How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

The title of this debut collection of short stories might mimic that of a “How to” manual but Alexia Arthurs’s prose is anything but didactic. In the opening story, “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” the narrator Kimberley observes of her friend Cecilia that she was the “kind of black girl who didn’t think about her race as much as I did.” Although Kimberley initially views her friend as “a white girl trapped in a black girl’s body—an Oreo,” her judgment comes to seem too easy. Kimberley had also been labelled “an Oreo” at school because she liked spending time in the ceramics classroom.

Some of Arthurs’s protagonists live in Jamaica, others have been transplanted to North America and a few inhabit, at least psychologically, the limbo between the two.

 

Don't judge a book by (the awards on) its cover

Anyone looking to the Booker Prize this year to affirm that dreams can come true would have seized on the example of Fiona Mozley, the 29 year bookseller who wrote the first chapter of her longlisted novel on a train. Her story seemed impossibly romantic: an unknown debut novelist, who wrote her book virtually in secret, was recognised alongside Paul Auster and Zadie Smith by one of the most famous literary prizes in the world. But while Mozley rather touchingly has said ‘I already feel like I’ve won,’ what about those writers who are always the bridesmaid but never the bride when it comes to literary prizes?