Dennis-Benn, Nicole. Here Comes the Sun. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016.
This heartbreaking, beautiful novel follows the lives of four women in Jamaica as they struggle to live in poverty and with rigid social expectations. Margot has been hustling since she was a teenager to support her younger sister. She wants her to succeed at school and go to college and do all the things she couldn’t do. Thandi, her sister, has other ideas. She wants to be an artist, and she desperately wants lighter skin. She spends her allowance on a skin-bleaching regimen she hides from her family.
Meanwhile, their mother Delores sells souvenirs to greedy tourists to make ends meet. Each interaction is fraught with oppressive dynamics as she haggles with buyers, trying to retain her dignity as she performs humility. She too has big hopes for Thandi; she knows her daughter is bright and she wants her to become a doctor.
Finally, Verdene has come back to Jamaica after an extended period of time in London. She got in trouble in school for being caught with another girl, and the entire community loathes her. Nearly every day she wakes up to find dead dogs in her yard and cruel taunts written in blood. Her only solace is Margot, who visits her late at night after her shift ends.
Dennis-Benn deftly weaves each woman’s story, the pains and joys of everyday life highlighted with magnificent prose and realistic dialog in Jamaican patois. Here Comes the Sun won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, for the loving yet troubled relationship between Margot and Verdene. I highly recommend this poignant novel for public and academic libraries as well as for use in English courses.
Content note: non-graphic child sexual abuse and sex work.