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Abeng

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  394 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Ever since Abeng was first published in 1984, Michelle Cliff has steadily become a literary force. Her novels evoke both the clearly delineated hierarchies of colonial Jamaica and the subtleties of present-day island life. Nowhere is her power felt more than in Clare Savage, her Jamaican heroine, who appeared, already grown, in No Telephone to Heaven. Abeng is a kind of pr ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Plume (first published 1984)
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Mmars
Abeng begins "The Island rose and sank. Twice." And within the first pages the reader is introduced to the Savage family with two daughters, the two church services they attend weekly, Jamaica's two rulers - a white queen and a white governor, two moneys - British and Jamaican, two kinds of schools, two beaches - one with sharks which the family abandons and one sheltered.

And metaphorically, the island's two kinds of mangoes begin the book. The St. Julienne which "hung from a grafted branch of
...more
Erika B. (Snogging on Sunday Books)
Graphic racism and imagery...very sad tone throughout.
Allison
Aug 04, 2008 Allison rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Allison by: UWI Bookshop
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mely
Fascinating, not as smooth as No Telephone to Heaven, which I read first, powerful but full of first-novel problems. I'm looking forward to comparing/cross-referencing the fictionalized account of light-skinned Clare's friendship with dark-skinned Zoe with the non-fiction version in Cliff's new memoir, If I Could Write This In Fire, just to see what got said and what gets unsaid, re-said.

Have vague thoughts about omniscient narration and why I don't think it's God's view -- how Cliff, like Toni
...more
Vart
An amazing novel which is an amalgam of Kincaid's

"A Small Place" and Lamming's " In the Castle of My Skin."

A post-colonial novel which gives us the history of Jamaica and questions the validity of history. If you want to know about slavery,politics, history, economy, etc then this is The Book

Cliff goes back in time and endeavors to recreate a history. She succeeds in recreating a visual history and this shows her skill of manipulating the language for her own purpose.I recommend everyone to re
...more
Erica
I read this many years ago in college, and pulled it out this month in preparation for an upcoming trip to Jamaica. I realize now why I forgot the plot: it has very little. Which is not to say it's a bad book, it's just more impressionistic about moments in Jamaica slave history than actually intent on following and developing characters. We see glimpses of Jamaican life through centuries of slavery and post-slavery from two families, but it wasn't compulsively readable to me. The last half focu ...more
Valerie
This is a sort of coming of age story set in Jamaica in the late 1950s. Clare Savage is growing up in a mixed race household in Kingston, though she spends time in the countryside with her mother's family. Through Clare's relationship with her father, her mother, her grandmother, and her playmate Zoe, we learn about the history of slavery in Jamaica, present-day racial dynamics, the legacy of colonialism, and the role of religion and spirituality. The writing is lyric and the historical passages ...more
Mahjong_kid
While I felt that I came away from this book with a greater knowledge of Jamaica's history, I was persistently annoyed by the limited list of word definitions in the glossary. It seemed that the words most easily understood through context were defined, while the words that defied contextual inference were given no further explanation. Even the title - a word that is mentioned once in the text without elaboration - would pass unrecognized for what it is if not for the blurb on the back cover of ...more
Jenny Riley
Amazing representation of the impact of cultural and racial hybridity in Jamaica.
Carol Hunter
I loved this book about the results of the hierarchies of colonial Jamaica. It is a prequel to the author's highly acclaimed novel, "No Telephone to Heaven", which I did not like as well..
I really enjoyed how the author interwove Clare's heritage of class/color conscious Jamaica with the Maroon history.. I recently did a presentation about Jamaica's culture and used some info from this excellent novel.
Kayla
Interesting concept though I don't think I would have picked this one up on my own. I really liked the writing style and the themes discussed. The characters, while not particularly likable, are entirely realistic. I also liked the historical aspect and the internal and external conflicts Clare faces because of how she looks and acts.
amanda
It's been a while since I've read this, but Clare Savage is one of the most interesting characters I've ever discovered. I read Abeng and No Telephone To Heaven at about the same time, and that's pretty much when I decided I was pretty much wasting my time taking writing classes.
Julia
I love Michelle Cliff's writing and her politically charged prose, though I thought this one was a bit of an awkward mix between political history of Jamaica and narrative, and the narrative itself didn't feel particularly polished. But I just love her setting and characters.
Amanda
Cliff alters the traditional bildungsroman in this novel about an adolescent girl. It is an interesting account of one girl's journey for self in post-colonial Jamaica. Race, ethnicity, gender, and other aspects of identity are deeply questioned throughout the novel.
Itala T.
Good beginning work by Michelle Cliff, part of the early 70s stream of feminist writers, with awareness of the marginality of immigrants, women, children and knowledgeable about history of slavery and roots of rebellion, told with a lyrical pitch.
Kate
Oct 04, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kate by: required by professor
Beautifully written novel about a girl growing up in Jamaica, trying to define her identity, coming of age. I read it for school and really enjoyed it.
Nicole
Pretty weak character development of the main character Claire, but easy to read, and I learned a lot about history in Jamaica, racial tensions, etc.
Mark
bleh. Had to read it because the author graduated from the same college as me. Just wasn't that into it, sorry Michelle :(
Christa
Quite good. I was supposed to read this for my Latin American lit class but I didn't get to finish it in time.
Adrienne
Fascinating, well-written, and an eye-opening look into Jamaican history and racial politics.
Georgia
The end was not satisfying but everything else was amazing and I "fell" into childhood.
Janine
A grad school required reading. It was mildly entertaining.
Molly Barnes
Tie-in book to No Telephone to Heaven
Abbi Dion
michelle cliff is the shit.
Carrie Pirmann
books I've read
Bindi
Bindi marked it as to-read
Dec 26, 2014
Ginnie Grant
Ginnie Grant marked it as to-read
Dec 24, 2014
Molly
Molly marked it as to-read
Dec 21, 2014
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Michelle Cliff (born 2 November 1946) is a Jamaican-American author whose notable works include No Telephone to Heaven, Abeng and Free Enterprise.

Cliff also has written short stories, prose poems and works of literary criticism. Her works explore the various, complex identity problems that stem from post-colonialism, as well as the difficulty of establishing an authentic, individual identity despi
...more
More about Michelle Cliff...
No Telephone to Heaven Free Enterprise: A Novel of Mary Ellen Pleasant If I Could Write This in Fire Claiming An Identity They Taught Me To Despise The Store of a Million Items

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