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Bitter Roots Illustration by Justine Wong

Bitter Roots

Guyana’s festive national dish is a marvel of Indigenous knowledge and heritage.

My paternal grandmother was always a mystery to me. One day, long before her mind had become lost in itself and her body had forgone its willingness to obey her, I asked to interview her about her life. But Granny, in her sharp-tongued way, shut me down immediately. “I don’t like to talk about my business,” she said, and that was that. She wasn’t fond of sharing about herself, the way she grew up or messy things like emotions. For Trinidadians of that generation, and perhaps Caribbean elders in general, there are certain parts of life that simply aren’t talked about—at least not with family. By the time my grandmother passed away last June, well into her nineties, she hadn’t had a firm grasp on her memories for a few years. Dorothy Johnson née Picou, whom we knew as Granny Dot but whose Chinese family ...

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