Nicole Dennis-Benn: “A writer who comes from a ‘culture of secrecy’ learns how to let the secrets go”

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In “A writer who comes from a “culture of secrecy” learns how to let the secrets go,” Megan Labrise (Kirkus Reviews) reviews Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun (2016). Labrise highlights important elements that Dennis-Benn explores through the lives of three Jamaican women, underlining that, according to Kirkus’ starred review, the novel is a “haunting and superbly crafted…magical book from a writer of immense talent and intelligence.” Here are excerpts of Labrise’s study:

[. . .] In 2010, Nicole Dennis-Benn took a Jamaican vacation. But she wasn’t a typical tourist. “Growing up there, I had this image of what Jamaica is,” says Dennis-Benn, who was born and raised in Kingston, the nation’s capital and largest city. “When I visited for the first time as a tourist, at the resort, I wasn’t getting the real culture—it was a performance. I knew for sure that these individuals were going home to nothing after giving us the fantasy.” The experience inspired one of this summer’s most stunning and substantial literary debuts. Dennis-Benn’s dazzling novel, Here Comes the Sun, gazes into the unsung lives of three working-class Jamaican women from an impoverished village outside Montego Bay. They live in the shadows of luxury resorts, in proximity to paradise, but without any access. [. . .]

Though her three unforgettable protagonists belie the fact, Dennis-Benn conceives of Here Comes the Sun, first and foremost, as a story of place. “For me, it was [a story] of a place, definitely, and then these working-class women’s experiences with that place,” she says. “I wanted to tell the story through these three women without seeming didactic but still showing each of them—the struggles that they have in terms of identity, race, sexuality, and socio-economic status—in relationship to Jamaica.”

[. . .] “Writing Here Comes the Sun—it was a liberating book for me,” says Dennis-Benn. “These are the things that I purged on the page to let people be aware of the fact that this is our story.

“What does it take to be ruler of your own destiny when you’re not given the tools or the right?” she asks. “How do you survive or get ahead? That’s something that I want to tap into.”

For full review, see https://www.kirkusreviews.com/

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