“In these kaleidoscopic stories of Jamaica and its diaspora we hear many voices at once. All of them convince and sing. All of them shine.”—Zadie Smith
An O: The Oprah Magazine “Top 15 Best of the Year” • A Well-Read Black Girl Pick
Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret—Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.
In “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In “Mash Up Love,” a twin’s chance sighting of his estranged brother—the prodigal son of the family—stirs up unresolved feelings of resentment. In “Bad Behavior,” a couple leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In “Mermaid River,” a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In “The Ghost of Jia Yi,” a recently murdered student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in “Shirley from a Small Place,” a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.
Alexia Arthurs emerges in this vibrant, lyrical, intimate collection as one of fiction’s most dynamic and essential authors.
Praise for How to Love a Jamaican
“A sublime short-story collection from newcomer Alexia Arthurs that explores, through various characters, a specific strand of the immigrant experience.”—Entertainment Weekly
“With its singular mix of psychological precision and sun-kissed lyricism, this dazzling debut marks the emergence of a knockout new voice.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Gorgeous, tender, heartbreaking stories . . . Arthurs is a witty, perceptive, and generous writer, and this is a book that will last.”—Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
“Vivid and exciting . . . every story rings beautifully true.”—Marie Claire