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Here Comes the Sun and Patsy by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

Being that June is both Caribbean Heritage Month and Pride Month, I thought what better time to pick up two books that have been on my TBR list for some time. Here Comes the Sun and Patsy are both by Nicole Y. Dennis- Benn, both take place in Jamaica and both have LGBTQIA+ representation.

{These Book Reflection Contains Spoilers}

Title: Here Comes the Sun

Author: Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

Genre: fiction contemporary lgbtqia+

Summary: Here Comes the Sun tells the story of generational trauma and its impact between a mother and her daughters. We have Delores, a mother who has made choices that have scared her oldest daughter but work hard selling trinkets to tourists to get enough money to provide her youngest daughter with a better life. We have Margot, the oldest daughter who is in love with a woman which is forbidden in her culture. Margot dreams of the day that she and her lover could be together, but in the meantime uses the power of sex as a means of sacrifice and survival. We have Thandi, the youngest daughter, who is book smart, sheltered, and feels the burden of being her family’s ticket out of the ghetto slums of Jamaica.

There were so many themes touched on in this novel:

Colorism: The color of one’s skin plays a role in the cards they are dealt in life. Those who are of lighter complexion are seen as beautiful, get the best jobs, higher status, and greater opportunities out of life compared to those with darker skin. Thandi, who has darker skin, desired the lighter skin privilege and went as far as to bleach her skin.

Homophobia: In the Jamaican culture, those who found love in the same sex were viewed as witches, sinful and ill. The novel spoke on the horrific consequences that could come to those how were queer which varied from harassment, rape, or even death.

Sexual Assault: Sexual assault was sadly a common experience among Delores, Margot, and Thandi. Throughout the novel, we learn of how each woman has to live with the trauma of their assaults and how it has impacted them. Even though I found myself angry with many decisions that Delores and Margot made, I had a better understanding of their decisions after learning of their stories.

Resentment: Delores resented Marot because she was a result of rape by Marot’s father, her happiness and love as a child, and betrayal as a teen when Matot favored the gaze of men. Marot resented her mother for stealing her innocence and pimping her out to men for money and to “put food on the table”. Thandi resented both of them because they placed their hope for a better future on her shoulders. This burden was heavy on her and they never acknowledged her feelings and desires out of life.

The final theme that stuck with me after reading this book was survival. Each of these women made many foul decisions not because they wanted to, but because they saw it as a means of survival. These characters came from an environment of not having much and having to work hard to get the little that they have.

Title: Patsy

Author: Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

Genre: fiction lgbtqia+ literary

Summary: Patsy by Nicole Y Dennis-Benn tells the story of Patsy, a woman who leaves her home in Jamaica in pursuit of a better life in America. This story also follows the growing pains of Patsy’s daughter, Tru, whom Patsy leaves in Jamaica with no intentions to return.

Thoughts after reading the book: Patsy is a very layered story with so many themes, but the two thoughts that stay with me are around immigration and the fact that Patsy left her daughter.

I imagine that many immigrants have the same desires as Patsy when looking for a better life in America. I imagine that some have a desire to find a better job to send money back home to help their families, some may be escaping poverty and some may be like Patsy running away from responsibilities, judgment, or to follow love. Whatever the reason may be, I wonder if immigrants that come to America are disappointed once they make it here. I imagine their feelings are similar to Patsy when she realized that she was now part of an invisible people who fear every day of getting deported, having to pay cash for rent because they don’t have papers, having to work worst jobs than you did back home and then you realize that opportunities are not as easy to access like they make it seem on TV.

My thoughts on Patsy leaving Tru start with Cicely. Cicely was Patsy’s childhood best friend, who made her feel seen, who showed her attention and love. Their bond was strong enough for Patsy to leave everything behind in Jamaica, including her daughter. Is it wrong that when Patsy learns that her and Cicely’s relationship is not what she imagined it would be in America, I felt like this was Patsy’s karma?!

I am currently not a mother and don’t know what it feels like to not want your child so it was really hard for me to sympathize with Patsy. Even though I know that Patsy was miserable and desired more, I still can’t help, but think that Patsy was selfish for leaving her daughter, especially reading Tru’s story and struggles which are directly linked to Patsy’s absence. A piece of me feels like I can’t have a say about the decisions Patsy made because I don’t have any alternative recommendations. Even feeling this way, it still pains my heart that she left, no phone calls or anything.

Even though I wasn’t a fan of Patsy's decisions, I did appreciate her relationship with her girlfriend Claudette. Claudette was the one who was able to release Patsy from the darkness of her past, and for her to make peace with the decisions she’s made in life. I love that Claudette was able to love Patsy despite her flaws. Claudette was a great support to Patsy and helped her live in her truth.

Once again, even though I'm not a fan of Patsy’s decisions I must say that I was glad for a somewhat happy ending. I don’t think my heart could’ve taken it if this book ended with more tragedy.

I enjoyed both books but Here Comes the Sun was my favorite of the two. I must admit it was tough reading these books back to back because they both deal with heavy trauma. I had to take many pauses to reflect on what I was reading and to take care of my mental health. Even through the pain, I was determined to finish both books because they were written so beautifully.

I would recommend these books to anyone looking for Caribbean reads that have an array of themes that keep you on your toes and having you question what you would do in the characters situations.

- Maya & The Spine Down



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