How to Say Babylon


With echoes of "Educated" and "The Glass Castle," "How to Say Babylon" is a “lushly observed and keenly reflective chronicle” (The Washington Post), brilliantly recounting the author’s struggle to break free of her rigid religious upbringing and navigate the world on her own terms.

Throughout her childhood, Safiya Sinclair’s father, a volatile reggae musician and a militant adherent to a strict sect of Rastafari, was obsessed with the ever-present threat of the corrupting evils of the Western world outside their home, and worried that womanhood would make Safiya and her sisters morally weak and impure. For him, a woman’s highest virtue was her obedience.

Safiya’s extraordinary mother, though loyal to her father, gave her the one gift she knew would take Safiya beyond the stretch of beach and mountains in Jamaica their family called home: a world of books, knowledge, and education she conjured almost out of thin air. When she introduced Safiya to poetry, Safiya’s voice awakened. As she watched her mother struggle voicelessly for years under relentless domesticity, Safiya’s rebellion against her father’s rules set her on an inevitable collision course with him. Her education became the sharp tool to hone her own poetic voice and carve her path to liberation. Rich in emotion and page-turning drama, "How to Say Babylon" is “a melodious wave of memories” of a woman finding her own power (NPR).


Safiya Sinclair is an associate professor of English at Arizona State University.

Praise for this book

Impossible to put down...Each lyrical line sings and soars, freeing the reader as it did the writer.

Images of author who is a Jamaican woman
Date published
37 Ink / Simon and Schuster

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