St. Vincent and The Grenadines: Climbing up the Ladder

I have to say it is sometimes almost a disappointment when I look for books from a country I know nothing about, and I expect it to be hard to find a book, but then I find one immediately. That is how I ended up reading Spirits in the Dark by H Nigel Thomas. The book has so much going on. A bit too ask, if you ask me. It is worth a read, but frankly, in the end it did not really give me anything new.

Jerome Quashee knows little about his African heritage, which he feels guilty about. He is also afraid of bringing disgrace on his family because he is homosexual. He is a bright young man, but he has to fight for things in life, like scholarships, with privileged white boys. His island is very class-aware, and Jerome finds himself on the bottom. These subjects are the most common subjects when it comes to Caribbean books, sans the homosexuality. Religion, heritage, class, poverty, racism…

It is said to be an honest book, and I think it is true. It hits many hard subject without making excuses or trying to avoid touchy subjects. To be civilized is to be white. To be civilized is to speak like a white person. “You call White people civilized? You should not let my father hear you. People who burn people in ovens? You know the Belgians killed three million people in the Congo because they couldn’t collect rubber fast enough for King Leopold’s needs?”

While figuring out who you are and trying to find your place in the society (while trying to climb up the ladder), it is also common to wanting to leave the island as soon as possible. Many have family in all possible corners of the world. Jerome dreams leaving too, but in the end he decided against emigrating. He heard from his friends that Black people were not treated well in Canada, or the US, or England either…

Sadly, the themes in the book are all too common. After making almost a full lap around the world in books it makes me feel a bit hopeless. The same problems everywhere. Colonialism is such a bad word. Minorities (mostly) suffer. Everyone seems to want to escape somewhere else. Religion matter, even though it should not. I am happy that authors all around the world write about these issues, but society changes slowly when it comes to these matters.

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