In Trinidad, oil wealth supported the growth of probably the most prosperous and conspicuously consuming middle-class in the Caribbean. But there was a price to pay for the deepened social inequalities that resulted: a deep paranoia rooted in the fear of crime and social upheaval.
The recent plunge in world oil prices has left these people in a double bind. Travel and education overseas have given them tastes that weaken their attachment to Trinidad, yet they know that their privileges of race and class would disappear in North America. As one narrator acknowledges, in the US she’s the only black girl in most of her classes, “though at home no one would call me black.”
Four Taxis Facing North presents us with an intimate, human face to what it is like to be one of those middle class Trinidadians. These stories focus on characters from both sides of the social divide – and their infrequent and often uncomfortable interactions. Even as they are beset by fears about the future, the Walcott-Hackshaw’s women are also busy with their responsibilities, their relationships with husbands, partners, children, friends and foes. They deal with absent, unfaithful or abusive husbands and display differing degrees of self and social awareness.
Four Taxis Facing North offers few comforting illusions. Hackshaw explores characters who are not always sympathetic – and the title story imagines a Trinidad after a great social upheaval in which survival means life of the bleakest kind. But the twelve stories in this collection offer great clarity and a deeply satisfying exactness of language in the creation of characters across the divisions of Trinidadian society.
This collection presents us with a moral vision that is both necessary and bracing, prophetic but not preachy.
With an introduction by Lawrence Scott.