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Beyond Miss World - Book Launch

Toronto - in October

 Biography of Jennifer Hosten 

Born in St. George, Grenada on October 31, 1947. 

Educated at the Anglican High School, Grenada then at the University of Ottawa and at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada where she obtained a Masters degree in Political Science with distinction. 

Author of The Effect of a North American Free Trade Agreement on the Commonwealth Caribbean (published by the Edwin Mellen Press 1992). 

Trained and worked in the field of broadcasting and in customer relations with British West Indian Airways and Air Canada. 

Won the Miss World contest in 1970, after which she traveled the world making public appearances and entertaining American troops with Comedian Bob Hope.

Moved to Ottawa, Canada, in 1973.  Appointed Grenada’s High Commissioner to Canada in 1978. Served two Grenadian governments prior to and following the Grenadian Revolution in 1979. 

Worked with the Government of Canada from 1992.  First with the Department of Canadian Heritage, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  Positions included Program Manager, Director of Strategic Affairs (WETV) and Policy Analyst. In 1998 she was seconded as Technical Advisor on Trade to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Finally serving as a Canadian diplomat in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 2002 to 2004. 

Jennifer, now married to Shaun Sarsfield, has two grown up children, Sophia Craig-Massey and Beau Craig.  She currently lives with her husband between Canada and her native Grenada. 

Review 

Beyond Miss World: An autobiography of Jennifer Hosten, Miss World 1970.

By Jennifer Hosten with Shaun Sarsfield 

There are many paths to the achievement of our full potential, to the realization of our dreams.  Not that becoming Miss World was ever the dream of the young Jennifer Hosten of Grenada.  The school-leaver wanted to be a broadcaster and she was on her way to realizing this when she was selected for training at the BBC, years before she entertained the idea of entering the Miss Grenada contest, the first step to competing for the title of Miss World. 

And when we think of Miss World, the last thing we would imagine as a career path is public diplomacy and international development.   Jennifer’s book, Beyond Miss World, is a gripping account of that path: rejecting the temptations of remaining in the world of entertainment to read for degrees in political science and international relations to satisfy the “need to do something worthwhile with my life”. 

The book appeals at many levels.  It is the story of a privileged but disciplined childhood in one of the islands of the West Indies at the end of the colonial period; a life story of a remarkable young woman – a role model for other young women living at the periphery; a story of the motivations, driving forces, values, dreams and aspirations of a generation of middle class West Indians who wanted to contribute to their country’s development; a story of an attempt at a revolution to transform the structures of power and violence that ends up reproducing those very same structures; the challenges and compromises in the field of international development.  Above all it is a story of the resilience of the human spirit.  

It is written with sincerity (one of Jennifer’s qualities that endeared her to the judges of the 1970 Miss World Contest) and a fine but economic attention to detail.  You can imagine the scenes:  childhood in Grenada, the food, the celebrations the ordered life of a middle-class family; behind the scenes in the Miss World context and the experience of ‘a year in the life of Miss World’; life in Canada – the contrasts are stunning, yet seamlessly negotiated: the red-carpet/white limo treatment accorded Miss World and the realities of being a farmer’s wife in a Canadian winter; the goldfish-bowl life of a diplomat; the frustrations of a consultant on Trade to OECS governments and prima donna public servants;  the dedicated and committed work with CIDA in the Ukraine, Pakistan and Bangladesh; surviving the wrath of Ivan, the worse hurricane ever to hit Grenada.  Through it all, you can hear the clear voice of the writer; her spirit shines: warm, intelligent, generous, modest, very real, very human.   

As a feminist who once used the ending of government-sponsored Beauty Contests as an example of the achievement of a movement, I am quite persuaded by her arguments of the valuable opportunities provided by these events for many young women; and can see that they represent one possible path to personal empowerment.   

We get glimpses of Jennifer’s commitment to social justice.  Her personal interventions in difficult situations illustrate the difference an individual can make within the confining structures of international diplomacy. 

I liked her use of excerpts from journals, especially those of her mother, and the selection of press clips and letters to Miss World. 

Her only critiques are reserved for the ‘elites’ of the political and bureaucratic class.  Her observation of the challenges facing our region of small-island developing states reflects a deep sensitivity to the human condition, and a fearlessness that is admirable:

“nothing would change without a new way of thinking in the region. (which) would require an opening up of the political system to accept criticism of the status quo through self-analysis and a collective vision of the way forward.” 

She has similar observations on other experiences.  Her reference to “the mechanisms and internal politics” of CIDA, could be applied to most other institutions. The “countless broken promises” speak to a common experience of all who dream and work for a better world.  

I wished for more of these reflections; a fuller account of the meaning of the Grenada revolution and the contradictions inherent in international relations especially in relation to aid, trade and development.  At the same time, I can see that this would detract from the fine balance she achieves between the personal, professional and political.  

I found this book easy to read and difficult to put down.  We owe Jennifer (and Shaun) a debt of gratitude for sharing her journey with us.  We need more books like this.  I hope it will be widely read. 

Peggy Antrobus
Barbados
February 10, 2008

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