I absolutely love the language in our newest novel, Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson.
When I read the back cover, the first thing that stood out to me was the phrase “Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint.” Me, being the white Wisconsinite that I am, didn’t even think that that would effect anything whatsoever in the book. So, I started reading, and confused I became. I read the poem in the front, and I thought to myself, “okay, I don’t know how this fits in yet, so I’ll come back to this.” Turn the page. “Oho. Like it starting, oui?” (Hopkinson, p. 1).
WHAT?! There’s French in this book? CRAP. I only know some Spanish. OHHH!!! Caribbean….oh.
Yup, that was me. I smiled so big. I became so excited because it meant that we were going to be reading a book that was going to challenge me on a different cultural level. I wasn’t in class, so unfortunately, I missed out on one of my favorite parts of a new book – finding out who the author really is. So, I took to Google, and I found that Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian. Awesome!
I continued turning the pages. I won’t lie to you all, I had to read pages 4 and 5 three times before I could carry forward. I kept stopping and trying to figure out what “Compere” meant. That’s in addition to me taking “runner” literally at first, and did not understand that she was not just literally running, but also pulling him. So, the language took me by surprise there. But then, it just kept getting better. I love this culture shock in so many ways. Oddly, besides Enland-English (?), I have never truly read a dialogue from another culture. Everything else I read is translated works or, like I said, English. So, it slows me down, but in the best kinds of ways.
I know this post isn’t content related, but as soon as I started reading I knew I wanted to share my experiences with you all. We can talk about the planets, and the differences between Toussaint and New Half-Way Tree, and all kinds of other things like runners, and the economy, and labor, and privacy, and all of those cool things. But I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about first impressions and the language and culture behind the book. So, so fantastic.