Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 27th 2014 Contents B29
April 27, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
BB AC B
On parents visiting day, Beatrice,
a character in the popular young
adult (YA) novel Divergent, by
Veronica Roth, thinks about her
brother and parents as she asks
herself, "Do they know what kind
of person their son is? Then again...
what kind of person am I?"
Our Sunday Arts Section (SAS)
April Book Club choice Divergent
proves once again that teenagers are
not just gravitating towards fast-
paced, plot-oriented fantasy literature
(or, in this case, dystopian literature)
that offers a means of escape.
Buried in this futuristic story of
the Midwestern US city of Chicago,
where everyone is defined by one of
five factions that determine the qual-
ities necessary for a society to sur-
vive, are little gems of wisdom that
hit home with teenagers.
In the passage about parents vis-
iting day, Beatrice waits anxiously
to see if her parents will show up to
see her since she abandoned her
family s virtue of Abnegation and
chose the faction of Dauntless. All
teenagers wonder how far they can
push the envelope and how much
emotion they can show.
In Beatrice s world everyone falls
within five factions: Candor (the
honest), Abnegation (the selfless),
Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the
peaceful), and Erudite (the intelli-
gent). If they don t, they are diver-
Wrapped in an action-packed
story of survival are many questions
that teens ask themselves, but rarely
articulate to others: Will my parents
accept me if my values differ from
theirs? Would my parents abandon
me if I did something they consid-
ered way out of line?
Beatrice, who is eventually known
as Tris in the novel, soon learns the
fine art of covering feelings to protect
herself. Teenagers are well versed in
hiding feelings, but not necessarily
aware of the consequences of such
actions. For Tris, the consequences
could be dire.
Through Tris s struggle to main-
tain some semblance of individual-
ity---even as she is being pressured
to conform to her Dauntless fac-
tion---Roth explores the agonising
decisions teens must make as they
struggle between forging their own
identity and being accepted into a
In talking about the death of a
Dauntless initiate who commits sui-
cide, Beatrice grapples with this con-
flict when she says, "Courageous
would have been admitting weakness
and leaving Dauntless, no matter
what shame accompanied it."
Divergent is a fast, entertaining
and suspense-filled read with more
dialogue than most novels. It is also
a guide to what being a teen really
. The Dauntless face grueling and often violent
challenges in the simulators hich Tris finds difficult
to face Is it possible not to respond to disturbing
images even if ou kno the aren t real? What do
these scenes about the simulators tell us about the
movies and TV sho s e atch?
2. The Dauntless often seem to overstep their
boundaries in training and there are even rumours
that the have killed initiates What does Divergent
sho readers about ho rumours and overstepping
boundaries affect people?
3. The factions in Divergent ere originall
established to create a sense of peace Wh doesn t
this idea ork?
4. Until recentl initiation ceremonies have been ver
important as formal rites of passage from one period
to another in children s lives Ho does Divergent use
rites of passage to appeal to teen readers?
The A B Cl pa s
tribute to the magical realism of
the late great Colombian Nobel
Laureate for Literature l
Join our discussion on the A
B Cl group on Facebook
A review by
BB AC B
Trinidad-born Lynn Joseph has qui-
etly been making a name for herself in
children s literature since the publica-
tion of her first book, A Wave in Her
Pocket, in 1991.
Celebrating the legends and folktales
that form the backbone of our holidays
and festivals---as well as everyday life---
Joseph s novels and poems, including An
Island Christmas (1996) and Jump-Up
Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story (1998),
showcase Caribbean culture as it shapes
families and traditions.
Her last two novels, The Color of My
Words (2001) and Flowers in the Sky
(2013) published by Harper Teen, an
imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, are
set in the Dominican Republic.
Flowers in the Sky captures that special
sorrow that children face when they are
forced to move---especially if that move
means migrating to a foreign country.
In this young adult novel, 15-year-old
Nina Perez is a quiet, shy teenager, who
is rooted in her culture in more ways
than one. She loves the simple island
life, and she revels in the beauty of her
As a five-year-old, she remembers the
flower garden she made with her much
older brother Darrio on one of his rare
visits back to the Dominican Republic.
These are the memories Nina clings
to and carries to "Nueva York", when her
mother forces her to join her brother
after her mother misinterprets a ques-
tionable situation involving Nina and
Nina is shipped to an uncertain future
defined by her mother s dream of putting
Nina in a position to find a rich hus-
band---maybe even a professional baseball
player. Ironically, Nina s mother is less
realistic than Nina.
With admirable clarity, beauty and
control, Joseph subtly creates a complex
teenager in Nina, who is rooted in the
moment, without reducing Nina s
extraordinary vision of life to typical
Joseph s gift as a writer is her ability
to find profound meaning in simple acts
that could easily be overlooked or over-
written. Joseph admirably navigates her
way through the murky territory of nos-
talgia, abused and overused by most
writers of immigrant stories.
Instead of living in the past, Nina uses
her past as a foundation for a new life.
Her dream of a happy life with memories
of the land she loves does not turn into
a maudlin display of nostalgia. Nina s
memories of her home are like the
branches and leaves of the plants she
has always loved.
Memories connect her to her land,
her brother, her mother and a new life.
They propel her forward and even help
her learn how to create flowers in the
This is not a sappy title confined to
a puzzling metaphor, but a real plan that
is followed through by Nina. (I won t
give away that secret).
By the time Nina learns that nothing
is what it seems; money cannot buy
happiness, a sense of belonging or the
immigrant dream of success, readers fully
realise that this is a story about loyalty,
guilt, individuality, secrets, trust, and
love in many forms---including romantic
Nina s love interests turn out to be
two young men from the Dominican
Republic: Carlos, the intelligent classmate
who wants to become a doctor, and Luis,
the barber who has far too much money
for his job. They test her ability to stay
Flowers in the Sky is a soft, sensitive
story with subtle tension that builds in
In many ways, Joseph s novel reminds
me of other great children s and YA lit-
erature that uses plants as a metaphor
for growing: Me and the Pumpkin Queen
by Marlane Kennedy, Weedflower by
Cynthia Kadohata, and Grow by Juanita
But make no mistake about it: this is
an original Caribbean story that stands
on its own merit as a touching, thought-
provoking vision of what it means to be
an individual with a sense of roots.
Lynn Joseph's YA novel subtle but strong
y s as in T&T last eek
for the C B s s l
Yesterda she read from her
children s book C l y
s at the C l 's y
l s, - - .
l s y
, 20 3
Links Archive April 26th 2014 April 28th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page