Edgell, Zelma Inez 1940-

views updated

EDGELL, Zelma Inez 1940-

(Zee Edgell)

PERSONAL: Born October 21, 1940, in Belize City, British Honduras (now Belize); daughter of Veronica and Clive Tucker; married Al Edgell; children: two. Education: Polytechnic of Central London, diploma in journalism, 1965; graduate study at University of the West Indies, 1990.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Belize Chamber of Commerce, editor of Reporter, 1966-68; St. Catherine's Academy, Belize City, Belize, teacher of English language and literature, 1966-68, 1980-81; YWCA, Enugu, Nigeria, third vice president, 1970-71; University of Wisconsin Center, Marinette County, assistant to the coordinator of public information and fine arts, 1976-77; Concerned Women for Family Planning, Secretary to the Governing Board, Dacca, Bangladesh, 1978-80; Ministry of Labour and Social Services of Belize, director of Women's Bureau, 1981-82, director of Department of Women's Affairs, 1986-87; UNICEF, consultant in Mogadishu, Somalia, 1984-85; University College of Belize, lecturer in English language, literature, and journalism, 1988-89; Programme for Belize, Belize City, public education consultant, 1990—; Kent State University, Kent, OH, assistant professor of English, 1993—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fawcett Society Book Prize, 1983, for Beka Lamb; National Arts Council of Belize citation, 1984; University College of Belize citation "for outstanding and meritorious contribution to the development of Belize," 1987; research grant from Kent State University, 1994; Canute Brodhurst Prize for Short Fiction, 1999, for "My Uncle Theophilus."


as zee edgell

Beka Lamb (novel), Heinemann (London, England), 1982.

In Times like These (novel), Heinemann (London, England), 1991.

Belize: A Literary Perspective (monograph), Inter-American Development Bank (Washington, DC), 1994.

The Festival of San Joaquin (novel), Heinemann (London, England), 1997.

Also author of short stories, including "My Uncle Theophilus," published in The Caribbean Writer, 1998. Also author of screenplay Good Intentions. Contributor to books, including Women Writers from the Caribbean, edited by Elaine Campbell and Pierette Frickey, Three Continents Press, 1997, and Mothers and Daughters in the Twentieth Century: A Literary Anthology, edited by Heather Ingman, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2000. Member of advisory board, Journal of Belizean Affairs, 1984-86; member of committee, The Belizean: Journal of the University College of Belize, 1988-89; member of board of advisory editors, Journal of Caribbean Studies, 1996.

SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Zelma Inez Edgell, who writes under the name Zee Edgell, is a native of the Central American nation of Belize, formerly British Honduras. According to Irma McLaurin in an Americas article, Edgell is her country's "most widely recognized international literary voice." McLaurin explained that "Edgell documents in her novels the changing history of Belize and the development of a national identity based upon the country's rich ethnic and diverse cultural traditions."

Edgell's "first novel, Beka Lamb, was published in 1982, a year after her country was born as the newly independent Belize, making it the first novel of the new nation," as Bernadine Evarista noted in Bomb magazine. The novel's narrator is a fourteen-year-old Creole girl, Beka, whose grandmother and closest friend Toycie both die, leaving her to find her own identity. Judith Misrahi-Barak described the novel in Alizes as presenting "a series of oppositions through which Beka is going to try and thread her own way—the school vs. the prison, 'flat-rate' vs. 'high mind,' what seems to her family an 'overnight' change vs. what might be going on underneath." Beka Lamb was chosen by the Caribbean Exam Council as one of the books all high school students in the Caribbean must read. Edgell's next novel, In Times like These, takes place during a three-week period shortly after independence. The main character, noted McLaurin, is "an unmarried Creole mother of twins, Pavana Leslie, who returns to her homeland, Belize, after studying and working abroad. She accepts a controversial position in the government as the Director of the Women's Unit."

Between the publication of In Times like These and her next novel, The Festival of San Joaquin, Edgell accepted a position in creative writing at Kent State University in Ohio, which she told McLaurin offered her the "shelter" she needed in order to write. At Kent State, she received a research grant which enabled her to complete the third novel. Based on a real incident, The Festival of San Joaquin shifts in style from third to first person and from the culture Edgell was raised in to one she was familiar with but was not her own. The novel is, stated McLaurin, "Written from the point of view of a mestiza, [and] it represents the continuation of her major objective as a writer, which she says is to write novels 'about the various ethnic groups in Belize.'" Edgell hopes that other Belizean writers will join her in representing the many different cultures that make up Belize, which, as Renee Shea wrote in Callaloo, Edgell considers "a great responsibility."

The Festival of San Joaquin tells of Luz Marina who, because of the abuse she has suffered at the hands of her husband, finally murders him. The novel begins with her release from prison after serving her sentence. She hopes to regain custody of her three children and prove to her community she can be a fit mother. Adele Newson found in a World Literature Today review that "this story shows the possibility of womanhood, of ways of being in the world as mother, daughter, and wife, and its commentary is haunting." Marvin Williams, writing in Caribbean Writer, noted: "As with the title character of Beka Lamb, Edgell explores the connections between Luz Marina's personal struggle and the politics of the region. The same class forces that impinge on Luz threaten the forest lands." He concluded, "The Festival of San Joaquin is a very fine addition to the canon of novels from the Caribbean by women and to the literature of the region itself."



Barfoot, C. C., and Theo D'haen, editors, Shades of Empire in Colonial and Post-Colonial Literatures, Rodopi (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1993.

Cond, Mary, and Thorunn Lonsdale, editors, Caribbean Women Writers: Fiction in English, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1999.


Alizes: Revue Angliciste de la Reunion, January, 1997, Judith Misrahi-Barak, "The Wake in Caribbean Literature: A Celebration of Self-Knowledge and Community," p. 131.

Americas, July-August, 1994, Irma McLaurin, "A Writer's Life, A Country's Transition," p. 38.

ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, October, 1987, Lorna Down, "Singing Her Own Song: Women and Selfhood in Zee Edgell's Beka Lamb," p. 39; July, 2000, Kristen Mahlis, "Women and Nationhood: Zee Edgell's In Times Like These," p. 125; October, 2001, Roydon Salick, "The Martyred Virgin: A Political Reading of Zee Edgell's Beka Lamb," p. 107.

Belles Lettres, fall, 1992, Renee Hausman, review of In Times Like These, p. 38.

Bomb, winter, 2002-2003, Bernadine Evarista, interview with Zee Edgell, p. 54.

Callaloo, summer, 1997, Renee Shea, "Zee Edgell, Belizean Novelist," p. 551.

College Language Association Journal, March, 1988, Charlotte H. Bruner, "First Novels of Girlhood," p. 324.

Great River Review, fall-winter, 2001-2002, Roger Kurtz and Stan Sanvel, interview with Zee Edgell.

Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 1992, Miki Flockemann, "'Not-Quite Insiders and Not-Quite Outsiders': The 'Process of Womanhood' in Beka Lamb, Nervous Conditions and Daughters of the Twilight,"p.37.

Journal of South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language, October, 1985, Beverly Brown, "Mansong and Matrix: A Radical Experiment," p. 56.

Latin American Research Review, spring, 1991, Bruce Ergood, review of Beka Lamb, p. 257.

New Internationalist, December, 1997, review of The Festival of San Joaquin, p. 32.

Obsidian II, fall-winter, 1994, Gay Wilentz, "'One Life for Me Is Not Enough': An Interview with Zee Edgell," p. 27.

Postmodern Culture, May, 1991.

SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, spring, 1985, Yakini Kemp, "Woman and Womanchild: Bonding and Selfhood in Three West Indian Novels," p. 24.

SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, October, 1985, Beverley E. Brown, "Mansong and Matrix: A Radical Experiment," p. 56.

Wasafiri: Journal of Caribbean, African, Asian and Associated Literatures and Film, spring, 1985, Roger Bromley, "Reaching a Clearing: Gender and Politics in Beka Lamb," p. 10.

World Literature Today, winter, 1998, Adele Newson, review of The Festival of San Joaquin, p. 184.

Zora Neale Hurston Forum, fall, 1989, Enid Bogle, "Driven to Madness: Psycho-Social Tensions in Two Caribbean Female Characters," p. 9.


Caribbean Writer, http://rps.uvi.edu/CaribbeanWriter/ (1998), Marvin Williams, review of The Festival of San Joaquin.

English Scholar Web site, http://englishscholar.com/ (September 22, 2004), Tiffany Cohill, "About Zee Edgell."*

About this article

Edgell, Zelma Inez 1940-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article