Tuesday 9 July 2019

Book ~ "Frying Plantain" (2019) Zalika Reid-Benta

From Goodreads ~ Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle - of her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life lessons, of having to avoid being thought of as too “faas” or too “quiet” or too “bold” or too “soft.” 

Set in “Little Jamaica,” Toronto’s Eglinton West neighbourhood, Kara moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from elementary school to high school graduation, in these twelve interconnected stories. We see her on a visit to Jamaica, startled by the sight of a severed pig’s head in her great aunt’s freezer; in junior high, the victim of a devastating prank by her closest friends; and as a teenager in and out of her grandmother’s house, trying to cope with the ongoing battles between her unyielding grandparents.

A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, "Frying Plantain" shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker. 

Though she was born here in Canada, Kara's family is Jamaican.  Her grandparents live in Toronto but don't get along ... her grandfather has his own apartment and sees other women and occasionally goes home to the family house.  Eloise, Kara's mother, got pregnant with her at age 17 and doesn't want the same thing to happen to Kara.  Kara has no contact with her father and Eloise is doing the best she can ... she want her daughter to do well in school and have a better life.  Because she is carrying such a burden, Eloise is overprotective and can be moody.  In addition to this, Eloise and her mother don't get along so she doesn't have a huge support system.

This is the story of Kara's life from a child until she was finished high school living in Toronto ... not having the freedom others had because of her mother, discovering boys, finding out how catty other girls (even friends) can be, dealing with her family's dysfunctional dynamics, living in Canada but with Jamaican traditions, etc.

Though I had nothing in common with Kara (she's young and Jamaican), I liked this book.  I liked that it was set in Toronto and I've been to many of the neighbourhoods and places mentioned.  It is written mostly in first person perspective in Kara's voice ... there are a couple chapters where it's in third person perspective.  I tend to read fairly quickly, which I could with the majority of this book.  When some of the characters were speaking in Patois, I had to pause at times, though, to figure out what they were saying.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

I liked the writing style and Kara.  I found the timeline at times confusing, though.  For example, Kara and Eloise were supposed to move back in with the grandmother but the next thing I know, they were living in a studio apartment.  What happened to living with the grandmother?!  It's not until later in the book years later that we find out what happened.


Buried In Print said...

I really liked these stories too: from the early scenes where she is insecure and questioning in the women's room, I found myself on her side.

That's just how I feel it is when it comes to young people in our lives too, and decision-making, stuff is supposed to and expected to go one way and, then, it just doesn't, and time passes while you wait to find out what "really happened". *laughs, shrugs*

Shonna said...

This sounds really good. I love books that show how reading gives us glimpses into different cultural experiences. And how it gets us inside those experiences in ways we don't otherwise get to.