Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

Frying Plantain is a book of twelve interconnected stories about a girl growing up in Toronto, balancing her Canadian nationality and her Jamaican heritage and dealing with the expectations of her mother and grandmother. The stories, told both as present narrative and flashback, follow Kara, the protagonist, from childhood to graduating and starting university, as she navigates identity, family, friendships, and dealing with different worlds and rules.

Though the book is a series of interconnected stories, it felt almost like an episodic novel, as you delved deep into Kara’s life and saw her relationships develop and change over time. The book looks particularly in the tensions in Kara’s life between different elements of her self, not Jamaican enough but also not like the white Canadians her mother warns her she can’t act the same as. There’s also a lot of focus on familial expectations, and how Kara seems at times to fight a losing battle to be what her family wants her to be. Overall, the depiction is sharp and memorable, with a lot of detail that draws you in to Kara’s world, and the book is a gripping look at growing up caught between expectations, rules, and identities.