Glynis Guevara was born in Barataria, Trinidad. She was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary short fiction prize in 2012 and was also a finalist for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature in 2014. She currently lives in Toronto where she works as an adult literacy and ESL instructor.
Under the Zaboca Tree (2017, Inanna Publications) is a Young Adult (YA) book that tells the story of Baby Girl (Melody) Sparks, and her trip to Trinidad and Tobago with her father Smokey (Nicholas) who has sole custody of her. They are leaving Canada to start life anew in Trinidad; her father had separated from her stepmother. Baby Girl has never known her mother and Smokey is not very forthcoming on past family history. Once back in Trinidad, there are many things new to Baby Girl: the island slang, food, new people and new friends to make. Then there is her father’s new girlfriend Vena with whom they live with on Paradise Lane. A swift end to that relationship lands them in Flat Hill Village, a less than desirable area where the cycle of being surrounded by new people plus a high crime rate are unsettling to the young girl.
“Flat Hill Village, with its shabby yards, unruly trees and assortment of odd indiviuals, compared to Paradise Lane, with its regular hardworking folks and neatly kept trees and flower gardens decorating the front of each house, was hard for me to take in. I sat on the bed and stared at the walls, wishing I had the magical power to make my absent mother reappear. Just then a gecko about five inches long scurried from one edge of the ceiling to the next. I was too shell shocked to holler.”
All throughout Under the Zaboca Tree, we feel Baby Girl’s distress, confusion, loneliness and hurt as she gets moved from place to place, and yearns to have a mother like other children. While fortunate to have a father who has cared for her until this point, questions about why her birth mother has never contacted her remain a mystery. Then, one day, an accidental discovery of papers in the bottom of an old desk drawer leads her to confront her father for the truth. A delightful, four-star YA read that is insightful to life in Trinidad & Tobago as well as comprehending the stress transient parents can put on their kids as seen through a child’s eyes.
Under the Zaboca Tree by Glynis Guevara
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