I wanted to find a book that would represent the core of Jamaican life, whatever that means. I think I did a pretty good job with this book, because Gloria by Kerry Young told me a lot more than a book about rich people living by the beach would ever do. I can easily believe that I have gotten some insights in how life could have been for some poor people in Jamaica several decades ago.
The book tells the story of Gloria, starting at the end of the 1930s. She leaves her hometown at the age of sixteen, and she takes her younger sister with her. Life is not easy in Kingston either. Gloria is a black young woman, which means she is considered a second-class citizen. Gloria finds her new home at a place where women are financially independent, and it triggers her interest in human rights and women issues.
A house of ill repute is probably not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about female empowerment, and rights for women. The eye opening way Young writes about life and the women in the house, a way that the women are free to live a life they have chosen for themselves, is likeable. Maybe it’s not their first choice, but it is still a better alternative for many, compared to what else is out there.
Gloria also finds the love of her life while at the house; a loyal Chinese customer. In many ways the book shows the reader that even though the circumstances are not the finest, you still have options in life, and it is still up to you whether you are willing to take control over the situation, over the things you can actually control. Isn’t that true in general as well, most days for most of us (extreme circumstances excluded)?
But, there is one thing I could not stand, and it was one of the major elements in the book. To be honest, if I would not have read this book for my reading challenge, I would have given up on the book almost immediately. “Yu think it nuh cost nothing to have yu a sleeping and eating day after day like dis? Yu think it nuh matter that every night I get up to sit on di pot yu legs is sticking out from under di table ready to tek a little swing to knock me down and mek a stinking wet mess all over dis floor?”
I know some people talk like this, which I am totally fine with, but I can’t stand reading texts like this. The whole book is filled with this kind of writing. It destroys pretty much everything for me, but like I just wrote, it is up to me how I handle the situation. I read the book, cover to cover. I decided to focus on the story, and how the characters grew, how they sometimes did what they had to do, other times what they wanted to do. I still can’t stand the writing, but that is OK.