On the heels of this June’s #ReadCaribbean challenge, I decided to keep up with my Caribbean literature. Reading about so many Caribbean writers in June made me thirst for them and by July, I was deeply immersed in several books. I realized how much I missed the cadences of my home country and region and the only tangible way I could transport myself back was through reading Caribbean literature. With that said, here are some of my favorite reads for summer 2019.
1. Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis Benn
This was on my radar a while ago when travel writer Bani Amor mentioned it in her book club series but it took me over two years to actually get my hands on it and finish it. Dennis Benn’s work captivated me from the beginning with memorable though amoral characters and its unmistakable Jamaican setting. The author delves beneath the surface impression so many tourists have of the island as a pleasure-seeking place of weed-smoking locals, lovely beaches, and guilt-free hook-ups. She pulls back the shiny veneer of the tourism industry and shows what some people really have to do to get by in Jamaica.
2. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
Kincaid starts hitting them hard from the get-go in this one. Even though A Small Place was published in 1988, I think the author’s sentiments about how Caribbean islands are perceived by tourists as playgrounds for their personal pleasure rather than real places still stands today. This is a must-read for anyone eager to travel to the Caribbean and is a great companion read to Nicole Dennis Benn’s Here Comes The Sun.
3. Golden Child by Claire Adam
This debut novel by Trinidadian but British-based writer Claire Adam was a slow burn for me. It starts off in the bush, as we Trinis like to say, but peels back the layers to reveal the tragic story behind a working-class Indo-Trinidadian family. This family is blessed with twins, bright boy Peter and maladjusted Paul, but as the saying goes, “Peter pay for Paul, Paul pay for all.” Adam’s story definitely shows how this happens in crime-afflicted societies like Trinidad’s.
4. Augustown by Kei Miller
Miller’s work soared from the beginning for me. I loved his documentary-writing style, especially how he pinpoints the exact location of Augustown and talks about its social and economic circumstances. The reader gets into the heads of several of Augustown’s inhabitants as well as peripheral characters who get mixed up in the melee when they intrude in how things are done in this largely Rasta community.
5. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
This was my second time reading Lucy and I was able to pick up on Kincaid’s signature style having devoured Annie John and A Small Place earlier. Lucy is a character I am ambivalent about, particularly in her relationship with her mother and how she handles relationships with those close to her. As always, there are echoes of anti-colonial sentiment in this work, a theme that runs rampant through Kincaid’s body of work.
6. How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs
What a sweet collection of stories! I loved how the author focused on characters at home in Jamaica and in the diaspora, particularly in the US. Even though it’s written as a love letter to Jamaicans everywhere, as a Caribbean reader, I was able to connect with many of the stories. My favorite story was “Shirley from A Small Place” which seems to be based loosely on Rihanna’s rise to stardom.