I have a confession to make. I rarely pick up Caribbean authors. I don’t know of many besides VS Naipaul, who is controversial at best. But it all starts by acknowledging our shortcomings, and I jumped on the latest bookstagram hype and bought a copy of Frying Plantain by Zalike Reid-Benta.
This is the story of a young girl, daughter of Jamaican immigrants, growing up in Toronto. Besides the usual teenager woes, she has to struggle with being bicultural and that uncomfortable feeling of not fitting in with your community at home or in the Motherland. The book develops in a series of interconnected short stories, that to me, resembled the vignettes of quotidianity, peeks into someone else’s life reality-show style. And though this book is definitely about growing up Jamaican in Canada, the everyday life of Kara seems so universal that it is relatable to people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. The most noteworthy part of the story is the tense relationship between Kara, her mom and her strong-willed grandma. I found grandma and grandpa to be the strongest characters in the book.
However, if you as a reader are plot-oriented or love to feel a personal connection with the characters, you might find this book lacking. It is a really interesting story, but very ordinary without thrilling pot-twist and with a variety of characters that rarely show themselves past a chapter or two. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining book that I would recommend.