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Gillian Royes was born in Jamaica and earned her doctorate in film and history from Emory University. Her Shad series of books about a trail-blazing Jamaican bartender/sleuth is published by Simon & Schuster’s Atria imprint. Her script for the film drama Preciosa was shot in St. Croix in 2016. Her play, How to Be an Immigrant, was mounted by Atlanta’s Academy Theater in 2018.


Looking back on 2020, COVID stands out for me most since the pandemic of 1918 killed my grandmother. I feel as if I’m living her life for her again, not getting the dreaded disease this time.

My takeaway from this year is that nothing is as it seems. I came to the United States thinking that it was a sort of utopia, a place of opportunity, development and civil behavior. How wrong I’ve been! My home country, which is looked down on by some as a s**thole country, has done far better in controlling the virus and holding peaceful elections.

The benefit of the quarantine is that I initiated Zoom calls with my family members after the Black Lives Matter protest movement so we could talk about issues of race in our family. We have now moved on to talking about our family history, and we are now calling every two weeks from four or five countries. It has been a wonderfully bonding experience and we are looking forward to our first family reunion next year, perhaps in November. Another positive of the shut-in time is that I’ve been doing even more writing. I have already completed one screenplay and am working on two comedies.

The past eight months have impacted my hope for the future. Absolutely. I’ve thought of repatriating back home or having a home in another country. America may not be my last stop, as I had thought.


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