How to love a Jamaican Stories

Alexia Arthurs

Book - 2018

Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life. In "Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands," an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In "Mash Up Love," a twin's chance sighting of his estranged brother--the prodigal son of the family--stirs up un...resolved feelings of resentment. In "Bad Behavior," a couple leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In "Mermaid River," a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In "The Ghost of Jia Yi," a recently murdered student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in "Shirley from a Small Place," a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother's big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.

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1st Floor FICTION/Arthurs Alexia Due Jun 9, 2022
Subjects
Published
New York : Ballantine Books 2018.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
239 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781524799205
1524799203
Main Author
Alexia Arthurs (author)
  • Light-skinned girls and Kelly Rowlands
  • Mash up love
  • Slack
  • Bad behavior
  • Island
  • Mermaid River
  • The ghost of Jia Yi
  • How to love a Jamaican
  • On shelf
  • We eat our daughters
  • Shirley from a small place.
Review by Booklist Reviews

In this debut story collection from Arthurs, winner of the 2017 Plimpton Award, readers meet Jamaicans in a wide spectrum of life moments. These Jamaicans have never left the island, or they've expatriated to the U.S., or they've repatriated back to Jamaica. Taken together, these individual lives give a sense of Jamaican community, a wide variety of people from a small island. One common theme, assumption versus reality, is flipped inside out when a Jamaican woman living in New York visits the island as a tourist for a destination wedding. That she's queer among straight people doubles down on her outside-looking-in observations. In other stories, readers learn: don't be "slack," cornmeal porridge makes a proper breakfast, and running fast can get you to college in Iowa—but it is cold and dark there. The title story tries to make peace with a man in his late sixties who loves his wife and two daughters as well as the son none of them know about. Jamaican realities contemplated through many engaged and interesting eyes. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 11 stories, 2017 Plimpton Prize winner Arthurs captures the lives of Jamaican immigrants in America and the families they've left behind. Among the scenarios: a teenager is reunited with his mother in New York, and despairing parents leave their wild daughter with her strict grandmother in Jamaica. A debut novel is coming soon. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Some of the stories in this first collection from Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Arthurs have been published in literary magazines, including "Bad Behavior," which won the Paris Review's Plimpton Award. But the majority are freshly minted, and they are all perpetually engaging. The protagonists are mainly Jamaican, of Jamaican descent, or African American, but the inclusion of white American, African, and Asian characters adds richness to stories as a conversation about race and gender. "Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands," for example, shows the complicated friendship between two Jamaican students, one from the island and the other from California, who knows little about the home of her parents. While the stories have a rawness to them, exploring topics such as sexual orientation, parental relationships, self-discovery, and drug use, Arthurs also offers a sure feel of the mysticism of the Caribbean. Mermaids and water, particularly Mermaid River, are central to many of the pieces, as is the theme of death; "The Ghost of Jia Yi" shows how truly connected we are no matter where we are born. VERDICT Stylistically reminiscent of Toni Morrison's Paradise, this successful debut will appeal to readers of literary and Caribbean fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/18.]—Ashanti White, Fayetteville, NC Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Arthurs's enticing debut collection examines the lives of Jamaicans both in their homeland and abroad in America. "Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands" is a sharp study of two college friends in New York. Both are Jamaican, yet one's Northern California upbringing causes the other to question her racial identity. The devastating "Slack" begins with two young girls drowning in a water tank, and then rewinds the narrative to fill in the events that led to the tragedy. Other standouts include "We Eat Our Daughters," comprised of short vignettes of Jamaican women discussing their relationships with their mothers; "Island," concerning a recently uncloseted woman returning to Jamaica to attend a friend's wedding; and "The Ghost of Jia Yi," in which a Jamaican woman studying in Iowa struggles with the murder of a fellow international student. Between these successes, however, are narratives employing similar, yet drab, scenarios. "Mash Up Love," about a man who spends his day reminiscing about his twin brother, rambles, while "Mermaid River" employs a predictable frame to recall one character's upbringing on the island. Arthurs shoehorns in reoccurring faces sporadically to create a shared universe, yet only some of it sparks with life. Nonetheless, there are enough hits to make up for the misses. (July) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A debut collection by an award-winning writer is set in Jamaica, New York City, and a Midwestern university, where multicultural main characters and their families navigate evolving senses of race, racism, family and tradition.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Presents a collection of stories set in Jamaica, New York City, and a Midwestern university, where multicultural main characters and their families navigate evolving senses of race, racism, family, and tradition.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“In these kaleidoscopic stories of Jamaica and its diaspora we hear many voices at once. All of them convince and sing. All of them shine.”—Zadie Smith An O: The Oprah Magazine “Top 15 Best of the Year” • A Well-Read Black Girl Pick Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret—Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life. In “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In “Mash Up Love,” a twin’s chance sighting of his estranged brother—the prodigal son of the family—stirs up unresolved feelings of resentment. In “Bad Behavior,” a couple leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In “Mermaid River,” a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In “The Ghost of Jia Yi,” a recently murdered student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in “Shirley from a Small Place,” a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.Alexia Arthurs emerges in this vibrant, lyrical, intimate collection as one of fiction’s most dynamic and essential authors.Praise for How to Love a Jamaican “A sublime short-story collection from newcomer Alexia Arthurs that explores, through various characters, a specific strand of the immigrant experience.”—Entertainment Weekly “With its singular mix of psychological precision and sun-kissed lyricism, this dazzling debut marks the emergence of a knockout new voice.”—O: The Oprah Magazine “Gorgeous, tender, heartbreaking stories . . . Arthurs is a witty, perceptive, and generous writer, and this is a book that will last.”—Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties “Vivid and exciting . . . every story rings beautifully true.”—Marie Claire