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UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE: A NOVEL
Members of the older generation:
James Cheong (Chinese) – Richard’s father, died when Richard was 12
Vijaya Elizabeth Cheong (East Indian) – Richard’s mother, died when Richard was 13
Gladys Tiam-Fook nee Cheong (Chinese) – Deceased older sister of James Cheong
Ormond Tiam-Fook (Chinese) – Husband of Gladys Tiam-Fook, deceased
Bernice Lee-a-Shoo nee Cheong (Chinese) – Younger sister of James Cheong, a widow
– owner of the Lee-a-Shoo Hardware Store where Richard works
Mama Chips (black) – Richard’s surrogate mother following the death of his own mother
The people in Richard’s life are racially diverse—a reflection of the multiracial Guyanese society, legacy
of its European colonial past of slavery and indentureship. As a penniless orphan and low-paid member of
the working class, Richard Cheong is a man of little means. Through marriage, his three sisters have
moved up in life.
Richard’s sisters and their husbands:
Mildred Gomes nee Cheong – Richard’s eldest sister and antagonist of novel
Francis Gomes (Portuguese) – Mildred’s husband, business owner
Irene Gladstone nee Cheong – Richard’s second eldest sister
Peter Gladstone (white) – Irene’s husband, British bank manager
Evelyn Yhap nee Cheong – Richard’s youngest sister and the one closest to him
David Yhap (Chinese) – Evelyn’s husband, business owner
Edward Cheong (deceased) – Richard’s younger brother, called Eddie, murdered at eight years
The family saga begins when Richard is twenty-five years old, married, and father of three girls with
another child on the way.
Richard’s family and in-laws:
Gloria Cheong nee Henry (mixed race) – Richard’s wife
Mary Elizabeth Cheong – Richard’s firstborn child, called Lizzie
Rita Cheong – Richard’s second child
Susan Cheong – Richard’s youngest child
Winston Henry (black) – Richard’s father-in-law, officer in the Police Force
Dorothy Henry (Portuguese) – Richard’s mother-in-law, seamstress
Richard’s close friends also reflect the racial diversity of the population in Georgetown, the capital city.
I’ve indicated their connections to Richard’s family members and in-laws.
Wesley Clarke (black) – Richard’s best friend, his wife’s cousin-in-law
Lachman Singh (East Indian) – High school teacher and political activist
David Yhap (Chinese) – Richard’s brother-in-law, introduced Lachman to Richard
Percival Tiam-Fook (Chinese) – Relative of husband of Richard’s Aunt Gladys Tiam-Fook
Manoel de Freitas (Portuguese) – Married to niece of Dorothy Henry, Richard’s mother-in-law
During our childhood years, growing up in Georgetown, Guyana, my four siblings and I were always
surrounded by many relatives (from both sides of our family), close friends of my father, and friendly
neighbors. There was never a shortage of kids our age to play with. The neighborhood was our
playground. That all changed after the “racial disturbances,” as they were called, in the 1960s. Most of
the people we grew up with fled to overseas havens in Britain, Canada, and the United States. Their loss
remains with me to this day.
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Under the Tamarind Tree is a family saga, told through the viewpoint of the
protagonist, Richard Cheong. While it covers three generations, most of the older
generation have already passed away, except for one of Richard’s paternal aunts.
Their actions have not only shaped the lives of Richard and his siblings, but also
continue to have repercussions in their lives.