Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn has been sitting on my bookshelves for awhile. I am not sure what I have been saving it for, until I read it on a recent vacation and found it to be the perfect mix of emotion and intrigue. Books like this really make you reflect on your place in the world and how you impact others. Tourism is a major part of the plot, specifically in Jamaica, but it could really be in any Carribean island or Mexico coastline city. Behind the beautiful resorts with all-inclusive drinks, clean bedding, and sparkling beaches, there are people living in abject poverty serving those drinks, washing that bedding and cleaning those beaches. This is where our main protagonist, Margot, story begins. At a grand resort in Montego Bay where she works the front desk in hopes of gaining a manager promotion. She hustles on the side to make ends meet and put her little sister, Thandie, through school, in order to give her the life she will no longer have. Here Comes the Sun is a push and pull of what these women desire vs. what the burdens they carry. Each day the sun comes up and brings new possibilities, but also the same struggles as the previous day.
There is so much to unpack with this book. Each character is rich with complexity and the plot is not for the faint of heart. Margot is determined to give her sister Thandie a great life. She dreams that Thandie will become a doctor one day and leave their home behind. In order to make this happen, Margot sells her body to tourists at the resort she works at. While Thandie wants to do well in school, she does not have the same dreams her mother and sister have for her. She wants to pursue art, she wants to fit in with her peers, and she wants to fall in love. All of these desires clash with what is expected of her. Their mother hustles as a street vendor, selling things to tourists who visit the island. As much as she wants a better life for her daughters, she is haunted by her own demons, much of which, has scarred Margot past the point of reconciliation.
Between the tragety, there are tender moments. Those that get the characters out of bed in the morning. But these tender moments are overshadowed by the struggle they each face. Here Comes the Sun makes you reflect on the role you play in tourism. I could not help but think of past vacations where I have stayed as a resort similiar to the one Margot works at. How did I treat the employees? Did I ever think about them or their lives outside those beautiful walls? It doesn't seem fair that folks can enjoy the beauty of an island like Jamaica, while those who live there struggle to make ends meet. I'm not sure what the answer is, or if there is one, but there is a lot to unpack.
Content warnings: sexual assault, prostitution, racism, colorism
"Boys like chupid girls like dat. Dey tek one look at yuh black face an' know yuh desperate enough fi spread yu legs at di first compliment. Dey see yuh true color before yuh tell dem yuh name. Dey know dey can tell yuh anyt'ing an' yuh black self believe it an' accept it, 'caw we so use to getting di leftovers. Who yuh know really love a black girl for more than what's between her legs?"
“Nobody love a black girl. Not even herself”