Trinidad-born and New York-based, Roxanne Catherine Mapp has forged a career for herself in America's civil service but she has further developed her skill as an author, penning the book, The Avocado Tree.
The book which made her a finalist at the International Book Awards. The Avocado Tree is really an art book of sorts. "It's the story of my journey as an immigrant so there are tidbits of my life in it," Mapp stated. Early on in the book, Mapp describes her country with unblemished pride and details instances of her life. The art represents several drawings and computer illustrations from her collection.
In the book, she touches on her efforts to "make ends meet" for herself and her young daughters. "I moved my family about 12 times just trying to find a better way of life for us," she recalled.
Mapp was in Trinidad recently for her birthday. "I wanted to be in my native land to celebrate. Roots are roots." However, she ended up making it a working holiday conductng several interviews to promote her book.
Symbolically, her journey into art and writing began right here — under an avocado tree.
Mapp lived in Sun Valley, Santa Cruz, as a child and remembers sitting on the lower branch of the avocado tree in her yard, drawing to her heart's delight. The late local playwright, Godfrey Sealy, was her cousin and they would talk tirelessly about their dreams.
"Godfrey and I were like best friends. At about 15 years old or so, we always talked about our future. He always said that he wanted to be a playwright and I said I wanted to draw. When my father heard that, he said I wasn't going to do that while in his house. You know the funny thing was that my dad was into art before he went into accounting?"
"I was always surrounded by or associated with creative people. My family was into mas too. In my early 20s I went into advertising and worked at several advertising agencies."
The third of six children born to Elton and Joy Mapp, she migrated as her family, with the exception of her father, had also migrated to the US. "I really felt that I had no choice. I got married at 21 years and by 24 years, I was divorced with two children. Going from a two-income family to one income was hard. I felt I needed something for my girls, Janine and Jaime."
Speaking in a quiet, cultured tone, she continued, "When I got to New York, I knew I wanted a civil service job. I didn't want to get into advertising across there as I felt it was too sterile. I ended up at a public library and I lucked out because I'm still there after 15 years. When they found out about my background in graphics, they made me their Graphics Specialist so now I'm in charge of their logos, brochures and all of that. I got my Master's Degree in Library Science and now I'm also a Librarian. I feel as if I have the best of both worlds."
Maintaining her Trinbagonian pride, she declared, "Nothing compares to advertising in Trinidad. It's a colourful energy and you really get your hands wet here. You also get to form bonds in a real way. Besides, there's just so much talent here. The diversity is awesome."
Her new life abroad didn't come without challenges though. "One of the challenges I had was that people felt that island people like me weren't sophisticated enough or not educated enough. Instead of trying to fit in, I stayed true to who I am and I did that for my kids too. It's been an interesting experience though.
"Even one of my Trini friends told me, 'But you don't speak with an accent?' and I was like, 'Excuse me? Why should I?'"
A stickler for self-improvement and upliftment, Mapp remarked, "My advice to young women is to make sure that you can make your own money first and then get married. To the older women, it's never too late for you to further your education. You're not too old and get the excuses out of the way about being too tired after work. I got my Master's Degree in Library Science at 52 years old." In the book, she also admitted that at times she did want to give up.
"I'd like to highlight that you can follow your passion regardless of what people say or how they look at you. Whatever obstacles you may face, stay true to you. If you don't follow your passion, you're not living." Referring to her cousin, Sealy, again, she said, "I admired him because he knew what he wanted to do and he didn't care about what people said.
"The Avocado Tree is a platform to inspire people to be the best that they can be. I'd like to distribute it throughout the islands. It's an educational tool even, to stay focused and excel."
Mapp's soft-cover version of The Avocado Tree can be purchased online at amazon.com; the hard-cover version can be accessed via barnesandnoble.com and xlibris.com.
As this quiet force of nature maps her future, just like the avocado tree, she is sure to bear fruit to her deepest desires in due season.