The folk will tell you that salt can either save you or destroy you. Toni Cade Bambara's Velma of The Salteaters realized that her survival depended on learning "the difference between eating salt as an antidote to snakebite and turning into salt, succumbing to the serpent." The lesson of similar folk wisdom is the subject of Meredith M. Gasby's Sucking Salt, where she propses as a new framework for the examination of Caribbean women's writing the survival techiniques implied in "sucking salt," techiniques suggested in her aunt's reflections on people she knew. Tantie expounded: "Little salt won't kill yuh...Them people came up hard, with nuthin'. But sometimes you just have to suck salt until you can do better" (1). Gadsby describes "sucking salt" as a survival skill that carries a "simultaneously doubled linguistic sign of adversity and survival" (3). Her two-part goal, she declares, is to examine the significance of salt in the Caribbean and to explore "creative resistance to systems of oppression" experienced by those who migrated to Great Britian, Canada, and New York City (4). She frames much of this study in the travels of women in her own family and their wrestling with issues of migration, identity, and silencing - personal anecdotes that have a poignant relevance to her exploration of the literature. Indeed, this intimacy is one of the great strengths of the book, weaving as it does autobiography (her family's and her own), history, sociology, folklore, and literature. Reading this study I was as often fascinated by Tantie and Delilah Rose as I am by Paule Marshall's Avey Johnson and Selena Boyce!
Copyright © 2007, Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in African American Review: 41:3 (2007), 580-582.
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Dance, Daryl Cumber. "Review of Sucking Salt: Caribbean Women Writers, Migration, and Survival by Meredith M. Gadsby." African American Review 41, no. 3 (2007): 580-82.
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