Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

The Coloured Girl in the Ring: A Guyanese Woman Remembers

Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

The Coloured Girl in the Ring: A Guyanese Woman Remembers

Article excerpt

This work, though clearly fictional in nature, depicts in quite an authentic fashion a wide range of the social, cultural and historical (even historic) realities of the former British Guiana, now Guyana, particularly during the period 1958 to 1964. This period parallels the narrator's age from around eleven years, to the time when she is about to leave home for higher studies overseas. There are, however, some references to more modern times, as well as to times relating to her parents' youth. The author-narrator, Brenda Chester DoHarris, in a very clear, and matter-of-fact manner, traces key developments during her own journey of self-discovery, from a female perspective, in the midst of the various social, political, racial, and economic ups-and-downs which manifested themselves during this very crucial and apparently decisive period in the history of Guyana. Through a series of insightful episodes and memoirs written in a sort of 'costumbrista' fashion, Ms. DoHarris exposes the reader to the `inside-story' of the lives of the various characters who abound in the novel, and who have had a profound influence on her life.

This work, which comprises some twenty-five chapters, would make very valuable and timely reading for anyone, especially Guyanese, who may wish to have a better understanding of how Guyana has moved over the years from being a society with much promise of social and ethnic unity and cultural intermingling, to a state where there now exist, in some quarters, feelings of suspicion, distrust, and an assumed racial superiority, particularly between the two major ethnic groups, the Indo- and the Afro-Guyanese. However, the situation is even more complex and threatening for the narrator since, as in so many other societies, there is a special type of discrimination which women-be they African or Indian-have to face. And, in the eyes of some, it is even worse for the Hindu woman whose cultural traditions have locked her into a mold where, with respect to marriage and higher education, she has almost no say whatsoever. We encounter, for example, the case of the narrator's very close friend Drupattie, who is in love with the Afro-Guyanese boy Steven. Drupattie has to terminate the relationship not only because it ran counter to the cultural traditions of her people, nor only because of the tensions which currently existed between the two races, but because her relatives have 'arranged' for her to marry someone who is of her own East Indian stock, even if this proposed marriage partner's social manners and behavior leave very much to be desired. Drupattie, we learn, had won a place to the top girl's school in Guyana. When the East Indian milkman Balgobin, under whose 'control' Drupattie legitimately finds herself, feels that Drupattie is still 'seeing' Steven, he swears that "... he would castrate Steven if he ever heard a whisper of her seeing him again ..." (p.161). One wonders how much sympathy should be felt for Balgogin when later in the novel he is soundly trashed by friends of Steven, for causing the separation between Steven and Drupattie!

The series of misfortunes which beset several of the women whose stories are told-such as Gwennie, `Gatha, Liloutie, Chandroutie, Ada, Ida, Edna, and particularly Shirley whose lover, before committing suicide, murdered her for 'homing' him, leads the narrator ". …

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