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An Author’s Journey - In Her Own Words by Yolanda Marshall

Yolanda Marshall

I was born in Georgetown, Guyana, to Herbert Marshall, a famous Guyanese Guitarist, and Hazel Marshall, a Bishop’s High school and University of Guyana graduate. At the age of five, my parents divorced and my younger sister and I lived with our mother. I used to love visiting my grandparents Alma and Livingstone Marshall’s home in Bent street. Both my grandparents played the guitar and I learned to play at the age of 8. It was at the same age I started to write short poems in the back of my exercise books. My father would teach me to play jazz, church and folk music on my grandfather’s acoustic guitar. After graduating St Margaret’s Primary school, I attended Central High School. I joined the school’s folk music band in Form 2 as the guitarist and a singer. I remember walking down Hadfield street with a guitar more than half my size – it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

The first time I landed in Canada, I was only one. I returned to Guyana before the birth of my sister Janelle Marshall, who is now a lawyer. I was 14 years old when we both left Guyana to live with my Mother permanently in Canada. My guitar playing days diminished, but my love for poetry and painting amplified.

While attending high school in Toronto, I enrolled in Arts classes every year. It was my haven and a place where I found my closest friends. After graduating Seneca College in Toronto, my hobbies expanded to coding and creating websites, message board forums, and make-up artistry. My father visited Canada from time to time and he continued to place the guitar in my hands. In my early 20’s, I performed with my Dad at a few jazz clubs in Toronto. At that stage of my life, I had accumulated hundreds of poems, which I shared on various blogs and performed at a few poetry jams.

While attending the University of Toronto in 2008, at the age of 29, I decided to publish my poetry. The name of my first book, “Obayifo”, originates from the Ashanti tribe. It is the name given to an African Witch. The poem visits the works of Obeah, its people, and fears. This book consisted of over 100 poems. I educated myself on the world of publishing, by reading books and getting involved in the process of marketing my book. After working as an Assistant Buyer in Fashion, at the Hudson Bay Corporate office, I left to pursue a career in the Academic Publishing field. I now work for Canada’s largest Academic Publishing company as an E-Commerce Account Manager.

In 2015, I was inspired to write my second book, a children’s book named “Keman’s First Carnival” after the birth of my son, Miles Wangai Muchemi. This 2016 publication under Garnalma Press, is about a young, Black Canadian child’s first experience of Toronto’s annual Caribbean Carnival. The excited 8-year-old and his Mother enjoy the rituals at the Caribbean celebration, such as picking a flag to wave, the Caribbean influenced foods, dancing, costumes, and music.

I received a CIBWE (Canada’s International Black Women) award for Canada’s Top 100 Black women to watch in 2017.

Early 2017, “Messages on Dried Leaves” was published. It is a mild resurrection of my first poetry book, “Obayifo”. This book is a poetic collection of personal notes, texts, emails and voicemails sent to muses of the past.

Just in time for the holidays, “A Piece of Black Cake for Santa” was recently published on October 30th 2017 and it is my second children’s book. This book illustrates the holiday experiences of Femi and her friends, who plan to leave a few traditional Caribbean treats out for Santa, including Black Cake. The Kids share warm wishes for their favorite dishes while enjoying winter activities at the Christmas fair.

My parents read books to me every night as a child and that ritual contributed to my love of literature. I now read to my son Miles every day, while we listen to Jazz. The joy on his face every time we open a book, incites me to write more children’s books for Canadian children of Caribbean heritage. I know these books will resonate with a lot of children and their parents.

My books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo bookstores, Kindle, Nook and Apple iBooks. They are also available for worldwide distribution.

Click here to learn more about Yolanda Marshall

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