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Here Comes the Sun by Dennis-Benn is set in the fictional Jamaican town of River Bank, where a drought has left many citizens impoverished and developers are trying to take their land to build more resorts.
Sometimes Dennis-Benn’s characters make poor choices; other times, they’re the victims of the poor choices, and the greed, of others. The latter is certainly true of the town of River Bank, which is a character in its own right. —NPR
Here Comes the Sun engages with neo-colonialism through the portrayal of tourism as a main function of revenue for Jamaican citizens. In the novel, by working at beach resorts and street vending, native Jamaicans are able to make a living. However, they are only able to make this living because of tourists—presumably visiting from countries that once had colonial power. Hotel workers must change their appearance, attitude, and demeanor to suit the tourists’ preferences. Street vendors must appropriate their culture to the liking of tourists’ stereotypes. These oppressions, which are shown in Here Comes the Sun, are the result of both neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism.
Neo-liberalism is the idea that if there are free-markets, there are free people. This is not the reality though, which Dennis-Benn shows in Here Comes the Sun. By explaining how hotel workers and street vendors in Jamaica must operate to appeal to tourists, the novel shows how they are oppressed by neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism—a subset of neo-colonialism.
Dennis-Benn offers both a critique and a celebration of Jamaican black women and the hardships that they face. The novel seems to commend Jamaican black women for their resilience and strength. However, it also critiques the forms of oppression that make Jamaican black women need to be strong and determined.
In the hands of many writers, Margot—and most of the characters in this novel—could easily become just someone to pity, or conversely, someone to admire for her determination in the face of adversity. But there’s no character in Dennis-Benn’s novel that’s anything less than complex, multifaceted, and breathtakingly real. That’s part of what makes Here Comes the Sun one of the most stunningly beautiful novels in recent years. —NPR
Something I really picked up on in Here Comes the Sun was the appearance of black women and what they are expected to look like. From the perspective Dennis-Benn gives in Here Comes the Sun, Jamaican black women feel they need to look, act, and speak the way tourists—white people—do or they will not be taken seriously. There is a lot of attention paid to how they look—their hair and complexion specifically.
Thandi is a very relatable character. She is kind and intelligent, but with those qualities come the reliance of her family upon her. Everything her family does is focused and directed towards Thandi’s future—Thandi’s difficulty with this pressure is well-examined in Here Comes the Sun. Specifically, Thandi goes to a majority white school and is told incessantly that white people have all of the power. Thandi takes this harshly—taking it to mean she needs to appear more white—and begins treatments to lighten her skin.
The cyclical nature of prostitution and Thandi’s choices in the final scenes were horrifying—I wanted her to turn around and go home to study. While the ending made sense and displayed the troubles in River Bank, I wanted more—a good sign of a great novel!
The ambiguous ending of Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun was disappointing. I wanted to know a lot more about the aftermath of the final climactic scenes. It took me finishing the novel to realize that I should not have expected a happy ending. As a postcolonial novel, the unresolved ending is powerful because it is a counter-narrative to the typical perfect ending found in many books today.
“Gay culture” is taboo in the novel, which complicates the considerably large “western” acceptance of homosexuality. Specifically, Margot and her girlfriend, Verdene, have to keep their relationship a secret or else there will be gossip about them and they could risk being physically harmed.
Local attitudes towards the LGBT community are mostly conservative throughout the Caribbean. In Jamaica, certain same-sex sexual activity is illegal. In practice these laws are rarely enforced. However, the attitude of many Jamaicans to the LGBT community is hostile. —GOV.UK
Although Margot was sexually attracted to women, she did not do much to stop making homosexuality taboo—something ‘Western’ contemporary culture would seem to oppose. Margot set up the female manager—who’s job she wanted—in a sexual encounter with another woman, Jullette, who did not want to participate. Although Margot was completely and totally wrong for forcing Jullette into a situation she did not want to be in, Jullette’s character further villianized homosexuality in the novel. By being completely opposed and seemingly grossed-out by “gay culture,” Jullette’s character was in opposition with modern ‘Western’ values.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel and learned a lot. I wish there had been more of a complete ending, but I should not have imagined, or hoped, it would be a happy one.
I highly recommend Here Comes the Sun!
PATSY – June 4th, 2019