“We are a family of different generations, different upbringings, different backgrounds and races–diverse in ways no half-hearted policy or opportunistic advertisement campaign can ever truly represent, and brought together in celebration of your birth.” (p. 11)
Inspired by James Baldwin’s essay My Dungeon Shook which was written as a letter to his nephew, David Chariandy takes a break from fiction writing to pen I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You which has a structure reminiscent of a novella is actually a his letter to his pre-teen daughter.
While short in length, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You manages to tackle issues such as culture, racism, family, parenting and the immigrant experience in a powerful and emotional way. It was fascinating to get a glimpse at Chariandy’s family life and history in addition to the brief mention of his wife’s family who has had a remarkably different experience than his own. And while I enjoyed the story of how two people from incredibly different backgrounds can come together to start their own family, I appreciated how he captured the true awkwardness of two cultures coming together with immense understanding and patience. Being a child of immigrants I could also relate to the section where Chariandy talks about his kids realizing that they don’t belong and that they appear to the locals as Canadian tourists who happen to have a cultural connection to the Trinidad and its people. This was how I felt as a kid every time I visited Vietnam with my parents.
I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is firstly a letter of love to Chariandy’s pre-teen daughter. It is clear from the beginning to the conclusion just how proud he is of his daughter and how similar to every other parent, he struggles with trying to protect her while also letting go and letting her be her own person. A quick read, I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is a timely read that all Canadians should definitely consider picking up as it makes its readers truly reflect on life especially during the current political climate.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.