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Book Review: Exploring the Indo-Caribbean Identity in ‘We Used to Waitress’ by Jihan Ramroop

Jihan Ramroop
2 min read

A Queens, New York native, Indo-Caribbean poet Jihan Ramroop takes us on a journey of culture, identity and womanhood in her  debut poetry collection, “We Used to Waitress.” The collection relives Ramroop’s journey as an Indo-Caribbean girl growing up in America and touches on the depths of good and bad human experiences. 

Before Ramroop introduces the table of content, she lets readers know the content includes alcohol, anxiety, cancer, colonialism, death, depression and much more. With that in mind, I decided to dive into the reading, cautious of the depths of each topic. 

The collection is divided into four parts: Stay, Still, Stubborn and Suppose. From alcohol to anxiety to depression, the memoir showcases the depths of generational trauma to healing, a topic many brown girls could understand on a personal level.

[Read Related: Confessions of a Bipolar Indo-Caribbean Woman]

The parts build off of Ramroop’s emotion. Dark places and victorious moments captivate readers. We experience Ramroop being vulnerable and unapologetic. With the various use of writing stylization from uppercase to lowercase sentences to sentences with no space, the author evokes the feeling within the readers to understand the anxiety she has felt. Such a unique writing style allows the reader to step away from the traditional idea of what poetry is to what poetry could truly express. 

As I read through each part, one poem titled, “let abee call it inheritance” (let us call it inheritance) particularly stood out to me. The poem reflected the struggle of Indo-Caribbean identity and the hardship between keeping traditions alive or starting anew. Again Ramroop’s writing style, seen when she crosses out the word, emphasizes the internal struggles the Indian diaspora has placed on many people in determining who they are, which is still prevalent to this day. 

let abee call it inheritance

if I had to write a song for you

i wouldn’t know where to start because i feel like you’ve

been thru some shit

i couldn’t even know about

 

like i’m sorry that

you grew up oh so fast

i guess those were

are still the times

 

and i’m sorry that you had to

fall in love so quick

it wasn’t love

or was it?

 

and how did you find the strength

to travel across the pani?

from east to west

you became different

yet still the same, my rani

 

now outsider in your own skin

find a new place to start again

call you “not real Indian”

foreign language taste

on your lips

yet still yet still

 

you continued

despite it t’all

 

brown and white man

eye pass it call

 

still made something

out of nothing

kept tradition and

forged a new one

 

if i had to write about you

i would include all these things

how you’re so stubborn

so resilient

 

passed to your daughters

this gift

let abee call it

inheritance

Overall,  this poetic collection touches on cultural identity, human struggle and womanhood. The meaning behind the title portrays that brown girls are much more than any negativity surrounding us. Ramroop’s tone sends the message that brown girls should put themselves first and take the time to realize self-worth. “We Used to Waitress,” is a great body of work and is a must-have in every brown girl’s collection of great reads.

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