Alexia Arthurs is the latest scribe to rise to literary acclaim with the release of How to Love a Jamaican. The short-story ensemble weaves in and out of a cast of characters from Jamaica or those who traveled from the country to settle in the United States. Areas of education, death, community and sexual identity also find a home within Arthurs’ pages, as The Atlantic recently dissected, but one curt prose is catching the attention of critics.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Arthurs revealed that the character of Shirley in the book’s final chapter was based on “Mother Mary” singer, Rihanna. “Shirley From a Small Place” follows the rapid rise of the titular singer and how she attempts to balance privacy and the demands of international stardom. Depression, family, and identity also serve as tentpoles throughout the prose.
Through research and a 2012 Rihanna interview with Oprah Winfrey, Arthurs became motivated by the Barbados native’s upbringing and spotlight. “I felt so distant from the imagination of a pop star,” Arthurs said. “I couldn’t imagine being able to enter her consciousness, but somehow, over time, I became more comfortable with the idea of writing from her point of view.”
In an interview with Hazlitt, Arthurs also shared the initial premise behind “Shirley From a Small Place.” “At its essence, I wanted to write a story about a girl who had been everywhere and had seen everything worth seeing, and yet the small place she came from could hold the healing power of home.”
READ MORE: Rihanna Reportedly Working On Two New Albums