A thrillingly universal portrait of a young woman caught between two cultures
Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle — of her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a ‘true’ Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life lessons, of having to avoid being thought of as too ‘faas’ or too ‘quiet’ or too ‘bold’ or too ‘soft’. Set in ‘Little Jamaica’, Toronto’s Eglinton West neighbourhood, Kara moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from primary school to high school graduation, in these twelve interconnected stories. We see her on a visit to Jamaica, startled by the sight of a severed pig’s head in her great aunt’s freezer; in high school, the victim of a devastating prank by her closest friends; and as a teenager in and out of her grandmother’s house, trying to cope with the ongoing battles between her unyielding grandparents.
A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker. In her brilliantly incisive debut, Zalika Reid-Benta artfully depicts the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation children and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominately white society.
‘Each story in Frying Plantain is achingly poignant, insightful, and funny; each a gem unto itself. Ms. Reid-Benta’s fully sympathetic protagonist, Kara Davis, is a girl who belongs to neither Canada nor Jamaica, despite the fact that both places are ‘home.’ Her family — loving, flawed, and wickedly at odds with one another — all demand her loyalty, and her loyal friends aren’t friends at all. As a collection, these stunning stories create a multi-faceted jewel of a book.’
Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route and Rabbits for Food
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‘Zalika Reid-Benta’s first book — by turns effortless, vivid, funny, sad, and genuinely like being there — is as shiny as they come. Her spot-on capture of youthful aspiration, folly, and how family members tend to understand one another only in fragments make these stories a real pleasure — full of recognition, humour, and keenly observed lives in the here and now. Frying Plantain, a window into the world of growing upward and onward inside and outside family ties, is an absolute gem.’
Janice Galloway, author of Clara and All Made Up
‘Sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, Frying Plantain is written in the indelible ink of memory. Zalika Reid-Benta is a masterful storyteller with a light touch, a photographic recall, and a pitch-perfect ear for the ephemera we’d like to think of as youthful, but just can’t seem to shake. This is an unforgettable debut.’
Paul Beatty, Booker Prize–winning author of The Sellout
Reid-Benta’s writing is clear, precise, and infused with emotional depth. The characters are complex and well developed — comforting in their familiarity and frustrating in their stubbornness. Reid-Benta masterfully uses Kara’s everyday life to highlight the intimate inner workings of her characters, their family dysfunction, and the juxtaposition of Canadian and Jamaican identities.
Quill & Quire