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The Other Side of Paradise

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,421 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
No one knew Staceyann's mother was pregnant until a dangerously small baby was born on the floor of her grandmother's house in Lottery, Jamaica, on Christmas Day. Staceyann's mother did not want her, and her father was not present. No one, except her grandmother, thought Staceyann would survive.It was her grandmother who nurtured and protected and provided for Staceyann ...more
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published April 14th 2009 by Scribner Book Company (first published March 29th 2009)
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kate
Jan 30, 2010 kate rated it really liked it
oh man. my only complaint is that this book didn't sprawl out a bit more. at 276 pages, the narrative felt rushed -- i wanted at least another hundred or so.
Jeruen
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it it was amazing
I've only read one other memoir in the past, when I read The Aquariums of Pyongyang by North Korean defector Kang Chol-Hwan. So, I didn't really know what to expect when I picked up this book from the library.

Little did I know that I would enjoy this piece of literature very much. It tells the story of the childhood of Staceyann Chin, who is a Jamaican poet and activist who resides in New York City. Before picking up this book, I never heard of her, and I initially thought that this would be all
...more
J Beckett
Apr 06, 2016 J Beckett rated it it was amazing
For several years I have followed the poetry of Staceyann Chin before I happened upon this gem. As stated by biblio-friend Nea, the book was a slow trek at the beginning, told from the perspective of a young girl whose observations and emotional development was filled with the bitter-sweetness of hope, neglect,discovery and (eventual)self-fulfilling triumph. Chin does a wondrous job of providing the reader with the images and emotions of a child of mixed heritage growing up in Jamaica and the ...more
Bianca
Nov 03, 2012 Bianca rated it it was amazing
An excellent memoir. I had to keep turning the book over and looking at staceyann's photograph to remind myself that yes, this is her life, yes, this is a memoir, no, this is not fiction - which made her narrative that much more compelling and heart-breaking and triumphant.
Mocha Girl
May 06, 2011 Mocha Girl rated it liked it
The Other Side of Paradise is the childhood memoir of Staceyann Chin, an award-winning, highly celebrated performing artist, spoken word poet, and political activist. In the novel, she reminisces about her early beginnings in rural Jamaica living in a shack with her brother and her partially-deaf, illiterate maternal grandmother. From the onset, she recalls grappling with abject poverty, abandonment by both parents, and life with abusive, dysfunctional relatives. When her aged grandmother is ...more
Jardley
"I liked the story at the beginning and the middle, but towards the end it just felt rushed, nor did I get a clear sense of the process of her realizing she was a lesbian. It feels like an option she makes rather than something she realizes was always in her. I also got the belief that maybe she took to being a homosexual because of the tribulations that occur in her childhood at the hands of men. Homosexuality and she are hinted at scarcely within the book before the final showdown but then ...more
Obsidian
Feb 17, 2016 Obsidian rated it it was amazing
Please note that I gave this book 4.5 stars, however since Goodreads does not have half stars I rounded this up to 5 stars.

This book has a lot of things going on with it, but I really did enjoy it. There were some flow issues here and there and the epilogue honestly did not even feel part of the preceding chapters. That said, I really enjoyed this one and am glad that I read it.

The Other Side of Paradise is Staceyann Chin's memoir about being born in Lottery, Jamaica. A half Jamaican and Chines
...more
Cheryl
Mar 05, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of memoir so this was right up my alley. Not bad. Like others have mentioned, the ending left me wanting. More.
 Susan
Oct 15, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
The Other Side of Paradise written by Staceyann Chin is startling in its clarity, fresh in its narration and the writing is as bold as the young poet, writer, lesbian activist is daily in her tweets or one of her performances. TOSoP is about a young girl who refused to be quiet. She came into the world unexpectedly with lungs much bigger than her premature body should have had.

What I love most about The Other Side of Paradise is the writer’s voice, specifically Staceyann the child’s voice. The v
...more
Betsy Housten
Aug 30, 2009 Betsy Housten rated it really liked it
I love Staceyann Chin's writing and performances, so I was eager to read her memoir about her early life. The best parts are I and II, encompassing the majority of the book and detailing Chin's experiences growing up poor, abandoned and lesbian in Jamaica. Although at times I put it down thinking, "I can't take it anymore, I cannot bear to read about one more adult treating this little girl like shit," I'd inevitably pick it back up a few minutes later. Chin is at her best when she's describing ...more
dora morgan
May 14, 2009 dora morgan rated it really liked it
won this in a goodreads "contest" and took a while to get to me because of stupid mail issues...
anyways, enjoyed the memoir of this person growing up in jamaica. sad how religious and prejudice and selfish people can run/ruin children's lives like this poor girl had to deal with however, from the very beginnings of her life(her arrival into the world alone will get you!)she was going to be a survivor! written well and with jamaican dialects thrown in, it was interesting insight to lives i would
...more
Michele
May 06, 2009 Michele rated it really liked it
My gf picked this gem up for me at a Queer conference in Phillie. Im glad she did. I have always loved Staceyann's blogs and poetry so the book was a welcomed addition. I definitely agree that its a fast read so you really need to pace yourself to take in the difficulties and blatant atrocities that she experienced growing up. I was a little perturbed that there are so few positive representations of men and that my families home of Jamaica had a negative light shed on it but Hey...this is her ...more
Claire
Feb 06, 2015 Claire rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Review published at Bitches With Books. To read, click the link!

Excerpt:
Amazing. I can’t even put into words the strength found in this book. The Other Side of Paradise is a witty memoir touching on a range of issues that plague the Caribbean, and in extension, the world, in the present day.

Name
Trish Rowe
Jan 04, 2015 Trish Rowe rated it it was amazing
After seeing Stacey Ann at a conference I was captivated by her strong, ambitious charisma. I immediately knew I had to purchase and read her book. As a native Jamaican I must say that this book hit home on many levels and I was blown away by her strength to overcome. She is a voice and inspiration to many. I loved the book.
Kelly
Mar 25, 2010 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in memoirs, gender, sexuality, race, the Caribbean
Recommended to Kelly by: I discovered it myself
This book is terrific! It was hard to put down. It is the memoir of Staceyann Chin, a NY-based lesbian poet/performer, as she grows up abandoned and abused as an extremely precocious and determined child in 1970's Jamaica. The subject matter is heavy and may disturb those who have experienced such misfortunes in their own histories, but the style is light, self-reflective and witty. One could make a comparison with James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in terms of hardships faced, ...more
Erika Coldman
Sep 16, 2012 Erika Coldman rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
This memoir was beautifully written. Reading about Chin's upbringing made me frustrated. I was angry at the way her family treated her, saddened by how her father refused to accept her and somewhat understanding of her mother abandoning both her & her brother (initially, I thought she was on drugs but then I summed it up to her just being able to care for her children--doesn't make it acceptable but…).

I'm thankful that Chin allowed us readers into such an intimate space, reliving painful mem
...more
Mistinguette Smith
Sep 17, 2009 Mistinguette Smith rated it liked it
Performance poet Staceyann Chin writes a compelling memoir about growing up motherless, financially and emotionally impoverished, determined, and angry in Jamaica. One of the few memoirs or pieces of fiction I've read that contextualizes finding voice for for contemporary West Indian women, and coming out in a culture that is explicit about its repression of non-heterosexual desire. I particularly enjoyed the subtle exploration of the complex relationships between Americans of Chinese descent ...more
Pamster
Apr 19, 2010 Pamster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just started. I'm happy I heard her read from this book. If I didn't have her voice in my head, I don't think I'd get the hilarity.

Okay, super compelling memoir about an awesome, super smart Jamaican girl who just get shuffled around between family members in a terrifying way her whole young life. So much terrible shit happens to her, and so many people despise her for not shutting up. The thing is she is incredibly funny, smart, and insightful, so this doesn't read like a misery memoir at all.
...more
sash.
Sep 19, 2012 sash. rated it it was amazing
1. One of my favourite books. The fact that I went to a reading where she signed the book does mean favourite points went up.

2. Every young LGBT person from the Caribbean should read this.

3. If you're young, Jamaican, queer, not queer, too rebellious, too outspoken, liberal, a free-thinker, this one is a must read.

4. Heartbreaking in some parts and amazingly uplifting in others. A strong sense of purpose and will is very clear in her writing.

5. One of the most inspiring books I've ever read. Bar
...more
Frances
This book made me cry with its message of hope and redemption in the face of adversity. Stacyann Chin is that most rare of animals: an out (and outspoken) lesbian from the Carribean. Parts of this book resonated with my own experiences growing up, and parts from my own five-year marriage to a lesbian of Puerto Rican descent.

I first came across Chin's photograph in a magazine with the caption "this is what a lesbian looks like." With her cocoa-butter skin and bushy 'fro, her willowy figure and f
...more
Rosanna
Nov 02, 2011 Rosanna rated it really liked it
How Stacy Chin survived this upbringing is a miracle. Her telling of the story is part heartrenching and some times sounds as if she made it up.She and her brother are abandoned by their mother when they are babies. Her grandmother struggles to provides food and shelter.Stacy is shunted from relative to relative,never having a home of her own.She lives in Jamaica and struggles to find her real father who may or maynot be Junior Chin. Her exceptional intelligence pulls her through but some of the ...more
Leanne
Oct 09, 2010 Leanne rated it it was ok
This is a good, solid first write. The problem is that I did not feel invited into the experience, connected to the characters or the author, nor did I get a feeling of experiencing Jamaica as the author did. Having said that, if you want to know what a nation looks like and what it does to its people, especially its children, with 2% wealthy and 98% poverty--look to Jamaica. You also get a real "aha" moment why the United States used to be considered a "breath of fresh air" to the rest of the ...more
Lakeesha J.
Jun 01, 2009 Lakeesha J. rated it it was amazing
If you ever want need and want a glimpse into the lives of Jamaican women and their struggle for equality this is the book to read. Staceyann's vulnerable and open when telling her this aspect of her life. Childhood can make or break a human. For Stacyann it definitely makes her. I don't want to spoil the book by telling any details but if you love Staceyann the poet you will definitely find her memoir revealing and wonderful.
Satia
May 05, 2009 Satia rated it it was amazing
I cannot remember the last time I gave a book five stars. I tried not to read it too quickly and then caught myself trying to slow myself down when I was reaching the end because I didn't want to stop. Great memoir. Best I've read in a while. For a full review:

http://satia.blogspot.com/2009/05/oth...
Margaret
Apr 19, 2009 Margaret rated it it was amazing
I read this book in one sitting. It was really very good and drew you in. It was easy to forget this was somoene's real life story and not fiction. I'm glad the author was able to finally find out who she is.
Kellee
Feb 04, 2012 Kellee rated it liked it
Not bad. I wouldn't have read this book on my own but it was a book club pick. Staceyann annoyed me when she got in college due to the way she made a name for herself. Overall, not a bad read but I wouldn't read it again or suggest it to anyone.
Nikhil P. Freeman
Amazing how a person can grow up unwanted and unloved, first by her family and then by her environment, to then go on to create a beautiful life through using her voice without being swallowed up by silences or consumed by uncontrollable rage against the wounds of childhood.
Nea
Nov 15, 2014 Nea rated it really liked it
This memoir got off to a rocky start for me (lots of conversations between a 3 and 5 year old) but I ended up really getting into Staceyann's story. What a strong and remarkable woman!
Katie Garcia
Jul 11, 2009 Katie Garcia rated it liked it
Who doesn't love Stacyann Chin as a performer? As a full on author...not so sure. It was a good autobiography, but not amazing.
Alicia
May 22, 2012 Alicia rated it it was ok


It was an ok book.
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Staceyann Chin is a spoken-word poet, performing artist, and activist. She is of Chinese-Jamaican and Afro-Jamaican descent and her work often discusses her struggles of growing up as lesbian and multiracial in Jamaica. She uses her work to question the oppression and the limitations of identity, race, class, sexuality and belonging. Her work has been profiled in more than 21 newspapers, journals ...more
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“She makes Jamaica seem like paradise. Sometimes I read a line and I just feel so lucky to be Jamaican.” “I don’t know if I feel lucky to be Jamaican, Anna. It really depends on what side of Paradise you’re from.” 0 likes
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