When does one come of age? Most of us tend to remember it through definable landmarks: working after school hours, graduation, a first kiss, and the sensation of that first sip of alcohol. But reading Zalika Reid-Benta’s debut novel Frying Plantain reminds us that the journey to adulthood is more subtle than that. It is in the moment when you unravel the meaning of adult conversations you have heard before. It is in the shock at reactions to unexpected events of daily life. Coming of age happens through a series of events in which a child’s awe at the unknown but defined world evolves into the acceptance of its unpredictability.
Frying Plantain traces this journey through the eyes of Kara, who is in the middle of many intersecting worlds. She is an adolescent navigating her way to becoming an adult. She is a young girl who is making sense of her femininity. And she is a Jamaican Canadian who is learning that she belongs to more than two worlds and sometimes to none. Twelve interconnected stories take us through Kara’s life, from grade school to university. You see her changing relationships with her family, friends, and neighbourhood, and keep going back to your own journey to adulthood. That is the strength of Zalika Reid-Benta’s writing. It is fresh and deep. It introduces you to the universality of human experiences within the diversity of its characters.
Frying Plantain was published in June 2019 by House of Anansi Press and was selected for the Giller Prize Longlist. Zalika Reid-Benta, a Toronto-based writer, completed an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University in 2014 and was part of the 2017 Banff Writing Studio. In the acknowledgements of Frying Plantain, Reid-Benta opens up about the moments of uncertainty over her writing. After reading the book, readers will want to pause there and thank her for not giving in to those doubts, and instead choosing to share her voice. Reading her work is both enjoyable and thought-provoking. In following Kara’s story, you will learn about her life and also ponder over your own.