Book: The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir by Staceyann Chin
Publisher: Scribner, 2012
Genre: Memoir, GLBTQ, Caribbean Studies, Ethnic Studies
Source + Date Read: Purchased + Finished Sept. 2012
Recommend: Strongly recommended for everyone.
Book Pro’s: It’s lyrical prose, compelling life story and beauty.
Book Con’s: Dialect difficult to understand for non-Caribbeans.
Favourite Line: “Miles of junk to throw out — how do you decide what to keep when everything is sentiment.”
There are 2 editions or covers for this memoir. One is endearing, it has a lovely child in the foreground looking down on the viewers. It is innocent, child-like and beautiful and I believe, a true representation of Chin’s memoir. The other cover, though striking, features Chin in a typical author pose, heralded in all of her glory. I’m just an admirer, what can I say.
Since this is a memoir, there are no characters per say. Chin takes us along her life story in The Other Side of Paradise, and in it we meet those endearing souls who changed her life positively, and those who tried to ruin it. We meet family, friends, students, lovers, and haters, no one is left untouched.
Chin’s memoir takes place in her home country, Jamaica.
Review: Amazing. I can’t even put into words the strength found in this book. The Other Side of Paradise is a witty memoir touching on a range of issues that plague the Caribbean, and in extension, the world, in the present day. Chin using her unique command of language to speak on the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a family member, love, abandonment, poverty, friendship and of course, identity. As a biracial Jamaican with a mother who abandoned her and a father who was never present, Chin owes her smarts and cunning to her grandmother who strove to make Chin’s life something more than normal. Another very important aspect in The Other Side of Paradise is the discussion of homosexuality in the Caribbean/Jamaica and how it affected Chin’s person and future life choices. This part, is particularly important as it foreshadows Chin’s future path as a human rights activist for LGBTQ rights in the United States.
One of the unique aspects of this memoir is its fast pace, as it doesn’t read like a traditional non-fiction memoir. Rather, it reads like a novel, its lyrical and sarcastic nature make it relate-able, emotional, personal and certainly, painful. Chin’s struggle is our struggle, her joys, are our joys.
As a strong woman, Chin depicts herself as human. We see her ridiculous moments, where she talks herself into trouble, her painful ones, her joyous ones. This book isn’t a one-sided thing, I promise you. It is a well-rounded representation of a strong, amazing individual.
There is only one con to be found and that is that a large portion of the memoir is written in Chin’s Jamaican dialect. This was easy for me, but I can tell, quite difficult for some. If you want some sordid sexual love story, look away also!
I hope you give Chin’s book a chance,