Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy #BookReview

What’s your favorite character driven story?

Book cover for "Fruit of the Lemon" by Andrea Levy
Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy

In Fruit of The Lemon by Andrea Levy, the author describes the journey of self-discovery her character, Faith, takes to craft her identity as a British-born Jamaican while learning about her family’s heritage.

As a first-generation child of Jamaican immigrants, Faith is set adrift between her life in Britain & her family’s Jamaican cultural heritage. Surrounded by White friends & flatmates, Faith is the victim of casual racism & constant humiliation at her peers’ hands.

Faith’s parents & brother, on the other hand, treat her as an anomaly. To her parents, she is rudderless with no understanding of her Jamaican heritage. Yet, neither parent will tell her what she needs to know to grow closer to the country they love so dearly. Faith’s brother sees her as disconnected from her roots & writes her off as a “lost cause,” as he finds his footing in between the hyphen as a British Jamaican. It is not until a trip to the “Motherland” that Faith begins to craft an identity for herself.

Photo of the Author, Andrea Levy
Author, Andrea Levy

What I most enjoyed about Levy’s story is that it is a character-driven story. In Faith, Levy explores the nuanced feelings of being set between cultures and being made to choose which one you will embrace when you are the child of immigrants who raise you to be fit for all the opportunities they never had and distant from their homeland. This depiction of life “in between the hyphen” feels akin to real life.

Because of this angle, though, Levy’s exploration of Faith’s character climaxes when she finally gets Faith on Jamaican soil. The glimpses readers get of Faith’s interaction with her Jamaican family are fascinating. However, by the end of the novel, there is no sense that Faith had gotten any better at understanding who she is than when she first started off in Jamaica. When this section is held up against the section in London where Faith is mercilessly tortured at the hands of her White boss and friends experiencing continuous microaggressions, Levy’s work feels unfinished.

Book Cover of "Small Island" by Andrea Levy
Small Island by Andrea Levy

I will say, though, that Levy’s choice to explore the “hyphenated identity” of her character is something that any BIPOC person can understand regardless of their country or their economic class. 

This is because we all eventually go through some metamorphosis that moves us further away from our ancestral “home base,” be it through our economic status or geographical location. And due to this change, we often face scrutiny within our community or outside forces, who either see us as pretenders or as phony in how we present ourselves once we are removed from that home base.

Therefore, it’s easy to understand the struggles Faith faces as she battles intergenerational trauma, colonization, & casual racism to become self-actualized.

Fruit of the Lemon is a book everyone needs to read at least once!

Six Stories & An Essay by Andrea Levy
Six Stories & An Essay by Andrea Levy

If you enjoy it, I’d suggest reading Andrea Levy’s whole catalog. So far, I’ve started reading Every Light in the House Burnin’ and Small Island. Both are really good books and show the depth of Levy’s writing and exploration of characters.

If you’re a lover of short stories, Levy’s short story collection, Six Stories and An Essay, is masterful. The way Levy handles her subjects and shows the difference in her characters’ socioeconomic background with just a simple sentence or detail is something I admire. It reminds me of Alice Walker’s collection, In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women, and the way Walker only needed a few lines to tell such a detailed story.

Have you all read Fruit of the Lemon or any of Levy’s other books? Let me know in the comment below!

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for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow was enuf Choreopoem by Ntozake Shange & For Colored Girls’ by Tyler Perry Movie

I gave for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow was enuf  3/5 stars and For Colored Girls 5 stars.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow was enuf is a choreopoem (i.e., a poem that is meant to be performed with added movement along with dialogue) by Ntozake Shange, which was published in 1975 and recently turned into a movie entitled, For Colored Girls by Tyler Perry in 2010.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow was enuf by Ntozake Shange Choreopoem Review

for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow was enuf  by Ntozake Shange Book Review

Shange’s choreopoem was very interesting to read. In the beginning I was confused by Shange’s abbreviations and had to use guess work to figure out what she was saying, but as the choreopoem went on, I got better at discerning what she was saying since she frequently repeated certain words like cd (could) or waz (was). Thank goodness for this because the action in this choreopoem speeds by and if you’re not on point, you’ll easily miss something. Since this was a choreopoem, the actual character building isn’t really meant to be full blown. In addition, Shange’s motives for creating the characters is meant more so for them to represent ideas than for them to actually have personalities.

For Colored Girls Movie Review

For Colored Girls (2010) by Tyler Perry Movie Review

While I did like this choreopoem, I would have to say without actually seeing a visual interpretation of it (be it a theatrical production, the tv movie, or the film adaptation), one could get lost fairly easily. Since I read this choreopoem for an assignment and watched Tyler Perry’s film adaptation in tangent with reading Shange’s work, I have to say, I actually got a better feeling for what Shange was doing with her work from watching Perry’s movie. Without seeing Shange’s work in action, I would have just chalked this read up as an overblown classic, but the visual representation made this piece one of my favorite…movies that is. I know this is harsh, but I still felt as if Shange’s work would be better off packaged as simple poems in written form opposed to as a single unit that is meant to be read as a full chorepoem/play. And yes, I am aware that Shange admits that she did write these poems singuraly and later preformed then as a collective unit however, I must go off of how it was presented to me in it’s published form.

Perry’s film on the other hand was OUT-STANDING! At the time this film came out, I was under the impression that it would be similar to his other works and that the film itself was scary since it deals with subject matter like, abortions and rape. However, I was pleasently surprised to find that Perry handled everything tastefully. The actresses he chose to represent each character was phenomenal and fitting. I especially enjoyed Loretta Devine as the lady in green and Anika Noni Rose as the lady in yellow. These two poured their hearts into their characters and it shows. 

Out of all the poems though, my favorites from both, the choreopoem and the film would have to be “somebody almost walked off with all my stuff” and “no assistance” performed by Loretta Devine in Perry’s film and “my love is too…,” which was performed by all the colored ladies in the film and choreopoem.  from the film version and “dark phrases,” which was also performed by all the colored ladies in the film and choreopoem in the written form.  

This choreopoem is something I would recommend that everybody read and watch at least once. It’s definitely gives one food for thought. But, beware, viewer discretion is advised.Shange’s work isn’t for a younger audience, it’s better suited for individuals who can truly grasp what is being talked about in the poems.

This is one of my favorite scenes from the Tyler Perry film. Have a look and tell me below if you have ever seen the movie or the choreopoem performed.

I also love the way Ntozake Shange critiques Tyler Perry’s movie in this discussion too. It offers a lot of insight on the the final production of the movie that adds another layer to what transpired in the movie.