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“Train up a child in the way [s]he should go; even when [s]he is old [s]he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV).
The referred biblical piece of advice has reaped dividends for Yolanda T. Marshall. As a child her parents read to her every night, a ritual Yolanda credited to contributing to her love for literature. Eight was the age when she learned to play the guitar and also started writing poems (which she did at the back of her exercise books).
Yolanda was born in Guyana and is the daughter of famed musician (guitarist) Herbert ‘Herbie’ Marshall and Hazel Marshall. She attended St. Margaret’s Primary School and Central High. At age 14 herself and sister, Jenelle, migrated to Canada to live with their mother.
Though she started publishing at the age of 29, in her early 20s she had already accumulated hundreds of poems, some of which she performed at poetry jams. She also has the opportunity, as a musician, to perform with her father at jazz clubs in Toronto. Her repertoire of writings includes poems and children’s books. The latter include stories that Canadian children of Caribbean heritage could identify with.
In 2008, Yolanda published her first book of poetry. The book comprises 100 + poems and is titled “Obayifo: A Poetic Journey into The Mind of Miss Marshall.” The name Obayifo is West African in origin and from the Gold Coast of the Ashanti people. According to Yolanda the “poem visits the works of Obeah, its people, and fears.”
In the mythology of the Ashanti people, Obayifo is a kind of living vampire. The vampire could either take the human form of a male or female and is able to leave the body at night, travelling around and causing harm, such as drinking the blood of children (https://occult-world.com/obayifo/) The Obayifo mythology is somewhat akin to the Ole Higue of West Indian folklore.
Less than a decade later “Messages on Dried Leaves” was published. This collection (published in 2017) is said to be a mild resurrection of Obayifo and entails her personal notes, texts, emails and voicemails sent to muses of the past.
Yolanda has since immersed herself in writing children books. These include: -Keman’s First Carnival (2016), A Piece of Black Cake for Santa (2017), Sweet Sorrel Stand (2018) and Miles away in the Caribbean. (2019), My Soca Birthday Party: With Jollof Rice and Steel Pans (2020), C is for Carnival (2021), and March this year (2022) she has published “Hot Cross Buns for Everyone!”
Yolanda is “a cross-genre writer, [who] silently commands you to read and digest life’s cultural motions.” So said in her literary biography posted on Amazon. Given the range of her writings and accomplishments it would be difficult to disagree.
She was among the Top 100 Black women in 2017 to be recognised by Canada’s International Black Women of Excellence (CIBWE). This organisation “celebrate[s] and uplift[s] Black women, providing access to opportunities and resources that enable them to maximise their impact and success.”
And in 2020, one of her children’s books, “My Soca Birthday Party: With Jollof Rice and Steel Pans,” was adjudged Best Picture Book by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). She told the Toronto Star (Sept 28, 2020) she wants to use her writings to represent the diversity of Caribbean peoples living in Toronto and show how said lived experiences enriches what she calls “the potluck party.”
As a mother, Yolanda is taking seriously the values her parents instilled in her as a child and passing them on to her offspring. Every day she reads for her son, Miles, as jazz music plays in the background. His reaction and her inspiration? “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.”
Yolanda T. Marshall’s books could be sourced on/from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo bookstores, Kindle, Nook, Apple iBooks, and other worldwide distributions. For more on her work visit her page https://www.ytmarshall.com/ (Sources- internet)