I actually read Scarborough because I ran out of books on my vacation and my mother had picked up a copy after hearing about it on the radio. I borrowed it not knowing what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.
East of Toronto lies Scarborough, a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood. Like many inner-city communities, it faces poverty, drugs, and crime. Scarborough documents these struggles through a series of interconnected narratives. Among the voices are Winsum, a West Indian restaurant owner; Victor, a black artists; Bing, a gay Filipino boy; his best friend Sylvie, a Native girl whose family lives in community housing; Laura, a young girl abandoned by her mother; and Hina, a school worker who witnesses the impact of poverty each day.
Let’s get into it…
This is easily the most diverse book I have ever read. Hernandez includes multiple ethnicities, cultures, ages, and sexual orientations, and she does so in a way that shows an understanding of inter-sectional identities. Based on the end matter of the book, Hernandez did research and consulted with others to ensure she was careful with her representation, so props to her.
The alternating perspectives are an excellent way to showcase all the different voices and make the characters really pop from the page. Among my favourite are Bing and his mother; their relationship gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies. Hina is also an excellent addition to the cast. She’s a definite force for good and her ability to stand up for others and herself is admirable. For work, she has to report on the program she runs. These reports provide a break in the regular narration and form a backbone for the rest of the stories to unfold. It is entertaining to see how all the characters’ lives connect.
I read this book in a few hours. I was on the drive home from New Brunswick, so I didn’t have much else to do, but regardless, it’s hard to put down. There’s something about the stories and Hernandez’ writing that is so raw and honest you just want to keep reading. There’s definitely sadness and injustices within the story, but there’s also love, hope, and acceptance. And if that’s not what you want in a novel about community, I don’t know what will please you.
Final thoughts: Scarborough is an ode to the community it gets its name from. Hernandez proves that intersectional, diverse stories are well-worth writing and reading.