Rachel Manley is an author of poetry, non-fiction, and fiction, and member of a prominent Jamaican political family about whom she has written several lauded memoirs. She is the daughter of Michael Manley, a Jamaican politician who served three terms as prime minister (1972-80, 1989-92). Her paternal grandparents are Edna Manley, a sculptor and arts educator, and Norman Manley, co-founder of the Jamaican People’s National Party and the first Premier of Jamaica.
Rachel Manley was born in Cornwall, England in 1947 to Michael Manley and his second wife, Jacqueline Kammelard. At the age of two, she was sent to Jamaica, where she was raised by her paternal grandparents in their home, Drumblair. In 1969, Manley receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in English (Special Honours) from the University of the West Indies.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Manley published three volumes of poetry and contributed to several magazines and literary journals, including The Jamaica Journal, Caribbean Quarterly, and Focus. She also worked in a variety of roles, including as a high school teacher and member of the radio advertising department of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation in Barbados (1980-1986). In 1979, she received the Jamaica Centennial Medal for poetry.
In 1986, Manley immigrated to Canada, where she would eventually settle in Toronto. In 1989, Manley edited a version of her grandmother’s diaries, published by Andre Deutsch under the title Edna Manley: The Diaries.
Manley began writing family memoirs in the 1990s, publishing Drumblair, a book about her childhood with her grandparents, in 1996. The book was critically acclaimed, winning the 1997 Governor General’s Award for English language non-fiction. This volume was the first in a memoir trilogy; it was followed by Slipstream, about Michael Manley (2000), and Horses in Her Hair, about Edna Manley (2008).
These works were followed by two additional novels, The Black Peacock (2017) and The Fellowship (2019). The Black Peacock was shortlisted for the 2018 Amazon First Novel award.
Manley has received many writing fellowships over the years, including the Mary Ingraham Bunting Fellow (Literature) from Radcliffe College, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center Fellowship; and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.
Poetry: Prisms (1972) Poems 2 (Coles Printery, 1978) A Light Left On (Peepal Tree, 1992)
Non-fiction: Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1996) Slipstream: A Daughter Remembers (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2000) In My Father’s Shade (UK version of Slipstream) (BlackAmber Books, 2004) Horses in Her Hair: A Granddaughter’s Story (Key Porter Books, 2008)
Fiction: The Black Peacock (Cormorant Books, 2017) The Fellowship (Cormorant Books, 2019)