Tue | Apr 23, 2019

Book review | Relationships are tested in 'How to Love a Jamaican'

Published:Sunday | July 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM
This cover image released by Ballantine Books shows 'How to Love a Jamaican', by Alexia Arthurs.

Book review by Jennifer Kay, Associated Press

Book: How to Love a Jamaican (Ballantine Books), by Alexia Arthurs


Alexia Arthurs' short story collection How to Love a Jamaican is a timely exploration of multigenerational waves of immigration, the impact separating families has on children, and the desire to be included.

Arthurs' debut follows a variety of characters young and old, men and women, trying to maintain relationships on the Caribbean island of Jamaica and in big cities and college towns in the US.

They yearn for the flavours of home while questioning what 'home' really means. Some return to the island of their birth only to be treated like tourists because they have spent so much time away. They seek friendship and acceptance in people who personify betrayal. A few find love. Others endure the tough love of grandmothers enlisted to raise or tame them.

Arthurs was born and spent her childhood in Jamaica then moved to the US with her family when she was 12. A longing for tightly knit communities and an island landscape threads through the collection as Arthurs documents the loss of fruit trees, a resort's expansion, and the impulse to keep a tidy yard even in New York City.

The stories hum with tension and nuance, creating characters desperate to be understood but wary of being defined simply by their race or origins.