Fire Rush, the new novel by Jamaican-British writer Jacqueline Crooks, centers around Yamaye, a young woman who suffered domestic abuse and is now searching for a connection, one she finds in London’s reggae dance scene of the 1970s and '80s. It’s steeped in the author’s real-life experiences.

The dances happened late at night, midnight to dawn, often below ground; these were hidden nocturnal spaces inhabited by our community, migrants who didn’t have places of belonging in mainstream society,” she shares. “As a young woman in this underworld, I’d found a space of freedom and creative expression through music, dance and fashion, and experienced the exhilaration of a new sense of agency over my mind and body…There were dangers within that world, but I continued to inhabit it because of the draw of the music and its transformative power.”

Yamaye is also searching for a literal connection to home. As she sets out to uncover the truth about her mother’s disappearance, she returns to her homeland of Jamaica, which parallels Crooks' own search in her younger years.

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Fire Rush
Jacqueline Crooks (Viking, April 2023)

Price: $22

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"As a migrant, it was my own yearning for a place of belonging that led me to explore the push and pull of home," she shares. “I grew up with different families: with my grandmother in early childhood; and later with my mother, her husband and their children. Because of these experiences, it is hard for me to feel a sense of belonging. I always feel positioned on the outside of things. But I think this is advantageous as a writer. In my work, it has led me to explore the search for home across diverse landscapes and settings—whether that be interiors of the mind, liminal space or temporal terrains.”

Inspired by her own experiences, Crooks has worked with children who have lost their maternal caretaker. “And I have run a children and families charity working with children,” she tells EBONY. Now, the author is prepped to take an even bigger step into caring for a child. “I am currently in the process of applying to be a foster parent,” she reveals.

Crooks felt the call to write Fire Rush because she was, “fascinated by the politics of invisibility surrounding that subculture, which was supra-watt loud but unseen and unheard,” she shares. “I wondered what had happened to the people I used to dance with. I was struck that not many people knew of its existence, and I couldn’t find any works of fiction written by women about that subculture. I wanted to capture what I knew of it from a feminist perspective, to represent a woman’s experiences in what was a very male-dominated world.”

For those who join Yamaye on her journey, Crooks hopes readers will take an interest in dub-reggae and the subculture of that time. But more importantly, "I hope it will make women explore their rage and ask themselves questions about what they do with it and how they can transmogrify it, possibly into something artistic."