Author:Doig, Denise M.
Position:Brief article - Book review

Unburnable by Marie-Elena John Amistad/HarperCollins, April 2006 $23.95, ISBN 0-060-83757-8

In her debut novel, John is, in one word, superb. Set in the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, the story expertly weaves folklore and history as it travels between the present and the past. John takes the risk of incorporating many themes into a central story of three generations of women--and she succeeds. She touches on almost every aspect of the African Diaspora: colonization, class struggles, immigration, internalized racism, ancestral traditions and religion, to name a few.

The reader travels back to the early 20th century, when indigenous people were still visible in the Caribbean and when the children of African slaves freely held onto their traditions. The turning point in the story is the year 1947. After World War II, old customs were disappearing and modernism was on the rise, which is exactly what happens halfway through the novel. John's description of a tumultuous scene during jouvert, the morning before the official start of Carnival, captures these changes perfectly; the center of this...

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