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Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez

By Peta | Books | February 15, 2010 |

By Peta | Books | February 15, 2010 |

Growing up I absolutely hated reading Caribbean literature. I guess it was something to do with it being required reading and not something that I did especially for pleasure. But I picked up Anna In-Between when I heard that the author would be appearing at the Boston Book Festival in 2009. I don’t know that I expected to enjoy it but I certainly wanted to give it a try. To my pleasure, Anna In-Between was a great read. Anna Sinclair, the main character, left Trinidad to attend college and become a successful editor with a publishing company that specializes in black literature in New York. She and her parents grew up as middle to upper class during the colonial times and were exposed to a lot of the racism inherent in that era.

This book explores familiar themes, such as the relationship between a mother and a daughter and returning home. But it also uses the backdrop of Trinidad from colonial times forward to explain the tensions that existed in this family. The idea of Anna’s ‘inbetween”-ness existed all the way from childhood. Anna grew up alongside the “English” children but couldn’t belong due to the inherent racism of the time and her family coped (as many Trinidadian families in the same situation) by adhering to the ideals set forth as proper by the British strictly.

Upon Anna’s return, she finds out that her mother has breast cancer but instead of going to the doctor, she has resorted to praying over her rosary in an effort to make the cancer go away. The book tries to reconcile Anna’s belief in the power of America over her mother’s insistence that Trinidad’s ways are just as valid.

Having lived in the US for about 4 years, I can relate to Anna’s concern over the seemingly “backwards” or inefficient ways in which some things are done in Trinidad. You have to come to terms with the fact that the culture and way of doing things is quite different from one country to the other. Nunez wove a story that really captured Trinidad cultural contradictions and the love that Trinidadians at home have for their country. She also captured the yearning that all emigrants feel when they leave their home country for another and how things really can never be the same once you leave.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Peta’s reviews, please check out her blog, Lagniappe.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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