Photograph of Sheila Chong

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Photograph of my grandmother
Photograph of my grandmother

Sitting among an array of trinkets collected from my mother's travels lies a two by three inch photograph of young woman in white. A woman my mother only knew for eleven years and I will never know, Sheila Chong has comes to sculpt my family's’ life in more ways than one. As a young woman, Sheila’s father a Chinese immigrant would come to Jamaica to live in Vineyard town, a Kingston Chinese neighborhood, and marry a local girl. Their daughter would go to University of the West Indies, paying for her schooling with beauty pageants. She would excel, becoming a runner up at Miss World. Her young adulthood would continue as she converted to Judaism to marry my Granddaddy, an affluent Jamaican historian, agriculturalist, and entrepreneur. My mother and her two sisters would be born, only to lose their mother, Sheila, to breast cancer in their pre-teen years. While only a distant memory Sheila’s story, of her brains and beauty, is told often by relatives. Tears are still shed, by those who knew her, longing for her bright smile and the warmth she emitted. Her death sparked a resilience in her daughters to grow a hard shell to protect their soft interior, while in her husband a desire to delve into their backgrounds. He would become the leading genealogist of the Caribbean, uncovering her family’s Hakka heritage and his own Sephardic Jewish one. A constant reminder of the hardworking and cultural background I come from, this photograph has always had a place in my home.

Place(s): Jamaica,China
Year: 1999

– Ise Sharp

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant