How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

How to Love a Jamaican explores the gravitational pull between close-knit island communities and the USA for Jamaican characters who have moved one way or the other. Alexia Arthurs is an evocative storyteller who dives deep into her characters’ motivation

Book Review by Laura Waddell | 01 Aug 2018
  • How to Love a Jamaican
Book title: How to Love A Jamaican
Author: Alexia Arthurs

How to Love a Jamaican explores the gravitational pull between close-knit island communities and the USA for Jamaican characters who have moved one way or the other, weighing up opportunities and aspirations, home and identity, and in some cases, rebelling against the protective expectations of older generations.

In Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands, its title taken from a Kanye West lyric, two Jamaican friends of different social classes have discordant experiences as students in NYC. Doreen in On Shelf thinks about the statistic that highly-educated black women over thirty years old are the most likely demographic to remain uncoupled in the USA, while increasingly open to settling for the imperfect but available Glenroy. In Island, a resort wedding is the scene for a lesbian woman to come to terms with the discomfort of her friends.

Complex relationships, warm with nostalgia or bittersweet with regret, take the fore in other stories – between grandsons and grandmothers who bond over preparing coconut drops, mothers and daughters who struggle to see eye to eye, and two estranged brothers who follow diverging paths in life, bumping into each other only accidentally as the years pass.

Arthurs is an evocative storyteller who dives deep into her characters’ motivations in this brilliant debut.

Picador, 9 Aug, £14.99 https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/alexia-arthurs/how-to-love-a-jamaican