chances to remain standing tall under the pressures that threaten to force her head under the pavement.
“Anne’s confidence blossoms when she finds a job and becomes a model. Finally, as her tongue loosens, she grabs the reins of the fragile control she has over her own fate. But even her little successes come with underlying dangers.
“Anne has to fight mentally and physically to hold off the small-town predators, sharpening their teeth to attack. At breaking point, she heads for the capital and gambles everything she is and has on finding her feet, but the gold she seeks for her family gets further away with every step.”
At the time of this interview in November last year, Anne was completing a collection of fictional short stories. That book, Head Games: A Collection of Short Stories, is also available now on Amazon.
She said that since her work is mainly in the non-fiction genre, she wanted to put together something fictional for her fans. Anne’s other books include How to Spend Less, and Baby Diaries: A Guide For New Mothers.
Aside from that, she edited the Writers’ Bureau online student magazine for 2 years and now edits websites, sales/landing pages, blogs and such while working in TV part-time and doing some photographic modelling now and then. “I’ve had lots of jobs in the past,” she revealed, “notably a secondary school English/Literature teacher, a stage actress and a radio announcer. Most of my jobs were in the arts field.
“I also love gardening and can be seen busying around in my garden in warm, summer months. I love green spaces and take pride in nurturing the flowers and shrubs I’ve planted.”
Anne is married. Her husband is a sociologist and academic and she has three children.
What’s next for Anne? “Ultimately, as the fictional character Mary Poppins said, ‘Anything can happen if you let it.’ I won’t limit myself with what I think I could achieve. Who knows, the sitcom I’m writing now could be showing on the BBC in a few years!” she responded.