Zalika Reid-Benta’s Frying Plantain tells the story of Kara, a child of Jamaican immigrants living in Toronto. But this is not a longform narrative. Rather a series of short stories that drop in on Kara’s life as she grows up. Each story gives an insight to who Kara is and how she has been raised, creating a fully rounded picture of a complex, identifiable character.
Frying Plantain starts when Kara is ten years old. Visiting Jamaica with her mother, she finds a life far removed from the one she has known and is quickly singled out for her timidity. When she returns to school and embellishes the stories of her visit, Kara quickly becomes popular but also learns the dangers of popularity based on lies. The stories then follow Kara through the traumas of primary school and a group of close but sometimes nasty friends, and where it seems every time she steps out of her tight boundaries something goes wrong. Then through various moves out of her old neighbourhood, into high school and beyond. As she grows up her original friend group falls away, she has to come to terms with her warring grandparents and find a way to deal with her controlling mother in order to make her own path.
Frying Plantain is a beautifully written and simply observed series of stories. Centred on a flawed, believable protagonist, rich with detail, and peopled by real characters. It paints a vivid picture of the experience of the second and third generation immigrants that could be just as true anywhere in the world. The final story leaves Kara, on the cusp of adulthood and gaining a deeper understand of her family. And while this is a satisfying end of the journey that the reader has been on with Kara, it also may leave some readers keen to follow her journey further.
Comments are closed.