Blog tour: ‘Just Like Grandpa Jazz,’ by Tarah L. Gear, illustrated by Mirna Imamović.

Today I not only have a wonderful, inclusive picture book from Owlet Press for you to enjoy, I also have a special piece from author Tarah L. Gear about the journey her father made across the sea from Mauritius to work for the NHS.

“A suitcase of stories from Grandpa Jazz connects Frank to his rich Mauritian heritage and is also the start of an epic adventure.

Even though the world might see Frank and Jazz as different, this story celebrates their love and the many ways that they’re the same.

Just like Jazz’s anecdotes, the tales we pass down to our children and grandchildren can play a pivotal role in connecting them to their family history and heritage.”

Exclusive piece from Tarah L. Gear – ‘Windrush, June 2022’

I’m in my 30’s and my dad came to England to work for the NHS, on a boat. I mention my age because it’s not really that long ago, but the narrative of immigrants coming to the UK by ship, seeking employment sits in our collective psyche much further back than this. It’s detached from the context of modern living, stuck in an era of post-war relics and black and white photographs. It’s not something I’ve talked about much either, perhaps because of the painful racial slurs associated with coming ‘off the boat’ that lingered through the decades and met me as a pre-teen in the late 90s.

My dad applied via the Mauritian government and then directly with the hospital in Cardiff where he wanted to work, before he was offered a job in the UK. Then, he took a month-long journey on board ‘Pierre Loti’ before arriving in Dover on the 5th April 1969. My new book ‘Just Like Grandpa Jazz’ is inspired by my dad’s journey and is full of joy because Jazz, like my dad, has made a wonderful life, surrounded by his family, here in the UK.

Whilst, thankfully, those racists insults have dwindled over the years, so has people’s understanding of government-initiated immigration to the UK. Most people have heard of Windrush but the general understanding of modern immigration has merged with the political diatribe aroundthose seeking asylum, and illegal immigration. The new points-based system effectively shuts UK boarders to many skilled workers today, but throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s the UK government recruited thousands of overseas nurses and doctors, making the NHS what it is today. For me, it throws our present day situation into stark relief when I consider that the wonderfully talented illustrator of my book, Mirna Imamovic, is not able to come to the UK to work because she is a self-employed Bosnian national. Whilst technology is able to connect us for collaborative pursuits like the creation of this book, in some ways, we’ve never been further apart.

Just Like Grandpa Jazz by Tarah L. Gear, illustrated by Mirna Imamovic, is available now, published by Owlet Press (June 2022), £7.99 paperback, ISBN 9781913339104.

This gorgeous picture book highlights the importance of passing on family stories to help build a sense of belonging and community. I’m sure that we can all think of at least one story from the past which gets retold at every family gathering amidst groans from the audience! It’s those stories which keep us all connected.

The story touches upon the discrimination faced by people of Grandpa Jazz’s generation when passengers aboard his ship were sorted depending on the colour of their skin. This is carefully balanced some of Grandpa’s colourful memories of the wonderful times he had whilst growing up in Mauritius.

All in all, a warm, loving depiction of intergenerational relationships and the power of stories.

Library Girl.

*Many thanks to Owlet Press for sending me this title to review*

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