I KNOW WHO I AM: A Caribbean Woman's Identity in Canada

Article excerpt

I KNOW WHO I AM: A Caribbean Woman's Identity in Canada Yvonne Bobb-Smith Toronto: CSPI/Women's Press, 2003; 250 pp.

In I Know Who I Am: A Caribbean Woman s Identity in Canada Yvonne Bobb-Smith is particularly interested in reminding us that many of us, as immigrants, and particularly as immigrant women, need to rethink how we use the experiences that have brought us from an objectivity of oppression to a subjectivity of change with responsibility. Immigrant women in general, and Caribbean women in particular, are generally constructed either as victims of an oppressive system or as looters of a well-intended and benevolent Canadian state. Yet it is often forgotten that immigrant and Caribbean women refuse to give in to these categorizations by becoming agents of resistance and by building alternative spaces of resistance where they and people "like them" feel at home. Specifically, many of these women have created an alternative women's movement outside white mainstream feminism. BobbSmith's book demonstrates how Caribbean-Canadian women seek to develop their own feminist spaces while at the same time working with men in their community in wider struggles.

In order to resolve questions of home, resistance, identity, networking and independence Bobb-Smith uses a couple of different methodologies. In one, she interviews 45 women who emigrated to Canada from the Caribbean, and have been in Canada for more than 25 years, and uses their experiences and her own - to look at how they have constructed their identities in Canada. Using long citations from the women in their own voices, she let us hear how they see themselves, how they have experienced, and what the consequences are of, racism and sexism and how they have resisted. In another, she explores Caribbean women's identity throughout feminist research studies and creative writing. In analysing the writings of Jean Rhys, Joan Riley, Afua Cooper, Mahadi Das, Jamaica Kincaid, Ramabai Espinet, Dionne Brand, and Claire Harris - Caribbean women who are in Diaspora either in Canada, England or The United States - the author discovers what she calls the ethic of independence. This combination of interviews, feminist research and creative writing provides us with an integrative picture of Caribbean women's identity moving out of the victimization and oppression discourse to one of proactive resistance.

Through this subjectivity, Bobb-Smith investigates how the 45 women see themselves as subjects and how notions of themselves are constructed as agents of social change. According to Bobb-Smith these notions of themselves are initially shaped at home. …


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