Reviewed

“How to Love a Jamaican” by Alexia Arthurs

How To Love A Jamaican is a collection of eleven short stories by debut author Alexia Arthurs, all centered on the theme of Love. You might expect a collection of falling in love, and out of love, and happily ever afters, or not. That is not what this collection is. Arthurs’ has created eleven very unique stories to define the way love appears in our lives, from heterosexual romance to a son loving his mother and trying to please her. While probably not unique to Jamaicans, the context of these variations on love within Jamaican culture is wholly readable and fascinating.

Five standout, five-star stories in the collection are –

“Island” – a story of how lesbianism and female love in Jamaican culture and on the island itself, told through the eyes of a woman returning home to Jamaica for a wedding and feeling out of place amongst new American friends with male lovers and even more out of place on the island where she’s meant to get married and have babies.

“Mermaid River” – a story of the love and bond between a man and the grandmother who raised him, told through the passage of time when he gave up time with friends to help her and his adult reluctance to be pulled back into taking care of her in actual old age and then to mourning her when she is gone.

“On Shelf” – a story of the delicate balance between wanting to love and to be loved, and living the life we want to live, it is a tale of the desperation caused by society telling us that not only do we need to be loved, that we need to be loved to have value and worth.

“Shirley From A Small Place” – a story of a worldwide pop star who lives the life of a pop star but it’s an unfulfilled life, until she goes home to Jamaica where her mother makes her the food she grew up with and they bond over ignoring the changes that have come between them in favor of remembering the things that define them.

“Mash Up Love” – a story of twins, Esau & Jacob ‘Cobby’, and how their mother loved them as best she could, but differently, leaving Esau to wonder at just how a certain kind of love can maybe make a certain kind of person turn out a certain way.

(I received a copy of How to Love a Jamaican from NetGalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

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