Frying plantain : stories / Zalika Reid-Benta.
PW Reviews 2020 January #4
In Reid-Benta's heartfelt debut collection of linked stories, a girl grows up in Toronto while coming to terms with her heritage. On a trip to Jamaica at age 10, Kara screams after finding a pig's severed head in her great-aunt's icebox. Back home, she brags to her classmates that she was the one who slaughtered it. Each story introduces a new uncomfortable situation while advancing along the timeline of Kara's life. In "Snow Day," Kara tries on a patois ("Yuh run yuh mouth too much") and receives taunts from her middle school peers for "Ja-fakin' it." In "Lovely," she lands her first job and loses her virginity at 17. In "Celebration," Kara and her mother, Eloise, get drunk together for the first time on the eve of her high school graduation, while in "Drunk," she and her friends party harder, leading to Kara throwing up in front of Eloise. Along the way, strong characters emerge, including Eloise, a sharp, overbearing woman who wants nothing more than to see her daughter succeed; and Kara's churchgoing grandmother, Nana, who shows her affection through cooking for the whole family. Reid-Benta makes good use of the episodic form, artfully blending Kara's wit and distance with startling vulnerability as she tracks Kara's thought processes and desires. This heralds a notable new voice.