“If I Survive You” by Jonathan Escoffery was a powerful novel full of connected short stories about growing up and finding an identity in a place where everyone has a certain identity already picked out for you. It is about belonging and about trying to understand your family and your family’s past and your place in it.
The main characters are Jamaican-Americans, yet the fact that they were born in Miami, Florida and the fact that they don’t look “Jamaican,” and don’t “fit” into others’ pre-determined boxes for them is a constant struggle. In certain places or at school each different group has a different label or stereotype that they project on the main characters based on their own specific lenses.
Growing up in South Florida much of what was portrayed all rang true and resonated with my own experience. There is definitely a unique mix of people from all walks of life in South Florida with their own expectations. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Latinos, Jamaicans, Haitians, and then various combinations all located in one densely populated area form a community like no other in the world.
On top of cultural differences each family has their own history and pecking order and in some cases it seems like one doesn’t even belong in their own family. An exploration of these themes swirls from chapter to chapter back and forth between parents, and their two sons, the chosen oldest son, and the deficient, younger son.
This was a very profound and powerful debut by Jonathan Escoffery.
Get a copy of “If I Survive You” by Jonathan Escoffery from Amazon here.