Book Review: What We All Long For

WWALF cover

What We All Long For by Dionne Brand is about four friends, Tuyen, Carla, Oku and Jackie. As well as Tuyen’s long lost brother, Quy. Tuyen is a lesbian, avant-garde artist, Carla is dealing with a form of depression and is juggling grieving for her dead mother, a father who isn’t much of a father and a troublesome brother. Oku is an aspiring poet and Jackie owns a clothing shop. The one thing they all have in common is that their parents are all immigrants that moved to Toronto, Canada. As you read the story, the focus of each character flips, so one chapter will be about Tuyen the next will be about Oku, it doesn’t change perspective but it can seem like a lot of information at once, I think anyway. Yet still it was an incredible story about love, friendship, family and self-worth.

So, I read this book just a few years ago for my English test, we had a big ISU (Independent Study Unit) to do based around a book we had to read. We got to choose from a long list of like 50 books, so I looked into a few and decided on WWALF and I absolutely loved it! Here’s why:

The Charaters, Tuyen was an artist, just like me, she dealt with the criticism from her parents and others telling her she needs to do something else with her life. We also both hate school, so…just saying. I loved everything about her, the way she loved to bring her camera around and capture moments, random strangers, her friends, anything that was available to her she caught them. The passion she had for her artwork, the acceptance she had for others, I found it to be very beautiful.

Then there is Carla, a girl who lost her mother at a young age, something we unfortunately have in common, a messed up family, a lot of struggles with her father, although my situation was never as bad as Carla’s it is still something I can relate to, to some extent. I found she was also dealing with a form of depression, something I can definitely connect with, dealing with depression and anxiety myself for the past four, maybe five years.

Oku, was a writer, a poet to be more exact, now I wouldn’t call myself a poet but I’ve certainly written some work, but the one thing I connected to the most with Oku was his love for Jackie. He was a hopeless romantic that was terrified of ending up forever alone; something I contemplate on a weekly basis.

When it comes to Jackie, there wasn’t as much information given about her as much as the others so I found it hard to really connect with her, I believe the only thing we have in common is our love of clothes and fashion.

But something I Have in common with all of them is my dad’s family are immigrants, I never quite put too much thought into until I read this book and suddenly I realized how different I was and instead of hating it in a way like Tuyen and her friends I embraced it, I always liked being different.

Another thing I absolutely adored about this book is the descriptions; Dionne Brand is a well-known poet so one should expect her novel writing to be just as intriguing as her poems. The symbolism and the imagery she used in the book was, for lack of a better phrase, a master piece. It made me want to start writing my book again and I loved that.

Plus, Dionne Brand lives in Toronto, about a two hour trip from where I live and love that because that’s where the book was set. It was interesting to read a book and know where the characters are, recognize street names and other things like that.

Anyway, this ended up being a little longer than I thought it was going to be but I have to say it is one of my favourite books. Go check out the book and let me know what you think!

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