The death of a Belizean Legend, Zee Edgell

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Zee Edgell

Zelma Edgell, better known as Zee Edgell, MBE, was born on October 21, 1940 in Belize City where she spent her childhood. When it came time for Edgell to attend high school, she enrolled at St. Catherine Academy, which would become the basis for St. Cecilia´s Academy in Beka Lamb, one of the four novels she would write throughout her lifetime. Following the culmination of her secondary studies, she studied journalism at the School of Modern Languages at the Polytechnic of Central London before continuing her education at the University of the West Indies (UWI). She later returned to Belize where she worked as a founding journalist and editor at The Reporter for a decade. She taught at the country’s national university, the University of Belize, which was University College of Belize at the time. She was also involved with the country’s government as Director of Women’s Affairs. Edgell also lived for extended periods in many countries including Jamaica, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Somalia.
Edgell has contributed extensively to the Belizean Writers Series, published by local publishing house Cubola Productions. She edited and contributed stories to the fifth book in the series, Memories, Dreams and Nightmares: A Short Story Anthology of Belizean Women Writers, published in 2004.
She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honour List. Her first novel and well-known literary piece, however, was published in 1982, the year following our independence. Beka Lamb details the nationalist movement happening in Belize at the time through the eyes of a teenage girl attending high school. Beka Lamb was the first novel to be published post-independence and also had the distinction of being Belize’s first novel to reach beyond its borders and gain an international audience, winning Britain’s Fawcett Society Book Prize. In 1991, In Times like These was published and focused on the hardships of a nearly independent Belize. It was also told from the view of a female character; however, it was an adult this time. The Festival of San Joaquin was published in 1997 and told the story of a woman accused of murdering her husband. In January 2007, her fourth novel was published. Time and the River, that fourth novel, focused on slavery in Belize and the protagonist of this piece is a young slave woman who, through marriage, eventually becomes a slave owner herself.
Edgell migrated to the United States of America and was married to an American educator, Al Edgell, with whom she has two children, Holly and Randall. She worked as an associate professor in the department of English at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, where she taught creative writing and literature until her untimely passing. She passed away from cancer in the comfort of her home. Her death has caused a great loss for Belize as well as the world and the world of journalism. Her contributions were priceless and will be enjoyed for generations to come.