How to Love a Jamaican
'In this thrilling debut collection Alexia Arthurs is all too easy to love.' Zadie Smith
'A summer must-read' Stylist
One of Oprah Magazine's 15 Favourite Books of 2018.
‘There is a way to be cruel that seems Jamaican to me.’
Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret – Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection of short stories, How to Love a Jamaican, 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 mother and father 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 international 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.
The winner of the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for ‘Bad Behavior’, Alexia Arthurs emerges in this vibrant, lyrical, intimate collection as one of fiction’s most dynamic and essential young authors.
Alexia Arthurs' How to love a Jamaican is sharp and kind, bitter and sweet. It stays in the yard, delicately attentive to the ways of country folks, and it leaves home with them, too, as they head to 'foreign' - that place across the water where barrels get filled to be sent back home and people are never quite as happy as they expected to be. In these kaleidoscopic stories of Jamaica and its diaspora we hear many voices at once: some cultivated, some simple, some wickedly funny, some deeply melancholic. All of them convince and sing. All of them shine. In this thrilling debut collection Alexia Arthurs is all too easy to love.
Alexia Arthurs is a writer of beauty, wit, and precision; these stories will grab you by the heart. This is a boss collection.
NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names
I am utterly taken with these 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