The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
Reviewed by Amanda Darr, Spring 2012
Abandoned by their mother and neglected by her father Staceyann and her brother Delano were taken in by their grandmother who struggled to provide for them during her old age. When their grandmother is no longer able to financially support them, Delano is cared for and supported by his wealthier father, leaving Staceyann to fend for herself and live with any relative willing to take her. These relatives often treated Staceyann more like an inconvenience than an actual family member and neglected and abused her. The neglect becomes very problematic (and even painful) for Staceyann as she began to come of age, especially when she experienced her first period:
This time, I read the instructions on the bag: ‘Important: Make sure the adhesive side of the belt-less maxi-pad lays flat against the crotch of the panties.’ I read the instructions again. Then I take a breath and yank the used pad from my vagina. It hurts so much everything goes black. For a few moments I am unable to make a sound. And when my vision clears I see more black hairs on the pad than on my vagina. I try to fold the pad in two. But the sticky part isn’t sticky anymore (131).
As a non-gender conforming female coming of age in Paradise Jamaica, Staceyann faced many incidents of abuse and neglect which forced her to make discoveries about her identity at a young age. Today Staceyann Chin is an outspoken Lesbian artist and writer who lives in New York. This book is an inspiring read because it shows the courage and determination it took for Staceyann to become the powerful female role model she is today. Her story is very powerful and really gives the reader a sense of her journey to self-discovery.