The author was truly riveting and true to the previous era that was depicted during post colonial era jn Barbados when people of mulatta era especially women were revered for their beauty, but it sometimes proved to be a doubled edge sword. Mrs Belgrave was not afraid to express in the book what other people are ashamed to acknowledge what people in the pass concept of life in terms of color which has somewhat changed today.
– By Elsa Johnson on December 12, 2013
Growing up in Barbados Review
The book Growing Up in Barbados for me was great and exciting reading. The story was very intense and emotional from the beginning to the end. I just could not put it down! As for the life of the main character it was explosive, there was also happiness but also much sadness. The book also captured much information on the history and culture of the island of Barbados during the time period identified, which I found to be very enlightening.
– By Jean-paul on November 2, 2013
Growing up in Barbados is a very interesting and riveting book about the kind of unfortunate situation that some young people have to deal with. Sereta Belgrave tells the story in a real way that will keep you reading until the end! What I also found interesting was the information shared within the narrative about Barbados so that anyone reading the book can get a glimpse of things Barbadian and what life used to be like in old Barbados. Well done, Sereta! I hope this will not be your last book!
– By Diane Cummins on October 29, 2013
Growing Up In Barbados
Carefully interweaving issues of race, poverty and exploitation, Growing Up in Barbados highlights the vulnerabilities, struggles and moral dilemmas that are too often a reality in young women’s lives. The Author takes you on a journey of heartache and triumph that simultaneously provides a lesson in the history and culture of Barbados.
– By Tina on October 28, 2013
In a relatively short span of reading time, Growing Up in Barbados chronicles multiple generations and addresses of variety of themes like poverty, abuse, sexuality, family, love and loss.
Naomi is an impoverished woman living on the island of Barbados. She works extremely hard to support her five children, each fathered by a different man. Her days are filled with hot, backbreaking work in the sugar cane fields. Naomi dreams of a better life for herself and her children; one that doesn’t involve living in a tiny, ramshackle house and an endless struggle to feed and provide for her family. She sees the way that the wealthy, white sugar cane plantation owner, Mr. Marshall, lives and thinks that if he were attracted to her, all her problems would end. A situation arises which puts Naomi alone with Marshall and when a child is conceived, Naomi believes her life is about to change. But, it is not to be. Marshall refuses to claim the child and disappears shortly after.
In just this brief episode, which is only the very beginning of the book, author Sereta Belgrave frames much of the story. She introduces the reader to the culture and history of the island of Barbados and shares an insight into what life for a poor woman on the island looks like. She also changes the status quo by introducing Louise, Naomi’s beautiful mixed race child who because of her intelligence and appearance will have different opportunities than her mother, but whose uniqueness will cause issues from childhood to adulthood. Her appearance makes her the subject of ridicule by her peers and draws unwanted and dangerous attention from older men.
Belgrave’s writing style is succinct and matter of fact. Not much time or words are wasted on setting or emotion. She lays out a story and allows the reader to draw their own pictures and form their own opinions and emotions. As a reader, I would have appreciated a little more depth in both the setting, which is potentially quite beautiful, and a bit more character development and window into the characters’ emotions. The author succeeds in telling a quick, engaging, and easy to read story, but there is the potential for so much more. Particularly, I would have enjoyed a greater exploration of the relationship between Louise and Naomi, and the family as a whole.
On a small note, though the author does a good job of presenting realistic dialogue that reflects the actual sound and inflection of her characters. The book would also benefit from a thorough editing, the most repetitive mistake being an overuse and misuse of the exclamation point throughout.
Despite its few issues, Growing Up in Barbados is a brave story of young woman’s journey through life. It’s a quick and engaging read that is likely to appeal to readers who enjoy realistic accounts, culture and history, and strong, complicated female protagonists.
reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
“Times were really hard back then for Louise and her family.”
Belgrave has chosen the exotic but troubled island of Barbados as the setting for her story of Louise who is growing up in extreme poverty and trying to make positive changes in her circumstances. Louise’s mother is a cane field worker who scrapes together the means to start a street hawking business. Louise is fathered by a white British overseer. Louise is beautiful from childhood, with light skin and smooth hair. By the time she is eleven she attracts her mother’s lover, a pedophile who slowly seduces the naïve child. Though Louise does well in school and attains excellent employment, her attitude towards men is so scarred by this devastating childhood encounter that she compulsively pursues relationships in which she offers sex in exchange for money and gifts. Several times she is impregnated by careless lovers and must have the pregnancies terminated, giving her a backlog of guilt. In her thirties, she finally meets a man who understands her and in whom she confides her past. He wishes to marry her, and they are able to live contentedly together until tragedy strikes.
Belgrave has organized her story chronologically, using footnoting and other citations not often used in fiction to highlight information about Barbados. Her recounting of the devastation of Hurricane Janet in 1955 is based on fact. What stands out in this book is her heroine’s determination to improve herself and live a worthy life despite the muddled past that continues to haunt her. Particularly poignant is Belgrave’s depiction of Louise’s guilt and sorrow at having to end unintended pregnancies with uncaring lovers, contrasting with her later desire, unfulfilled, to get pregnant when she is able at last to find steady, true love. Belgrave’s tale reveals life for poverty-stricken citizens of a picturesque island that seems like paradise for those who come only for short sojourns.