Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack


From the award-winning author of The Polished Hoe comes this delightful memoir about the trials, joys, and ultimate disillusionment of a small Barbadian boy experiencing British colonialism in the 1940s. Alive with the warmth and colour of the Caribbean, singing with the lilting cadence of Barbadian speech, this is renowned author Austin Clarke’s own story–the story of the trails, joys, and ultimate disillusionment of a small Barbadian boy experiencing British colonialism in the 1940’s. Authentic and vivid, Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack details the life of a boy whose mother struggled against insurmountable odds, yet succeeded in giving her son the best available education. It is a dazzling account of a slow, dogged climb upward in a society whose rigid customs, rules and expectations were imported from England and accepted almost without question by the islanders. It is the story of a boy bent on making his mark in that society, despite the cruelty of British schoolmasters and the incongruity of studying for his Senior Cambridge examinations in a mango tree–his improvised study–in a vast field of sugar cane. Throughout this first volume of Clarke’s autobiography courses his irrepressible exhilaration with life itself, his deep delight in the antic humour of people who populated his childhood, and his unshakable pride in his heritage.


Uncommonly talented, Clarke sees deeply, and transmits his visions and perceptions so skillfully that reading him is an adventure.

Publishers Weekly

Exhilarating...Clarke makes West Indian speech into a form of music and poetry.

The Globe and Mail

Mr. Clarke is masterful.

The New York Times

Clarke is magnificent in transferring to his print the music, the poetry, the complete aptness of West Indian dialogue, It is comic, it is tragic, it is all shades in between. And a prose it is as near poetry as prose can become.

The Charlotte Observer

About the Author

Austin Clarke

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Austin Clarke photo

Austin Clarke

Austin Clarke is one of Canada’s foremost authors, whose work includes ten novels, six short-story collections, and three memoirs. His novel The Polished Hoe won the 2002 Giller Prize. Clarke is a member of the Order of Canada, holds four honorary doctorates, and has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the W.O. Mitchell Prize, and the Casa de las Américas Prize, among others.