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Buddy Reads > Buddy Read: How To Love A Jamaican

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message 1: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
This thread is for the discussion of How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs .

The discussion is now open for comments on the stories, the author and other related information.


message 2: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
I noticed that the book has a quote on the front cover from Zadie Smith.

And while I saw there are more on the back cover from authors that I have read and liked, I am not reading them until I have read some of the stories in the book, so I am not setting my expectations based on the blurbs.


message 3: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Here is a link to interview in the Paris Review with the author about her short story "Bad Behavior", which won the 2017 Plimpton Prize.

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2...

The Plimpton Prize is an annual award of $10,000 given by The Paris Review to a previously unpublished or emerging author who has written a work of fiction that was recently published in its publication.


message 4: by Mocha Girl (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments Hmmm....I have the Kindle/ebook purely because of the Amazon price difference, so I don't have much of back cover. I glanced at the accolades on Amazon from other authors (maybe back cover excerpts?) which piqued my interest even more.


message 5: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: "Hmmm....I have the Kindle/ebook purely because of the Amazon price difference, so I don't have much of back cover. I glanced at the accolades on Amazon from other authors (maybe back cover excerpts..."

Yes, big price difference!!!

So, thankful for my library!!!

Yes, those that appear on Amazon are the ones on the back cover.


message 6: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 565 comments I read this last weekend and am still sorting through my thoughts prior to writing a review of some sort. I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of these stories, and the collection as a whole.

Things I loved:

> the food mentions and focus. It was part of what grounded all of these stories and many of the protagonists in Jamaican culture, for me.
> the intentional, careful and not overdone insertion of patois. Typically mothers of MCs and sometimes friends from home were speakers whose dialogue appeared as patois. I don’t believe any of the MCs spoke in patois.
>the inclusion of two stories whose MCs were LGBTQ.
> the author’s appreciation of Jamaica and Jamaicans shone through every story.


message 7: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
I read the first two stories last night.
I also wonder how authors and others decide which order to put stories in a collection.
Here are a couple of initial impressions (so far) :

I thought the writing is "smooth" and readable, and while I liked the stories, I would say I was not excited by the storylines.
They did have a "Jamaican" vibe to me - and I did smile at a couple of points in the stories - especially during "Light-skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands" when talking about mothers.


message 8: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Thoughts on "Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands":

First off my age is showing and I really do not keep up with current cultural stuff - both thanks to grandkids and google - I can easily pick up on cultural references. So I did have to google to confirm that I got Kelly Rowlands right. :)

I thought that Kimberly came down a little hard on what she thought was Cecilia's narrow view of the world - when she herself had some of her own. But this is often true of someone their age. They know their world and their place in their world.

Cecilia and Kimberly found a "bonding" point that they were both of Jamaican descent. But there was a class difference, geographical differences, and the difference in being 1st generation in US or not, which allowed the author to saw the complexity in saying "I'm Jamaican".
And of course the similarities - being a daughter of a Jamaican mother.

Oh, the Bronx/Brooklyn issue which is almost like they are too different worlds though both in NYC.

Cecilia and Kimberly start to hang out with each other - as they each fill a void for the other - Kimberly misses her hometown friends at other colleges, Cecilia breaks up with her boyfriend. At first it is interesting to both explore each other's world and do not mind their differences until one night the "annoying" issue of what it means to be "black" - causes their friendship to unravel.

Do you think they "repaired" their friendship?


message 9: by Mocha Girl (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments "Re: Cecilia and Kimberly start to hang out with each other ..."

I was a bit "bothered" that it seemed Cecilia was willing to speak/befriend Kimberly after her work was highly praised/acknowledged by their professor. I wonder, if those accolades were never shared so openly and publicly, would Cecilia have ever acknowledged or approached Kimberly. It made me wonder if her willingness to reach out was influenced by "validation" from someone in authority and possibly someone who (I assume) was a non-POC.


message 10: by Mocha Girl (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments Beverly wrote: Do you think they "repaired" their friendship?

At the end of the first story, I was left hoping we'd see more of them in a future story(ies) to get some closure on their fates as individuals, not necessarily their "friendship" - which I consider passing/temporary at best. I never got a true BFF vibe from them...at best, I would consider theirs a "seasonal" relationship - I don't see them keeping in touch for the rest of their lives. Maybe Facebook acquaintances in the long term. :-)


message 11: by Mocha Girl (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments Another observation - both "dated" outside of their race for disingenuous reasons: Cecelia dated the black guy to cause jealousy, get revenge at the party, Kimberly wasn't into the white guy, nor was he really into her. Was this a "to thine own self be true' lesson?


message 12: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: ""Re: Cecilia and Kimberly start to hang out with each other ..."

I was a bit "bothered" that it seemed Cecilia was willing to speak/befriend Kimberly after her work was highly praised/acknowledge..."


Yes, that definitely probably played into it as Cecilia was definitely status conscious.


message 13: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: "Beverly wrote: Do you think they "repaired" their friendship?

At the end of the first story, I was left hoping we'd see more of them in a future story(ies) to get some closure on their fates as i..."


Yes, the story definitely stopped when you wanted to learn a little bit more. (as did the second story also Mash Up Love).
Makes you wonder if these stories are intended to be the starting point for a novel(s).

Yes, was a little surprised by their "close" friendship.
Cecilia probably wanted a little walk on the "wildside", she was definitely a little too chummy with giving her number to Troy.
And Kimberly did acknowledge that being friends with Cecilia introduced her into her world.


message 14: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: "Another observation - both "dated" outside of their race for disingenuous reasons: Cecelia dated the black guy to cause jealousy, get revenge at the party, Kimberly wasn't into the white guy, nor w..."

Yes, definitely!


message 15: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
My thoughts on "Mash Up Love"

This was a take on the biblical tale of twins Esau and Jacob.
So the religious mother gave these names to her twins.
The story is narrated by Esau and through the story will learn that Esau is quiet and studious and followed the path to college while his brother (Jacob - Cobby) was a charmer and womanizer who the mother seemed to "favor" or at least she lit up when he came around.
Over time Esau comes to resent this brother and his mother and does not feel that his mother appreciated him for all he has become and does for her.
Esau seems to happily married (or did he marry Ann-Marie because she elevated his status?)
Ann-Marie is offered a promotion which means they would have to move to US. Initially he does not want to go but with a little coaxing from Ann-Marie does see this move as fresh start and to leave behind his resentment towards his brother & mother.

Esau come off as being whiny to me but his is a decent man though I do wonder how their marriage/relationship would fare after they move to US.

This story also showed life in the "country", Jamaican mothers and their sons, once again class and colorism.
Those who are stateside - sending "barrels" back home.


message 16: by Mocha Girl (last edited Jul 27, 2018 02:40AM) (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments Beverly wrote: "...So the religious mother gave these names to her twins."

I wondered if the mother was "fully" literate. He mentioned she placed the prescription glasses on the Bible, never really used them to read, and obviously preferred the old, generic/lesser single lens for practical/functional, non-literary tasks ie, cooking, etc. This would also explain why she named her sons as she did - never truly reading the story of the dysfunctional Biblical twins to understand the depth and breadth of the story, she unknowingly sealed their fate, as many parallels emerged.


message 17: by Mocha Girl (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments Random Thoughts: Esau is inspired to run because he saw a black man that looked like him win a marathon on TV. He noted the runner "beat a whole bunch of white people" - thus he feels empowered and mentioned that running seems like something a powerful type of man would do.

I found this to be a bit sad as it was obviously no/few tangible 'powerful' male role models in his world - he had to turn to the TV to find one to emulate and deduce what a "powerful man" would/should do. There was no mention of their father (unless I missed it). It made me wonder if Cobby inherited the personality of his absent father; a man (I assumed) she loved, thus the perceived doting on Cobby.


message 18: by Mocha Girl (last edited Jul 27, 2018 07:44AM) (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments Beverly wrote: Esau seems to happily married (or did he marry Ann-Marie because she elevated his status?)

I think initially he was smitten with her, but is genuinely happy with her now. They've been married for nine years and seem to love/respect each other. She was aware of his lower socio-economic status and chose him anyway. She gives him the time/space he needs, seems very supportive, understands the complicated family dynamic, etc. I think her looks and status were an extra bonus for him, but not a major factor. Seems like others are more shocked with him landing her, and her not caring what "they" think.

I can see him moving to the States with her.


message 19: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: "Beverly wrote: "...So the religious mother gave these names to her twins."

I wondered if the mother was "fully" literate. He mentioned she placed the prescription glasses on the Bible, never reall..."


I would agree with the mother was not "fully" literate as Esau noted she was a true "countrywoman" and probably was not pushed at school as more attention was probably applied to the male students, she could not see properly so what she learned was probably only what she heard, and being in church all the time she learned the bible by listening to the preachers.


message 20: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Mocha Girl wrote: "Beverly wrote: Esau seems to happily married (or did he marry Ann-Marie because she elevated his status?)

I think initially he was smitten with her, but is genuinely happy with her now. They've be..."


Yes, hopefully he would be able to "blossom" and be more comfortable with himself as he leaves the reminders of the demons that haunt behind.

Yes, Ann-Marie was very supportive and appreciated him, as she witness how her pastor father abused her mother, so she learned a higher status is not necessarily an indication to happiness.


message 21: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Going back to the first story: "Like-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands"

I was just reading an article about writers from Brooklyn speaking about the early literary history of Brooklyn.

I thought this response from Naima Coster describes Cecilia's attitude.

"Naima Coster [author of Halsey Street]: I really value respect and being respected. Growing up in Brooklyn, in a way, forced me to be on the alert for disrespect. Part of it was that, although there were lots of things I cherished about the place I was from, this was a place that was disrespected outside of its borders. Like, Fort Greene having a reputation — in addition to Richard Wright writing his book here, and this beautiful park, and the neighborhood being this site of rich cultural heritage, it was also a place that had a bad reputation and was often devalued. Ideas about a place are also ideas about the people who live there. Growing up in Brooklyn I was very aware of that; even as kids we had a sense that we might be disrespected elsewhere. We felt on guard and aware of that, and we took it upon ourselves to validate one another. We all wore being from Brooklyn like a badge of honor. "


message 22: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 565 comments Has anyone finished the book? I was afraid I was going to forget my impressions, so I posted my review a couple of days ago. I think I loved this collection much less than you all, but I'm very glad I read it.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I look forward to continuing to enjoy your comments on it as you proceed.


message 23: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "Has anyone finished the book? I was afraid I was going to forget my impressions, so I posted my review a couple of days ago. I think I loved this collection much less than you all, but I'm very gla..."

Hi Carol -

I have finished the book and I am in the process of gathering my final thoughts.

But here is a link to Kei Miller reading the poem "The Law Concerning Mermaids"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUeOf...

I was intrigued by the quote at the beginning of the collection so I found Miller reading the whole poem which for me helped explained one of the themes in the stories.

More thoughts to come shortly.


message 24: by Mocha Girl (new)

Mocha Girl (mochagirl) | 211 comments I finished the book and appreciated the underlying themes of displacement, isolation/loneliness, pressures to conform and please parents (mothers). The immigrant POVs were enlightening at times and I appreciated the subtle interconnectedness of the stories and characters. Toward the end, I was a bit exhausted with the repetitiveness of the themes and character struggles, but I enjoyed the collection and will read the author again.


message 25: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 565 comments Beverly wrote: "Carol wrote: "Has anyone finished the book? I was afraid I was going to forget my impressions, so I posted my review a couple of days ago. I think I loved this collection much less than you all, bu..."

This is excellent. Thanks for sharing it, Beverly.


message 26: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 565 comments Mocha Girl wrote: "I finished the book and appreciated the underlying themes of displacement, isolation/loneliness, pressures to conform and please parents (mothers). The immigrant POVs were enlightening at times and..."

I agree 100%. This is exactly what I appreciated, as well as how I felt at the end.


message 27: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "Mocha Girl wrote: "I finished the book and appreciated the underlying themes of displacement, isolation/loneliness, pressures to conform and please parents (mothers). The immigrant POVs were enligh..."

I also can agree that the stories felt repetitive after a while.
I also do not think the feeling of repetition was not helped the mentioning of the same food in several of the stories (though the mention of foodstuffs did give the stories a cultural feel).


message 28: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2871 comments Mod
Here are a couple of more final thoughts on HTLAJ.

It took me a little while and had to read a couple of stories before the themes of the story collection came together (or at least in my eyes):
- the theme of identity - what was expected of you by culture, parents, others versus what you want to be. And can't identity be fluid and change over time and why does the expectation have to be all or nothing.
- the theme of love what is love and what expectations does love put on you - whether it is love of country, mother, daughter, sexual preference.

While the author specifically applies these themes to the Jamaican characters in the stories so they would seem specific, I also thought that the themes could also be broader and thus are universal themes.

I was disturbed/disappointed/curious why Arthurs wrote the male Jamaican characters for the most part in different variations from the same stereotype.

As a Jamaican-American I chuckled a couple of times as it remained of memories from my childhood - I loved eating guineps and would eat more than bellyful when visiting Jamaica during the summer. And the use of the word "slack" was used by grandmother and her friends when I did not clean up my room or if I slept late.

I liked the book's dedication to "For Jamaicans" and preceded to write the stories without "over explaining" the nuances of some the Jamaican culture which might not be understand by all.

I have noticed this trend more and more these days of authors writing their stories in their pov unapologetically.

I would read future works by the author (hopefully her next publication will be a novel).


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Literary Fiction by People of Color

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How to Love a Jamaican (other topics)

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Naima Coster (other topics)
Alexia Arthurs (other topics)