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Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad
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Published:
W. W. Norton & Company 2018
Status:
Available from OverDrive
Description

An eloquent new Caribbean literary voice reveals the hidden trauma and fierce resilience of one Trinidadian family.


There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where Krystal's mother works as a nanny, and the warmth of Trinidad seems a pretty yet distant memory. But when her grandfather lapses into a coma after a fall at home, the women he has terrorized for decades begin to speak, and a brutal past comes to light.


In the lyrical patois of her mother and grandmother, Krystal learns the long-held secrets of their family's past, and what it took for her foremothers to survive and find strength in themselves. The relief of sharing their stories draws the three women closer, the music of their voices and care for one another easing the pain of memory.


Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse—the harsh legacies of plantation slavery—permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island's plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family's new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
02/20/2018
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393609271
ASIN:
B073SGWYH9
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Krystal A. Sital. (2018). Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Krystal A. Sital. 2018. Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Krystal A. Sital, Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad. W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Krystal A. Sital. Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad. W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
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Date Updated:
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      • value: family history
      • value: grandmother
      • value: mother
      • value: Justice
      • value: abuse
      • value: Caribbean
      • value: trauma
      • value: grandfather
      • value: cruelty
      • value: Grandparents
      • value: dialect
      • value: domestic violence
      • value: memoir
      • value: gender inequality
      • value: trinidadian
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      • role: Author
      • fileAs: Sital, Krystal A.
      • bioText: Krystal A. Sital was born in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and moved to the United States in 1999. A PEN Award finalist and Hertog fellow, she holds an MFA from Hunter College. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Salon, Today's Parent, the Margins, the Caribbean Writer, Brain Child, and elsewhere. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters.
      • name: Krystal A. Sital
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2018-02-20T00:00:00-05:00
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title
Secrets We Kept
fullDescription

An eloquent new Caribbean literary voice reveals the hidden trauma and fierce resilience of one Trinidadian family.

There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where Krystal's mother works as a nanny, and the warmth of Trinidad seems a pretty yet distant memory. But when her grandfather lapses into a coma after a fall at home, the women he has terrorized for decades begin to speak, and a brutal past comes to light.

In the lyrical patois of her mother and grandmother, Krystal learns the long-held secrets of their family's past, and what it took for her foremothers to survive and find strength in themselves. The relief of sharing their stories draws the three women closer, the music of their voices and care for one another easing the pain of memory.

Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse—the harsh legacies of plantation slavery—permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island's plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family's new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Sheila Kohler;New York Times
      • content: One reads Sital's story appalled and moved by the suffering of these indomitable women...A reader can only applaud the author who has so skillfully preserved them in such loving, precise detail.
      • premium: False
      • source: Lucy Kogler;Lit Hub
      • content: This is a striking book. And the strength, bravery and sheer will of the women will make you glad you read it
      • premium: False
      • source: Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun
      • content: In this stunning, unforgettable memoir, Krystal Sital writes with unflinching honesty, exploring with great depth and complexity her grandmother's liberation after her grandfather's death and the complications that arise from this fiery matriarch's quest to selfhood after years of abuse and servitude. A brilliant account of gender inequality and the burdens we bear as women in the Caribbean.
      • premium: False
      • source: Andre Dubus III, author of Gone So Long
      • content: Once a decade or so, if we're fortunate, comes a book that seems to insist itself into being, on that rises from the heartbreakingly silent depths of the voiceless. Secrets We Kept is that book. It is a love song to the author's Trinidadian mother and grandmother, yes, but it is also a hymn of justice to the ignored and forgotten wounds of enduring and resilient women throughout the ages. It is a tribute to truth in the face of denial. It is a deeply resonant, timely, and necessary work of art.
      • premium: False
      • source: Jean Kwok, author of Mambo in Chinatown and Girl in Translation
      • content: Powerful and heart-wrenching, Krystal Sital's beautifully written memoir, Secrets We Kept, details her family history on Trinidad, as her grandmother and mother finally unleash their voices to uncover the brutal truth of who her grandfather truly was.
      • premium: False
      • source: Tracy K. Smith, author of Ordinary Light and Poet Laureate of the United States
      • content: Krystal A. Sital brings the generations of her family powerfully to life, rendering their struggles and determination with courage and compassion. I love how it is first the sense of voice that constitutes place; it means that the most vivid world I find myself in is the one inside each of Sital's family members, rendered with an honest, rigorous love.
      • premium: False
      • source: Gaiutra Bahadur, author of the Orwell Prize-shortlisted Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture
      • content: Krystal A. Sital is no less than a ventriloquist, giving breath and voice to three generations of courageous Trinidadian women through bracing, evocative prose.
      • premium: False
      • source: Inara Verzemnieks, author of Among the Living and the Dead
      • content: In luminous, aching prose, Krystal A. Sital summons a rich polyphony of voices, spanning generations. As these voices build and weave with dazzling intricacy across the years and the miles, they form a reckoning, a prayer, an unforgettable testament to the strength of women in response to violence, the myriad ways that they are able to remake the unspeakable into extraordinary acts of love. Sital's ability to look straight at the unspoken traumas of her family and give them voice, with both compassion and unsparing honesty, is the ultimate expression of love.
      • premium: False
      • source: Marina Budhos, author of Watched and The Professor of Light
      • content: Intricate, searing, Krystal A. Sital's multi-generation tale draws from the true voices of the women in her family. Written in prose both gently loving and harrowing, she gives us their pain, their endurance—and their ultimate strength. A remarkable feat of storytelling, a testament to the power of listening, and a crucial contribution to Caribbean literature.
      • premium: False
      • source: Jeannie Vanasco, author of The Glass Eye and Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl
      • content: Krystal A. Sital's Secrets We Kept is a masterful exploration of family history and hurt. With her grandfather unresponsive and close to death, Sital bears witness to her mother and grandmother's recollections of life in Trinidad with him and tries to reconcile two versions of this man: the gentle grandfather who played with her, and the tyrant who beat his wife, sister, and children. Secrets We Kept investigates storytelling itself and the gaps between a life lived and its different, at times clashing depictions. It should be required reading for students of creative nonfiction.
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        December 15, 2017
        A freelance journalist (New York Times Magazine, Salon, etc.) debuts with a wrenching, deeply personal memoir about the lives of three generations of women in Trinidad and Tobago.Any romantic, sunny notions about Caribbean island life vanish quickly in this stark account of a place where cultures clash, men dominate, and women often suffer. The author's own story is generally in the background; instead, she focuses on the wretched early lives of her grandmother and mother, both of whom, especially the grandmother, had to deal with husbands so physically abusive that the descriptions, which seem almost surreal at times, become like blows themselves. Miscarriages ensued in some cases. In a few instances, the women lashed back--there's a beating of a man with a board and a choking--but mostly it's men punching and women bleeding. Sital also provides horrendously eye-opening stories about class and cultural discrimination and abuse, in daily life and especially in the schools the women attended. What they had to endure is almost beyond belief, and the author captures it all. The women eventually escaped to the United States, where they forged new, more hopeful futures and also served caretaking roles for the head abuser himself, the grandfather, whose several brain surgeries put him at the mercy of the very women he'd dominated. Tears were rare as he sank toward his death. The author moves us back and forth--one woman's story to another, one time period to another--and she records the dialogue in dialect, so readers should slow down to take it all in. At times, it is astonishing to read the volume of specific detail from these women's lives: it appears that punches and kicks carry with them the details of awful words and deeds, all of which are recorded in bruises visible and invisible.A powerful, disturbing narrative in which pain flows out from the page, drenching readers.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        February 1, 2018
        Sital's evocative first book focuses on the lives of her mother, Arya, and her maternal grandmother, Rebecca. Both expansive and distilled, it is also transporting in its depiction of Sital's ancestral island home in its vibrancy, beauty, and blight. With her grandfather nearing death in a hospital in New Jersey, where most of the family now lives, Sital observes a disconnection between Rebecca's seeming indifference and Arya's and her siblings' buzzing worries for his fate. Sital, then a student, implored Arya for the full story; after long days of work and hospital visits, Arya talked, and Sital wrote. Recreating her foremothers' lives in episodes ranging from ordinary to painfully intense, with dialogue in patois, Sital's tribute is staggering. Most piercingly, she relays with a detachment that reads like love the ways these women were fiercely determined to escape the formidable hardships of their past, foremost for the sake of their children, yet were all but doomed to repeat them. Sital's bracing, loving blend of memoir and family history is not to be missed.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2018

        Sital, a New Jersey-based writer originally from Trinidad, tells the story of her family from the perspective of three women: her mother, her grandmother, and herself. In 2006, Sital's grandfather Shiva--a successful Trinidadian landowner and a man with whom she has always shared a special connection--falls into a coma. Her grandmother Rebecca's nonchalant reaction prompts Sital to start a conversation with her mother, Arya, and later, Rebecca. As she listens to Arya and Rebecca tell their stories, Sital learns that the grandfather she adores has a history of perpetrating unspeakable violence against his wife and children. In this captivating memoir, the author gracefully, honestly, and empathetically begins to reconcile her mother and grandmother's accounts of Shiva with her own pleasant memories of him, while weaving in a thoughtful analysis of how patriarchal culture limited her mother's and grandmother's choices in life. VERDICT An absorbing, beautifully crafted memoir for all readers.--Molly Hone, Pequannock Twp. P.L., NJ

        Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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An eloquent new Caribbean literary voice reveals the hidden trauma and fierce resilience of one Trinidadian family.

There, in a lush landscape of fire-petaled immortelle trees and vast plantations of coffee and cocoa, where the three hills along the southern coast act as guardians against hurricanes, Krystal A. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, a wealthy Hindu landowner. Years later, to escape crime and economic stagnation on the island, the family resettled in New Jersey, where Krystal's mother works as a nanny, and the warmth of Trinidad seems a pretty yet distant memory. But when her grandfather lapses into a coma after a fall at home, the women he has terrorized for decades begin to speak, and a brutal past comes to light.

In the lyrical patois of her mother and grandmother, Krystal learns the long-held secrets of their family's past, and what it took for her foremothers to survive and find strength in themselves. The relief of sharing...

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Three Women of Trinidad
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      • code: BIO026000
      • description: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Memoirs
      • code: HIS041000
      • description: History / Caribbean & West Indies / General