Skip to main content

Here Comes the Sun


Here Comes the Sun

Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut is at once a gorgeous tribute to and a searing indictment of her home country of Jamaica. Intense, unapologetic and remarkably powerful, HERE COMES THE SUN is a startling and melodic experience.

Dennis-Benn explores a range of experiences belonging to black Jamaican woman, weaving together the disparate, interconnected generational narratives via the throughline of one family. Thirty-year-old Margot has two main concerns. The first is providing for her 15-year-old sister, hoping to give young Thandi the chance for prosperity and freedom that she herself never had. The second is concealing the biggest secret of her life, one still punished by torture and death in too many contexts: her love for another woman. Both concerns complicate and motivate her secondary job --- not her official work at the hotel, but her unofficial work, after hours, which has been paying for Thandi's schooling.

"Intense, unapologetic and remarkably powerful, HERE COMES THE SUN is a startling and melodic experience."

When their mother, Delores, caught so much as an inkling of Margot's interests in women back in Margot's childhood, she resorted to "fixing" her daughter the only way she knew how, the only way that would help keep both of them alive. Years later, unbeknownst to her mother or sister, Margot still keeps her family alive with the skills she learned as a child. Of course, she never was "fixed," and Margot's experiences falling for Verdene, who the neighborhood sees as a "witch" or "freak," are deeply resonant, crucial literature.

While Margot struggles to provide for her family and keep her secrets, Thandi struggles with the expectations foisted upon her. She bears the burden of being her mother and sister's only real hope, their pride and joy, their potential for freedom. They invest in her education, expecting that she'll become a doctor, but all Thandi wants to do is make art and study to make better art. She doesn't know the depths of their suffering or their sacrifices, and she keeps a horrific secret of her own buried deep. All she knows is that successful women don't look like her. They are light-skinned, if not white. Burdened with expectations she doesn't want to live up to, Thandi takes extreme measures to become a woman she thinks will command respect.

Through these different women, Dennis-Benn breathes life into complex issues that many readers, especially white Americans, may never have considered any deeper than as vague concepts. Racism, fetishization, colorism, child prostitution, sexual assault, militant homophobia --- all of these aren't faceless horrors, but daily realities for too many. The pervasiveness of these issues is met with the resilience and heart --- and downright survival instincts --- of the women in this novel.

So much of the book centers on how we are seen, specifically how black women are seen --- poor black women, Jamaican women, dark-skinned women, black lesbians --- how they see themselves within a racist, sexist, colorist and colonialist culture, and how they see each other. In this endeavor, Dennis-Benn enacts a modern revolution. The narrative weaves authentically in and out of patois, exploring how we present ourselves and classist expectations. This is a novel of hunger, sacrifice, vindication, sisterhood and love.

In a few places, I wanted more. I wanted a bit more consciousness, more closure, but I trust Dennis-Benn's striking and clever hand, and feel sure that a tidy ending would not have been appropriate in the world of this novel. I revel instead in the bravery it takes to tell this story authentically.

Here comes the sun --- not as a cliché, but as a revelation. Shedding light on our secrets, darkening our aging souls with choices, desires and paths we never meant to take, people we never meant to lose. Here comes the sun --- unapologetic, consistent in its ambivalence, impossible to ignore but as constant as the day, nourishing new life in tandem to the dark death it plants in our skin. Unparalleled in beauty and strength and the potential for inescapable pain --- as is this exquisite novel.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on July 6, 2016

Here Comes the Sun
by Nicole Dennis-Benn

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright
  • ISBN-10: 1631492942
  • ISBN-13: 9781631492945