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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > May 2019 > Generational divides

Generational divides

Two Toronto-based authors take different approaches to the form in their debut story collections

Frying Plantain Zalika Reid-Benta House of Anansi Press

This One Because of the Dead Laure Baudot Cormorant Books

TORONTO AUTHORS Zalika Reid-Benta and Laure Baudot take markedly different approaches to their debut collections of short iction.

Reid-Benta’s book, Frying Plantain, is a coming-of-age sequence that takes an honest and penetrating look at the Black experience in Toronto. The stories are set in the city’s Little Jamaica neighbourhood and references to early Harry Potter ilms, CDs, and lip phones locate them chronologically between the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over the course of 12 seamlessly interwoven individual pieces, we follow Kara, a second-generation Jamaican-Canadian, from elementary school to university.

At school, Kara aims for respectability among her predominantly white classmates; despite unintentionally exoticizing herself with a Jamaica-set tale involving a severed pig’s head, she rarely puts a toe out of line. Among her neighbourhood friends, she becomes the victim of a prank, yet proves she can hold her own. As Kara moves through her teenage years, and in and out of her grandmother’s bungalow, she deals with irst jobs, irst boyfriends, and irst parties, all while trying to reconcile her Canadian upbringing with her Jamaican heritage. In the inal passage of the title story, Kara realizes that her Nana has been imparting not just her culture but her wisdom: “I nod my head and tighten my grip on the No Frills bag, feeling the weight of margarine containers and yogurt cups, remembering the weight of all of the leftovers she’d given me throughout the years.”

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