Life-Changing & Inspirational Books

Racial Life of Haitians in Guadalupe - (May 31st 2024) 

Crossing the Mangrove is a story by Maryse Condé that depicts the life of Black and Creoles (White Latin Americans) in Rivière au Sel. This village is in Basse-Terre, which is one of the 6 islands of Guadeloupe - a French territory in the Caribbean. The book beautifully narrates the villagers’ reflections about their interaction with a mysterious man, Francis Sancher, during his wake ceremony. Moreover, it underlined how Haitians suffer from racism in their own land, and that we can’t understand why someone acts bitterly because we don’t know the root of his problem!

The book revolves around the bizarre death of Francis Sancher - a rich man who moved from Cuba. Villagers thought that he was a Cuban who fought with Castro. Yet, he was a military doctor who joined revolutionaries in Africa, and was born in Colombia to a bourgeois family. Surprisingly, his family originated from Guadalupe, but his great-great-great-grandfather had to run away; and so, Louisiana was his safe haven. He had documents certifying that his great-great-great-grandfather (François-Régis des Sallins) owned acres of sugar plantation in Saint-Calvaire – Petit Bourg (where his family used to live) in 1790, which he showed to Lucien, the writer. Many locals talked to him near the gullies, in the bar, forest, or in his house including a historian, writer, postman. Francis suffered from nightmares, and once told Moïse the postman that humans carry their ancestors’ sins in their souls, and pay for the evilness of their ancestors by enduring agony and suffering! He also talked about getting into the military and joining the revolution after Operation Carlotta, when Cuba sent military aid to Angola in 1975 to support communism there!

Francis’ significant encounters were with Mira, Vilma, Sonny and his mother Mama Sonson. Interestingly, his family believed that the family’s men were cursed since all the male members of his family died in the early fifty. He even told everyone he conversed with in Rivière au Sel that his time was near! So, locals weren’t surprised when he was found dead in the woods! However, locals didn’t like him! They considered him a rogue! Nonetheless, the villagers brought his body and paid their respects during his wake ceremony – spending the night drinking rum and prayed until the morning for his soul to pass to the other realm!

Mira was the daughter of a rich White family who owned Lameaulnes nurseries. She was the result of her dad’s affair with a tomato street seller, who died after giving birth to Mira. Mira was a free-spirited young woman, who used to go and swim in the gullies naked. One day she made love to Francis Sancher, who was sitting there waiting for someone. After that, she left to live with him despite not being welcomed there. But she stayed anyway because she wanted to leave her family! After spending some time, she got pregnant and went back home because Francis didn’t want the baby (since he was going to die soon)! Mira scandal angered her elder step-brother (Aristide) and father, who in turn accused Francis of rape. Yet, he told them that she threw herself onto him and that she was already “soiled”. It turned out that Aristide loved her and had a secret relation with her! So, her dad gave up, but Aristide went to the police station to report a rape case. But the police stated that Mira should come and submit the complaint herself! After Francis’ death, Mira decided to cross the lands that he travelled and visit every place he stayed in, and tell her unborn baby about his dad as well as encourage him to tour the world.

Vilma was a plain Black teenager from an Indian origin, who found refuge in Francis’ house! She left her home due to that her dad took her out of school, and wanted to betroth her to someone she doesn’t want, just because he was rich and that a girl’s place is her husband’s house! She stayed in a separate room for a few days, where she used to sleep and wake up in the dead of the night on Francis’ screams! He suffered from bad dreams, until one night he found refuge in Vilma’s bed! Once he told Vilma about writing a story about his good and bad memories and experiences that he would call “Crossing the Mangrove”. But she commented that crossing a mangrove only hurt the person who do so, which was the theme of his tale! At some point, Vilma got pregnant! Her dad and brothers couldn’t do anything other than talking to Francis! Her mom too talked to Francis but he had no influence on Vilma, who upon seeing her mom, she kicked her out! Vilma hated her mom because the latter never loved her. Vilma’s mom felt that Vilma came in place of her White beautiful daughter who died when she was a baby. Her mom never held her hand nor showed her affection. That’s why Vilma loved books and school, which were her refuge! But sadly, her dreams were shattered by her selfish dad and uncaring mother! Upon Francis’ death, Vilma wished being her Indian grandma and throw herself onto his burning body and die for him!  

Sonny was a handicapped boy with no friends at school. The villagers even were afraid of him and saw him as a jinx! But everything changed when Francis came. He befriended Sonny and talked to him. Francis understood Sonny and his pain, and so he was the only friend Sonny had. Unfortunately, everything changed when one-day Sonny saw Mira sitting on the veranda of Francis’s house talking to him. Upon seeing him, Mira yelled at Sonny to leave, but Francis followed him and tried to talk to him but with no avail! Sonny felt betrayed by the only friend he had, esp. that Mira was the worst person he ever met in Rivière au Sel! She used to jeer at and make fun of Sonny whenever she saw him!

Sonny’s mom, Mama Sonson had a short encounter with Francis, who asked her permission to have a look at her son since he was a doctor. He explained that Sonny’s case wasn’t his specialty but he wanted to help him. But she shunned him away by rudely answering him that who was he to tell her how to treat her son! Yet, during the night and while celebrating Francis’ wake, she regretted her behavior and decided to leave her bitter husband, who hated Sonny and neglected her, and to take Sonny to specialized doctors. She also prayed for Franics stating, “I hope his soul finds the peace he was unable to find in his life among the living where he was so worried, anxious and agitated.

In Rivière au Sel, some people were happy that he died including the parents and brothers of Mira and Vilma. They felt that karma avenged them! Yet Francis’ passing made Dinah (the second wife of Mira’s dad, whom he married after the death of his first wife) decided to leave her unfaithful vulgar husband and Rivière au Sel, take her little boys with her, and go somewhere sunny and live the life she wanted! His death also set Aristide free from his love to Mira (who lost interest in her after her scandal), as well as encouraged him to leave the house and his father, who always insulted him, and set to see the world like Francis!

This story portrays the beautiful nature of Guadalupe and its historical origin! In fact, the author cited La Guadeloupe Pittoresque poem by Budan that is published in 1863 that depicts the nature and beauty of Guadalupe. She also touched on Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain which describes the role of a peasant returning from Cuba (after working in sugar plantation) in encouraging his Haitian community to survive starvation that resulted from drought.

This tale mentioned the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier between 1971 and 1986 who imprisoned and tortured anyone who criticized his authoritarian regime! In addition, the book shed light on the law of March 19, 1946 (law of departmentalization) that was abolished in 1947 due to the annihilation of the 3-party system in Guadalupe. Condé also highlighted the 1837 great slaves’ revolution in the south, and enslavement of Haitians by Whites and pale colored-citizens that didn’t end yet! Haitians still suffer from this racism in their own land and in other countries, particularly in the US because they are not the right color!

Finally, the story underlined that we can’t understand why someone acts bitterly because we don’t know the root of his problem or trauma! For example, Vilma’s mom thought that “Life’s problems are like trees. We see the trunk, we see the branches and the leaves. But we can’t see the roots, hidden deep down under the ground.” Moreover, solving someone’s problems is based on facing the dilemma that weighs on someone’s heart, as seen in Francis’ words to DinahWhen the coffee tree is riddled with greenfly and only bears black, stony fruit it has to be burnt.

My favorite quotes are:

Franics was yelling in his dreams “One can’t lie to one’s own flesh and blood! “

Moïse describing the places that Franics told him about “… there’s not a place under the sun that does not have its share of disillusions”.

Mira describing her feelings towards Franics “Love, like death, takes you by surprise.”

Francis to Joby (Dinah’s son) “I’ve seen the mess ideas of good and evil, justice and injustice, oppression and exploitation can do.” “And then there’s nothing more savage, you know, nothing more basically despicable than a person who’s been downtrodden and then freed from his chains”

Dinah's thoughts “The misfortunes of the children are always caused by the secret sins of the parents”.

Dinah's thoughts during Francis’ wake “I’m going to look for the sun and the air and the light for what’s left of the years to live.”

Thoughts of Mira’s father about Francis’ death “misfortune has its own justice!”

Thoughts of Vilma’s father about Francis’ death “Once death has cut a man down, in fact, there’s no need for bitterness or desire for revenge.”

Thoughts of Vilma’s mother when she got pregnant by her “The heart does not accept orders.”

Thoughts of Vilma’s mother “the heart and the mind took precedence over everything else and that the body merely obeys.”

Francis told Vilma’s mother “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who tries to understand.”

Vilma’s thoughts “… death is nothing but a bridge between humans, a footbridge that brings them closer together on which they can meet halfway to whisper things they never dared talk about.”

Mama Sonson thoughts “A woman doesn’t need intelligence. How would you live with a genius? She needs tenderness, love!” “…, there is a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate. Now is the time for me to start over again.”

Francis words “Triumph or die for freedom!”

Francis to Lucien the writer “Independence is a sleeping beauty that no prince will ever wake up.”

Dinah remembered a song that her mom used to sing for her when she was a child:

Oh, forget about love, forget about love,

On this earth,

When you’ve lost your love,

You’ve got nothing but tears!

Oh, forget about love, forget about love,

On this earth,

When you’ve lost your love,

You’ve got nothing but tears!

I took my heart

And gave it to a wretch

To a young man without feeling,

To a young man without love

Black Britons Breathe Freedom with Difficulty - (April 26th 2024) 

In Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson depicts the struggle of Black Britons (who live in London) to stay alive. These British citizens never feel safe and live under huge stress because they are always seen as vulgar suspects and never as innocent humans! This story portrays this dilemma in the work-ship, friendship, and courtship relation between a Black male photographer and a female dancer over the four seasons of 2017.

The photographer, whose parents are from Ghana, lived in London whereas the dancer lived in Dublin. They met in a bar via a mutual friend Samuel, who used to be the dancer’s boyfriend. Something ignited between the dancer and photographer. They hooked up after becoming his model for a documentary project about Black people. And so, she broke up with Samuel who in turn cut-off his friendship with the photographer.

The two discussed the approaches they used to cope with race-related stress. The photographer studied in an unrecognized university in Dulwich where he got a scholarship. During these days and due to his skin color, he felt being different from the students attending the school. To heal and let go of his irritation against such unfair treatment, he used to play basketball. On the other hand, the dancer described how dancing was her refuge whenever she felt angry from the racist inhuman conduct shown to her. She used to let her soul free and dance to release the pain from the unjust behavior of the White community she lived in. Sometimes, she also managed to survive by eating the food she craved, drinking, and smoking.

The photographer was attacked a quite few times by the police and thoroughly searched without following any logical system. They just captured him because he looked the description of a suspect or burglar or criminal. He even felt that the police don’t interrogate nor question the Black man they catch. They don’t even have a proof against the man they hold. Yet, they attacked and hit him and other Black boys and men with batons just because of their skin color. Because he fits the profile of a suspect, as shown in the photographer’s thoughts ‘You don’t fit in the box but he (police officer) has squeezed you in.’ After finishing their examination, they apologize saying: ‘you are free to go’ and that ‘they were just doing their job’. Black people in the UK live in fear that their current day is their last day alive. They “live to fear another day”, and feel that while living in a White community, Black people don’t own their body. This is because of the way a Black person is seen ‘Rendering the Black body as a species body, encouraging a Blackness which is defined as abject, threatening, servile, dangerous, dependent, irrational and infectious …’ The author also revealed that a Black police officer treats Black people inhumanely and wrongly just because he could. Correspondingly, Blacks try to become insignificant and stay in the shadows, so that the police won’t jump on and capture them.

At some point, the photographer couldn’t handle the pressure of such unjust treatment by the police just for being a Black man. Because of this, he wasn’t able to face his feelings and that he loved the dancer, and not just desired her. He also struggled to open up to his girlfriend about what bothered him despite her attempts to convince him to share what he felt with her. He refused and ghosted her! So they broke up because of his inability to become vulnerable. This was beautifully depicted in the photographer’s thoughts about hiding his race trauma ‘You have always thought if you opened your mouth in open water you would drown, but if you didn’t open your mouth you would suffocate. So here you are, drowning.

By the end of the story and after bottling up so much anger, the photographer faced his wounds and decided to take the train from London to Dublin and apologize as well as open up to his ex-girlfriend about what bothered him (being treated unfairly due to being Black). It took him a year to reveal his soul wounds to his girlfriend who saw the real him. Only after letting out his unresolved grief, he felt free, and was able to rekindle his relationship with the dancer.

The prose in this tale is phenomenal despite that the interesting events were only seen by the end of the tale, which made me bored at some point desiring to drop this book. Yet, the story highlights how Black people are never treated in the same manner as a White British person. This makes them feel not free in the land where they were born and resided, as well as where their parents and grandparents lived! They felt that the country they live in is not their home because they are always in danger of being killed by the police. In fact, this is seen in a statement written by Zadie Smith, to which the photographer reads , ‘The happy ending is never universal. Someone is always left behind. And in the London I get up in – as it is today – that someone is more often than not a young Black man.’ Moreover, the book sheds light on The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams that describes the development, progression, and destruction of civilization in Africa, and the diaspora of Black people in the US.

The first time I saw and felt about racism between Blacks and Whites was in the US. I am not sure if this is the reason behind calling incomparable things apples and oranges! Because in Jordan and many counties worldwide, antonyms are called black and white! Finally, I agree with the words of Toni Morrison ‘there is no such thing as race. None. There is there is just human race – scientifically, anthropologically’; Audre LordeIt is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences’; and MandelaNo one is born hating one another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

My favorite quotes are:

The Narrator (the 3rd person) ‘There should be no shame in not knowing what one wants.’

The Narrator ‘Meeting someone on a summer’s evening is like giving a dead flame new life.’

The Narrator ‘How does one shake off desire? To give it a voice is to sow a seed, knowing that somehow, someway, it will grow.’

The photographer recalling his grandma’s words ‘There’s no solace in the shade.’

The Narrator ‘When you sow a seed, it will grow.’

The photographer telling the dancer ‘… what they think about me isn’t what I think about me.’’

The Narrator ‘…to leave is to have the thing die in its current form.’

The photographer’s thoughts ‘… the seed you pushed deep into the ground has blossomed in the wrong season.’

The Narrator ‘You just wanted to be free.’

The photographer’s thoughts about Junie Morrison's song ‘… from your solid ache comes a gentle joy.’

The dancer to the photographer’s about surviving in this racist land ‘It’s my space. I make a little world for myself, and I live.’

The photographer’s thoughts regarding being suspected by the police ‘… it’s easier for you to hide in your own darkness, than emerge cloaked in your own vulnerability. At some point, you must breathe.’ And ‘… knowing it’s easier to retreat than showing her something raw and vulnerable.’ And ‘It’s easier to hide in your own darkness, than to emerge, naked and vulnerable, blinking in your own light.’

The Narrator ‘It’s one thing to be looked at, and another to be seen.’

The Photographer’s thoughts regarding his feelings towards the dancer ‘To love is to trust, to trust is to have faith.’

The Photographer’s thoughts about the way police officers break the spirit of a Black man ‘Death is not always physical.’

The dancer’s thoughts ‘In the trust and love being portrayed where light and dark were coexisting.’

Life of Chileans, Guatemalans, & Asylum Seekers during Dictatorships and Gangsterism - (March 29th 2024) 

In the Midst of Winter is a novel in which Isabelle Allende portrays the dark life of Lucia in Chile between 1954 and 1973, and the suffering of Evelyn in Guatemala during the first 16 years of her life (1992-2008). For instance, Chileans suffered from the political unrest during the formation of a Marxist government, followed by a military coup and dictatorship. Guatemalans also lived a horrible life under the rule of gangs and soldiers who stole, raped, and slaughtered their own kin, and who cannot be deterred! Moreover, the injustice shown to illegal asylum seekers in the US, who either are returned to their country or offered residency depending on the temperament of the judge was highlighted. Allende also shed light on the amount of depression Richard’s wife has experienced after having numerous miscarriages followed by losing her 1-month son and 4-year-old daughter.

Richard is an American who knew Portuguese and married the Brazilian Anita. She suffered from depression due to having a few miscarriages, followed by losing their baby boy due to SIDS. So, Richard succumbed to drinking after depression got into his wife, esp. that he felt helpless. He didn’t know how to help her in addition to that her family took care of her! Tragically, one morning and after returning from a wild night with a pub girl, Richard crushed their 4-year-old daughter under the tires of his car. Anita witnessed this incident, which exacerbated her pain. In response, Richard decided to take things into his hand. He took his wife and returned to the US. He worked at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU. Yet in NY, Richard neglected his depressed wife, who spent her days near the window looking out to the street. But eventually she committed suicide, which affected him badly. He suffered from anxiety and insomnia, which in turn exacerbated his ulcer that was caused by heavy drinking during his years in Brazil.

Richard invited the Chilean Lucia as a visiting professor to teach at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU. Both of them were in their early 60s and had a crush on each other. But Richard didn’t show any sign to connect despite Lucia’s few attempts to connect with him. He was still traumatized from losing his wife and child due to neglecting them. He felt irresponsible, and so couldn’t tolerate having another heart break!

In her childhood, Lucia lost her dad in a car accident, and didn’t have clear memories about him. Her mom didn’t talk about him because she discovered that he had another wife and a child! Later in her teens, Lucia’s elder brother Enrique joined the communist move against the government. Lucia too joined any march that supports communists or capitalists. She wasn’t on any side, but she enjoyed the atmosphere of protests! Unfortunately, after the military coup in 1973 that overthrew the Marxist Salvador Allende, the military interrogated her mom about Lucia and Enrique. Luckily Lucia was at her friend’s house! Later the cardinal assisted her to move into the Venezuelan embassy, then to Canada where she lived for 17 years.

Enrique however, disappeared and his body was never found. Yet, his mom was given a wrong corpse! Nonetheless, she buried the body and tried to find the guy’s family but with no avail. During the military dictatorship, many Chileans were persecuted, tortured, mutilated (like what happened to the singer Victor Jara), and/or thrown into the river after opening their bellies to prevent the bodies from floating! Lucia returned to Chile in 1990 and wrote books about the fate of Chileans lost during the troubled years of 1950s to 1970s. She married a lawyer who worked with an agency involved in human rights, and had Daniela. Lucia is a breast cancer survivor whose husband left upon her diagnosis. Consequently, and after a 20-year marriage, they got a divorce.  

Evelyn lived with her 2 brothers and grandma in a small village in Guatemala. Their dad left to work in the US but never came back nor sent money. He got married and lived in California! Their mom however, worked in Chicago and sent them money. She also married and had 2 children. At 14, Evelyn’s elder brother Gregorio left school, and joined the MS-13 violent gang. Miserably, the gang tortured and hanged him at the bridge near their village as a punishment for betraying them - he stayed in touch with his grandma and siblings! This horrible seen affected Evelyn, her younger brother Andres, and grandma. She even started to stammer while talking. A few weeks later and during Easter’s week, 2 gang members attacked their house when grandma Concepcion was selling tamales in the market. They brutally hit and raped Evelyn in front Andres, before attacking him and slitting his throat. This traumatized the 16-year-old Evelyn! She trembled whenever someone came near her and lost her speech ability, which turned into stuttering after a few months! So, father Benito arranged for her crossing to the US with guaranteed coyote, after asking her mom to send money for the crossover. In the summer of 2008, she crossed to the US from Mexico. The journey was tough for her but she survived!

In Chicago, Evelyn stayed with her mom and her poor family, who lived in a compound for Christians. But because of being attacked by her step-dad’s addict daughter (from a previous marriage), the police and immigrant services interrogated her. She was 18 and so depending on the judge temperament, she could either be deported or given residency! Fearing for Evelyn, her mom found her a family who didn’t care about having illegal workers via the church. So, Evelyn worked as baby sitter for the 8-year-old Frankie, who had cerebral palsy and hyperglycemia. He is the son of Mrs. Leroy who was physically and verbally abused by Mr. Leroy, who worked in human trafficking. The Leroys overworked Evelyn and she earned much less than she deserved.

During the blizzard of 2016 that hit NY, Richard took one of his cats to the vet due to licking the car’s antifreeze. On his way back home, he bumped in Evelyn and dented the car’s trunk. What made it worse was that Evelyn took Mr. Leroy’s car without permission (who was traveling) to buy diapers for Frankie! Evelyn was in a shock and couldn’t communicate with Richard, who gave her his card to discuss the insurance issue! At night, she knocked at Richard and asked for help. She was an illegal immigrant with a fake identity, which Mr. Leroy gave her. She also had a dead body in the car’s trunk, and was afraid of telling her dangerous employer about the accident.

The confused Richard called Lucia, who rented his basement. He asked her to communicate with Evelyn since both of them were Latinas. It turned out that Evelyn was afraid of being jailed or deported on the pretense of killing the woman in the trunk. The body was for Kathryn, Frankie’s physiotherapist. She was shot in the head as well as pregnant with Mr. Leroy’s baby. Mrs. Leroy disliked Kathryn and kicked her due to believing that her husband asked Kathryn to kill her and Frankie! Mr. Leroy hated Frankie and considered him a spoiled child. The three of them concluded that Mr. Leroy murdered Kathryn. To help Evelyn, Lucia suggested getting rid of the corpse, esp. that due to the snowstorm no one was going out. So, no one will see anything or report about!

Richard suggested to throw the car with the body in the lake near Catskills, where his friend Horacio had a cabin. He drove the Lexus with the body in its trunk, whereas the 2 women drove his Subaru. The chances of Richard being pulled over by the police is much lower than the woman since he was a White man! But upon reaching the cabin that took them about 24 hours, they bonded and Lucia felt that Kathryn’s family should bury her. This is because Lucia didn’t want Kathryn’s family to suffer like her mom when they couldn’t find her brother’s body. Instead, she suggested to take the body to the Omega Institute, which is secluded and has no workers in winter. So, she and Richard dropped the Lexus in the lake and the 3 of them drove to the Institute where they left the body at its Sanctuary after praying for her and leaving the gun near the corpse. After this 3-day adventure, the ice between Lucia and Richard melted and the love sparkle blossomed. Lucia and her dog even moved to live with Richard and his four cats.

Months later, the newspapers revealed that Mr. Leroy was a suspect in the homicide. This allowed them to search his house, because for years, the FBI tried to capture him but didn’t have any evidence to imprison him. But thanks to Kathryn’s dead body, the FBI found documents that incriminated him of human trafficking. Unfortunately, Mr. Leroy ran away to Mexico. Yet he and a bunch of leaders of human trafficking and drug gangs were captured while having a meeting in a ranch. This was achieved with the help of an undercover agent, Danescu, who was Mr. Leroy’s right hand. But regrettably Danescu got killed during this raid.

In the meantime, Evelyn stayed in California with Daniela until Mr. Leroy’s death! She worked 2 jobs and decided to become independent and get her own apartment. She sent most of her previous salary (that the Leory’s used to give her) to her grandma, who renovated her house and stopped selling tamales. Grandma Concepcion also lived from selling the thrift clothes that her daughter (Evelyn’s mom) used to send her.

Despite being safe, Evelyn loved and missed Frankie. Therefore, Lucia decided to help Evelyn. She approached Mrs. Leroy and told her what happened. Surprisingly, Mrs. Leroy was the one who killed Kathryn. It was an accident that occurred when Mrs. Leroy went to Kathryn’s apartment and faced her about having an affair with her husband! Mrs. Leroy also thought that Evelyn got rid of the car with the body to help her and Frankie! But thanks Lucia, everything was cleared up and Evelyn returned to work with Frankie! Against Rishcard’s desire, Lucia didn’t tell Evelyn about the real killer because she didn’t want to stress poor Evelyn about this issue, esp. that justice was served and Mr. Leroy got what he deserved!

This book describes the beautiful nature of Brazil, Guatemala, and Chile. The mountains that are covered with trees, the blue lakes and rivers, the exotic birds that soar in the sky, and flowers such as Monja Blanca – the national flower of Guatemala which is a symbol of peace. Furthermore, the Northern Triangle that consisted of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala was mentioned. It is the most violent region in the world that is not at war! Father Benito was punished by serving in this region due to rebelling against injustice and inequality shown to the Natives of South America. This tale also highlighted the role of FBI in replacing the democratic government of Chile by a capitalist dictatorship! During the political unrest, Chileans suffered from the high prices of food and its shortage. After Chile’s stabilization, many changes occurred in Santiago. For instance, the murals that covered the city walls were removed, and military and war heroes’ names replaced the religious names of its streets.  

The writer underlined the civil war and the massacres carried against the indigenous people of Guatemala by the government, where soldiers beat out any spark of protest or revolt. Moreover, most of the boys left school to work or joined gangs, whereas girls were impregnated and left the village or became sex workers. The girls like Evelyn also had to do many chores every morning, including collecting wood for fire, bringing water from wells, cleaning the house, washing clothes or hanging them, feeding animals, preparing coffee for the family, and cooking or preparing tortillas or heating leftovers. Yet boys did none of this before leaving to school. This novel also depicted the arduous journey that Latinas go through to cross to the US, which is dramatically narrated in American Dirt, and the reasons that cause them to leave their homes and loved ones. As we say in Arabic “!ما يجبرك على المرّ إلا الأمرّ منه” which would mean having to choose between the bad and worse thing!

Finally, Richard decided to help Evelyn because his father was a Jewish who ran away from the Nazis to France, then to Spain, Portugal, and eventually to Brazil where he met the love of his life and married before leaving to the US. The author also shed light on Richard’s Jewish grandparents who illegally immigrated to Palestine that was under the British occupation. Between 1933 and 1945, Jews ran away from the Nazis either to Palestine, the US, or South America. Yet, currently Zionism is committing a crime against humanity by trying to eradicate Palestinians, the people who opened their homes for them about 90 years ago!

My favorite quotes are:

Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un été invincible. (In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer.) — ALBERT CAMUS


Lucia’s thoughts “In her youth she had thought she was incomplete without being in a loving couple, that something essential was missing.”


Father Benito complained “Everyone has to be bribed, from the topmost politicians to the lowest policeman, not to mention all the delinquency and crime”.

Enrique’s beliefs “the only salvation for humanity lay in overthrowing capitalism by a revolution that pulled the whole edifice down.”


Richard’s father to Richard about helping those in need “We’re all the same in misfortune.”


Richard feelings “he learned to cherish even his most painful memories: without them it would have been as if he had never been young, or loved, or a father.”


The views of Father Benito and the Catalan doctor who treated Evelyn after her rape in Guatemala “They had long discussions about the divine without reaching agreement but discovered that on a human level they were united by the same principles.”


The Catalan doctor asked Father Benito “If you had power and impunity, would you make the guilty suffer as much as they do their victims?”

Father Benito feelings “Age had not made him any wiser or gentler, only more rebellious.”


The narrator “The difference between life and death was information: to know where, how, and when to cross.”


Horacio to Richard “What do you gain by thinking about the future?”


Horacio to Richard “… only human beings were so focused on themselves, slaves to their egos, navel-gazing, on the defensive even though no danger threatened them.”


Evelyn’s step dad to the immigrant services’ officer “This girl is a refugee. No one is illegal in this life, we all have the right to live in this world. Money and crime do not respect borders.”


Evelyn’s mom thoughts “if the law does get there, it never favors the weakest…”


Evelyn said “Souls who have not found rest come back to frighten the living.”


Daniela to her grandma “You can’t go to heaven with that arrogance of yours still intact, Grandma. You have to practice a little humility.”


Lucia thoughts “… death was not an end, was not the absence of life, but a powerful oceanic wave of clear, luminous water that was carrying her off to another dimension.”


The mother of saints that Richard’s wife visited to heal her from the depression “Tears are good, they clean inside.”

Anita used to say “what the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel.”


Mr. Leroy’s beliefs “the end justifies the means if you can benefit from it.”


Lucia feelings “She was more experienced and had less time to waste.”


Daniela to her mom “Hearts don’t break like eggs. And if yours is an egg, isn’t it better for it to be broken and for feelings to pour out? That’s the price for a life lived to the full.”


Richard to Lucia “I don’t want to go on living this kind of half-life.”


Lucia beliefs “—how important it was to share one’s pain and discover that others too had their fair share of it, that lives are often alike and feelings similar.”

Lucia to Richard “The law is cruel and justice is blind….”

Lucia thoughts “She wanted to make the most of every day, because they were numbered and no doubt fewer than she hoped. There was no time to lose.”


Lucia to Richard “That’s many years with your soul in winter and your heart locked away, Richard. That’s not a life….”


Lucia to Richard “It’s not the force of gravity that keeps the universe in balance, but the binding power of love.”

Bigotry in Japan (Assimilation of Korean Japanese) - (February 23th 2024) 

In Pachinko, Min Jin Lee beautifully depicted the life of Koreans in Korea during the Japanese occupation between the years of 1910-1933, then the life of Koreans in Japan between 1933-1962, and their life in Japan between 1939 and 1989 after Korea’s independence and the formation of North and South Korea in 1948.

The story started in Busan (currently a city in South Korea) where Hooni, who had cleft palate and twisted foot, and his wife Yangjin (younger than Hooni by 13 years) had Sunja after 4 miscarriages. They ran a rented guest house that housed fishermen. During the annexation of Korea, food was meager so this couple used to prepare food from their garden products, except for fish which Hooni used to buy it from the market. Hooni used to keep the books for their hostel, yet after his death from tuberculosis, neither Yangjin nor the 13-year-old Sunja was able to keep the accounts because none of them knew how to read or write.

In 1932, when Sunja was 17, she met the 37-year old fish broker Hansu. He saved her from Japanese teenage boys who assaulted her! With time, he befriended and told her that he is Korean from Pyongyang (currently the capital of North Korea) but lived in Osaka (Japan), and worked as a trader. They used to stroll near the sea or in the forest. One day while collecting mushrooms in the forest, he made love to her without her consent, which she enjoyed. And after several encounters, she became pregnant. She was happy and thought that Hansu will be happy too and that he would marry her. She believed that he loved her! Yet, when she told Hansu, he was happy but surprised and told her that he cannot marry her. He was married to a Japanese woman who is older than him, and had 3 daughters. His rich wife is the daughter of his beneficiary - the head of yakuza. However, he suggested to buy a house for her & her mom and to take care of her. Sunja was shocked and hurt! She refused his offer and told him not to talk to her ever again, and that she was stupid to believe that a man his age would be still single! Sunja told her mom that she was pregnant but refused to tell her anything about the father.  

Six months later, the priest Isak stopped by their guest house, which was recommended by his brother Yoseb. He came from Pyongyang, and stayed a few weeks in the motel due to suffering from tuberculosis. He was a very well-educated man, who suffered from weak immunity and being sick most of his child- and adulthoods. After getting better, the worried Yangjin told Isak about Sunja’s situation because she needed an advice! However, Isak suggested marrying the girl because he wanted to have a son who would carry his name after he dies (due to his weak health). He took the approval of the head priest in Busan, who asked Sunja if she would accept Jesus Christ. She did and they got married and left to Osaka, where his brother lived.

In Osaka, Isak and Sunja stayed in the slum, where Koreans live, with Yoseb and his wife Kyunghee (both knew how to read and write in Japanese and Korean). The women became friends. Kyunghee and Yoseb loved Noa, Sunja’s son who was named by Yoseb, esp. that they could not have a child. Six years later, Isak and Sunja had Mozasu. In the meantime, Isak worked in the church in Osaka. In Japan, all religious men should show respect to the emperor by bowing at Shinto shrine and praise his name! Yet one day in 1939, the priest’s assistant prayed the Lord’s prayer while bowing. This resulted in the imprisonment of Isak, the assistant, and the chief priest for several years. They were tortured, starved, and forced to walk naked to weaken their bodies and spirits! So after 3 years, the assistant and chief priest died, whereas Isak was released to die at home.

Sunja asked Yoseb to work by selling the kimchi (salted and fermented vegetables) that Kyunghee made. He refused at first, but later accepted because they had many expenses to help them survive, and his Japanese boss was paying him much less than he deserved. So, she sold kimchi on a cart near the train station. In times of meagerness of vegetables, the women used to make taffy or sugar candy and sell it. One day in 1940, a restaurant manager, Changho, who turned out to be Hansu’s employee, asked Sunja to work in his restaurant and make kimchi. So after having a hard time convincing Yoseb to work in a restaurant whose visitors were yakuza and shady people, Sunja and Kyunghee worked in the restaurant.

This allowed them to have a straight source of income to feed themselves and send the boys to school. Hansu however, located Sunja from the silver pocket watch that he gave her earlier in Busan. Sunja pawned it to pay for Yoseb’s debt, who borrowed the money to pay for Isak’s and Sunja’s trip to Osaka. This behavior angered Yoseb who didn’t like women to meddle in men’s work!!

In 1945, the Americans attacked Japan. So Hansu convinced Sunja to move them to a farm outside the city. Hansu also brought Sunja’s mom from Busan, and Yoseb who was working in Nagasaki and suffered from severe injuries because of the American attack on the city. When the war ended, they returned to their house in Osaka, and Sunja and Kyunghee worked on selling kimchi and confectionaries.

At school, Noa and Mozasu suffered from bullying due to being Korean. But, Noa did not mix with the boys and excelled in his studies. On the other hand, Mozasu used to get into fist fight with the bullies and win due to being large in size like his father. Eventually, Mozasu dropped out of school and started working with Goro, the pachinko owner. Mozasu was a reliable honest guy that Goro loved, and took under his cover to guide him. He also asked a seamstress, who turned out to be the mother of his school friend Haruki (became an officer) to sew some clothes for him and other workers in the Pachinko. Goro assigned Mozasu as the manager of one of his pachinko branches in Yokohama. He also supported his decision in marrying Yumi, the tailor’s worker. With time, he became a rich man and established his own pachinko parlor. And so he was able to support his mom and aunt and uncle, who didn’t need to work anymore!

On the other hand, in 1958, Noa went to Waseda University in Tokyo, which was funded by Hansu. He was studying English literature because he wanted to move to the US, believing that his life would be better there. Yet, one day in 1962 and after having sex with his Japanese girlfriend Akiko, he excused himself to leave and meet his sponsor. He refused her request to join him. So Akiko followed him and imposed herself on Noa and Hansu. The latter liked her but Noa was angry that she forced herself on them. So after the lunch, he fought and broke up with her because her words cut through his heart. She stated that unlike her racist parents, she – a Japanese - liked and befriended him. Eventually, she yelled that he didn’t want her to discover that Hansu is his father and who is a yakuza! These words shocked Noa causing him to take the train to Osaka. He faced his mom screaming that all his life he was aspiring to be an excellent Korean and a perfect Japanese. But having a yakuza blood has ruined everything because it contaminated him, which is something he would never be able to cleanse! So he quit his studies and moved to Nagano where he worked in a Pachinko parlor under his Japanese name. He didn’t want anyone to discover his identity because Japanese owners would never employ a foreigner; even a Korean who was born and lived in Japan. Japanese Koreans weren’t able to have Japanese passports!

Noa stayed undercover for 16 years working and sending money to his mom and Hansu (to pay him back what he spent on his education) at the end of every month. He married a Japanese girl and had 3 girls and a boy. In the summer of 1978, Hansu took Sunja to Nagano to see her son. But upon seeing Noa walking in the street, she left the car and ran to him. He was surprised to see her, but invited her into his office. They talked about the past and she explained that she was just a stupid teenage girl who thought that Hansu loved her and would marry her! At the end of their meeting, Noa promised to visit them because he missed his brother. But shockingly he committed suicide after his mom’s departure. This wounded Sunja who blamed herself for visiting him, because he might have been still alive if she wouldn’t have gone to see him!

Sadly, Mozasu lost his wife in a car accident. So Sunja moved to live with him to take care of him and his 3-year-old son Solomon. Years later, he met Etsuko. A Japanese divorced mother due to cheating on her husband, and who owned a restaurant. Due to her behavior, she is considered a dishonored woman, which also negatively affected the reputation of her 4 children whom she lost.

At 18, Solomon left to study finance at Columbia University. He met Phoebe, an American Korean, who became his girlfriend. In 1989, he returned back to Tokyo and worked in a British bank. His boss used him to ask Goro to buy the house of a Korean old lady who wouldn’t sell it to a Japanese, because the bank wanted to finance building a golf course in the city. So Goro bought it and sold it to the Japanese buyer. Yet sadly, the 90-year old woman died due to suffering from a chronic heart disease. Nonetheless, Solomon’s boss fired him without giving him his share from the profits of this project, explaining that the woman’s death would have a negative impact on the new investment (bad reputation). He also implied that the yakuza (meaning his dad since Pachinko owners are considered to deal with yakuza and get involved in dirty money) might have been involved in her death! This angered Solomon who furiously stated that his dad is an honest man who pays his taxes and doesn’t deal with yakuza!

Eventually, Solomon left work and broke up with Phoebe because they were different. She was bored in Japan because she couldn’t work since she is a foreigner and does not speak Japanese. So she went back to the US! Solomon however, joined his dad in running his Pachinko parlors. This was against his dad’s wishes, who wanted his son to have a reputable career in finance. Yet Solomon felt that this is the best thing he can do as a Korean in Japan, because all bosses were Japanese who look down on Koreans, and are never fair to them. Sunja on the other hand, decided not to hate Hansu, who was dying from prostate cancer. She felt that probably without Hansu, she would neither had Noa nor married Isak, and thus wouldn’t have Mozasu and her grandson Solomon. That is, he was the reason for having the 2 sons, who were her life.

Compared with a previous novel that I read, White Chrysanthemum (posted on 15/1/2021) for Mary Lynn Bracht which explored the horrible abuse of young Korean girls by using them as sexual objects to comfort the Japanese soldiers during WWII, Pachinko reveals the other side of Koreans’ story and their life as foreigners in Japan during and post the Japanese occupation.

For instance, Min Jin Lee depicted the life of Koreans during the 22 years of Japanese occupation, esp. the women, children, and elderly. Their spirits were broken, and felt no sense of life. They were attacked, abused, homeless, and distressed, similar to what is happening currently in Gaza. Thus, Koreans would do anything to find a paid job to feed themselves and their families. Miserably, the weak ones didn’t survive the cold and famine, and many girls and young women were deceived into becoming comfort women (they were promised respectable job)! This book also underlined ‘The March 1st Movement’ in 1919 during which Koreans called for the prevention of Koreans’ assimilation into the Japanese culture, and for Korea’s independence from Japan.

This tale shed some light on how Asian in-laws, particularly Koreans, treat (or used to treat) their daughter in law. Generally, she could be punished by forbidding her from eating, or having clothes, and could be criticized for her inability to have a baby. Moreover, the writer explored the life of Koreans in Japan, who were mostly poor and/or drunk and lived in slums. The Japanese didn’t even respect Koreans, considering them stupid, dishonest, and thieves! This was seen in Isak thoughts “Japanese thought Koreans were worth so little, fit only for the dirty, dangerous, and demeaning tasks”. Koreans also had no chance in developing themselves due to being abused by Japanese similar to that happened to Solomon causing him to join the pachinko business of his dad, despite having bachelor in business from the US. The Japanese police also stopped and questioned any Korean not wearing an army uniform. They had the right to imprison anyone they suspect, who would be tortured till being a despondent handicapped dying person, similar to what is happening to Palestinians in their own land! Korean Japanese also had a Korean and Japanese name, and were neither given a citizenship nor a Japanese passport.

Additionally, Korean Japanese felt that everyone would have a better life in the US and that Americans can fix everything. This was seen in the response of Yumi and Phoebe towards the unjust life of Koreans in Japan! At some point, Solomon even understood his mother’s hatred to an expression used by Koreans “It cannot be helped”, and her eagerness to go to the US “… he understood her rage against this cultural resignation that violated her beliefs and wishes”.

Finally, all Koreans living in Japan had to visit the registration office when they become 14. They had to go throughout tedious paper work and fingerprints to request permission to stay in the country, where the person actually was born. This bigotry was depicted in 1979 on the day of celebrating Solomon’s 14th birthday! Another example was the way Akiko (Noa’s Japanese girlfriend) did not understand Noa and his feelings towards being Korean in Japan. “He wanted to be, to be just himself”. He aspired to be an ideal man representing the good characteristics of Japanese. He wanted to become a Japanese citizen, which he did as he obtained a Japanese passport (which might be after marrying his Japanese wife). Yet she liked to be with him due to making her feel special! Her feelings resulted from being with someone everyone hated (a Korean), which made her feel like she is a good person. This is an example of racism, which is why Noa disrespected and left her! Yoseb’s boss words also reflected a kind of ethnocentrism... if all Asian countries were run with a kind of Japanese efficiency, attention to detail, and high level of organization, Asia as a whole would prosper and rise—able to defeat the unscrupulous West”.

My favorite quotes are:

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in strongest conjuration”.  Charles Dickens (A quote before chapter 1)

Hansu to Sunja “… You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants”.

Hooni to his daughter Sunja “What a man wore or owned had nothing to do with his heart and character”.

Hansu to Sunja “… The rich do not care about politics; they will say anything to save their skin.”

Etsuko’s sister to her “A snake that sheds its skin is still a snake”.

Hansu decribed Koreans “… the leftists were “a bunch of whiners” and the rightists were “plain stupid”.

Hansu to Changho “they’ll kill you in the North, and they’ll starve you in the South. … Patriotism is just an idea, so is capitalism or communism. But ideas can make men forget their own interests”.

Mozasu to Haruki “Listen, if people don’t like you, it’s not always your fault”.

Sunja feelings about her mom’s funeral “The people you loved, they were always there with you, she had learned”.

The coal man to Isak “… the whole religion thing was a racket for overeducated men who didn’t want to do real work”.

Pastor Shin (in Busan church whom Isak reached to get his approval on marring Sunja) to Isak “Hosea was being called to be like God when he had to love a person who would have been difficult to love. We are difficult to love when we sin; a sin is always a transgression against the Lord”.

Pastor Yoo (in Osaka church) to a girl asking for advice “Sins couldn’t be laundered by good results. …. Your body is a sacred temple. … Shall we exploit because we have been exploited, my dear child? … The Lord forgives, but the world does not forgive”.

Isak to Noa after his release “Wherever you go, you represent our family, and you must be an excellent person—at school, in town, and in the world. … Men may be unfair, but the Lord is fair. … You are very brave, Noa. Much, much braver than me. Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.”

Sunja thoughts “the man she’d loved as a girl was an idea she’d had of him—feelings without any verification”.

Goro to Mozasu “Being a man means you know how to control your temper. You have to take care of your family. A good man does that. Okay?”

Hansu to Noa “knowledge—it’s the only kind of power no one can take away from you”.

Yoseb feelings after his injuries “The stupid heart could not help but hope”.

Etsuko’s feelings “she had not taught her children to hope, to believe in the perhapsabsurd possibility that they might win. Pachinko was a foolish game, but life was not”.

Yoseb desired to tell Noa (after he walked on his family) before dying “a man must learn to forgive—to know what is important, that to live without forgiveness was a kind of death with breathing and movement”.

Hansu thoughts “Yumi’s funeral had reminded him that time was not always in his favor”.

Breaking the Chains of Injustice- (January 26th 2024) 

Augustown describes the life of Jamaicans in the 1970s and 1980s in a city named Augustown. In this tale that is based on true historical events, Kei Miller shed light on the history of this Jamaican city in the 1920, during the British rule, depicting the tactic of the high-income White occupiers to keep the majority of the Black and Brown Jamaicans ignorant and poor.

The blind unmarried Ma Taffy was the great aunt of Gina who had Kaia out of the wedlock, when she was a teenager. She loved a young rich White guy named Matthew, who left to the US to obtain his university degree. After a few years, Gina started to work as an assistant to Mrs. Garrick (also called Mrs. G). Mrs. G was the principal of Kaia’s school and the mother of Matthew. However, Gina didn’t tell Mrs. Garrick about her identity; she only asked her to be called Miss G! Mrs. G noticed that Gina was bright and loved learning. So she decided to assist her to go to the university. Gina got A in all the O- and A-level exams. Subsequently, Mrs. G told her husband to ask the company where he works, to give her a scholarship, which he did after having a fight with his wife! They fought because Mrs. G quit the job she loved (being a school teacher) and accepted to be a school principal – a job she doesn’t like - for her husband’s sake! Mr. Garrick was a racist White Jamaican who didn’t like that he, the rich man who built himself from scratch, was married to a school teacher. He wanted his wife to have a prestigious job that would make her ‘equal’ to his socioeconomic level!

One day Kaia returned home without his dreadlocks crying. Ma Taffy asked the little boy about his tears, but he didn’t answer! So she told him the story of the Flying Preacherman, Alexander Bedward. He was a religious Christian who at some point started floating in the air while praying, and even during his sleep. This phenomenon attracted Jamaicans of Augustown and from other cities, as well as the White governor of the town Leslie Probyn. On 31 December 1920 and while Bedward was praying, he started flying in the air in which everybody was at shock including the young Ma Taffy. Yet at some point, Babylon boys started laughing at the Preacherman causing him to lose faith and begin to return down to land. This is when sister Gilzene started singing with her ethereal voice ‘Fly away home to Zion, fly away home! Over and over, Fly away home to Zion, Fly away home!’ This made Bedward gain back his faith and re-fly, at which the Babylon boys stopped teasing him. Nonetheless, the governor called out asking the people to bring the Peacherman down, but no one gave him his ears! Babylon boys are a government-backed large gang, which intimidates Jamaicans and attacks street vendors and Rastas.

After hearing the Flying Preacherman story, Kaia stopped crying and told Ma Taffy that his teacher cut his dreadlocks. So Ma Taffy calmed the boy by saying ‘it was just hair’! But she knew that for the Rastas, dreadlocks are an essential component of their identity. They believe that like Samson, cutting their dreadlocks would weaken them.   

By the end of the day, the news of Kaia’s dreadlocks spread in Augustown like wildfire. So Jamaicans started a march towards the school, calling for the teacher (Mr. Saint-Josephs) to come out. The march was called the Autoclaps. In Jamaica it means an impending disaster or apocalypse, which may have been obtained from the English word ‘auto-collapse’. At the same time, Kaia’s mom returned home. Upon seeing Kaia’s head, Gina asked him what happened! Kaia told her what his teacher did. So she burst out of the house filled with rage and walked to the school. She entered the classroom where Mr. Saint-Josephs was sitting, and walked to the corner where her son’s dreadlocks were still there. She lifted them of the floor, walked to the teacher, and inquired about the reason that made him cut her son’s dreadlocks. Mr. Saint-Josephs answered that the students should attend school with a representative appearance, and Kaia looked like a ‘hooligan’! So Gina angrily asked him if he knew anything about the Nazirite vow (No blade shall ever touch my head) or about Rasta. But the teacher insisted on his answer that the boy looked like ‘a little bush African’! In response, Gina lost her temper and held him from his collar. Correspondingly, Mr. Saint-Josephs called her slut! Thinking about Ma Taffy words ‘Learn how to use the tools of Babylon against Babylon’, Gina took the scissors that was on the desk and planted it in the teacher’s left eye, before pulling it out. Then she passed through the shocked crowd holding the bloody scissors in one hand and the dreadlocks in the other, and walked home.  

At the doorstep of Ma Taffy’s home, the police arrived! The police were called by Mrs. G who was informed about what happened by the school’s cleaning lady. They asked Gina to stop, but she didn’t hear them. Her mind was somewhere else. She was thinking about her son; he only had her! So the police threatened her but she didn’t respond. So they shot her, murdering Gina in front of her son and Ma Taffy!

On the other side of the story, Mrs. G went to the school. But because the roads were blocked by Jamaicans after Gina’s murder, she had to leave her car and go on foot. On her way to the school, she passed by Ma Taffy’s home. She paid her condolences without knowing that the dead woman was Miss G! Jamaicans also joined Ma Taffy in mourning her great niece, and lit candles. Suddenly, Ma Taffy started singing at which Gina’s body, which was wrapped in white, started to float. Then the mourners joined in the singing, causing the body to go upward until disappearing in the sky. In relation to Mr. Saint-Josephs, he ended up to be an outcast beggar!

This haunting tale beautifully portrayed the exotic nature of this Caribbean island and Augustown before its British invasion. Jamaica was filled with Guava trees and its skies were colored by the Parakeets. The author also described the beauty of its blue mountain range, the forest, the iguanas and Mona mineral river.

Yet during the British rule, Jamaicans started to adopt Foreign/European names such as Robert instead of attaching to their culture and Jamaican (Rasta) names like Kaia. Moreover, Kei Miller illustrated the importance of Nazirite vows to Rastafarians, who had to believe in something! This belief had to be fought by the White citizens, considering dreadlocks a symbol of street illiterate savages. So occupiers wanted to wipe the Jamaican culture by intimidating Jamaicans! For instance, the police or gangs insulted, hit, attacked, or falsely accused and imprisoned colored citizens, and/or cut their dreadlocks. Eventually, this resulted in breaking the spirit of the Jamaican, causing him to hang himself on a tree branch! These actions were practiced by the Brits in every land and nation that they occupied, which is why their kingdom used to be called “the empire on which the sun never sets”.

Finally, the writer shed light on Marcus Garvey (a Jamaican political activist who fought for Blacks rights) and his books esp. The Promised Key, which is considered the first book about Rastafaris. This book also mentioned the march of the1st of August in 1838 after Queen Victoria signed the Emancipation Declaration of slaves! But Jamaica became independent from the 3 centuries British rule in 1962.

My favorite quotes are:

Kaia asking Ma Taffy “What gunfighting ever do to solve anything?”

Ma Taffy thoughts “The distant past comes back to us, usually, as a shock”.

Soft-Paw (a member of a patriotic gang that fight Babylon and defend Jamaica) to Ma Taffy “Better you dead strong, like a warrior, than you live you whole life bend-over and taking pure kick up from Babylon.”

The narrator describing the belief of the teacher (Mr. Saint-Josephs) about using modern luxuries such as a bathtub and running hot water “comfort will in turn lead to the weakening of his moral fortitude”.

The preacher Bedward said to worshipers “heavy stone resting on your heart”.

Ma Taffy thoughts “about how each person has a soul—and how these too are fruits that ripen every day, drawing ever closer to their harvest”.

Gina talking to Matthew “Sorry wouldn’t change anything”.

Gina thoughts “the guilt of being small in this world and unable to stop terrible things from happening.”