An immigrant struggles with health and employment issues before finding hope in her faith.
Born and raised with six siblings in Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America, debut author Edwards and her family immigrated to New York in the mid 1980s in search of prosperity. Instead, her educated parents, who were soundly middle class in Guyana, found themselves working menial jobs as nannies and security guards—a cycle of underemployment that Edwards herself would confront after graduating from college and moving to Atlanta. For years, she would seek a job as a copy editor to no avail: “Surely, I was qualified and skilled to work in my field, but somehow nothing opened up.” Edwards soon set her mind to moving to Florida, but before she could actualize her vision of a sunnier, happier existence as a teacher, she found a lump in her left breast. Without health insurance, she sought local clinics to have a lumpectomy but went more than a year with no follow-up visits. Although she created a new life in Florida, it was marred by horrible students and a cancer that had spread through her bones. By the book’s end, Edwards discovers support and relief in her Christian faith, but her story always returns to the many disappointments she suffered in the United States. “The rules of the game had changed,” she writes of the American dream, “and I evidently never got an update.” The theme of an immigrant’s plans becoming derailed by timely social issues like health insurance and hiring freezes should resonate strongly with readers. But Edwards never fleshes out her recollection. It remains unclear if she intends her story to be an American tragedy or a Christian tale of triumph filled with traumatic elements. Her tendency to use verbose, academic language also gets in the way of clarifying her objective (“I considered the entrapment of being in a cultural dichotomy where younger immigrants contended with the dissonance of living through our parents’ worldview or adopting that of the new world”). In addition, truly upsetting moments—like her decision to shrug off the cancer destroying her body or the sudden, unexplained death of her brother—certainly don’t help to guide this memoir, which is in great need of a clearer direction.
An account of the American dream gone wrong that alternates wildly between the troubling and the uplifting.