Glittery debut novel by Trini expat gets noticed

It’s not every day a debut novel written by a Trini that explores life in Trinidad and Tobago gets selected as part of actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint. Since the release of Golden Child in January 2019, author Claire Adam has been getting used to answering questions about growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, her inspiration for the book, and of course, her working relationship with the famous Sex and the City actress.

I first found out about Golden Child like most millennials: on Instagram, after seeing the now-iconic photo of Sarah Jessica Parker holding up the bright cobalt-blue cover. In her caption, Sarah Jessica Parker announced Golden Child as the second book of the SJP for Hogarth imprint, calling it “a deeply affecting story of one Trinidadian family”.

As a lover of books, and especially those written by Caribbean nationals about the Caribbean, I immediately tried to get my hands on a copy. A week later, I received mine. Just as I expected, Claire Adam’s writing is enthralling, beautiful, realistic and perfectly captures some of the social, cultural and economic nuances of this country.

One of the first things I noticed upon speaking with Adam was how thick her Trini accent is, even after being away from the county for over 20 years. The St. Joseph’s Convent old girl—with a bit of the accent to match—said, “I had a big vision for this book. As I wrote, it felt like a big story; there was something transcendent about it.”

Photography by Tricia Keracher-Summerfield

She was right; the novel was picked up by the worldwide book subscription box, Book of The Month, which is a staple amongst the international reading community.  Since its release, Claire Adam embarked on a UK and US press tour, meeting readers and doing interviews with popular late-night TV hosts, including Seth Meyers.

Golden Child was five years in the writing. Though she had studied science in secondary school and university, Adam decided she had a story to tell and she wanted to be a writer. It was while she pursued her MA in creative writing that her tutor prompted her to write about what she knew . . . that ended up being Trinidad and Tobago.  “I had mixed feelings about writing about Trinidad; I’d been living in the UK for many years by then, and I didn’t feel I was really in touch with Trinidad anymore.”

One of the major challenges she faced was how, as a Trinidadian, she would portray Trinidad and Tobago to the world. Adam recollected something that Derek Walcott had said about V. S. Naipaul, that he shouldn’t have used his talent to abuse his own people. “I wanted to tell an honest story, a story that didn’t airbrush ugly things away, but at the same time, I was conscious of those words of Walcott’s. I didn’t want to abuse my own people.”

She returned to her country of birth in May as one of the headliners of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s premier annual literary festival.

Claire Adam’s writing is enthralling, beautiful, and realistic.

A bit coy about the ongoing success of Golden Child, Adam does recognise that as a debut writer she has had some big breaks. “Living in London, I’ve had access to things that simply wouldn’t have been available to me in Trinidad. The big publishers are here, the agents are here, the big newspapers are headquartered here, TV are radio are all here. The London Book Fair happens every year—I first met my US editor when she was in London for the annual London Book Fair. I can pop into Faber’s office to chat with my editor or publicists anytime I need to.” Before the book’s publication, Adam’s unofficial editor was her sister. “She read every single draft and all the re-edits. I re-wrote it numerous times from different perspectives until I found what worked.”

Adam currently holds a two-book deal with UK independent publisher, Faber & Faber Limited and at the time of our conversation, was working on her second novel.  Currently, it’s not about or set in Trinidad and Tobago, but Adam stressed that we shouldn’t rule it out. We’re happy for her success and are eagerly awaiting her sophomore novel and to see and hear more from her.

No more articles