Since finding out that my grandad is Jamaican, and after being immersed in part of the Caribbean culture with Carnival, I have been obsessing over ways to learn more about my culture and my roots. As if a sign from God, one of my favorite book pages on Instagram posted several book challenges we should participate in this year. One of her slides featured Caribbean books. And, OMG!!! I was like, “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?”
So, I went on a quest to find several books written by Caribbean authors to feed my book-eater appetite. I started with the most obvious book, “Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.” I started this book in the fall, but life got busy, so I didn’t finish. I picked it back up this week to finish, and I’m so glad I did.
Anyway, here are a few Caribbean books I plan to consume over the next few months:
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
Summary: Alaine Beauparlant has heard about Haiti all her life…
But the stories were always passed down from her dad—and her mom, when she wasn’t too busy with her high-profile newscaster gig. But when Alaine’s life goes a bit sideways, it’s time to finally visit Haiti herself.
What she learns about Haiti’s proud history as the world’s first black republic (with its even prouder people) is one thing, but what she learns about her own family is another. Suddenly, the secrets Alaine’s mom has been keeping, including a family curse that has spanned generations, can no longer be avoided.
It’s a lot to handle, without even mentioning that Alaine is also working for her aunt’s nonprofit, which sends underprivileged kids to school and boasts one annoyingly charming intern.
Women Writing Resistance
Summary: Essays on Latinx and Caribbean identity and on globalization by renowned women writers, including Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat, and Jamaica Kincaid
Women Writing Resistance- Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean gathers the voices of sixteen acclaimed writer-activists for a one-of-a-kind collection. Through poetry and essays, writers from the Anglophone, Hispanic, and Francophone Caribbean, including Puertorriquenas and Cubanas, grapple with their hybrid American political identities. Gloria Anzaldoa , the founder of Chicana queer theory; Rigoberta Mencho , the first Indigenous person to win a Nobel Peace Prize; and Michelle Cliff , a searing and poignant chronicler of colonialism and racism, among many others, highlight how women can collaborate across class, race, and nationality to lead a new wave of resistance against neoliberalism, patriarchy, state terrorism, and white supremacy.
Source: Charlotte Meck Library
Facing the Sun
Summary: Told from multiple viewpoints, follows teenaged friends Nia, KeeKee, Faith, and Eve as they experience unexpected life changes the summer a hotel developer purchases their Caribbean community’s beloved beach.
Source: Charlotte Meck Library
Learning to Breathe
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Indy, sent to live with relatives in Nassau, struggles to conceal that she is pregnant by rape. Turned out by her aunt, completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. A yoga retreat might be the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is more just four walls and a roof– it’s the people she chooses to share it with.
Summary: Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.
When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.
In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane.
Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
The Star Side of Bird Hill
Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother, in Naomi Jackson’s stunning debut novel
This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.
Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life.
This tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.
Naomi Jackson’s Barbados and her characters are singular, especially the wise Hyacinth and the heartbreaking young Phaedra, who is coming into her own as a young woman amid the tumult of her family.
Patsy: A Novel
A beautifully layered portrait of motherhood, immigration, and the sacrifices we make in the name of love from award-winning novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn.Heralded for writing “deeply memorable . . . women” (Jennifer Senior, New York Times), Nicole Dennis-Benn introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine for our times: the eponymous Patsy, who leaves her young daughter behind in Jamaica to follow Cicely, her oldest friend, to New York. Beating with the pulse of a long-withheld confession and peppered with lilting patois, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to love whomever she chooses, bravely putting herself first. But to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a nanny, while back in Jamaica her daughter, Tru, ironically struggles to understand why she was left behind. Greeted with international critical acclaim from readers who, at last, saw themselves represented in Patsy, this astonishing novel “fills a literary void with compassion, complexity and tenderness” (Joshunda Sanders, Time), offering up a vital portrait of the chasms between selfhood and motherhood, the American dream and reality.
Where There are Monsters
In this powerfully engaging collection of short stories, Breanne Mc Ivor lifts the tropes and characters of Caribbean folklore and places them among the concrete, glass and heat of a hectic, recognizable, crime-ridden Trinidad. These are not simply modern or modernised folktales, but beautifully crafted, fully formed contemporary stories by a hugely talented writer who uses them as narrative vehicles to address weighty questions about human nature and Trinidadian society. What choice is there for a young man, besotted with an upperclass woman, when what stands between him and her, is the humiliating poverty he’s trapped in? What monster does he embrace to break out of his situation? To what extent do we also become victims of the violence we inflict on others? A young man, consumed by his inner monster – a Loup Garou – destroys the woman whose love sustains him. A mother comes face to face with a daughter who is about to marry the kind of man who, she believes, would turn out to be a monster like her daughters father. In The Cannibal of Santa Cruz, a young woman grows into recognising and accepting the flesh-loving monster which lives in her.
Clap When You Land
In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
How to Love a Jamaican
Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret – Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and Midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.
In ‘Light Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands’, an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In ‘Mash Up Love’, a twin’s chance sighting of his estranged brother – the prodigal son of the family – stirs up unresolved feelings of resentment. In ‘Bad Behavior’, a mother and father leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In ‘Mermaid River’, a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In ‘The Ghost of Jia Yi’, a recently murdered international student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in ‘Shirley from a Small Place’, a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.
The winner of the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for ‘Bad Behavior’, Alexia Arthurs emerges in this vibrant, lyrical, intimate collection as one of fiction’s most dynamic and essential young authors.