This loosely autobiographical piece spent most of its time explaining how the English, Americans, Germans and Caucasian people in general have lots of explaining to do.It meandered through time and distance and jumped back and forth through different episodes of Michelle Cliff’s life.And she spends much of the time telling us how she doesn’t fit in Jamaica, England and the United States, but somehow we get the feeling she thinks that it’s our fault.
I also found it interesting about the title of the book.Before reading it I wanted to find out a little more about the author so I Googled it.If I Could Write This in Fire is also the title of an anthology of Caribbean writing previously compiled and published by a professor at NYU.And there was even a previous anthology If I Could Write This in Fire I Would Write This in Fire which Cliff was involved in herself.I have to wonder why the recycling of this book’s title?
Back to Cliff’s narrative, supposedly privileged by being a light skinned mulatto in dark Jamaican society, she blames the colonial British past for this and asserts that Jamaica’s colonial heritage is somehow alive in the shadow now of the United States.I haven’t been to Jamaica, but I have been to about sixty other countries and I can say that Jamaica is an independent country.If they suffer from colonization, then that is in their mindset more than their reality.It ends when they end it.
I think the Michelle Cliff would tell me that I missed something – probably something very important to her.She might even scold me openly or at least in her mind.But I do remember being told by a teacher when I was young to remember:I can’t change who I am but I can change how I am.
I suppose that almost all of the vignettes of Michelle’s life can be summed up by her attitude which is screamingly prevalent when she tells of how she can rarely ever bring white people close to her as friends because no matter how equally they treat people from other races, eventually they will fail and show themselves to be racists in hiding.This statement is about as racist as they come.But at least Michelle Cliff doesn’t candy coat it.
The above review was contributed by: Gary Dale Cearley: Gary Dale is an expatriate American who chooses to write about controversial material. His subject matter tends to run the gamut from historical subjects to biography and even humor. Originally from Arkansas, he has spent several years in Korea as well as Vietnam and is now living in Thailand. Click Here to read an interview with Gary. Click Here to read Gary's reviews.
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