Six Stories and an Essay by Andrea Levy: Back to My Own Country

Six Stories & an Essay

It was early nineteen sixties, a time where a black man riding a bus was not a common sight in London. He was talkative, but in a bus full of white people he was an alien and no one wanted anything to do with him.

This encounter is one that became embedded in young Andrea Levy’s mind, who was at the time had not embraced Jamaica to be her country as she did with Britain.

My family is fair-skinned. In Jamaica this had had a big effect on my parents’ upbringing, because of the class system, inherited from British colonial times, people took the colour of your skin very seriously. My parents had grown up to believe themselves to be of a higher class than any darker-skinned person. This isolated them from other black Caribbeans who came to live here – my parents wanted nothing to do with them.

In this retrospective essay Back to My Own Country, Andrea Levy looks deeper into the notions of racism and the revelations that motivated her to go through the fascinating exploration of her roots. Today, according to Andrea Levy, not only she is happy to be called a black writer, she also tries to tell her Caribbean heritage stories through her writing.

We know more about slavery in the American South than in British Caribbean. We are familiar with the struggles of African-Americans from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement. But American slavery was different from Caribbean slavery. In the Caribbean, slaves far outnumbered the white owners, and that mix of isolation, fear and dependency produced very different societies from those of the American South.

How correct she is! Reading this essay was a history lesson for me in essence, for I had no idea of slavery in British Caribbean, despite the fact that I’m from Sri Lanka, a country that was also under the British empire!

So I’m ending this post applauding her efforts “to put the Caribbean back where it belongs – in the narrative of British history”. 🙂 If you are curious enough, you can read ‘How I learned to stop hating my heritage‘ – an edited extract of the essay that was published on The Guardian.

[This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping. If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).]

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. What an interesting post! Colonialism has a lot to answer for

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post is very timely. I am reading The Tea Planter’s Wife set in Ceylon. The tea plantation owners are British and control the area; skin color is important in the story and causes a terrible choice which has long-lasting consequences. It reminds me of Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read The Tea Planter’s Wife last year and reviewed it here. It is a good story. I’ll check out Desiree’s Baby. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: