Here Comes the Sun is Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel that was released on July 5, 2016. Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, Nicole Dennis-Benn has an MPH an MFA from two American universities and teaches writing at the City University of New York.
Here Comes the Sun is set in Jamaica and highlights the affects of tourism, poverty, and the sex trade. Thandi is about 16 and she is going to a fancy school that her sister, Margot, pays for. Margot is about 15 years older than Thandi. Unfortunately, Thandi and Margot were raised in an impoverished community in Montego Bay by their single mother, Dolores. At a young age, Margot was used and taught to trade her sexuality and beauty for money. All she wants is to save her sister from the same fate; Thandi is going to be a doctor and that’s that. Margot is pretty ruthless at her hotel job and ends up running a prostitution ring to make money for herself and lift herself and her sister out of poverty. This calls into question the way that tourism works in impoverished countries as the owner of her hotel is working to kick people out of their homes for a new home and Margot mercilessly helps with this. There is definitely a reputation of foreigners going to impoverished countries but only staying at resorts that are no where close to the poverty and never really seeing or understanding what the country is really like. I feel like Here Comes the Sun really highlights these issues between tourism and poverty.
Plus, Thandi has to constantly walk between her school life where people speak a more formal English and her home life where people speak in the Jamaican patois. This becomes significant because it becomes a struggle for Thandi who constantly feels out of place, especially when family and childhood friends do things such as call her out for speaking formal English instead of patwa (how they pronounce patois). A lot of pressure is put on Thandi to become a doctor and she ends up realizing how her sister is using her because Margot expects there to be a massive return on her investment in the long run. Meanwhile, Thandi wants to be an artist and this is discounted as a highly unrealistic ambition by her family and even her teachers.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect in the outcome of Here Comes the Sun. It would have been all to easy for Nicole Dennis-Benn to give everyone a happy ending. But she didn’t. I think that that would have satisfied many privileged readers to feel good about how you can leave poverty and be happy, but I don’t think it really works with reality and Nicole Dennis-Benn stuck to reality. We don’t really know what becomes of Thandi; she moves to Kingston and, presumably, is doing art or going to university. Dolores moved to another community; as far as I can tell, Margot is largely at fault for displacing her mom like that. Margot gets what she wants; lots of money, the high paying job, and a good home, but she is also estranged from her entire family because of the ruthless methods she took to reach these goals.
Honestly, Here Comes the Sun is such a good book and I was really struck by the perspectives on poverty and even things like how much girls like Thandi want light skin and has to learn to embrace her dark skin and her culture and reconcile it with her education and her career goals. It was such a true feeling story and I would really recommend it to others.
Title: Here Comes the Sun
Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Publication: July 5, 2016
Page count: 336