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Edited by Carlos Lee, Sherwin Besson and Aisha Lee, My Story My Secrets is a collection of 22 letters written according to the book’s introduction, by “accomplished men and women from Trinidad and Tobago, addressed to their younger selves.”

The concept is not original but the content is compelling, for the most part, and well written. The vast majority of the writers avoid the pitfall of indulging in self-aggrandisement.

And part of the book’s page-turning appeal has to do with the identity of the letter writers.

Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Brian Lewis and Kizzie Ruiz are well-known names in sport and culture. And for local football aficionados, the names of two of the editors/contributors—Lee and Besson—would also be familiar, since they played for the national youth team in the early 1980s alongside Russell Latapy, as did former St Mary’s College striker Colin Rocke, another contributor.

Latapy does not join them in the letter-writing but he contributes via a note. But in addition to these footballers, there are also entries from former national hockey player Sherlan Cabralis and sports journalist Lasana Liburd.

The appeal of the book, however, is broader than the fact that there are “celebrity” contributions.

As the introduction points out, some of the writers are also entrepreneurs, entertainers, educators, scientists, medical doctors and executives.

To a degree, therefore, the range of fields from which the contributors come from allows for a variety of experiences.

The intro notes that: “They all have a profound desire to give back and in so doing, pay it forward and inspire the next generation of Trinbagonians to rise beyond the level of pessimism, narcissism, and hopelessness they might feel.”

This book, therefore, is intended as a contribution to national development via personal introspection. And because of that introspection—that looking back in time at one’s own life - there is a level of intimacy that draws the reader in. So whether or not you were familiar with them before, you quickly become acquainted because of that willingness and courage to share. The “Secrets” may not be earth-shattering but they are revealing.

For instance, Lewis, the very visible Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president, writes openly about having to overcome anger and resentment over growing up without a father.

Former World Cup goalkeeper and current Cable TV football analyst Hislop writes of the struggles he had as a teenager in trying to balance sport and academics while feeling that people—his coaches, teachers and even his parents- didn’t appreciate his difficulties.

Jack, who was in goal in Bahrain when T&T qualified for the 2006 World Cup, recalls a private moment after that historic match in his hotel room when he shed tears over what the team had just achieved and his role in it.

Then there is Ruiz—a former National Calypso Queen and Junior Monarch—who wrote of the devastation she felt when placing last in 1998 when she tried for a Junior Monarch hat-trick.

That setback caused her to stop singing for three years.

In all of the stories there is some measure of pain, either caused by childhood experiences or professional setbacks or self-doubt.

However, all the contributors found ways to overcome.

Lewis wrote to his younger self in Form Two: “Instead of focusing on the absence of a father-figure in my life, I would focus on what I have—my mother’s abundant love and her enormous courage.”

Growing up without both parents, the lack of support of sceptical coaches or professors or having to overcome personal mistakes were themes that ran through the letters, which makes identifying with the writers easy.

The fact that those featured are “cream of the crop,” however, should not suggest that personal success is but for the very talented only or is defined by a professional career.

There are lessons here for people of all sorts.

Parents can be reminded about how maintaining discipline at home can pay off, even with rebellious teenagers. Young people can learn how setting goals can make life more purposeful and why they should bear up with their “irritating” parents, teachers and coaches.

Even more striking was that how in all cases, the writers were able to see how much a persevering attitude can change a person’s life.

Perhaps Hislop put it best when he told his younger Shaka: “I want to take this opportunity to assure you that it’ll all work out....‘Happily ever after’ is a work in constant progress.”

When it becomes available, therefore, My Story My Secrets is reading to grow up with.

The Bocas Lit Festival was just last week. I’m sure there were many good readings. But I suggest there was one omission - a reading from My Story My Secrets — Letters To My Younger Self.

Edited by Carlos Lee, Sherwin Besson and Aisha Lee, My Story My Secrets is a collection of 22 letters written according to the book’s introduction, by “accomplished men and women from Trinidad and Tobago, addressed to their younger selves.”

The concept is not original but the content is compelling, for the most part, and well written. The vast majority of the writers avoid the pitfall of indulging in self-aggrandisement.

And part of the book’s page-turning appeal has to do with the identity of the letter writers.

Shaka Hislop, Kelvin Jack, Brian Lewis and Kizzie Ruiz are well-known names in sport and culture. And for local football aficionados, the names of two of the editors/contributors—Lee and Besson—would also be familiar, since they played for the national youth team in the early 1980s alongside Russell Latapy, as did former St Mary’s College striker Colin Rocke, another contributor.

Latapy does not join them in the letter-writing but he contributes via a note. But in addition to these footballers, there are also entries from former national hockey player Sherlan Cabralis and sports journalist Lasana Liburd.

The appeal of the book, however, is broader than the fact that there are “celebrity” contributions.

As the introduction points out, some of the writers are also entrepreneurs, entertainers, educators, scientists, medical doctors and executives.

To a degree, therefore, the range of fields from which the contributors come from allows for a variety of experiences.

The intro notes that: “They all have a profound desire to give back and in so doing, pay it forward and inspire the next generation of Trinbagonians to rise beyond the level of pessimism, narcissism, and hopelessness they might feel.”

This book, therefore, is intended as a contribution to national development via personal introspection. And because of that introspection—that looking back in time at one’s own life - there is a level of intimacy that draws the reader in. So whether or not you were familiar with them before, you quickly become acquainted because of that willingness and courage to share. The “Secrets” may not be earth-shattering but they are revealing.

For instance, Lewis, the very visible Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president, writes openly about having to overcome anger and resentment over growing up without a father.

Former World Cup goalkeeper and current Cable TV football analyst Hislop writes of the struggles he had as a teenager in trying to balance sport and academics while feeling that people—his coaches, teachers and even his parents- didn’t appreciate his difficulties.

Jack, who was in goal in Bahrain when T&T qualified for the 2006 World Cup, recalls a private moment after that historic match in his hotel room when he shed tears over what the team had just achieved and his role in it.

Then there is Ruiz—a former National Calypso Queen and Junior Monarch—who wrote of the devastation she felt when placing last in 1998 when she tried for a Junior Monarch hat-trick.

That setback caused her to stop singing for three years.

In all of the stories there is some measure of pain, either caused by childhood experiences or professional setbacks or self-doubt.

However, all the contributors found ways to overcome.

Lewis wrote to his younger self in Form Two: “Instead of focusing on the absence of a father-figure in my life, I would focus on what I have—my mother’s abundant love and her enormous courage.”

Growing up without both parents, the lack of support of sceptical coaches or professors or having to overcome personal mistakes were themes that ran through the letters, which makes identifying with the writers easy.

The fact that those featured are “cream of the crop,” however, should not suggest that personal success is but for the very talented only or is defined by a professional career.

There are lessons here for people of all sorts.

Parents can be reminded about how maintaining discipline at home can pay off, even with rebellious teenagers. Young people can learn how setting goals can make life more purposeful and why they should bear up with their “irritating” parents, teachers and coaches.

Even more striking was that how in all cases, the writers were able to see how much a persevering attitude can change a person’s life.

Perhaps Hislop put it best when he told his younger Shaka: “I want to take this opportunity to assure you that it’ll all work out....‘Happily ever after’ is a work in constant progress.”

When it becomes available, therefore, My Story My Secrets is reading to grow up with.

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