Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel
By Rosaliene Bacchus
In her novel Under the Tamarind Tree, Guayanese-born author Rosaliene Bacchus has spun a fascinating tale of family feuding, personal loss and a longing for love and self-acceptance, all set against the backdrop of crumbling Colonial power in British Guiana during the two-decade period between 1950 and 1970. Wonderfully descriptive, the novel immerses the reader in all aspects of the extremely diverse Guyanese culture – from the local food to the colorful colloquial language.
Divided into short, easily digestible chapters, we organically grow attached to Richard Cheong, the novel’s main character, and slowly come to understand (and feel) the sources of his deep pain and suffering. Ms Bacchus takes the reader on a journey of discovery that exposes the very heart of what makes humans capable of expressing both great love and harrowing evil.
I must admit I’m normally a non-fiction fan, but Under the Tamarind Tree had me hooked from the first chapter. If this novel has a shortcoming, it’s in the surprise ending which left me with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for more. My wish is that Ms Bacchus will follow up with a sequel. 🙂
Note: Please don’t let the brevity of my review color your curiosity for this marvelous literary work. I have purposely limited my words because I feel completely inadequate to convey the depth of human suffering and redemption so meticulously crafted by the author.
The novel can be previewed from Rosaliene’s writer’s site at the following address:
Many Americans still ask if it’s safe to travel to Colombia. Their vision of this visually stunning and culturally rich nation is rooted in past decades when violent drug cartels run by infamous leaders such as Pablo Escobar ruled the streets of the country’s major cities and when left-wing guerrilla groups dominated large swaths of the rural countryside. This is part of a complicated history that many Colombians have tried to put behind them, even though popular TV productions such as Netflix’s “Narcos” have made turning the page more difficult. Over the past two decades, Colombia’s citizens (often in spite of their government’s actions) have made great strides in creating safer communities where the country’s rich heritage and wealth of cultural diversity are now on full display.
Medellin born artist Fernando Botero’s painting of a dead Pabo Escobar. Photo: Henry Lewis via the Botero Museum, Bogotá.
This week, following the Trump Administration’s betrayal of a long-time Middle East ally, I received a message containing these words from one of my former students in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region.
We as “Kurds have no friends but the mountains“ history repeats itself!
Over the past 100 years, the Kurdish people–whose territory includes northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran–have been repeatedly lied to, stabbed in the back, gassed and violently murdered by successive regimes from both the West and the Middle East.
The US Government has called on the Kurdish people repeatedly for help and these loyal allies have at all times capitulated to Washington’s requests. In 1972, they were asked by the CIA and US-placed Shah of Iran to rise up against the Ba’athist Party-led government in Iraq. The Kurds were used and then left alone to suffer the wrath of the Iraqi military when Iran’s Shah make a back-door deal with the Iraqi government.
Still willing to trust the Americans, the Kurds in northern Iraq once again rose up against the Baghdad-based government of Saddam Huessein at the urging of George H. W. Bush’s administration during the Gulf War in Kuwait in 1991. While the Kurds did eventually receive US support in setting up a no-fly zone over their northern territory, other promises of oil wealth sharing and possible independence were not kept. Establishing border security was left to the Kurd’s very capable military, known as the Peshmerga, which created a safe haven in an otherwise extremely dangerous and chaotic country.
The message Sinead O’Conner delivered in her dramatic performance on Saturday Night Live back in 1992 is just as powerful today as it was then.
It seems little has changed in the hearts of mankind over the past three decades. The struggle remains the same–against war, inequality, abuse of power and the destruction of our very home, planet Earth.
Yes, we must FIGHT for justice for all sentient beings, as well as for the health of our planet. Can this fight be won through non-violent means? I hope so.
Header Photo: Library of Congress
A brilliant post by North Carolina minister John Pavlovitz from his blog Stuff That Needs to Be Said.
Mother and Child. Edith E. Post 1987. Collection of Henry Lewis 🙂
Hatred is poison.
How inherently confusing the world must be for children growing up today. They are constantly bombarded by contradictory messages on social media while their parents frantically run around in circles trying to provide the material things dictated by American culture. What’s often missing is clear moral guidance, especially from the current leadership in Washington, D. C.
Although the TV was ever present in my childhood, the loudest voices were those of my parents and grandparents. And, I count myself incredibly lucky to have had them as my primary examples of how to live one’s life.
While family, of course, was important, there was always room for others at the table too. They lived lives of egalitarianism and taught my sisters and I that no one should ever be excluded. My parents and grandparents were what I believe to be true Christians who lived by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as it’s stated in the King James version of the Bible, or simply “treat others as you would like to be treated.”
It seems that many contemporary Christians (especially Evangelicals) now see those words as a sign of weakness and choose to worship a God of vengeance rather than one of love. Their God is also exclusive, as he (always male) favors people of certain races (predominantly white) over all others.
Quechua woman in Quito, Ecuador.
In honor of the IMMEASURABLE, and often unheralded, role women play in holding our fragile world together, this is not a week for a white man like me to be blogging about what’s on my mind. It’s a time when we should all be thinking carefully about how we treat the women in our lives–mothers, sisters, wives, friends, employees, co-workers, those we encounter in shops, pass on the street, sit beside on the bus, see begging on the sidewalks, all colors, all creeds, all religions, AND especially to the legions of SINGLE MOMS who raise and support the children of dead-beat fathers. They are ALL just as important, just as capable, an equal to any man (or more so!) and should be paid and treated equally.
Maasai woman in Kenya preparing the fire for cooking.
As the legendary R&B singer Aretha Franklin so clearly and simply states in her 1967 anthem, women deserve and have worked for centuries for R-E-S-P-E-C-T! International Women’s Day should be celebrated 365 days per year in our hearts, minds and actions.
Venezuelan immigrant woman watching over her children on the Colombia/Venezuela border.
peace and respect~ henry
According to Pablo Guayasamín, the artist’s son, Mestizaje, is a painting that represents a young woman with great strength and spirit, a mixture of Spanish and the indigenous Indian races. She further represents the resurrection of a new race that is more humanitarian, has a better comprehension of its times, has values different from the ones we have and that is much less confrontational. She has better understanding and respects the thoughts of others. Photo Credit: Henry Lewis
Oswaldo Guayasamín is an Ecuadorian painter and sculptor whose work tells the story of prejudice, abuse and the suffering of indigenous peoples all across Latin America. His personal observations of institutionalized poverty, the horrors of war and violent revolutions during the 20th century all had a profound influence on his work.
Madre y Niño, 1985. The theme of motherhood is repeated in many of Guayasamín’s paintings. He had a deep reverence for his own mother and for the major role indigenous women play within their families and communities. Photo Credit: Henry Lewis
On this blog, I welcome dissenting opinions as well as all comments and insights from readers, but I do expect dissenting opinions to be supported by some sort of evidence even if it’s only anecdotal. This is what I always required of my students when they composed argumentative essays and it should be the same in a forum such as this.
This week I’m presenting a comment I received from a reader who responded to last week’s post “Dispelling Myths About Migrantion.”
Wow so much emotional appeal, so little facts.
Being poor and brown does not qualify people for citizenship in any country, especially not the US. Caravanning and causing a huge scene is not how you achieve asylum. These people are not hungry, half of them are fat, they are not fleeing, they are living in a culture of violence which is completely different.
What’s next, should America boat in all 100 million people from the Philippines just because their own failed nation is plagued with violence and low wages? Get fucked.
FINISH THE WALL, DEPORT & BAN ALL ILLEGALS. American citizens (including the legal immigrants) do not want to pay for these people to move in and take up space and jobs especially while the country is already overpopulated (with low wage workers at that).
Democrat policies ruined America for decades and we’re tired of it, no more, the gig is up for “diversity” pushing leftists.
What isn’t clear is whether the writer was seriously expressing a personal opinion or just trying to get a reaction from me. Either way, here goes. Note the commentator’s words are all in brackets.