Set in the neighbourhood of “Little Jamaica,” Frying Plantain follows a girl from elementary school to high school graduation as she navigates the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation immigrants experiencing first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity in a predominantly white society.
Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle — of her North American identity and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life lessons, of having to avoid being thought of as too “faas” or too “quiet” or too “bold” or too “soft.” In these twelve interconnected stories, we see Kara on a visit to Jamaica, startled by the sight of a severed pig’s head in her great-aunt’s freezer; in junior high, the victim of a devastating prank by her closest friends; and as a teenager in and out of her grandmother’s house, trying to cope with ongoing battles of unyielding authority.
A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker.
ZALIKA REID-BENTA is a Toronto-based writer whose debut short story collection, Frying Plantain, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Frying Plantain was also nominated for the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award presented by the Ontario Library Association; appeared on must-read lists from Bustle, Refinery29, and Chatelaine to the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and more; and was listed as one of Indigo’s Best Books of the Year. Zalika is the winner of the ByBlacks People’s Choice Award for Best Author, was the June 2019 Writer in Residence for Open Book, and was named a CBC Writer to Watch. She received an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University, was a John Gardner Fiction Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and is an alumnus of the Banff Centre Writing Studio. Zalika is currently working on a young-adult fantasy novel drawing inspiration from Jamaican folklore.
PRAISE FOR ZALIKA REID-BENTA AND FRYING PLANTAIN
Winner, Danuta Gleed Literary Award
Winner, Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Literary Fiction
Finalist, Trillium Book Award
Finalist, Forest of Reading Evergreen Award
Finalist, Toronto Book Award
Longlist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
Longlist, Toronto Book Awards
A CBC Book of the Year
“Frying Plantain is every bit as delicious as the title suggests.” — Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie
“Sharp-witted and sharp-tongued, Frying Plantain is written in the indelible ink of memory. Zalika Reid-Benta is a masterful storyteller with a light touch, a photographic recall, and a pitch-perfect ear for the ephemera we’d like to think of as youthful, but just can’t seem to shake. This is an unforgettable debut.” — Paul Beatty, Booker Prize–winning author of The Sellout
“Zalika Reid-Benta announces herself as an enormous voice for the coming decade (and one that is desperately needed). Not all must-read books are this enjoyable.” — Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Lake Success
“Each story in Frying Plantain is achingly poignant, insightful, and funny; each a gem unto itself. Ms. Reid-Benta’s fully sympathetic protagonist, Kara Davis, is a girl who belongs to neither Canada nor Jamaica, despite the fact that both places are ‘home.’ Her family — loving, flawed, and wickedly at odds with one another — all demand her loyalty, and her loyal friends aren’t friends at all. As a collection, these stunning stories create a multi-faceted jewel of a book.” — Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route and Rabbits for Food
“Zalika Reid-Benta’s first book — by turns effortless, vivid, funny, sad, and genuinely like being there — is as shiny as they come. Her spot-on capture of youthful aspiration, folly, and how family members tend to understand one another only in fragments make these stories a real pleasure — full of recognition, humour, and keenly observed lives in the here and now. Frying Plantain, a window into the world of growing upward and onward inside and outside family ties, is an absolute gem.” — Janice Galloway, author of Clara and All Made Up
“Frying Plantain is a series of linked short stories tracing the path of a Jamaican Canadian girl in Toronto from childhood to the beginning of her adult life. The narrator struggles with her mother, her grandparents, her friends, and herself, seeking understanding of who she is meant to be, in her own eyes and the eyes of the world, which are not always the same thing. The book evokes what it feels like to grow up, to want, to walk in the snow, and to move away from the ones you love because you must. These stories evoke the complexity of a person while also, with equal complexity, evoking a neighbourhood (Eglinton West) over time: shifting, complicated, many peopled, loved.” — Toronto Book Awards Jury Citation
“Frying Plantain … brims with wit and compassion.” — Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“Reid-Benta is a natural storyteller … This splendid collection marks her as a writer to watch.” — Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
“This is the book I’ve been waiting to read my entire life on the diasporic Caribbean experience. The writing is sharp, intelligent, and everything you’d expect from a talented Jamaican writer. I honestly love this book.” — Symeon Brown
“These stories are readable and relatable. They hit the sweet spot between having something to say and still being the kind of read you can immerse yourself in, a rare combination.” — Globe and Mail
“Frying Plantain deftly chips away at white dismissals of privilege, obscuring the lines between short story and novel … It documents a unique and complex cultural space that’s under threat, while acknowledging the challenges of living a hyphenated life. It reminds us that individuals remain bound to their cultural experience?—?their quirks and fixations stubbornly wrapped up as metaphorical leftovers.” — Literary Review of Canada
“Frying Plantain is an exceptional collection that … captures the heart of a real-life experience.” — Bitch Media
“Incisive and sharp.” — Refinery29
“Reid-Benta’s writing is clear, precise, and infused with emotional depth. The characters are complex and well developed – comforting in their familiarity and frustrating in their stubbornness. Reid-Benta masterfully uses Kara’s everyday life to highlight the intimate inner workings of her characters, their family dysfunction, and the juxtaposition of Canadian and Jamaican identities.” — Quill & Quire
“An outstanding debut.” —Stylist
“Tackling big issues including race, class, and identity, these interlinked stories share a strong emphasis on the intergenerational relationships — and pressures — many can feel. Zalika’s debut novel really is set to be a modern classic.” —Happiful
“Reid-Benta’s beautifully written debut follows Kara Davis as she makes her way in Toronto’s Little Jamaica.” — i
“A great debut.” —Prima
“Reid-Benta has a playwright or screenwriter’s eye for the way bodies operate in space, and how power plays out among them.” — Arts Desk