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The Islands: Stories

af Dionne Irving

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
382653,095 (3.75)1
"The Islands follows the lives of Jamaican women--immigrants or the descendants of immigrants--who have relocated all over the world to escape the ghosts of colonialism. Set in the United States, Jamaica, and Europe, these international stories examine the lives of an uncertain and unsettled cast of characters. In one story, a woman and her husband impulsively leave San Francisco and move to Florida with wild dreams of American reinvention only to unearth the horrible cracks in their marriage. In another, the only Jamaican mother at a pricey prep school feels pressure to volunteer at the school's International Day. With locales ranging from 1950s London to 1960s Panama to modern-day New Jersey, author Dionne Irving reveals the intricacies of immigration and assimilation, establishing a new and unforgettable voice in Caribbean American literature. Restless, displaced, and disconnected, these characters try to ground themselves--to grow where they find themselves planted--in a world in which the tension between what's said and unsaid can bend the soul"--cover page 4.… (mere)
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Jamaica Farewell
Review of the Catapult Books paperback edition (November 1, 2022).

Average rating for the stories = 3.4, rounded up to 3.5 for Library Thing.
Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize to be announced November 13, 2023.

The Islands is a collection of ten stories from the Jamaican diaspora, usually the 2nd or 3rd generation children of immigration. Jamaica itself does not feature in many stories directly but is simply mentioned in passing. I found the stories towards the end to be the most moving.

Individual ratings and story setups are below. The setups don't give away the story endings so they are not spoiler blocked.
1. Florida Life. *** A couple with a wife of Jamaican heritage and an American husband move from San Francisco to Florida and find themselves bedevilled by their white trash neighbours, an infestation of cockroaches and then bats in their attic.
2. Shopgirl. *** A shop girl dreams of a future when the ordinary Jamaican foods she sells will become exotic sought-for foodie items. Very short 4-page story.
3. Weaving. **** A down on his luck prize fighter named Delroy goes piglet napping in order to get a birthday present for his daughter with his ex-wife who is remarried.
4. All-Inclusive. *** A model & aspiring actress from LA meets a Jamaican poet who steals lines from Claude McKay’s “The Tropics in New York” in order to impress her. He is married but still finds time to take her on exotic trips. During a trip staying at an “all-inclusive” resort in Jamaica she has an existential.
5. The Cape. *** A couple, a former student and her older husband professor go on a recuperative retreat to their summer home in Wellfleet on Cape Cod in Massachusetts near Hyannis. Her Jamaican ex-slave family has roots in the community from years before.
6. Canal. *** A Canadian woman Pilar is suffering from glaucoma. She is called from Panama about the death of her abuelita (Spanish: Little Granny), the name her grandmother had her call the housekeeper. Pilar has to travel to settle her abuelita’s affairs. Her ancestors had emigrated from Jamaica to Panama. She reminisces about her early years in Panama.
7. An American Idea of Fun. *** 15 year old Patricia (of Trinidanian background) travels from Cleveland, Ohio to France on a summer trip with white family friends, the Claudels, who have a summer home in France. There is rising tension as you begin to suspect that Mr. Claudel is a creep.
8. Some People. *** Kerry & Nathan choose a school for their daughter Lady in Montclair, New Jersey. Kerry’s parent emigrated to New York from Jamaica. She is stereotyped by her neighbours and the teacher at Lady’s school and is roped into making Jamaican food for a dinner. But she is not considered Jamaican by her mother and her friends.
9. The Gifts. **** 19 year old Peaches emigrates from Jamaica to Brixton, England in the 1960. She works as a housekeeper for the Stewarts. After 6 years she continues as a kept woman by Mr. Stewart. She goes to school for 4 years for secretarial training. She is now 30 years old and becomes pregnant and is fired by Mrs. Stewart. At 40, she reads that Mr. Stewart has died.
10. Waking Life. ***** Pauline, a travel writer, lives in Paris with her boyfriend. She grew up in Toronto with her grandmother were her mother left them when she moved to England to work in design. On a writing assignment to London, she arranges to meet her mother in Brixton having not seen her for many years.

Soundtrack
Jamaica Farewell (1956) by Harry Belafonte. Going with the theme of my lede.
Electric Avenue (1982) by Eddy Grant. I never knew that was an actual street, which is mentioned in Waking Life (see Story #10)
Woke Up This Morning (1997) by the Alabama 3 from the album Exile on Coldharbour Lane. The mention of Coldharbour Lane (also in Story #10) reminded me what a great song the extended version of The Sopranos Theme was.

Other Reviews
New York Times by Brenda Peynado, November 21, 2022.
Harvard Review Online by Victoria Zhuang, April 30, 2023.

Trivia and Links
Read an introduction to the book and an excerpt from Shopgirl (Story #2) at CBC Books from October 11, 2023.

Ziggy Marley recites “The Tropics in New York” (excerpted in All-Inclusive Story #4) in a video at the Poetry Foundation website. ( )
  alanteder | Nov 11, 2023 |
Exceptional collection of short fiction,not one bad story in the npbunch. One of the strongest I’ve read in a very long time. ( )
1 stem alans | Sep 12, 2023 |
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For Ellison, Maxine, and George.
My three favorite Jamaicans.
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"The Islands follows the lives of Jamaican women--immigrants or the descendants of immigrants--who have relocated all over the world to escape the ghosts of colonialism. Set in the United States, Jamaica, and Europe, these international stories examine the lives of an uncertain and unsettled cast of characters. In one story, a woman and her husband impulsively leave San Francisco and move to Florida with wild dreams of American reinvention only to unearth the horrible cracks in their marriage. In another, the only Jamaican mother at a pricey prep school feels pressure to volunteer at the school's International Day. With locales ranging from 1950s London to 1960s Panama to modern-day New Jersey, author Dionne Irving reveals the intricacies of immigration and assimilation, establishing a new and unforgettable voice in Caribbean American literature. Restless, displaced, and disconnected, these characters try to ground themselves--to grow where they find themselves planted--in a world in which the tension between what's said and unsaid can bend the soul"--cover page 4.

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