Patsy May Be Fiction, But Its Story of a Black Woman Immigrant Is Searingly True
Patsy, the gorgeous second novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn, chronicles the usually hidden sacrifices that black immigrant ladies make in pursuit of the ever elusive American Dream. As in her first novel, the acclaimed Right here Comes the Solar, Dennis-Benn crafts a story set between her native Jamaica and her present residence of Brooklyn, this time following a mom and little one on distinctly completely different paths over the course of a decade. Patsy, 28, is the ambivalent mom to 5-year-old Tru. When Patsy departs Jamaica for the U.S. in 1998, seeking alternative, she leaves Tru behind.
Readers will decide Patsy on the outset for abandoning her solely little one, who’s wrestling along with her personal id again residence — approaching adolescence as a gender-nonconforming athlete in a rustic that provides neither language nor tolerance for what it means to be black, working class and queer. Her mom has chosen a life with out her; when Patsy does acknowledge Tru, she sends a package deal with glittery nail information, hair bows and Hiya Kitty stationery — an indication that additional distances the mom from the individual her little one is changing into.
However Patsy is struggling too: she’s in battle over her resolution to depart Tru and affected by an unrequited love for a childhood good friend now again in her life. Dennis-Benn forces readers to grapple with an unattainable rigidity throughout the story, demanding that we look at each our condemnation of Patsy for selecting herself over her little one and the array of forces that made her really feel she had no different possibility — forces that proceed to maintain her down.
In America, simply when Patsy thinks she will simply enroll at school or comply with a path to achievement — like those advised in in style tales of striving immigrants who overcome their lot — her undocumented standing relegates her to a sure form of labor. She cleans loos at a mediocre Jamaican restaurant earlier than changing into a nanny, caring for white kids with extra focus and intention than she ever supplied Tru. The irony crushes her. When she seeks medicine to ease her melancholy, Patsy encounters bias within the medical system all too widespread for black ladies and the working poor. And so the cycle continues.
Dennis-Benn, who herself immigrated from Jamaica to the U.S. as a teen, depicts coinciding journeys towards self-actualization for characters whose company is commonly trumped by the whims of others. When Tru begins menstruating and her father’s associate tells her she has to cease taking part in soccer and climbing bushes, Dennis-Benn describes an ache that each mom and little one share: “The pain of her immediate isolation,” she writes, “is as sharp as the one inside her womb.”
Although set previously, the story and its reflections on borders and bounds carry an pressing timeliness. Patsy’s pursuit of a greater life within the U.S. and the prices that include it mirror the struggles of black ladies who immigrate with goals they quickly discover unreachable. She comes to find, like so many ladies, that the bootstrap fantasy can solely encourage a lot.
There have been few narrative epics that successfully tally the emotional, logistical, bodily, psychological and monetary trials of the black feminine immigrant and mom or, likewise, the influence on the household of a black lady who dares rework herself. Dennis-Benn maps the interior terrain of black ladies craving to be free — with out romanticizing or ignoring their flaws. Sure, her central characters are persistent, however they can be naive. Sure, these are robust black ladies, however they’re additionally human, and so they’re practically damaged by loneliness, despair and a way that they’ll by no means belong. Displaying us the triumphs and pitfalls of those two parallel rites of passage, Patsy fills a literary void with compassion, complexity and tenderness.