Coming to England

In Coming to England Floella Benjamin recounts the emigration of her family from the idyllic island of Trinidad to England. The book chronicles her life in Trinidad where she was born and lived until the age of 11. Benjamin gives a utopian glimpse into the beautiful family house, the wonderfully fragrant markets, the school and churches which were her world in Trinidad. A place where the sun was always shining and where the rain was welcomed. Life in Trinidad is portrayed as being just so beautiful it begs the question as to why anyone would want to leave this paradise.

But the gold streets of England beckoned and the family moved. Floella Benjamin shows a very different world to that of today. As children, she and her three siblings travelled unaccompanied from Trinidad to England. A common occurrence back in the 1960s.

On arrival into England she encountered prejudice for the first time in her life. In Trinidad she was blind to her own colour and to that of others. She was innocent to the fact that the colour of a person’s skin was a reason for isolation, abuse and cruelty. Abuse of power was evident both from teachers and ‘good’ church-going people. Children at school just followed their leaders and perpetuated the abuse. It was only when Floella was identified as a wonderful singer at school that the barriers came down.

In her book Floella Benjamin inspires hope for migrants coming into a new country. She shows that it is possible to be accepted into a new culture without abandoning one’s own.