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Contemporary Black Literature and Staceyann Chin's Other Side

By Lakeesha J. Harris - Senior Staff Writer
On February 6, 2012


There's nothing new about Staceyann Chin except the new addition to her family, and for that, we at Independent say congrats. Though new to motherhood, Chin is no virgin to the literary scene. Ms. Chin has toured the world, with her poetry leading the way and opening the doors for other oppressed female voices. She remains one of the integral writers of contemporary Black literature and for many budding feminist poets she's the gauge by which to critique one's written work. Though best known for her works of poetry, after reading her memoir one would be hard pressed to deny that Staceyann Chin can tell one heck of a story.

The Other Side of Paradise, is chocked full of vivid descriptions of her native land - Jamaica and the very intimate politics of gender, bi-nationality and race, the navigation of sexual identity, and the socio-economic climate. From the onset readers know that this is

going to be one heck of a literary ride and Chin delivers. Opening with the story of her conception and birth as a person of mixed heritage, Chinese and Black, readers are carted through the world of a girl child growing up absent of parents and without a safe space to be in the world.

Though there are points where readers laugh with the author, this book is not for the faint of heart. Staceyann vividly describes being molested and abused by relatives, denied her Chinese heritage by her father and the love of her mother, and having to flee Jamaica due to her sexuality. Ms. Chinn leaves nothing to the imagination as she bears her soul regarding her truth and readers find lessons of Black history that often go unspoken during Black history month. By books end we know what goes into the makeup of a great writer: a dose of struggle, a heap of resilience, and blend of ways in which to tell the truth.

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