“Lives are throbbing in those stories.”

“For me, each life is an illustrious story that deserves a patient hearing because its mere evocation cuts the thread of time and builds tomorrows. Lives are throbbing in these stories. Unfortunate lives of the nation’s minor players, returning on their knees from trenches where heroism, its deeds and its medals, lie rotting. Anonymous heroes who have given their entire youth to France and who have been accorded only grudgingly the leaven of glory.”

~on old veterans telling war stories, Exile According to Julia, Gisele Pineau

* * *

“What time is it then? Here time is not a matter of the clock. Time is written in the sky, the early morning darkness, the fickle sunsets. The days lengthen or shrink according to the seasons. Men’s time is borrowed time. And the day unwinds quite naturally if you listen to time trickling within you like grains of sand in an hourglass. Time settles on time, and if you wait for evening, one hand under your jaw, you will not see anything passing.”

* * *

My first class at Gardner-Webb is a class on Caribbean Women’s Writing. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy this area of fiction. The stories that come out of the Caribbean are haunting and deep and thought-provoking. I love so much that I work hard in grad school by reading and analyzing great books. 🙂

This book, Exile According to Julia, is a translation from the French. Julia is a grandmother whose husband is mean and abusive, but she puts up with it because that’s what women in Guadeloupe, during her time, do. Her son, however, kidnaps her, in a way, when his family moves to France, and Julia lives in France, essentially exiled, away from her homeland, for six years before returning to the island.

For Julia, home is the fruit on the trees in her garden, her old husband who is haunted by his military service to France, the chocolate tea she brews, the French Creole dialect, and the tropical weather on the island. It is not pure French language, or sophistication in Paris, or the “better life” that her son and his family search for. Julia is homesick, illiterate, and lonely. Only when she returns to the island, to her imperfect life there, is she fully herself.

This isn’t even my favorite story that I’ve read so far, but it’s wonderful. Caribbean women have a knack for asking hard questions: what is home? How do people define themselves when they leave the island they were born on to search for education and a better life? What happens when they try to return?

I can’t wait for the rest of the novels we’ll be reading. I love Caribbean literature. 🙂

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