UM PROFESSOR’S FIRST NOVEL IS AN ODE TO TRINIDAD
March 14, 1993
Rafael Lorente, Herald Staff Writer
Born in Detroit, raised in Grand Bahama and of Trinidadian background, University of Miami professor Robert Antoni ties different ethnic voices together in his first novel, Divina Trace.
Antoni, who lives and writes in a pastel-decorated house on Euclid Avenue, , won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Award for best first book. The prize is given to writers from countries in the British Commonwealth, which includes Canada, the Bahamas, Gambia and others.
Antoni, 34, teaches in the university’s new master’s program in creative writing. Beginning in the fall, he also will teach a graduate course in Caribbean literature.
The book tries to give a voice to all the ethnic groups in Trinidad, where his family comes from, Antoni said. That includes Africans, East Indians and Europeans of Spanish, French and English backgrounds.
Divina Trace takes place in Corpus Christi, a fictional island full of myths and characters taken from Antoni’s childhood. One of the myths is of a boy born half-frog and half- human.
“We have this superstition in the Caribbean that whatever a woman thinks of or sees in the moment of conception will influence the development of the child,” Antoni said.
In the novel, the mother of the half-frog, half-boy had been watching frogs copulate at the moment of conception, Antoni said.
Antoni compares the many ethnic groups in Trinidad with his surroundings in South Florida.
“The Beach is actually the one place where it blends best,” he said. “Something about this island dissolves conflict.”
The novel has seven narrators, all of whom speak in different Trinidadian dialects. They each weave their own tales about the half-frog, half-boy creation.
Divina Trace was published in January 1992 and is scheduled to come out in paperback later this month.« THE FROG-CHILD IN A KINGDOM BY THE SEA  |  THE VOICES OF MYTH »