We Are Essex

Jak's story

Jak Peake, lecturer in Caribbean studies

"I’ve learned that we’re not all competing with each other in life."

You know not everything in life goes according to plan. I dropped out of studying law at university; it just wasn’t for me. It was such an uncertain time, especially as I’ve always been quite a high achiever academically. My friends were all progressing in some way or another and I felt like I needed to re-evaluate things, which was not something I planned for. I had expectations, but something I’ve learned is that we’re not all competing with each other in life. Once I realised it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, I found something I really enjoyed – Caribbean literature.

I have very happy memories of trips to Trinidad at different points in my life, like with my wife and to visit my family. I remember the brightness of the light, the incredible seas and going to see the coral reef. It’s so different from the landscape of the UK. The people are entirely different too – the lingo and the way people speak and move. The fact that I was somehow connected to this through my mum and through her family was kind of exciting and interesting.

V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas is set in Trinidad and it was work like this which inspired me to embark on my research into Caribbean literature. And to think he was from my mum’s island, that was hugely inspiring. I started to find out about people like C.L.R. James who became, arguably, one of the first black historians to write about black history. He also wrote one of the most major works on the Haitian revolution.

I feel like next year’s going to be really positive for both my research and teaching, and I’m happy with where my research is taking me. My daughter is also turning two this year, which I’m really looking forward to. She goes to nursery on campus and my wife also works here on campus, so I love being able to bring her in with us in the mornings and have her close by.

 

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