Arms Akimbo: Africana Women in Contemporary Literature

By Janice Lee Liddell; Yakini Belinda Kemp | Go to book overview

14
Guyana's Historical Sociology and the Novels of Beryl Gilroy and Grace Nichols

ERNA BRODBER

In Ride Out the Wilderness, African American critic Melvin Dixon asserts that "recurring images of place and person in black popular religious culture, but also in Afro-American literary tradition, stake claims to a physical and spiritual home in America" (1). He further contends that "[s]ince major geographical dislocation of blacks from slave trading Africa and through the nineteenth century, issues of home, self, and shelter have loomed paramount in the black imagination" (2). In their efforts to re-root themselves with both an identity and a homespace, African American writers have relied heavily on what Dixon calls "three figures of landscape . . . the wilderness, the underground and the mountaintop" (3).

Just as displaced Africans in America collectively have internalized the fixedness of their immediate physical environment, displaced Africans in the Caribbean have done so similarly. They have found in their own immediate environments socio-and geophysical phenomena that impinge on their consciousness as Caribbean people. In their quest for "self and home," five major phenomena emerge: water, the village space, migration, race, and family structure. Throughout the Caribbean, these five phenomena are preeminent in the definitions of the Caribbean identity and of individual nation identities. Novelists Beryl Gilroy and Grace Nichols make the case in their novels for the importance of these factors to one of those Caribbean nation identities: Guyana.

Guyana's geographical location is close to the equatorial belt and, as such, it is subject to heavy rainfall. The Guyanese soil does not drain easily; the result is a water-logged land. The importance of water as a

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