Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Near the Hope by Jennifer Davis Carey

Near the HopeThis is the story about a woman who immigrated from Barbados in the early 1900s, seeking a better life, only to realize she had gone from the frying pan into the fire in a way. Here in the States, the "Great One" aka white people still ruled and the people of color were still changing the Great Ones' chamber pots.
"I didn't leave one hell to jump into another. At least at home, I understand the boundaries. Here, I haven't seen one yet. These people here are without limit."
It's an interesting read and I was interested in it because my own grandmother was a seamstress from Puerto Rico trying to survive in New York a few generations after this one.

Dellie makes it to New York and through her eyes, we see how hard it was to find a job, a place to live, all that jazz, in this time period, and something else I appreciated was the look at racism from her POV. I was amazed that some West Indians looked down on the American Negro, considered themselves not the same even though they were facing the same struggle: prejudice. The whites of course, lump them all together.

Dellie believes the cause of the American Negro is her cause too. I admire many things she says and does in this story.
"For this colored woman, this Negro woman. Whatever the difference is between the two. 'Tis sure my eyes can't see it. Show them what we can do in this country. To show them we can do any kind of work... And this colored woman is tired of scrubbing floor for a few raw-mouth pennies each week and standing out early-early so the matron can look over before she point to me as worthy to mop up for her. Check my hands to see if they are clean enough to hold a soggy sponge."
That's what Dellie declares when she hears white seamstresses have gone on strike due to poor working conditions. She declares it a chance for the American Negro woman and herself. This was another twist in the story I liked, this bit of history. Though her visit to the factory is brief, it leaves a strong impact. It's an educational moment, seeing what these women faced.

It doesn't quite work out at the factory, but yet again, readers see an incredible and brave side to Dellie.

Other things readers will take away from this novel is life in Barbados in the early 1900s, how the workers were disappearing, running off to Panama, how the white people were worried, and there are little bits of culture one will pick up from men on stilts, parades, weddings, and food. There's also some tame romance that could have used more development. Otherwise it's a story of a life, with ups and downs, loss and learning.

Quibble: I can tell it's a first novel. It doesn't have a good flow. It's a bit stilted and the dialogue is very formal with few to no contractions. In between the drama--the factory, the greedy landlady, etc, the story was tedious at times.

I won this on LibraryThing.

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