BOOK: YEARS OF HIGH HOPES: A Portrait of British Guiana, 1952–1956, from an American Family’s Letters Home – By Dorothy Irwin

GUYANA: Looking back from the 50th Republic Jubilee

 YEARS OF HIGH HOPES: A Portrait of British Guiana, 1952–1956, from an American Family’s Letters Home

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The Letters of Marian and Howard Irwin

Edited and with an Introduction by Dorothy Irwin

The anniversary of Guyana’s 50th year as a republic is a natural time to look back and to reflect on how much has been accomplished and how much has changed since the wind-down of the not-so-distant colonial era. The startlingly detailed depiction of life in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), presented in Years of High Hopes casts light on a seminal period of the colony’s push toward nationhood.

Howard Irwin was the first of several Americans to arrive by way of a Fulbright grant at Queen’s College, where he taught biology. The letters and journal entries that make up this book were written by him and his wife, Marian Irwin, and sent to their parents in the U.S. during the three and a half years the couple lived in Georgetown. A candid, unofficial American perspective, the book presents news-making incidents as they punctuate everyday life in the capital and beyond.       

“A miracle of retrieval, a mysterious package from the past that invites wonder as well as curiosity . . . glimpses of long-vanished customs and attitudes . . . offers a rare, firsthand view of the start of a Guianese political conundrum that still defies resolution.” —Frank Birbalsingh, from the foreword

“These letters are consistently graphic and detailed, . . . capturing the feeling and spirit of the Guianese people and objectively observing the social, political, and economic conditions of the still colonized country. Marian [Irwin]’s letters are the vivid expressions of a courageous woman . . . living in a strange country whose citizens were still walking waywardly in the footsteps of their forefathers, trying to find paths that would eventually lead them out of the labyrinth which had been systematically built by their colonial masters over many years of slavery, indenture, malign oppression and benign neglect. . . . A bird’s-eye view of the political and economic landscape of British Guiana in the 1950s.” —Donald Trotman, Stabroek News

“Rich descriptions of life lived in British Guiana in the 1950s . . . sheds new light on social, political, and everyday matters among the denizens of the colony. [The final chapter] and epilogue are gems of memory and reconstruction and the struggle of connecting past and present. Chapter 7 is a nuanced, balanced, and beautiful perspective on what Guyana represents for the author and her family and on her views of the country’s political divide, foreign intervention, and social travails up to the present.” —Nigel Westmaas, Hamilton College, NY

“Through Dorothy’s very extensive research, the letters may be seen to illuminate . . . wider, more public elements of Guianese social, political, and cultural history. . . . Her bibliography is as extensive as are her well-constructed explanatory notes at the end of each chapter.”
—Clarence Trotz, Indo Caribbean World 

“So close to perfection, so utterly captivating, that I soon found 3 A.M. approaching.”

—an American reader

DOROTHY IRWIN was born in Georgetown in 1955, five months before her family moved back to the U.S. Accompanying her father, she attended the Queen’s College sesquicentennial festivities in 1994, when she got her first look at the city of her birth. She returned to Guyana in 2017 to launch her book at the Georgetown Club, and made a second, follow-up trip several months later. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has spent her career in the publishing industry. Years of High Hopes is her first book.

  • Book launches held in Georgetown and Toronto
  • Interviewed by Petamber Persaud on Oral Tradition
  • Reviewed in Stabroek News, Guyana Chronicle, Kaieteur News, Indo Caribbean World
  • Download: Marketing Flyer – Years of High Hopes – by Dorothy Irwin

Years of High Hopes

ISBN 978-1-910553-64-0, published in 2016 by Hansib Publications

737 pages including index; paperback

US $22 plus shipping

Signed copies available for purchase directly from Dorothy Irwin;


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