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JAHAJI: Stories on Belonging and Identity

The very first story hit me with its all too familiar reality- parents sending their child to be educated at a school that teaches in a way unfamiliar to them and could threaten all they have taught their child about their culture and history; yet this is from a feeling of necessity, to have their child be able to access and understand the changing world, because they know they will need to be properly armed in order to go forth and prosper.

Identity permeates every story in this collection and as I read, the familiar threads encircling all ethnicities in the Caribbean was so clear that I could grasp it. The insecurities of how much we belong to the countries and cultures our forbearers left (or were stolen from), feeling inadequate around those who can fully embody a culture to which we should be a part of, searching for ways to belong and the meaning of the space and time we occupy.

When you read stories like these you see that the human experience is a shared one, especially among peoples from a region that shares a colonial history. Each story is a call back to my childhood and early adulthood, an easily recognizable atmosphere and landscape of relationships, community, political maturation and manipulation, racial tensions and differing ideologies and misconceptions.

And even when the scenery is one of brownstones, townhouse, flats, and skyscrapers; the culture and heritage is evident, as is the tension between the immigrant parents and their first generation children. The parents' tenacity in keeping parts of their historical and cultural background, instilling love of the islands/countries while balancing wanting the children to fit in; the kids being ashamed or embarrassed of the dialect and ways that permeate the actions of their parents, while still being iced out by ignorant peers; no matter how much they try to prove they belong.

Reading this collection felt very much like being steeped in the atmosphere that is the Caribbean.

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