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by Carol Sammy
Reviewed by Charlotte Simpson

Deokie Ramoutar is different from the other girls in her Trinidadian village. Nineteen years old, she is more sober and thoughtful than her giddy, frivolous friends and not really interested in boys. Instead, Deokie is deeply concerned with finding her place in the world, feeling that she could become an important person in her country, leading the way towards a better, more worthy society.

Deokie is a somewhat unlikeable character, a typical teenager really. She acts, as a young man points out, 'Like you's a Trinidad tourist, or what. Like you don't have time for we kind o' thing. Is here you living, family. You can't turn your nose up at it'. (That brought back painful memories of my teenage self looking down disdainfully on what I saw as my parents' dull and uninspiring life!) This is the crux of the novel: not only is Deokie stuck between childhood and adulthood but she is also caught between cultures—Indian, Trinidadian and American. While she wants to be proud of Trinidad, she is also very jealous of her friend Lydia who has an American boyfriend and will probably end up living in that land of wealth and promise. The lure of the US is difficult to ignore.

Dilemmas of Deokie is Carol Sammy's debut novel, written during a period of living on her island of birth (she has been UK-based for many years). While the novel is an enjoyable read, it does have flaws. There is little character development, and the dialogue and plot seem to have been written primarily in order that Sammy can comment on what she observed about Trinidadian society and culture. This makes the novel feel naive and forced. However, Sammy is certainly drawing on themes that are tackled in a number of contemporary Caribbean novels—parents' difficulties in accepting a changing world, and children unsure of their identity in a society that is deeply influenced by other cultures. Dilemmas of Deokie is an enjoyable, if slightly frustrating, read.