In a Manhattan bagel joint, a young woman with the blood of three continents in her veins bites into an unpeeled mango and green juice flows down her chin. Later she and her Guyanese friend head down to the docks, and she throws a bottle containing a hair from each of their heads into the murky water, where it is "buoyed by a density of sludge and sewage" that passes as "Caribbean mud."
Born in Guyana, of Indian lineage, Toronto writer Raywat Deonandan offers a debut collection steeped in the complexities of intersecting diasporas. The opening story, quoted above, sets the parameters that mostly define the book, in which the folklore and histories of a melange of displaced and colonized peoples blend with the author's wry evocations of individuals struggling to become themselves amid a culture clash spanning generations.
Some stories read like fictionalized memoirs, others take on the tone of whimsical or surreal parables. Deonandan's prose is quirky and engaging, occasionally more extravagant than substantial, but at its satirical best it is amusing and incisive in probing of the denials and adaptive self-oppressions that flourish under empire.
Toronto playwright and critic Jim Bartley is The Globe and Mail's first fiction reviewer.