How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs (2018), 239 pages
Have you ever read a book more for convenience than because of actual interest? Do you ever judge books by their cover? This may seem like a terrible way to select your next read, but sometimes this method unearths unexpected literary treasures.
I usually read books on my phone these days, either on my lunch breaks at work or when my six-month-old falls asleep in my lap. This means that I’m usually firing up the Libby app to browse our library’s selection of ebooks and eAudiobooks from Overdrive. This most recent book I finished – I’ll admit – I picked simply because I liked the cover.
Once I started reading, however, I got sucked in. It’s not that this collection of short stories is action-packed or full of plot twists. In fact, many of the stories end without much of resolution. They hang there, like a letter half-written, the way that glimpses in other peoples’ lives, in real life, often cut off or fade away. I liked this. It felt more real to me than stories tied up in neat bows. And the characters and settings sing so clearly from the pages that spending time with this book felt like time well spent.
At the center of each of the stories in How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs is Jamaica itself – as home or homeland, as a place by turns familiar and unexpectedly foreign to the characters. Although each story in the book is unrelated to the last, certain themes and motifs crop up more than once. Besides Jamaica and Jamaicans, many stories touch on mother/daughter relationships, American university settings, sexuality and LGBT identities, interracial relationships, and the immigrant experience. If you enjoy quick reads with strong characters and settings (and a brightly colorful cover!), be sure to check this one out.