By Zalika Reid-Benta
Recommend? yes! Buy or borrow? buy!
“Last time she visited the neighbourhood, boys spotted a patch of pink lace and followed her for a block and a half. The attention was a twisted phenomenon. “Zalika Reid-Benta – Frying Plantain
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. In her brilliantly incisive debut, Zalika Reid-Benta artfully depicts the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation Canadians and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominately white society.
Here’s the full quote from above:
“Last time she visited the neighbourhood, boys spotted a patch of pink lace and followed her for a block and a half. The attention was a twisted phenomenon. Boys ignored the skinny girls: no breasts, no real ass, nothing to bark at. But still they followed her, laughing and catcalling: Damn girl, can I getta piece o’dat? With each step she’d taken she prayed that they’d leave her alone, but was pleased to have a discomfort to report to her friends. According to them, this was what it was to be a woman.”Zalika Reid-Benta – Frying Plantain
I had been meaning to read Frying Plantain for a little while now and to be honest, I’m upset that I didn’t read it sooner! I have so many passages highlighted
The stories primarily follow Kara from her childhood through to her attending university. Throughout the book she tries to find the balance in hanging onto her Jamaican roots while growing up in Canada.
I love that it’s written as interconnecting short stories. I love that it takes place in Toronto (and very, very briefly Brampton, although it’s just at a house, but I had to throw that one in there because it’s my hometown!). I love that it largely follows the relationships between mothers and daughters.
I haven’t read a lot of short story collections before, especially not ones that interconnect like this. I must say, I really enjoyed the format, I feel like a good amount of time was spent on each part of Kara’s life. The only things is that I feel like the ending was a little bit rushed, and I would have loved to see more of how Kara navigated adulthood.
Overall, I HIGHLY recommend!