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Alexia Arthurs’ short story collection “How to Love a Jamaican” is a timely exploration of multi-generational waves of immigration, the impact separating families has on children and the desire to be included.

Arthurs’ debut follows a variety of characters young and old, men and women, trying to maintain relationships on the Caribbean island of Jamaica and in big cities and college towns in the U.S.

They yearn for the flavors of home while questioning what “home” really means. Some return to the island of their birth only to be treated like tourists because they have spent so much time away. They seek friendship and acceptance in people who personify betrayal. A few find love, others endure the tough love of grandmothers enlisted to raise or tame them.

Arthurs was born and spent her childhood in Jamaica, then moved to the U.S. with her family when she was 12. A longing for tightly knit communities and an island landscape threads through the collection, as Arthurs documents the loss of fruit trees, a resort’s expansion and the impulse to keep a tidy yard even in New York City.

The stories hum with tension and nuance, creating characters desperate to be understood, but wary of being defined simply by their race or origins.

‘How to Love a Jamaican’

GRADE: B

by Alexia Arthurs

Ballantine Books

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