Tracing the four days from the moment she gets the call that every immigrant fears to the burial of her mother, Elizabeth Nunez tells the haunting story of her lifelong struggle to cope with the consequences of the 'sterner stuff' of her parents' ambitions for their children and her mother's seemingly unbreakable conviction that displays of affection are not for everyday use.
But Nunez sympathizes with her parents, whose happiness is constrained by the oppressive strictures of colonialism, by the Catholic Church's prohibition of artificial birth control (which her mother obeys, terrified by the threat of eternal damnation), and by what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the 'privilege of skin color' in his mother's Caribbean island homeland where "the brown-skinned classes...came to fetishize their lightness."
"Elizabeth Nunez has written a book about love: love of family, love of place, love of literature, and even the love of human flaws. Not for Everyday Use manages to be a memoir rich with tenderness that doesn't shy away from pain and loss. Reading this book was like sitting with a dear friend for a long conversation and only later realizing I'd been in the presence of a true artist. It's not easy to sound casual but attain the profound yet somehow Nunez pulls it off, page after page." (Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver )
“Not for Everyday Use is a gorgeous tapestry of mourning and redemption. Nunez is an astonishing writer, approaching the page with both skill and heart. Her memories are well-deep and love-strong. With insights that are both sharp and tender, this is a memoir that will change the way you understand your family, and the world.” (Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow)
“Elizabeth Nunez, in a clear, unsentimental, hard-hitting, and direct voice, skillfully structures the story of a mixed-race Portuguese and Trinidadian Roman Catholic family around the preparations for her mother’s funeral...At the heart of this story is the relationship between a mother and a daughter, a daughter who leaves home as a young girl to continue her education and make her life in the United States of America. Some of the most poignant moments are those in which the author describes her feelings of belonging and not belonging to ‘home.’ This is a story that will speak both to Caribbean people ‘at home’ and those who have left to make their home elsewhere.” (Lawrence Scott, author of Light Falling on Bamboo)
“Elizabeth Nunez’s Not for Everyday Use is that powerful and essential work which redefines our understanding of the experience of emigration and its impact on families. It is, quite simply, one of the most important books I’ve read about the intellectual and emotional work we must do to understand our forebears’ lives in the context of history and colonialism.” - Louise DeSalvo, author of Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives
"Elizabeth Nunez is one of the finest and most necessary voices in contemporary American and Caribbean fiction." - Colum McCann
"A new book by Elizabeth Nunez is always excellent news." - Edwidge Danticat
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