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Abstract

This article reads Merle Collins’s Angel and Oonya Kempadoo’s Tide Running for their narration of social transformations within their characters lived experience. Comparing these two different novels allows this paper to think change both within and beyond the dramatic moments of revolutionary change and against theories of change that primarily limit themselves to large structural forces, such as sex tourism and the U.S. media, and their effects. I propose Angel acts as a map of and toward social transformation, while Tide Running acts as an anti-map, a source of disorientation that prompts better wayfinding. Through the family structure Angel critiques the type of change the revolution enacted while showing the way toward a vision of more gradualist change by depicting its analogical correlate in the emotional labor its characters perform within their family relationships. This emotional education parallels the antiracist education Angel receives, and in many ways brings Angel into the genre of the bildungsroman. Within the comparative framework of this study, Tide Running is seen as challenging the emancipatory trajectory of the bildungsroman, because its character is illiterate and the discrimination he experiences comes in the form of microaggressions that are less easily identified and, therefore, having effects that are less easily unlearned. In removing a narration of Cliff’s interiority at the crucial moment in the plot where he is implicated in theft, Tide Running turns the bildungsroman’s educative trajectory out onto the reader. Its plot implicates the reader’s own readerly software that would lead to a racial profiling of Cliff. The article closes by speculating about the possible effects different temporal approaches can have on novels that engage the politics of social change and for the readers who experience them.

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