‘From her childhood in colonial Port of Spain, to becoming a migrant student and young mother in Wales and then returning to Trinidad post-Independence, Jenkins tells her own life story with the emotional sensitivity of a natural storyteller, the insight of a philosopher, the scope of a historian and the good humour of a Trini. This beautifully written and moving memoir will feel achingly familiar to anyone who knows what it is like to navigate race, class and girlhood while growing up in the West Indies, anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.’
Ayanna Lloyd-Banwo, author of When We Were Birds
'A gorgeously-written memoir and a deeply pleasurable and entrancing read.'
‘Partly a meticulously recorded social history of this little corner of Trinidad & Tobago in the 1940s and 50s; partly an account of how reading and education can change the course of a life; most enjoyably, a glimpse into the mind of the author: full of curiosity for the wider world, and determined to take her place in it.’
Claire Adam, author of Golden Child
'Barbara Jenkins’ The Stranger who was Myself is a beautifully written and crafted memoir of a childhood in Trinidad in the 1950s and a young womanhood in Wales through the 60s. Although it is a vivid and intimate account of a very particular life it is also a wonderfully realised social history, engaging with all those issues of gender, race, colonial politics, migration, language and class that are the stuff of more formal histories of the period. Barbara Jenkins weaves them into a compelling, poignant, often very funny narrative that makes those dry categories live in the flux and fluster of her relatives’ and friends’ lives. Everything Barbara Jenkins writes is measured and stylish, the narrating voice in The Stranger who was Myself manages to be both convincingly innocent and incredibly wise. She is a class act.'
Stewart Brown, editor The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories
Barbara Jenkins writes about the experiences of a personal and family-centred life in Trinidad with great psychological acuteness, expanding on the personal with a deep awareness of the economic, social and cultural contexts of that experience. She writes about a childhood and youth located in the colonial era and an adult life that began at the very point of Trinidad’s independent nationhood, a life begun in considerable poverty in a colonial city going through rapid change. It involves a family network that connects to just about every Trinidadian ethnicity and their respective mixtures. It is about a life that expanded in possibility through an access to an education not usually available to girls from such an economically fragile background. This schooling gave the young Barbara Jenkins the intense experience of being an outsider to Trinidad’s hierarchies of race and class. She writes about a life that has gender conflict at its heart, a household where her mother was subject to beatings and misogynist control, but also about strong matriarchal women. As for so many Caribbean people, opportunity appeared to exist only via migration, in her case to Wales in the 1960s. But there was a catch in the arrangement that the years in Wales had put to the back of her mind: the legally enforceable promise to the Trinidadian government that in return for their scholarship, she had to return. She did, and has lived the rest of her life to date in Trinidad, an experience that gives her writing an insider/outsider sharpness of perception.
This is writing that displays wit, empathy, a questioning spirit, a vivid sense of place and an unerring capacity for finding the telling detail. The scope of the material takes the reader deep into both a personal story and one that throws so many different searchlights into the character of Trinidadian society through time. This is a book that will offer enlightenment to Trinidadians about themselves and tell a story with universal resonances for many readers.