Synopses & Reviews
Ever since Abeng was first published in 1984, Michelle Cliff has steadily become a literary force. Her novels evoke both the clearly delineated hierarchies of colonial Jamaica and the subtleties of present-day island life. Nowhere is her power felt more than in Clare Savage, her Jamaican heroine, who appeared, already grown, in No Telephone to Heaven. Abeng is a kind of prequel to that highly-acclaimed novel and is a small masterpiece in its own right. Here Clare is twelve years old, the light-skinned daughter of a middle-class family, growing up among the complex contradictions of class versus color, blood versus history, harsh reality versus delusion, in a colonized country. In language that surrounds us with a richness of meaning and voices, the several strands of young Clare's heritage are explored: the Maroons, who used the conch shellthe abengto pass messages as they fought a guerilla struggle against their English enslavers; and the legacy of Clare's white great-great-grandfater, Judge Savage, who burned his hundred slaves on the eve of their emancipation. A lyrical, explosive coming-of-age story combined with a provocative retelling of the colonial history of Jamaica, this novel is a triumph.
A lyrical coming-of-age story and a provocative retelling of the colonial history of Jamaica
Originally published in 1984, this critically acclaimed novel is the story of Clare Savage, a light-skinned, twelve-year-old, middle-class girl growing up in Jamaica in the 1950s. As she tries to find her own identity and place in her culture, Clare carries the burden of her mixed heritage. There are the Maroons, who used the conch shellthe abengto pass messages as they fought against their English enslavers. And there is her white great-great-grandfather, Judge Savage, who burned his hundred slaves on the eve of their emancipation. In Clares struggle to reconcile the conflicting legacies of her own personal lineage, esteemed Caribbean author Michelle Cliff dramatically confronts the cultural and psychological violence inflicted upon the island and its people by colonialism.
About the Author
Michelle Cliff was born in Jamaica and is the author of three acclaimed novels: Abeng, its sequel, No Telephone to Heaven, and Free Enterprise (Plume). She has also written a collection of short stories, Bodies of Water (Plume), and two poetry collections, The Land of Look Behind and Claiming an Identity They Tought Me to Despise. She is Allan K. Smith Professor of English Language and Literature at Trinity College in Connecticut and divides her time between Hartford, Connecticut, and Santa Cruz, California.