Caribbean Favourites

Okay, so I didn’t start out planning to turn this into a blog. But I couldn’t resist; because these writers deserve all their props and then some.

It all began with this post by Liane Spicer, and as I said when I linked to it on facebook inviting others to name some of their favourites, it got me thinking about my own Caribbean Favourites. Friends dropped by and posted their own and, you know, we’ve had some really good books come out of the Caribbean. Soon we were name dropping people like Sam Selvon, Edwidge Dandicat, Jamaica KincaidGeorge Lamming,  V. S. Naipaul, Marie Elena John, Merle Hodge,  Anthony Winkler, Elizabeth Nunez, Jean Rhys, Americans Madison Smartt-Bell (All Souls Rising, Master of the Crossroads, The Stone that the Builder Refused, and Toussaint Louverture: A Biography) and Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street), Olive Senior, Opal Palmer Adisa, Ramabai Espinet, Colin Channer, Rosa Guy, Andrew Salkey, Shani Mootoo, Lawrence Scott, Ian McDonald, Claude McKay, Derek Walcott, Junot Diaz, Nalo Hopkinson, Andrea Levy, Simone Schwarz-BartAudre Lorde and Julia Alvarez.

Why should you read these people. Check out excerpts from some of our comments (names withheld):

EDWIDGE DANDICAT – The Farming of Bones – “unflinchingly and vividly rendering (a brutal chapter in Haitian-     Dominican Republic history)”

Breath, Eyes, Memory – “simply beautiful writing”

– Krik? Krak! – “She is truly gifted in her story telling, as she weaves love, heartbreak, pride, pain and raw human emotion into that collection of short stories”

The Dewbreaker – “Truly amazing writing!”

– “…a powerful exploration of the effect of political violence on individuals and communities.”

SAM SELVON – The Lonely Londoners – “one of the best accounts of the Caribbean immigrant experience”

– “brought into sharp focus the real stories behind the jokes my parents and their peers made about their early days in London.”

A Brighter Sun – “The main character Tiger is more of a hero than he realizes.”

– “I really do feel for Tiger and his wife, they’re both products of ignorance…(and)  must carve their own paths.”

V. S. NAIPAUL – Miguel Street – “I…was fascinated by how alive the characters were…Naipaul gave everyone such a unique personality and was able to tell 20 stories all in one book.”

– “Here in print are the type of stories my father and his friends talked about…I could walk the streets, see the neighbours”

MARIE ELENA JOHN – Unburnable

Marie Elena John reading at Wadadli Pen and Museum showcase/fundraiser, 2006 (Photo by Gemma Hazelwood)

–  “Dominica never appeared so beautiful, mysterious and mystical like it does in that book.”

– “It captured and held my attention from page 1 to finish.”

JAMAICA KINCAIDAnnie John– “a familiar yet universal coming of age tale”

– “My favourite books of hers are: A Small Place, The Autobiography of My Mother and My Brother. I like A Small Place because she discusses the reality and remnants of colonization in the  Caribbean…My Brother talks about the reality of the HIV epidemic in the Caribbean as well as how hypermasculinity can affect whether men seek treatment or believe that they can get sick. The Autobiography of My Mother was a wonderful read just like the rest, Mr. Potter is also up there for me.”

–  My Brother  – “I’ve been involved in AIDS education so what Kincaid wrote about with the difficult(y) of getting meds and trying to keep the diagnosis a secret were things I knew from our perspective here too.”

MERLE HODGE – Crick Crack Monkey – “a powerful novel”

ANTHONY WINKLER – Going Home to Teach – “the story of returning home to ‘give back’ is met with so many of the bureaucratic stupidities that tend to become ‘belly laughs'”

JCH – Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (okay, this is my book so I feel wierd putting it hear but, what the hell, it was mentioned much to my surprise, so) – “I see this as an instant classic that takes a sociological snapshot of the way Antiguans (and perhaps others of the Eastern Caribbean people) were thinking at the moment in time in which it is set”

– “I really do hope that one day I’ll see it on the CXC syllabus”

ELIZABETH NUNEZ – Prospero’s Daughter – “really enjoyed that…I plan to try another one of her books …soon.”

JEAN RHYS – Wide Sargasso Sea – “gave the mad woman a voice and explores the tensions of post-emancipation society in a way that still makes me go ‘wow’.”

OLIVE SENIOR – Discerner of Hearts and Other Stories

SANDRA CISNEROS (she’s Mexican-American – but the book was set in a Puerto Rican neighbourhood and resonated with several who commented)  – The House on Mango Street – “Most interesting…I identified with her immigrant characters who were struggling to survive in the USA.”

– “Sandra Cisneros’ writing is lovely…”

MADISON SMARTT-BELL – All Souls Rising – “a great fictional recounting of Haiti’s revolution”

SIMONE SCHWARZ-BART – The Bridge of Beyond – “lyrically written, a beautiful book.”

SHANI MOOTOO – Cereus Blooms at Night – “…a very dark and beautiful story of deep secrets, unusual friendships, and sexual taboos…”

IAN MCDONALD – The Hummingbird Tree – “As a writer, I find this book inspiring. Poetic, awash with powerful imagery…”

JULIA ALVAREZ – How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents – “a lovely story that opened my eyes to the Dominican Republic about which I knew little. It revolves around immigrant and assimilation issues which I always find fascinating.”

– “…another great read. I too could relate to being Caribbean American like the characters. It is both a dilemma and a blessing.”

ANDREA LEVY – Small Island – “a great look at Caribbean immigration to the UK – troubling in parts, laugh out loud funny in others.”

AUDRE LORDE – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – “Here you have a Caribbean writer talking about her life in Grenada and then Harlem while discussing growing into her sexual identity…lovely lessons on love and loss.”

CLAUDE MCKAY- Home to Harlem – “infused with jazz and the blues”

JUNOT DIAZ – Drown – “lovely”

NALO HOPKINSON (The Salt Roads) and LAWRENCE SCOTT (Witchbroom) – “Both blew me away when I read them – I love magical realism and in these books it’s entwined with our history.”

GEORGE LAMMING – In the Castle of My Skin – “a classic for all time”

VARIOUS AUTHORS – Green Cane Juicy Flotsam: Short Stories (ed. Carmen C. Esteves and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gerbert)

COLIN CHANNER – Waiting in Vain

RAMABAI ESPINET – The Swinging Bridge

OPAL PALMER ADISA – It Begins With Tears

ROSA GUY – New Guys Around the Block

ANDREW SALKEY – Hurricane

Be sure to visit John R. Lee’s listing of Caribbean writers elsewhere on this site.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Caribbean Favourites

  1. Also see the following for references to other Caribbean faves
    http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/reading-list-an-introduction
    and
    http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/forum/topics/greatest-caribbean-author
    There are some other related discussions on the Caribbean Literary Salon as well…but you may have to dig around for those. These are the more recent ones.

  2. Pingback: The View from Here: Books from Caribbean authors | BookerTalk

  3. Awesome list! I’ve read a few of these already (Kincaid’s Annie John & Lucy; Danticat’s Krik?Krak!), and I’m excited to use this to make a new list of Carib books to buy. Thank you for this!!

  4. Pingback: Caribbean Literature chat with writer, Joanne C. Hillhouse – African Book Addict!

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