I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU by David Chariandy is a letter written to his thirteen year old daughter. This short text, just 91 pages, is sure to be compared to Between the World and Me and Dear Ijeawele, both of which are in our collection. An award-winning author, Chariandy grew up in Toronto (and now lives in Vancouver) with immigrant parents from Trinidad so he offers a unique perspective. There are times when this thoughtful and very emotionally powerful letter is less critical of a single group (or nation other than Canada) and speaks directly to all of us: "We live in a time, dearest daughter, when the callous and ignorant in wealthy nations have made it their business to loudly proclaim who are the "us" (those really "us") and who are the alien and undeserving "them." But the stories of our origins offers us a different insight. The people we imagine most apart from "us" are, oftentimes, our own forgotten kin."

Chariandy also contemplates the experiences of each generation, reflecting on how his daughter's childhood is different from his own and on the lives of his own parents who "experienced many indignities and deep body aches, sacrifices and shortages, but they worked hard and they managed to raise a writer who is also a professor of literature, a fact of which they are proud but also, at times, perplexed." 

Very poignantly he notes, "children always sense more than their parents are willing to say. Children read stories in pauses and silences, from irritation and sadness, from the grief and fear behind brave faces. And children sometimes choose silence." That reinforces the importance of sharing and discussing texts like I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU with our students, especially as we strive to explore social emotional learning this next school year.
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Lately there seems to be quite a few books out by authors writing to their children. Chariandy writes here to his daughter, a daughter who is of mixed race, African Asian and white. They live in Canada and  an unexpected act of bigotry prompts him to try to explain to his daughter what she might face in this world. Also explains his own background and how his life was shaped by similiarities acts.

He is in awe of his daughter, the way she goes through life, handling things, in one case protecting her younger brother. His love for her is apparent on every page of this poignant and beautifully written book. It is a book of truth, of experiences learned, of an uncertain future, and a look at how people judge others just by what's on the surface. Never bothering to look beneath, and see what is hidden. It is a timely read, with so many injustices once again or should I say always rearing their ugly head.

"You did not create the inequalities and injustices of the world, daughter. You are neither solely nor uniquely responsible to fix them. If their is anything to learn about the story of our ancestry, it is that you should respect and protect yourself; that you should demand not only justice but joy; that you should see, truly see, the vulnerability and the creativity and the enduring beauty of others."

"Being named, he found his own voice. Being sighted, he learned, nevertheless, to see."

ARC from Netgalley.
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An honest vulnerable look at race a look at the world from a multi ethnic mans point of view of life to his daughter also multi ethnic.A book that is eye opening at times heart wrenching an important read Perfrct for book club discussion, #netgalley #bloomsburyusa.
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I honestly couldn't get into the writing style of this book. I expected the letter-like style of this book to make for an easy read but the voice of the author was hard for me to step into. Unfortunately I did DNF this book.
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I only skimmed this, very short and slim. Frankly wasn't captivated, but might hold more within the pages for others. Thanks for the arc!
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I understand the comparison to Ta Nahisi Coates’  Between the World and Me. Both works are written by people of color to their children and impart their thoughts about race. But, of course that is a very superficial similarity. While I loved both books, the resonated for very different reasons. 

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is written to the author’s daughter, but it is written in the second person. I think second person voice is tricky to pull off well, but it feels just right here. The narrative feels like an intimate conversation and it puts you right in the room. 

Chariandy has a strange relationship with race. He is of mixed background, South Asian and African by way of Trinidad. His daughter has the added wrinkle of having a white mother. So, just the definition of race or answering the question “where are you from” yields complexity far beyond (literally and figuratively) black and white. His ambilance about race and the myriad of ways it plays out for him make this the vulnerable and beautiful reflection that it is. Chariandy takes the reader along as he wrestles and ponders race and place and family. A great read.
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