Eve has to watch her husband bring his paler mistress to the party she has so carefully prepared; Esther to deal with her rebellious daughter, and the guilt which attaches to her own youthful revolt against racial oppression; Joelle and Maryse must find ways of dealing with the incomprehension between village Africa and chic Frenchness in their Ivoirean lives; Gambian Doudou wants a traditional wife to end his loneliness in London; and Julia, in the title story, must fight to find herself again when her oldest friend dies of cancer.
Whether living in Bermuda, America, London, the Gambia or the Cote d’Ivoire, the characters in these stories not only confront their individual traumas, but the ways in which, as people of the African diaspora, differences of colour, class and colonial heritage divide them both from each other and themselves.
We are given revealing insights into Bermudian society, its tensions of race and culture and the geography that pulls some of its people closer to the USA, while others look to links with the Caribbean or the even more submerged links with Africa. But if we see the pain and alienation of uprooted people, what also moves through the stories is a sense of identity not as something fixed, but as an Atlantic flow, a circuit of peoples and cultures which has Africa as one of its starting points. And in that lies a unity that is real, if submarine.
When Doudou listens to the Gambian music of his homeland in London, it is a music of multiple Atlantic crossings, powerfully influenced by Cuban rumba, itself born from African and European roots. And as Mame Koumba, pointing to his Black British grandchildren, tells Doudou, grieving for the loss of ancestral wholeness, ‘They’re not what you would have had in the Gambia. But they’re what you have. And there’s Africa in them all.’ Angela Barry’s stories demand an alertness to that kind of connection.
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Angela Barry lives and works in Bermuda. Her writing has been published in The Massachusetts Review and she is the recipient of a James Michener Creative Writing Fellowship.