The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir (Paperback)
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Staceyann Chin has appeared on television and radio discussing issues of race and sexuality, but it is her extraordinary voice that launched her career as a performer, poet, and activist—here, she shares her unforgettable story of triumph against all odds in this brave and fiercely candid memoir.
No one knew Staceyann's mother was pregnant until a dangerously small baby was born on the floor of her grandmother's house in Lottery, Jamaica on Christmas Day. Staceyann's mother did not want her and her father was not present—no one, except her grandmother, thought Staceyann would survive.
It was her grandmother who nurtured and protected and provided for Staceyann and her older brother in the early years. But when the three were separated, Staceyann was thrust, alone, into an unfamiliar and dysfunctional home in Paradise, Jamaica. There, she faced far greater troubles than absent parents. So, armed with a fierce determination and exceptional intelligence, she discovered a way to break out of this harshly unforgiving world.
Staceyann Chin, acclaimed and iconic performance artist, now brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a brave, lyrical, and fiercely candid memoir about growing up in Jamaica. She plumbs tender and unsettling memories as she writes about drifting from one home to the next, coming out as a lesbian, and finding the man she believes to be her father and ultimately her voice. Hers is an unforgettable story told with grace, humor, and courage.
About the Author
Staceyann Chin is a full time artist. A resident of New York City and a Jamaican National, she has been an “out poet and political activist” since 1998. From the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe to one-woman shows Off-Broadway to acting in Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe and performing in both the stage and film versions of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People's History of the United States, to starring in the Tony-nominated, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin credits the long list of “things she has done” to her grandmother's hard-working history and the pain of her mother's absence. She is the author of her memoir The Other Side of Paradise and Crossfire, a collection of her poetry.
"A completely absorbing account of how a girl born into denial and contempt can grow up resilient, sane, and full of purpose. She also shows me a culture I knew far too little about -- the everyday life of young people in Jamaica and the threat of violence looming over anyone who might be too independent or queer or outrageous. How wonderful that this outrageous, talented, determined woman has given us her story." -- Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller
"Staceyann Chin's memoir is a heartbreaking feat of unflinching memory and language. Set in a Jamaica far from the tourist brochures, The Other Side of Paradise is Chin's rich and nuanced story of family and abandonment, love and brutality, and a child's struggle to survive and find a home that will accept her. A remarkable young woman emerges, whose gift for poetry has been forged by poverty, religiosity, and a circle of adults who found the child in their care. This is A Portrait of the Artist written for our age. I love this book -- and I am completely hamstrung by the feelings it evokes." -- Walter Mosley
"The human family is a complex ecosystem, a magnificent experiment of righteous diversity. The Other Side of Paradise captures the evocative struggle of one strong but fragile flower. Staceyann breaks our hearts a little, and then brings us safely, gratefully, home." -- Rebecca Walker, author of One Big Happy Family and Black White and Jewish
"Staceyann's courage, sensitivity, and bravery are exposed on these vulnerable pages. Captured is the fire, passion, and light I experience when she performs. Liberating, beautiful, and life-affirming, The Other Side of Paradise is simply incredible." -- Russell Simmons, author of Do You!