By: Ruramai Munyanyi
An adjunct professor in SFU’s Beedie School of Business, Yabome Gilpin-Jackson, sets her foot into the fiction arena and holds her own with some of the best fiction I have ever read. Identities: A Short Story Collection is an enticing summer read about the nuanced experience of the contemporary African immigrant. It’s for anyone who has always wondered about the eclectic lives of Africans, but has been too shy to ask.
“Where are you from?” Gilpin-Jackson opens with the question most immigrants of colour are asked as soon as people realize they look different, sound different, and carry themselves differently. Spoiler alert: the answer is not always as simple as it seems. To this point, Gilpin-Jackson challenges her reader to immediately ask themselves questions and resist the urge to make assumptions. Anyone who is different often yearns for people to do these things.
Her work lacks artifice, and she draws her reader in with characters with whom anyone can identify. Gilpin-Jackson evokes both a sense of empathy for the African immigrant’s experience and a sense of camaraderie as she delves into other aspects of human identity that are universal.
The writer’s voice is what makes this book special. Her ability to illustrate the complicated feelings of being a living bridge between a beloved continent (Africa, in this case) and the strong roots set down in the West is something I never knew I needed. If nothing else, this book feels like it is constantly whispering that ‘you are not alone’; a priceless gift!