I Know Who I Am: A Caribbean Woman's Identity in Canada


250 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88961-414-8
DDC 305.45'8969729071





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


I Know Who I Am is an attempt to rectify “[the] general assumption
that persist in diasporas ... that a Caribbean woman’s identity is
essentially that of the immigrant woman ... with all the negative
connotations of blackness, passivity and working in unskilled jobs.”
Using her own story and the stories of others, Bobb-Smith argues that,
instead of accepting identities as victims, these women, by resisting
racism and sexism, deconstruct that stereotype in order to redefine
strong, independent selves.

Part of that deconstruction lies in the way each woman claims a
multiplicity of heritages, cultures, classes, and sexual orientations
normally hidden by the dominant culture’s monolithic definition of
“Caribbean.” Tracing the interconnectedness of these histories,
Bobb-Smith attempts to “theorize a collective subjectivity” while
avoiding an essentialist identity. In order to further define Caribbean
women’s identity, she looks to Canadian scholarly literature and
Caribbean fiction and non-fiction. The scholarly works of Agnes
Calliste, W. Ng, and others, she suggests, operate under the constraints
of woman as victim. Regional Caribbean feminist studies and fiction by
diasporic Caribbean women such as Dionne Brand and Claire Harris,
however, support her thesis that Caribbean women have “continued a
legacy of assertiveness for resistance and survival.” Finally, the
author deals with the role home plays in the formation of a personal
identity—a complex task when it is both “a birthplace and ... a
place of migration or exile.” More interesting than her use of
postcolonial and literary theory is her extensive use of interviews and
fiction to examine the construction of identities. Indeed, the personal
is political in Bobb-Smith’s work. Her willingness to write herself
into her academic work is both fresh and powerful.


Bobb-Smith, Yvonne., “I Know Who I Am: A Caribbean Woman's Identity in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15663.