2003 short list:
The Heart Does Not Bend
by Makeda Silvera
Random House Canada
The Heart Does Not Bend
When Maria Galloway dies, she leaves everything to her spoiled, wayward grandson, Vittorio. Her only granddaughter, Molly, whom she raised from infancy, is left to confront the unyielding bitterness Maria harboured against her. As Molly begins to trace the complex interrelationships in her loving but divided family, she recalls her idyllic Jamaican childhood with her grandmother.
But when Maria decides that things might get better if she joins her adult children in Canada, she takes Molly with her. And soon Maria, a woman who has always lived on her own terms and has never been afraid to speak her mind, clashes with her children. Even Molly falls into disfavour when Maria discovers that she is romantically involved with a woman.
||Makeda Silvera was born in Jamaica and now lives in Canada. She is the author of two critically acclaimed collections of short stories, Her Head a Village and Remembering G. She is the editor of The Other Woman: Women of Colour in Contemporary Canadian Literature and the groundbreaking Piece of My Heart: A Lesbian of Colour Anthology.
Excerpt from The Heart Does Not Bend
Part 1 - "You Cannot Shave a Man's Head in His Absence"
"I awoke to the smell of scrambled eggs and bacon fried to a crisp. The house was too quiet. No music blared from the room next door. Uncle Freddie wasn't here anymore. It was a week to the day since he'd left for Canada. Mama had already come back from Coronation Market. I dressed myself and went to the kitchen to eat. Miss Gatty, our washerwoman, was already at work. I could hear the sound of clothes being rubbed against the scrub board through the open kitchen door. Mama was back there with her. They were gossiping like they always did when Miss Gatty came around. She was a tall, thin Maroon-looking woman, with a face full of worry and fuss. She wore her hair in neat plaits, tied with a piece of cloth. I remember her fingers, long and bony, and the thick gold band that she never took off her left hand.
"Gatty, is de best ting dat could happen. De boy would a stay right here and drive mi to destruction."
I should have known that Freddie would be the subject of conversation. Mama hadn't seen Miss Gatty since he left.
"Him seh him wan' learn trade. Send him go learn trade, him nuh go. Send him go learn mechanics, him seh him nuh like lie down under dutty car. Him seh him head nuh tek to book, so him can't tek learning fi doctor or lawyer. Him nuh have no job, and yet him was the biggest spender and dresser pon de street."
"Miss Maria, yuh don't got to tell mi. Is seven of dem mi got, six boys, and not one a dem turn out good."
Mama ended the conversation. "Gatty, mek mi leave yuh to de washing. Ah have a set of baking to do for de Chinese pastry shop."
Mama worked at home from her kitchen, making pastries, delivering them twice a week to the two Chinese shops in our neighbourhood and to Grand-aunt Ruth's restaurant. I finished eating just as Mama came into the kitchen.
The dogs were barking at the gate and I knew it would be Baboo. I raced outside, my braids flying, not wanting to miss him. Baboo was a short, wiry Indian man dressed from a bag of rags. Torn pants, torn overshirt, running shoes with so many holes they looked as if rats had mistaken them for cheese. He came with his hand-drawn cart from the local bus stop to deliver market provisions to the houses on the street, and for that he was paid a few shillings.
Punsie and I and the rest of the gang waited outside for him to make his last delivery, so he could give us a ride in his cart. It wasn't just the ride we enjoyed, it was Baboo himself. He was a walking storybook, painting colourful pictures of people dressed in finery, jewels and gold, of royalty in a faraway land-Calcutta, India. But this Saturday held a different attraction. A new family was moving into the house next door."1
1From The Heart Does Not Bend by Makeda Silvera. Published by Random House Canada. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.