Pao by Kerry Young – review

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2016-04-03 01:42Z by Steven

Pao by Kerry Young – review

The Guardian
2011-07-03

Ian Thomson

Young, Kerry, Pao: A Novel (London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011)

Kerry Young’s mesmerising first novel celebrates Jamaica’s ethnic melting pot, and the lost world of Kingston’s Chinatown

Jamaica, where Kerry Young was born in 1955, is an island of bewildering mixed bloods and ethnicities. Lebanese, British, Asian, Jewish and aboriginal Taíno Indian have all intermarried to form an indecipherable blend of Caribbean peoples. In some ways, this multi-shaded community of nations was a more “modern” society than postwar Britain, where Jamaicans migrated in numbers during the 1950s and 60s. British calls for racial purity often puzzled these newcomers from the anglophone West Indies, as racial mixing was not new to them. Jamaica remains a nation both parochial and international in its collision of African, Asian and European cultures.

Young, the daughter of a Chinese father and a mother of mixed Chinese-African heritage, came to Britain in 1965 at the age of 10. Pao, her zingy first novel, lovingly recreates the Jamaican-Chinese world of her childhood, with its betting parlours, laundries, fortune-telling shops, supermarkets and (business being a hard game in Jamaica) gang warfare. The Chinese first arrived in Jamaica in the 1840s, we learn, as indentured labourers. Having escaped this indignity, they set up business in the Jamaican capital of Kingston selling lychee ice cream, oysters and booby (sea bird) eggs. Racial tensions developed between them and their black neighbours; mixed marriages were generally frowned on. Ian Fleming, in his Jamaican extravaganza Dr No, wrote disapprovingly of the island’s yellow-black “Chigroes“…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,