The Caribbean Diaspora is front and center in a memoir detailing stories in one of the city’s predominantly Caribbean neighborhoods.
“East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home,” is an ode to the people who made East Flatbush the dynamic neighborhood it is today, and the unique experiences of the lives of people who still live there. The book’s author and East Flatbush native Danielle Brown, takes readers through an explorative journey of race, culture, religion, music, and sociopolitical issues — all through her vision.
“I really wanted to give my perspective and teach history and culture using my experiences,” said Brown. “This book would’ve been different if my brother or my sister had written it because our experiences are different. This is just my way to teach history and culture.”
Brown was raised in East Flatbush by Trinidadian parents, where she is currently based. Growing up she interacted with many friends from all over the Caribbean including Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti, St. Vincent, Barbados. Her experiences mostly center on the neighborhood and her parents homeland, but she said anyone of Caribbean background can relate to the narratives in her book, because even people outside the country are finding solace in it.
“I use East Flatbush as a starting point and then I get to Trinidad, then I talk about imperialism and colonialism, and I end again with East Flatbush,” said Brown. “But I can’t talk about East Flatbush without talking about the larger Caribbean — I get people from Trinidad who read this book and say they had my experiences.”
Several aspects of the neighborhood are highlighted in the book, such as the sounds that can be heard, the restaurants, landmark religious stores, and most importantly, the people. But a notable part of “East of Flatbush, North of Love,” are the song titles that introduce a new section of the book introduced after a song title. Brown who is also a musician, said the titles she chose were a sure way to get her point across.
“I use music as an entry point to the music and culture for people to get the little bits and pieces of how I learned about music and culture,” she said. “Music can teach you so much more if you let it — people learn so much through songs.”
Even though the book is not exactly a guidebook, it is moreso a pathway for East Flatbush residents, Brooklynites, and New Yorkers alike to learn about this unique neighborhood, said Brown. For her, it is about representation and cultural understanding.
“It depends on who the reader is, but for Caribbean audiences, I want them to see themselves in something that they’re reading. I really want people from the Caribben to get a better understanding of how we’re connected,” she said. “For people who are not Caribbean, this book provides interesting aspects of Caribbean life which exists in all these communities in New York.”