Late Speaker of the House of Representatives Hector McClean and his wife Rosemarie were avid readers. They passed down a love for reading and literature to their children, Bernard and Danielle.
"I'm standing in our study here at home, and I'm looking at the variety of literature here," said Danielle McClean during a phone interview. "They read to us," she said of her parents. "They exposed us to different works, different genres, things from different cultures." McClean, who resides in Tennessee, was in Trinidad recently to launch her first book, a children's adventure based in the Caribbean called The Protector's Pledge. She fought back tears as she recalled her father's influence on her life and the book.
"He believed that I could do anything, whether I believed it or not," said McClean. "The way he approached things was very methodical and thorough. I think that those qualities that he had are things that he instilled in me and my brother."
McClean, a freelance interpreter with tertiary qualifications in Spanish, French and law, thinks her dad would have supported her writing a children's book wholeheartedly. He loved children and was a benefactor of St Mary's Children's Home orphanage. It was one of many facts people might not know about the late Speaker, who held that position between 1995 and 2001. An attorney, he served as a judge in the Industrial Court in the early 80s. Before that he had been an MP and Cabinet minister. He died a decade ago at age 64.
"A lot of people know him as Speaker of the House, and they would see one side of him, but obviously as family we knew that he loved music, he loved singing, he loved the arts as well," said McClean.
She wanted to do the book as a way of keeping T&T's folklore alive for children who lived away from the islands–like her five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son–and those who live here but may not be exposed to it. The book includes a glossary with words and expressions such as "catch a vapse" and "douens."
"When I was young I loved stories about folklore characters," said McClean. "I just had this urge that I needed to write something that can get these children passionate about Papa Bois and Mama Dlo." T&T's folklore characters, said McClean, "are just as intriguing and just as deep and rich and colourful–even more so–as zombies and werewolves."
The Protector's Pledge is about JV, a 12-year-old boy who lives with his grandmother in a small village called Alcavere. McClean published it herself through Amazon.com's CreateSpace service, which allows authors to print and sell on demand. The writing in The Protector's Pledge is vivid and crisp as it explores the young protagonist's internal world and fantastical experiences. At the book's launch at the Port-of-Spain library, respected children's author Merle Hodge and storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas, two of McClean's heroes, were in attendance. Hodge gave a speech in which she critiqued McClean's work and offered advice to the younger author. "I was over the moon," said McClean of Keens-Douglas's and Hodge's participation. "I was like a child, honestly." McClean said she intends for The Protector's Pledge to be the first in a three-part series called The Secrets of Oscuros.
EXCERPT FROM PROTECTOR'S PLEDGE
So given his long history with the forest, how was it that he'd never gone exploring on his own? Granny B wouldn't have minded, and he wasn't afraid of the ever-shifting shadows or intimidated by the way the Caribbean sun never fully reached the forest floor. And he certainly didn't believe all those stories about the forest being a haven for the soucouyant–an old crone who shed her skin at night, turned into a ball of fire, and drank human blood–or that it was home to the shape-shifting lagahoo who prowled during the dark hours, always ready to sink his fangs into his next victim. Nope! Those tall tales were for babies, and JV was 12, after all. A 12-year-old who was craving an adventure of his own. Yes, it was definitely time to embark on a quest.
The Protector's Pledge is available at Charran's bookstores in Trincity Mall and San Juan, and Amazon.com, which offers an e-book version.