“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.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I heard about this book through Bookstagram and since I’ve been wanting to get back into reading short stories, I figured this was a perfect place to start.
The stories in this collection are:
- Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands
- Mash Up Love
- Bad Behavior
- Mermaid River
- The Ghost of Jia Yi
- How to Love a Jamaican
- On Shelf
- We Eat Our Daughters
- Shirley From a Small Place
I won’t go into each story in detail but I will share that I especially enjoyed the first story. In “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” the main character, Kimberly, meets a girl at her college orientation who is also happens to be Jamaican like her and has immigrant parents. But the two turn out to have nothing in common and Kimberly struggles to figure out both why that is and why it matters so much to her.
“How to have a conversation about the fact that some things, some parts of ourselves, are tied to other, faraway places? These kinds of silences between Cecilia and me felt as though something had been stolen from us. Who was to blame? Her parents? White supremacy? Assimilation? And why did it matter to me that she understood and appreciated our shared heritage?”
-Alexia Arthurs from “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands”
You can really get a sense of her confusion and disappointment in this story. I can’t imagine the sadness one might feel in meeting someone from your home country, only to discover that they want nothing to do with that life and are in fact annoyed with it being your focus, as is what happened to Kimberly.
Each of these stories really speak to the immigrant experience and how unique it is for each person or family. They are thought-provoking and poetic and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a short-story collection to read. I always find value in reading stories about immigrants because that is not an experience I share. There is always something to be learned and I think it’s important to let the people with those experiences do the talking and the teaching.
Goodreads rating: Five stars.