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In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today. When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what h In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today. When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly heated era of both struggle and divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. David is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one's birth. In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to help cultivate within her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.


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In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today. When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what h In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today. When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly heated era of both struggle and divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. David is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one's birth. In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to help cultivate within her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.

30 review for I've Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    First and foremost this is a loving and beautiful letter expressing an incredible deep love for a daughter cherished as the person she is and continues to develop into. Here is a father who loves his daughter unconditionally and cherishes the being that she is and will be in future. It's so lovely. This is one lucky girl. (I'm sure the entire family feels this love and cherish for each individual; it's just this book is for the daughter) David Chariandy's writing is beautiful. His look at prejudi First and foremost this is a loving and beautiful letter expressing an incredible deep love for a daughter cherished as the person she is and continues to develop into. Here is a father who loves his daughter unconditionally and cherishes the being that she is and will be in future. It's so lovely. This is one lucky girl. (I'm sure the entire family feels this love and cherish for each individual; it's just this book is for the daughter) David Chariandy's writing is beautiful. His look at prejudice over the years, focussing on his family tree, is insightful and thoughtful. I really liked his statement (in reference to the "mixing" of races and the idea that "equality" will one day occur when humankind all reach the same tone of skin colour and features): "The future I yearn for is not one in which we will all be clothed in sameness, but one in which we will finally learn to both read and respectfully discuss our differences". That is the ultimate in equality and acceptance. It's such a lovely idea and I truly hope we one day live in a world of such acceptance. A most wonderful letter. Full of love and truth. David Chariandy gets Father of the Year for the love that pours out of this talk with his daughter.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laurie • The Baking Bookworm

    In I've Been Meaning To Tell You, Canadian author David Chariandy writes a letter to his thirteen-year-old daughter which addresses the issue of race and discrimination in today's world. This small book packs quite a punch as Chariandy, with his well-written, often poetic, prose, dives into issues about race and discrimination using his own personal history as well as the experiences of his parents (who are Trinidadian immigrants) and his extended family, over several generations. His writing is In I've Been Meaning To Tell You, Canadian author David Chariandy writes a letter to his thirteen-year-old daughter which addresses the issue of race and discrimination in today's world. This small book packs quite a punch as Chariandy, with his well-written, often poetic, prose, dives into issues about race and discrimination using his own personal history as well as the experiences of his parents (who are Trinidadian immigrants) and his extended family, over several generations. His writing is thought-provoking and, at times, sentimental with his love and admiration for his daughter, as a unique person in her own right, shining through. Yet even though this is a book dedicated to his daughter, Chariandy balances this personal aspect in a way that invites his readers in, making the issues and thoughts raised relevant to the rest of us. This wee book is a gem and will hopefully encourage much discussion making it a wonderful selection for book clubs. Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Liz Laurin

    this is a true love letter in every sense of the word. what strikes me the most is how much not only love chariandy has for his daughter, but the respect he has for her, and in her and of her as her own person and not "his daughter" or her son's sister, or his wife's daughter, but as HER. I hope all fathers read this. I hope all daughters are able to see themselves see their fathers or father figures in this. I know that not all will, but I truly wish they could.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kim Trusty

    Beautiful and poignant and important.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Buechler

    This slim volume is the most profound cultural artifact that I have encountered this year. Its 120 pages are filled with personal and emotional thoughts that Chariandy was kind enough to craft into a book and share with the world. He takes some personal moments with his daughter that are heart-wrenching (A moment where a father/daughter visit to a buffet is ruined when a bigoted patron butts her way in front of him and remarks “I was born here. I belong here.” Or the joyful events of his daughte This slim volume is the most profound cultural artifact that I have encountered this year. Its 120 pages are filled with personal and emotional thoughts that Chariandy was kind enough to craft into a book and share with the world. He takes some personal moments with his daughter that are heart-wrenching (A moment where a father/daughter visit to a buffet is ruined when a bigoted patron butts her way in front of him and remarks “I was born here. I belong here.” Or the joyful events of his daughter’s thirteenth birthday being grimly overshadowed by bitter politics and the Inauguration of President Donald Trump) Chariandy has given us serious readers a voice to confirm our concerns about the state of the world. https://pacifictranquility.wordpress....

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book on exchange for my honest review. I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would, expecting it to be too similar to Dear Ijeawale, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, but this father's love letter to his daughter is so much different. David Chariandy describes his own experiences with racism while also acknowledging the deep rooted racism in Canada against indigenous people through a heartwarming, but also heart Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book on exchange for my honest review. I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would, expecting it to be too similar to Dear Ijeawale, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, but this father's love letter to his daughter is so much different. David Chariandy describes his own experiences with racism while also acknowledging the deep rooted racism in Canada against indigenous people through a heartwarming, but also heartbreaking letter to his thirteen year old daughter. Chariandy also describes the search for identity and the importance of understanding ancestoral heritage. So much emotion packed into 120 pages and I learned a great amount from such a short book!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I feel quite inadequate to express how beautifully this book is written and how much I admire it. In so few words, Chariandy tells us what it feels like to be marginalized, discriminated against, and judged based on skin colour. He also speaks the universal language of parental love and concern - what a gift he has given his daughter with this short but powerful book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Avi Bendahan

    *Note: I was given an advanced reading copy of this book by the publishers, and am basing my review on that. While I don't normally go for this kind of book (the Community and Culture section is one in which I an woefully under-read), the author was one that had come highly recommended to me by some colleagues (namely due to the fact they loved his novel 'Brother'), and its relatively small size promised that even if I didn't terribly enjoy it, it was a pretty small commitment to make. Well, as *Note: I was given an advanced reading copy of this book by the publishers, and am basing my review on that. While I don't normally go for this kind of book (the Community and Culture section is one in which I an woefully under-read), the author was one that had come highly recommended to me by some colleagues (namely due to the fact they loved his novel 'Brother'), and its relatively small size promised that even if I didn't terribly enjoy it, it was a pretty small commitment to make. Well, as should be evident from my rating, I absolutely loved this book. Chariandy not only has a unique voice and talent in reaching you with his words, but in this case he does so through the universal situation of a parent trying to connect with their child, and their attempts to impart some kind of knowledge about how this (crazy) world works. While I don't fit into the same visible minority Chariandy does, and which he uses as starting point for many of the issues he brings up; my own otherness felt inevitably called to him as he described the ways, both big and small, in which he was made to feel different, as well as the power dynamic that inevitably was trying to be enforced by those making him feel that way. Chariandy himself brings up this phenomena quite a few times when he describes both friends and strangers whose struggles he may not have lives himself, but with whom he sympathized simply because of the connecting thread in their own situations of one set of people trying to separate/subjugate another. I certainly recommend this book wholeheartedly, and would largely advise that you give it a shot, even if it's not your regular cup of tea when it comes to your reading habits. If nothing else, like I thought before I had even opened it, it's short enough that you won't be in for a very long commitment should you not enjoy it - and maybe, just like me again, you'll find yourself immensely grateful for the glimpse of humanity it brings in your life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jane Mulkewich

    I bought this slim volume at the airport to read on a flight home, and it was perfect; a relatively quick read which has a lot of impact. I have had the pleasure of meeting David Chariandy previously, and I have read both of his other books. This book was sparked when his 3-year-old daughter noticed his entire change of demeanour after a racist comment from a stranger. Ten years later, he writes a love letter to his 13-year-old daughter on racial identity and the complexities of her heritage. Sh I bought this slim volume at the airport to read on a flight home, and it was perfect; a relatively quick read which has a lot of impact. I have had the pleasure of meeting David Chariandy previously, and I have read both of his other books. This book was sparked when his 3-year-old daughter noticed his entire change of demeanour after a racist comment from a stranger. Ten years later, he writes a love letter to his 13-year-old daughter on racial identity and the complexities of her heritage. She is a true Vancouverite, with a white mother, and her father (David) was raised in Scarborough, Ontario of immigrant parents from Trinidad... his father South Asian and his mother Black. A thoughtful book which addresses everything from living on indigenous land and our relationships to indigenous people, to racial dynamics in Trinidad, to the legacy of the Jewish Holocaust in Berlin, to Islamophobia in Canada. He also gifts us with a poem by Countee Cullen (1903-1946), called The Incident, which is deceptively simple yet powerfully portrays the impact of an act of racism. Here is the poem: Once riding in old Baltimore, Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, I saw a Baltimorean Keep looking straight at me. Now I was eight and very small, And he was no whit bigger, And so I smiled, but he poked out His tongue, and called me, "Nigger." I saw the whole of Baltimore From May until December; Of all the things that happened there That's all that I remember.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mofi Badmos

    My favorite part of writing reviews or talking about books I’ve read is revisiting how amazing the book was and the feelings I got from them. This one falls right into that category. Sometimes words can’t fully describe the extent. Reading this, I felt the deep love and respect David has for his daughter through the stories he’s sharing with her. During my reading process I felt so connected, so cared for, so empowered, so knowledgeable, and so inspired all that the same time. Strangely or not s My favorite part of writing reviews or talking about books I’ve read is revisiting how amazing the book was and the feelings I got from them. This one falls right into that category. Sometimes words can’t fully describe the extent. Reading this, I felt the deep love and respect David has for his daughter through the stories he’s sharing with her. During my reading process I felt so connected, so cared for, so empowered, so knowledgeable, and so inspired all that the same time. Strangely or not so strangely, I could picture myself as the “daughter” David was talking to in his letters. I feel like this extra special because he shares stories and lessons of race, racism, and discrimination to his daughter through the lens of his family’s history utilizing family as the common connector. David shares with his daughter the importance of searching for identity and understanding ancestral heritage and much much more. It’s such a short and quick read but I finished it feeling like I got everything I needed to get out of it. David is such a beautiful story teller, He’s the kind of writer that doesn’t need so many words to get his message(s) across. I feel like I’ll keep reaching for his novels.. I really recommend this and also check out Brother (by the same author) if you haven’t.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    One of my wildest dreams is that we will no longer have to deal with racism ever again, that people can appreciate that our differences make us unique, but that we can respect and learn from each others' cultures and histories and that skin colour is just simply that. It's heartbreaking that it's 2018 and there is still so much rampant hatred throughout the world. Until then, I think this should be required reading for anyone of any skin tone. It's a beautifully moving letter from the author to h One of my wildest dreams is that we will no longer have to deal with racism ever again, that people can appreciate that our differences make us unique, but that we can respect and learn from each others' cultures and histories and that skin colour is just simply that. It's heartbreaking that it's 2018 and there is still so much rampant hatred throughout the world. Until then, I think this should be required reading for anyone of any skin tone. It's a beautifully moving letter from the author to his daughter about their family's own cultural stories as well as race, diversity and immigration. It's a love letter that I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    "But the fact is that I've never actually named you one way or the other, never told you, authoritatively, what you are, racially speaking. I supposed that I have imagined, at times, that you, as such complexly mixed children, might have the opportunity to choose and declare your own identity. I had forgotten that racial identities are so rarely a matter of personal choice. That it is always, in origin, a falsehood and violence, though, it can become, all the same, a necessary tool for acknowled "But the fact is that I've never actually named you one way or the other, never told you, authoritatively, what you are, racially speaking. I supposed that I have imagined, at times, that you, as such complexly mixed children, might have the opportunity to choose and declare your own identity. I had forgotten that racial identities are so rarely a matter of personal choice. That it is always, in origin, a falsehood and violence, though, it can become, all the same, a necessary tool for acknowledging the enduring life and creativity of a persistently maligned people." "I haunted the university library, walking among stacks of books, rows upon rows of them, awed by all that writing, and feeling a strange sense of possibility." "I know a lot of privileged people who claim there is no 'practical' value in a humanities degree. These people seem to see little that is worthwhile in thinking and reading widely about what it means to be human. Conversely, I have rarely heard these disparaging claims from working people like my parents, who themselves never went to university - people whose humanity is not automatically taken for granted, and who know what it feels like to be consigned, upon sight, to a life of strict 'practicalities.' I do know, intimately now, that universities are but an aspect of society as a whole, and echo, most disappointingly, its many problems. But I also know that it was only through my university classes that I was exposed to new worlds. I discovered the open magic of literature, the rewards of reading beyond borders and cultures, beyond identity and race, beyond any idea of who you are and what you are meant to be." "...children always sense more than what their parents are willing to say. Children read stories in pauses and silences, from irritation and sadness, from the grief and fear behind brave faces." "The women present, the most brilliant people I'll ever know, kept asking you to dance with them. They were femme and butch, and they were cis and trans, and they were much, much more than I could see and attempt to describe, and they were all laughing at your athletic energy, and at the way you danced with quick feet and lifted arms..."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nadia L. Hohn

    I cannot say too much as I am reviewing this book for a publication. :-)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is a letter written to his 13 year old daughter on race and racism, identity, growing up other in Canada by David Chariandry. He looks back on his parents experiences as new immigrants to Canada (via Trinidad, black and South Asian), and to his own experience as a working class youth in Scarborough and to his kids current experiences (white mother, black/South Asian father). Asks lots of questions, his own experiences on how to navigate race with his kids. Short and a really interesting dis This is a letter written to his 13 year old daughter on race and racism, identity, growing up other in Canada by David Chariandry. He looks back on his parents experiences as new immigrants to Canada (via Trinidad, black and South Asian), and to his own experience as a working class youth in Scarborough and to his kids current experiences (white mother, black/South Asian father). Asks lots of questions, his own experiences on how to navigate race with his kids. Short and a really interesting discussion.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I was skeptical at first of this "letter" book, released just a year after the enormous success of Brother which I've heard took a decade to write. Could this wee tome pack a punch? The answer is yes. David Chariandy writes this book for his daughter, and in publishing it, is incredibly generous to the reader for sharing. It is at times very serious (there are a few lines of levity at the end), but I suppose it is a serious book. I haven't read something filled with so much heart and love in a w I was skeptical at first of this "letter" book, released just a year after the enormous success of Brother which I've heard took a decade to write. Could this wee tome pack a punch? The answer is yes. David Chariandy writes this book for his daughter, and in publishing it, is incredibly generous to the reader for sharing. It is at times very serious (there are a few lines of levity at the end), but I suppose it is a serious book. I haven't read something filled with so much heart and love in a while in a non-fiction book (maybe aside from memoirs, but I don't think this is a memoir, it is a published lecture if anything). I guess I liked it so much because when I pick up a nf in 2018 I am expecting something searing, hard-hitting, and whipping. What a fantastic change in the waves of the genre, especially in Canada right now. The way Chariandy writes about the contents of this book, the way he presents his ideas on heritage, race, girlhood, etc. wouldn't be possible without his daughter. And using one's child so directly in a book is arguably a dilemma in ethics. But there is nothing that prevents me from believing that he spoke to his daughter about this book, about her, and about this treasure of a letter before sending it off to print. We trust Chariandy's voice implicitly. Although it might seem easy and might seem cheesy, I would be equally interested in his letter to his son. It could make a superb companion piece, but it will be left to the author to decide. Nonetheless, pick up this little book and read it this summer. You will glean something from it. There's a lot to think about within its covers, so I don't know what you'll glean, but glean you will.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Monger

    I was lucky enough to hear David Chariandy speak at the London Public Library when Brother was named as the book all London should read. He speaks with quiet intelligence of his experiences, interspersing many witty remarks along the way. Born to immigrant parents of African and South Asian descent, Chariandy seeks to impart some wisdom and pride to his newly teen aged daughter about her heritage - of the difficult path her forbears have trod. Well written, this book sensitizes us to issues of p I was lucky enough to hear David Chariandy speak at the London Public Library when Brother was named as the book all London should read. He speaks with quiet intelligence of his experiences, interspersing many witty remarks along the way. Born to immigrant parents of African and South Asian descent, Chariandy seeks to impart some wisdom and pride to his newly teen aged daughter about her heritage - of the difficult path her forbears have trod. Well written, this book sensitizes us to issues of privilege and inequality.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

    I was excited to see this tiny book because I adored Chariandy's Brother and was eager to read whatever was next released. This is an extremely slim book that packs a punch in a manner similar to that of Coates and Adichie even if there are certainly a number of differences. It is well worth the read and given its brevity, there is no excuse for not reading it. It is the kind of book one needs to reflect on and be troubled by, especially today given the climate f society.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Kosoris

    After a stranger asserted her right to butt in front of the brown-skinned Chariandy because she “was born here,” he had a difficult time explaining what happened to his then three year-old daughter. I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is his attempt to do just that. Written as a letter to his daughter, the author works to unpack the colonial and racist history that built the Caribbean from which his parents came and also underlies the modern Canada, allowing casual, hateful ignorance to be thrust at v After a stranger asserted her right to butt in front of the brown-skinned Chariandy because she “was born here,” he had a difficult time explaining what happened to his then three year-old daughter. I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You is his attempt to do just that. Written as a letter to his daughter, the author works to unpack the colonial and racist history that built the Caribbean from which his parents came and also underlies the modern Canada, allowing casual, hateful ignorance to be thrust at visible minorities while still maintaining a general reputation of enlightenment throughout the nation. The main problem that presents itself is that Chariandy is cautious with his prose to the point of timidity, in a seeming attempt to bend over backwards not to offend any group, or with the worry that speaking more strongly on his point of view could be misconstrued as trying to put words into the mouths of others. And this is unfortunate, because this writing serves to disconnect the author from the topic at hand, to make his collection of personal essays impersonal. But it’s not all like this. A change can be observed when discussion moves into specific thoughts and emotions linked to the changing relationships within his family, with the height being a stirring reminiscence of the birth of his daughter. At these times, Chariandy writes with feeling, just not in a way I found specifically enlightening with regard to the politics of race.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Out for lunch with his young daughter, David Chariady is on the receiving end of a callous, ignorant act of racism. Ten years later, he writes this letter to his daughter to explain to her why he didn’t retaliate or even react in that moment. Canada is known worldwide for its diversity and tolerance but Chariandy reminds us that that’s not everyone’s experience. Born in Canada to Caribbean and South Asian immigrant parents, David shares his own story and prepares his daughter for life in Canada Out for lunch with his young daughter, David Chariady is on the receiving end of a callous, ignorant act of racism. Ten years later, he writes this letter to his daughter to explain to her why he didn’t retaliate or even react in that moment. Canada is known worldwide for its diversity and tolerance but Chariandy reminds us that that’s not everyone’s experience. Born in Canada to Caribbean and South Asian immigrant parents, David shares his own story and prepares his daughter for life in Canada as a visible minority. I wish it were better.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I always want Chariandy to push further in his writing, to always dig a little deeper when it comes to complex race especially - especially as a man of mixed race Caribbean heritage. This account to his daughter is very good and a well worth read, but I felt it came up a little short. Still highly recommend!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn Boyle-Taylor

    Although it is a touching narrative, I was left by the end with the feeling that I wished he had just written this for his daughter’s eyes alone. Also, rather than being “in the tradition of”, it just seemed a bit like jumping on the bandwagon of the format. Although these were poignant and representational stories, they certainly don’t have the resonance and complexity of Coates’ work.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I really enjoyed this, and I can definitely see it being used in a lot of academic settings. Though I did have a similar problem to it that I did with his first novel: I love what it is, but his writing just isn't my style. 4/5 stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy Roebuck

    A book conceived when Chariandy's daughter was three, and witnessed a 'moment of quietly ignored bigotry', and finished and published for her 13th year. Difficult truths, soaring prose, hard-won wisdom and philosophy make this small book a mighty one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Trina

    3.5 stars. I enjoyed learning the story of David Chariandy’s family and found the parts set in Vancouver particularly easy to relate to. I didn’t find it to resonate as strongly as I had expected it to based on its description comparing it to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mireille Messier

    A letter that is steeped in love and wisdom. Makes you wish David Chariandy was everyones dad!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    A poignant essay developed as a father's letter to his daughter. A meditation on race. Very short.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Not really Chimamanda. Long and flourished. Too flourished for my taste, without saying much.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5 stars RTC

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    I could not put this book down, so beautiful in so many ways, and so necessary for me, as a mother of a yong child. Thanks, David, for this wonderful gift.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    a quick attempt written in the confessional mode. also touches upon the personal and political influences behind his 2017 novel, BROTHER.

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