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Adult; Memoir; (Market)

This is a memoir told as a series of vignettes detailing my immigration story, assimilation process, blended family dynamics, and personal tragedies that complicated my journey into womanhood.
Montgomery offers a beautiful first volume of her memoirs. Told as a series of vignettes, the story of her life in Jamaica and as an immigrant to the United States is touching and sometimes heartbreaking, while also offering warmth, wisdom, humor and a welcome self-awareness. The reader gains great insight into the life of the author and her family as chapters touch on complex aspects of life, from the time she asked her father “Are we in the middle class?” to her mother’s rejection of feminism, all explored in a gentle but forthright voice. The narrative is touching from the start, as it examines what her parents gave up to build new lives.

Upon emigrating, Jayma's mother left her young daughter in the care of loving family while she worked to establish herself in the U.S. and then bring Jayma over as well. Jayma, though, struggled when the day came to leave her home and join her mother, and she tells the story with great empathy for both the child who loves the people who raised her and the mother who sacrificed those formative years with her child to seek a better future for them both. That relationship, not always easy, is the book’s beating heart. Both mother and daughter have strong personalities and clashing ideas of what makes a person successful and fulfilled, though Montgomery’s accounts of their clashes of will and desire always give grace to all the participants.

She’s frank about hurt feelings, failures of sensitivity, and the larger rifts that are harder to repair, but always generous and insightful, too, as she reveals the "why" behind everyone’s actions and beliefs. Her vivid journey to belonging is written in the conversational style of a friend sharing what matters most: feeling like an outcast, bullying, impossible beauty standards, infertility and miscarriage, suicidal and self-harm ideation, beautiful friendships, the gift of extended family, and the importance of a clear view of where you came from and where you want to go. It’s a book to treasure.

Takeaway: Generous, moving vignettes of life and family after emigrating to the U.S.

Comparable Titles: Marie Bell-Mack’s Jamigrant, Lorna Goodison’s From Harvey River.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A