I've been meaning to bring my thoughts into words but as soon as I try, it slips away from me, so here's me trying to peace little streams together. To be honest, An Untamed State
is just proof, whether it is completely fiction or not, that things are changing for the worse in the Caribbean. There are evil people who've been sitting in the sun way too long, and it's gone to their heads. If I didn't see it in Roxane Gay's debut novel, I would see it in the news.
I read this for the monthly discussion put together by the Goodreads group Literary Fiction by People of Color, and didn't hesitate to pick it up when I saw that a few other friends read and gave it flying colours. Rianna said you either read this book quickly or you let it tear you apart like a knife for a week or however long it takes to finish it. I finished this in a day. I gritted my teeth through it and got through it. I couldn't let it drag out, and even if I wanted to I couldn't put it down.
A woman is kidnapped and held hostage in the country of her parents. She is taken in front of her husband and infant son. She's tortured. Her name is Miri.
Miri's experience is what scares me sometimes about going back home to an island you weren't raised on. Where things are different. Where the law is not the same or to the "standard". Where women are not human beings but objects of high value, even today. Where money and the presence (or absence in this case) of money is...dangerous to say the least. I put this down and say to myself, thank God I come from a poor family back home and that we've only done modestly for ourselves in the new country. I can imagine this setup all too well; I don't think I've ever been so happy that I usually return with empty pockets.
Gay's novel is an amazing look at PTSD, and I really like the fact that she jumps between time...but I've never liked Michael. And him trying to force Miri into a hospital or to the police is just...like she's already been through so much against her will and now you want to force her into this sterile environment so she can be probed and photographed and have to testify....just despicable. Honestly, the least he could have done was shoot one of the rapists.
I'm from Barbados. These kinds of things are getting more and more popular, violence (against women) in the Caribbean. A lack of jobs and infrastructure mixed with a returning diaspora with money is never going to be a good thing. I also like the fact that no one stopped to help her. That is the state of the Caribbean now. The Caribbean I grew up with...at least the Barbados I grew up with, unless you were some horrible person, you couldn't get away with something like that. Someone would be kicking in your door, but now...things have changed so much. I applaud Gay for that, because in every aspect of this novel she delivers the blow that the countries our parents left behind are not the ones we know now.
I love how Haiti was described as a beautiful place. If it weren't for the stigma of the people of Haiti, I honestly think it'd be one of the most popular islands in terms of tourism. Haiti is BEAUTIFUL, don't let pictures of congested big cities fool you! I can't wait to go there one day.
Also, I love that Miri never really breaks. Miri has lapses because she is human and you can only take so much at one time, but Miri...even when she is back in the States, she is tough. She crawls into her own safe space and doesn't let anyone drag her out of it. She holds herself first, and I really love the way her mother-in-law (who formerly to put it quite plainly was a real dickhead) holds her hand through everything. If anyone "saves" Miri through this, it's really her mother-in-law, for giving her the safe space to be where ever and whatever she needs. I'm no expert in psychology or counselling or whatever you'd call this, but her mother-in-law is there for her in whatever way she can safely. Michael can't help her. Her parents can't help her. But her mother-in-law, who's name I feel so crappy for regretting right now, tells her and proves to her that no matter what she is there for Miri in whatever way she can be. To me that was very important, and I think Gay did a fantastic job of portraying what an ally should be like.
Labels: 50 books in 52 weeks, an untamed state, roxane gay, woc writers, women writers reading group