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Through Jamaican Lenses - A Memoir

Through Jamaican Lenses

A Memoir

By Fern June Khan
Hardcover : 9781496852953, 278 pages, 36 b&w illustrations, September 2024
Paperback : 9781496852946, 278 pages, 36 b&w illustrations, September 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-09-16
Expected to ship: 2024-09-16

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Growing Up in Rural Jamaica
Chapter 2: Living and Learning in Kingston
Chapter 3: Cultural, Educational, and Religious Experiences
Chapter 4: High School: My Excelsior Years
Chapter 5: Reflections on Jamaican Life
Chapter 6: Becoming a Civil Servant
Chapter 7: The Letter of Invitation
Chapter 8: Coming to America: Chicago to New York City
Chapter 9: Life as a Foreign Student at NYU
Chapter 10: NYU Graduate School of Social Work
Chapter 11: Returning to Work in NYC
Chapter 12: LaGuardia Community College
Chapter 13: Raising Our Family in NYC
Chapter 14: Continuing Education’s Community Connections
Chapter 15: Bank Street College
Chapter 16: The Long Trips
Chapter 17: Connections and Partnerships with Nonprofits
Chapter 18: A Moment for Reflection

A compelling memoir of a blossoming life rooted in a Jamaican homeland


Born and raised on the island of Jamaica, Fern June Khan has valued and embraced Jamaica in each stage of her life. Despite the island’s economic and educational challenges during her youth, Khan’s childhood was a colorful one, replete with the vibrant culture of the island, endlessly supportive role models, and a complex social tapestry. Her early experiences empowered Khan to develop an unwavering sense of self as she progressed into adulthood and moved to the United States. Through Jamaican Lenses: A Memoir celebrates Khan’s joyful upbringing, journey to a new environment, and her many educational and professional accomplishments.

Centering on her early life in Jamaica in the 1940s and '50s, this memoir reveals Khan’s childhood as one rich with opportunities to observe and experience the complexities of Jamaican life and history. Khan’s childhood memories revel in the community’s vivid folklore, Jamaica's music and food, and popular idioms and sayings, as well as the implications of color and class. Then a British colony, Jamaica still bore the legacies and social impacts of slavery and emancipation. Jamaica was becoming increasingly globalized and along with that transition came a growing interest in cultural exchange. Stories of economic success poured in from relatives and friends who had traveled abroad, whether as seasonal workers or as immigrants.

As Khan grew, ambition brought her to the United States as a foreign student. She graduated from New York University with a BSc in sociology and a graduate degree in social work. Following a brief career in social work, Khan next cultivated a forty-four-year career in higher education, using her social work skills to inform her work developing education programs for children, youth, and adults alike in New York City and beyond. Bolstered by her early education in Jamaica, these achievements would not have been possible without the support of her community. Examining not only Jamaica’s contribution to the arts, its customs and traditions, and its social and cultural heritage, Through Jamaican Lenses explores honestly the diasporic experience of Caribbean immigration, postcolonialism, collective and individual memory, and transnational identity.


"In Through Jamaican Lenses: A Memoir, Fern June Khan’s story resonates truths known to many others, presenting the life of a woman who fearlessly took the journey, faced whatever came, made her choices, and used her inner strength and creativity to make glorious johnny-cakes even when ‘water was more than flour’ to use a Jamaican adage and metaphor. This is a must-read book for young and old; and for people of all ages for it honors the timeless strengths of the human spirit and the courage to persevere and to excel."

- Barbara Paul-Emile, professor emerita of English at Bentley University and author of Seer; The Dance of Life: Poems for the Spirit; and Mosaic: Caribbean Short Fiction Collection