Cover image for Buxton spice
Buxton spice
Kempadoo, Oonya.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, 1999.

Physical Description:
169 pages ; 21 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Back in print: an extraordinary first novel by'a writer to watch and to enjoy.'*@@Told in the voice of a girl as she moves from childhood into adolescence, @Buxton Spice@ is the story the town of Tamarind Grove: its eccentric families, its sweeping joys, and its sudden tragedies. The novel brings to life 1970s Guyana-a world at a cultural and political crossroads-and perfectly captures a child's keen observations, sense of wonder, and the growing complexity of consciousness that marks the passage from innocence to experience.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Lula, Kempadoo's inquisitive young narrator, doesn't like the Buxton Spice mango tree that towers over her family's house. She believes that it knows all and reveals nothing, and Lula wants to be privy to life's secrets, especially the mystery of sex. She and her friends view their Guyanese village as theater. There's mad Uncle Joe, whom the girls tease mercilessly into having an erection; Bullet, the proud whore; and libidinous Iggy DeAbro, one of 14 Portuguese children living next door. Of mixed East Indian, African, and European descent, Lula is sensuous and intuitive, and Kempadoo has her describe her world in lush and loving detail. A frank sexual voyeur, Lula is also an avid witness to violence, of which there is an increasing amount in her troubled homeland. Clearly her idyll will be short-lived owing to political and racial unrest and her impending coming-of-age, a precariousness that shadows Kempadoo's lithe, earthy, and enchanting portrait of a young girl on an island that should be paradise but is something far more human. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Kempadoo's semi-autobiographical first novel follows bright, sensitive Lula, a girl growing up in Guyana, through her first frightening and thrilling pubescent milestones. In the early 1970s, when Guyana is beset by racial friction between the East Indian and Afro-Caribbean populations, Lula and her racially mixed family find themselves at the center of conflict in their town of Tamarind Grove. A bastion of the PNC (People's National Congress), Tamarind Grove is run by Our Comrade Linden Forbes Burnham, the leader of the Black Socialist Party, and Lula's progress unfolds as a series of vignettes set against this volatile environment. Omnipresent witness to these adventures is the Buxton Spice mango treeÄa mute embodiment of wisdom and identityÄwhose branches hang over the family home. Madmen, prostitutes, clan scandals, murders, rum shacks and irrepressible sexual energy hasten Lula's passage from childhood to womanhood, but Kempadoo describes her sexual awakening with eloquence, empathy, astonishing frankness and ebullience: "I pushed my hips up to the base of the tap, legs splayed up against the wall, hands gripping the tap-head.... Hammering on the top of the Tip while the bomb in me was growing, making my heart faster, muscles tighter... The Tip going to blow off. Oh Me Lawd!" Kempadoo captures the natural beauty of Guyana and the never-ending feast of sensual pleasures: the heat, the foliage, the heavy air and the townspeople, their postures, habits and personalities jumping off the page. But most dazzling is her deft transliteration of language; her words contract and run together, inventively embedding the text with the rocking lilt of Guyanese Creole. Already praised in the U.K., the narrative describes the confusion and changes of puberty with a breathtaking accuracy that both documents a specifically Guyanese experience and also draws a forthright parallel to the many universal discoveries of adolescence. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lula, the mixed-race heroine of Kempadoo's first novel, comes of age in a remote Caribbean village in the 1970s. Kempadoo describes Lula's innocent childhood in the same rich, sensuous prose she uses for the girl's growing awareness of her own sexuality, which emerges just as the government's abusive "People's Militia" arrives to occupy her village. Some of the young men join its ranks in search of a steady income and personal power, and Lula's life changes forever when her mother's arrest drives the family into political exile. Kempadoo displays a rare skill in describing the social and political dynamics of a community and the personal lives of her characters with beautifully observed detail, never allowing the reader to become bogged down. Her words seem to dance lightly upon the page. Highly recommended for all libraries.ÄCarolyn Ellis Gonzalez, Univ. of Texas at San Antonio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.