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Literature / Going Home to Teach

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Based on actual events.

Going Home to Teach is an autobiographical novel by Jamaican author Anthony Winkler, published in 1995.

Winkler outlines his time spent as an instructor at a teacher-training college in Jamaica in 1975, during the tenure of then-Prime Minister Michael Manley, and discusses the history behind black-on-white and white-on-black racism in Jamaica. He also flashes back to his own boyhood experiences, the struggles endured by himself and his family (individually and as a collective group), and the anti-white sentiment he faced while growing up.


Tropes present in Going Home to Teach:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Winkler devotes a few chapters to talking about his wife Cathy, his paternal grandparents, his maternal relatives, and his fellow teachers.
  • A Father to His Men: Dr. Levy, Longstreet College’s principal, presents himself this way.
  • Abusive Parents: In one instance, while Winkler has his neighbors visiting, from a distant yard they hear the sounds of relentless flogging of a screaming and sobbing child for half an hour. Just the sound of what’s happening is enough to disgust Winkler.
    Winkler: I couldn’t help wondering about that child. Twenty years from now with a gun in his hand and a victim impaled in its sights, what mercy would he show when his own pitiful pleas and grovelling had provoked only insensate anger and further blows?
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  • All of the Other Reindeer: Winkler's peers during his childhood, and later the other members of staff at Longstreet (at first), because he's white.
  • Arranged Marriage: Nearly all of Winkler's female relatives on his mother's side were subjected to this by his maternal grandfather, oftentimes to much older men, because the grandfather wasn't about to let any of his daughters marry black men. The women wound up being abused or neglected by their husbands.
  • Ax-Crazy: At least one of Winkler’s maternal aunts turned out this way, as a result of constant beatings from her husband.
  • Berserk Button: Corporeal punishment by teachers triggers this in Winkler, due to his own bad experiences with an anti-white racist teacher during his high school days.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Winkler.
  • Big Fancy House: Mrs. Mendoza, the head of Longstreet College's math department, has one.
  • Broken Bird: Many of Winkler’s female relatives on his mother’s side of the family qualify, with one exception.
  • But Not Too Black: Played straight in a number of cases, in that white is revered/hated, brown is respected/loathed depending on the lightness or darkness of the color, and black is looked down upon by all others.
    • It's inverted at one point, however, when a young boy refuses to believe Winkler was born in Jamaica because he’s white.
  • Butt-Monkey: Several of Winkler's female relatives during his childhood, some being in abusive marriages and other succumbing to madness borne of unsatisfied sexual passions.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Winkler does this to Dr. Levy in a moment of Unstoppable Rage.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Winkler himself.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Winkler describes one of his American college professors as being this, depending on the time period. For example, during the rise of Women’s Lib, she took only female lovers; during the Black Panthers’ uprising, she took only black lovers.
  • The Determinator: Mavis, one of the students tutored by Winkler.
  • Dirty Old Man: Mavis accuses Dr. Levy of being this. It's hinted that he is.
  • Double Standard: Winkler’s maternal relatives were largely guilty of this, sheltering the females while allowing the males to run amok.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: One of Winkler's maternal aunts, the only one to refuse to enter into an Arranged Marriage, got a savage No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from her father for defying his expectations, then got scandalized by the rest of the family after divorcing her first husband for his alcoholism (with her father triumphantly holding her "bad choice" over her head). She would eventually meet her second husband, have two children with him, and be Happily Married for the next fifty years.
  • Evil Matriarch: Winkler’s paternal grandmother, and especially more so after his grandfather died. Winkler remarks that it’s because of resentment at never being able to go back to her native America and hating Jamaica.
  • Feuding Families: Evidently, Winkler’s paternal and maternal relatives had this vibe going on between them.
  • The Fundamentalist: Longstreet College’s vice-principal. He and Winkler feud with each other because of it.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Winkler and his wife, according to his admission in the story.
  • Happily Married: Tony and Cathy, of course.
  • Jerkass: Winkler’s fellow teachers Raymond Hunt and Mrs. Mendoza are guilty of this, the former for being anti-white, the latter because of Greed.
    • Winkler himself is guilty of this as well. In one instance in the story, when Jamaica is in the grip of panic over poisoned imported flour, he gets assurance from the school cook that Longstreet’s flour supply is safe, then goes back to the staff-room and promptly eats two pastries. He waits until the other tutors get busy eating, then promptly pretends to choke. Cue Spit Take and Oh, Crap! expressions from all the others.
    Winkler: Damn it! I forgot I’m giving a test to 4B this morning!
  • Karma Houdini: Dr. Levy.
  • Kids Are Cruel: A lot of kids treated Winkler cruelly during his childhood, because he was white and they were black.
  • Manly Tears: Winkler, following his Unstoppable Rage.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: During their childhood, Winkler and his brother persuaded their paternal grandfather to come play cricket with them. Some time later, he died from complications rising from a heart attack. Winkler’s grandmother blamed them harshly for it.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Winkler claims he saw the ghost of his father several days after the man’s death.
    Winkler: The odd thing was that his lips did not move. Yet I distinctly heard him say, "Take care of your mother."
  • Overprotective Dad: Winkler’s maternal grandfather was this toward his daughters, insisting that they should marry husbands he chose for them, and determined that none of them would marry any black suitor. His sons, on the other hand, were allowed to sleep with their black employees without repercussion.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The whole point of the book.
  • The Resenter: Winkler himself admits to feeling this way toward Mrs. Mendoza due to her earning far more money than he does despite them being in the exact same profession.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The house rented by the Winklers during the author’s tenure at Longstreet has these. He describes one in particular as being “fat and sleek as a squirrel.”
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In one instance, Winkler recalls how one of his maternal aunts, a sex-starved woman, brought a black lover in to slake her passions. The man was quite enthusiastic to the point of boastfulness at first, but as the evening wore on he became less and less so, eventually fleeing the house despite the woman's angry insistence that he come back and satisfy her.
    Man: (leaving) No white woman not going kill me in here tonight!
  • Serious Business: Marrying someone of one’s own color during 1970s Jamaica, apparently.
  • Shout-Out: Winkler makes mention of his first novel, The Painted Canoe, which he was writing at the time of the autobiography’s events.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Winkler recalls how his maternal uncles, all shopkeepers, often slept with their female employees.
  • Take That!: Winkler takes a pointed dig at the often-held notion that teachers caning their students is necessary for the students to learn their lessons.
  • True Companions: The teaching staff at Longstreet.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Dr. Levy.
  • Well Done Daughter Girl: Cathy's mother. She militantly refused to wish Cathy luck or kiss her goodbye when Cathy went off with Winkler, due to them living together outside of wedlock, and later refused to entertain a visit from Cathy unless the two were properly married.


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