Book Discussion: Trauma in Indo-Caribbean Literature


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Tiara Jade Chutkhan’s (Brown Girl Magazine) focuses books such as Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad, by Krystal A. Sital; Trauma: A Collection of Short Stories, by Elizabeth Jaikaran; Ramabai Espinet’s The Swinging Bridge; and Harold Sonny Ladoo’s No Pain Like This Body; to explore notions of trauma in Indo-Caribbean literature.

Literature has always held a special power. It provides insights on cultures and history, voices to those with stories and resources to those in search of information. As a first-generation Canadian of Indo-Caribbean heritage, books about my people have helped me gain a significant understanding of them—particularly the obstacles and trauma they have faced.

While I’ve always been eager to pick up a new book by an Indo-Caribbean author, the trends of trauma in our stories, specifically the trauma faced by women, have left me with feelings of anguish. Books such as “Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad” by Krystal A. Sital and “Trauma: A Collection of Short Stories” by Elizabeth Jaikaran are specifically about the abuse Indo-Caribbean women have faced.

Things such as domestic violence, rape and alcoholism are carefully explored in the narratives of these books. What hurts most is that these stories are taken from the real lives of women in both author’s families. These women exist. Their stories are real and they have lived through each of the brutal events that are described.

In “The Swinging Bridge” by Ramabai Espinet and “No Pain Like This Body” by Harold Sonny Ladoo, the characters also deal with abuse in their childhood at the hands of their fathers. Again, the abuse often took place under the influence of alcohol. While these were fictional stories, some events were based on reality. It felt like another strike against our men, another tale that described more negative behavior.

I had to understand that despite the uneasiness these stories brought me, the fact that these experiences had made it into books was a win for every woman that has ever faced abuse and mistreatment. Topics surrounding women’s oppression are taboo for decades, swept under the rug and treated as if they never existed. Bringing them to light is more important than ever and literature continues to hold space for this.

We can share books, speak about them, write about them and continue sending their messages into different streams. We can raise awareness and allow our communities to address trauma and facilitate healing. I imagine these authors had similar goals in mind when choosing to tell the stories they did.

While the books I read have given me a look into Indo-Caribbean trauma, I still don’t have all the answers. [. . .]

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