Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis – Benn Discussion/ Review

So as you may know from my previous post I read 2 books by Jamaican authors this month to celebrate Jamaica’s 54th Independence which was on August 6th.

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I came across ‘Here Comes The Sun’ when looking for reviews on Augustown by Kei Miller (Which is the second book I read this month). I found an article showcasing new releases from writers from all over the Caribbean.  From there I placed ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on my Amazon wishlist and my lovely boyfriend bought it for me as a mid-summer present 😀

Author Background:

Nicole Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She is a graduate of Cornell University and has an MPH from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the Founder and Director of Stuyvesant Writing Workshop and currently teaches Writing for the City University of New York. She lives with her wife in Brooklyn, NY.

Synopsis:

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise

 

My thoughts / discussion with myself (LOL)

So. Where do I start? I’ll start with how I felt overall with this book. I really liked it. Lol love is a strong word for me so I’ll just say I really  really liked it! 😀 The novel is about 3 women living in a very male dominated society. Let’s just say I was heavily invested in the characters …

Firstly Delores. I thought Delores was a very bitter, jealous and twisted woman. The cruel things she allows her children to endure is a reflection on her own lack of education, unfortunate past experiences,  poor moral, low self-esteem and unfortunately the desperation resulting from poverty. I wouldn’t say she was innately  an evil witch just a very ignorant weak mother who exploited her children to make ends meet.

Margot seems to have inherited her ruthlessness and poor moral from her mother and the unfortunate abuse she experienced growing up. She uses this to justify her actions but it just doesn’t quite cut it. Thandi is who I sympathise with the most, everyone is working hard to support her but all that pressure in such a hostile environment is bound to create anxiety, confusion and rebellion. She has a tonne of  pressure placed upon her from her family and high expectations from the community to make it through school and become a doctor or some sort of highflyer. Although her family are there and care for her, noone sits down and speaks to her to find out how she is feeling but instead throw money at her for her school fees and books and time to study but where they are lacking is the social support.

I feel this story was very relatable. Being from the Caribbean myself I’ve seen people throw money at school fees and ignore wellbeing then become surprised when the person has completely gone off the rails. Thandi was told to completely ignore her sexuality,  emotions and interests to concentrate on school. She was silenced when she wanted to discuss her  chosen career path …. instead of having a serious conversation and guidance regarding feasible options. We weren’t told how well Thandi done in her exams but it was painful for me to read regardless of how well she does.

Margot’s relationship with Verdene – I didn’t like so much. I would’ve preferred if the origins of their romantic relationship  was explored a little more because it was just a little odd that Verdene went from a big-sister figure  to a partner.Like how did that happen? The sneaking around, and the sadness between the two just made it seem more hassle than it was worth. I felt that they both had soooo many personal issues they needed to work on, it wasn’t a very honest relationship – it just distracted them from addressing these issues.  But then again their secretive and limited relationship was  mainly due to strong homophobia which stifled their relationship. Jamaica has a long way to go with LGBT Rights.

Colorism was a very big theme throughout the book. Wow. Honestly I did not realise colorism was such a big thing in some communities. In places like the UK and USA in everyday life colorism doesn’t really play a huge part in main society (unless you’re on the big screen or experience it from family / friends). Here, within mainstream society MOST of the time once you’re black you’re black, and instead of colorism it’s just straight up racism. But in a many postcolonial  countries it’s broken down further to  meet this societal need to maintain  some sort of superficial social hierarchy.  Almost like some kind of caste system based purely on your skintone…  I’ve been teased by others for having dark skin, told that because I am dark I am therefore unattractive. Even after the teasing I did not wish to lighten my skin. For the first time in my life through the three women I understood why someone would want to bleach/ lighten their skin. Skintone appeared to affect everything from job opportunities, to friends and love interests and seemed like a way out of the poverty cycle.

I felt Here Comes The sun is a very true reflection of what is / has been happening in some postcolonial communities.  Maybe not to the same extent  for most people, but issues around education, sexism, homophobia, colorism, class and poverty is a norm for many people.

I really appreciated this book because it’s not often I read a fairly contemporary book set in Jamaica. Although books written by Black authors  set in the America / Africa/ UK are numerous, the experiences and everyday struggles are still very different.  It was great to read a book I can identify a little more with and give me an insight into some of the present day struggles faced in a place I no longer know very well .

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Have you read Here Comes The Sun? What are your thoughts? I would  absolutely love to know!

Goodreads

 

Where to find me 🙂

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