Praise for Motherland
Motherland and Other Stories is one of the best debuts I’ve read in years. Each story is a revelation and a wonder, an exquisite microcosm unto its own, and Wandeka Gayle is the magician who brilliantly and deftly draws the reader into the lives of her protagonists for whom “home” is an elusive idea as they struggle to find their place in the world. Fans of Edwidge Danticat, Paule Marshall, and Michelle Cliff will be delighted by these beautifully written and genuinely moving stories. Wandeka Gayle is a writer to watch.”
John McNally, The Book of Ralph and The Fear of Everything
“The stories in Wandeka Gayle’s Motherland: And Other Stories are carefully, even classically, constructed and deeply affecting. I found myself wrenched between emotions, tears in my eyes more than once for these people Gayle introduces us to. What a beautiful book!”
Rion Amilcar Scott, Insurrections and The World Doesn’t Require You
POCKETS OF BELONGING: WANDEKA GAYLE’S MOTHERLAND: AND OTHER STORIES
REVIEWED BY KELLY K. FERGUSON
(Published in THE RUMPUS, June 30th, 2021)
In the essay “My Father’s Land,” Courtney Desiree Morris writes that while colonizers have preserved the monuments to their history in their plantation homes, statues, and obelisks, “the descendants of the enslaved must look elsewhere—to the soil and the sea—to find our monuments, our martyrs, and the memory of our existence.”
Wandeka Gayle, in her debut collection, Motherland: And Other Stories, has built an impressive series of monuments to her Jamaican people that reward the reader with their poignant and piercing revelations. Her characters’ brief but essential moments of human connection provide a road map to healing from profound homesickness, one rooted in a rich and complicated history.
“You not from here,” a bus driver shouts at the title character of “Melba,” a woman who has taken to riding the Louisiana public bus in the wake of her husband’s death. The driver’s intention isn’t unkindly; she’s making an observation. Initially, Melba fears a tiresome conversation about how she doesn’t “sound” Jamaican, and she’s tired of Southern women who call her “baby” when she doesn’t feel the connection, but then the two women do connect: The driver lost her child in the same fatal school bus crash that took Melba’s two children, years earlier. She starts when the driver hugs her but afterwards finds lightness, release. In grief, they find shared experience.
REVIEW OF WANDEKA GAYLE'S MOTHERLAND
by Desiree Cooper
Published in Blood Orange Review - on Feb 16, 2021)
For most of us, there is a motherland—a place that speaks the language of our souls, the place that shaped our early lives, the place to which our yearnings always return. It’s that sentimental anchor that keeps us centered. But for those like Atlanta-based, Jamaica-born author Wandeka Gayle, the motherland can be both the place of existential nourishment and existential threat—especially for women.
Motherland is Gayle’s first collection of short stories, an homage to her Caribbean sisters at home and abroad. The narratives are compelling and the language spare, reflecting the make-do ethic of the characters she depicts.
The women in the collection are threaded together by the theme of abandonment. Notably, mothers who abandon their daughters, paving the way for the daughters to abandon their country. In these stories, young women lose their mothers to untimely death, jail, ambition, and even misguided love. Grandmothers and aunts are there to both coddle and curse the bewildered girls, always admonishing them to, above all else, keep their legs closed.