It’s a wrap – #ReadCaribbean challenge

I must say that June was definitely one of the more rewarding months I have experienced this year. Thanks to Book of Cinz, I hopped on board a project to promote Caribbean literature to the masses on the ‘gram.

And what a success it was! So many people reached out and shared their recommendations. So with that, here’s a wrap up of the Caribbean books I featured for Caribbean Heritage Month 2019.

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"Gita can't believe she's in Kolkata. All she knew of the city was that her great-great grandmother got on the ship here for Chinidad, the land of sugar. She had no records, no photographs, only the bare bones of stories her father told her." Homecoming by Suzanne Bhagan For Day 23 of this June's #ReadCaribbean challenge, I am featuring We Mark Your Memory, a collection published by both the University of London (2018) and Peekash Press (2019). In collaboration with Commonwealth Writers, this collection of new writing from across the Commonwealth explores Indian indentured heritage in the 21st century. When slavery was abolished in the 19th century in the Caribbean, the first Indian indentured laborers came to the then British colonies to plug the gap. These workers from the subcontinent entered into/were often coerced into signing contracts to work on the sugar plantations there. We Mark Your Memory features a host of authors of Caribbean heritage – 🌟David Dabydeen 🌟Kevin Jared Hosein 🌟 Gabrielle Jamela Hosein 🌟Anita Sethi 🌟Stella Chong Sing, 🌟Jennifer Rahim 🌟 Patti-Anne Ali 🌟 Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming 🌟 Gaiutra Bahadur 🌟 Fawzia Muradali Kane 🌟Arnold Thomas 🌟myself My debut short story "Homecoming" explores the experiences of a young Indo-Trinidadian couple who visit India for the first time and face instant culture shock in their attempts to make a connection with their "long-lost homeland." What debut Caribbean author are you reading today?

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#ReadCaribbean Challenge

Together with a group of handpicked Caribbean bookstagrammers, this June, I am getting involved with a #ReadCaribbean challenge on Instagram to encourage more readers to discover Caribbean literature.

June 2019 is recognized as Caribbean Heritage Month so to celebrate, we’re encouraging you to:

  1. read books by Caribbean nationals
  2. read books about the Caribbean
  3. read books set in the Caribbean

Here are some prompts to get you inspired! Are you on board?

Review: A Kitchen in the Corner

I really didn’t know anything about Ambai before I read A Kitchen in the Corner of the House but now, I am truly enlightened. I have read a lot of literature written in English by Indian writers but Ambai’s work was a first for me to read Indian, specifically Tamil literature, in translation.

Ambai’s work translated by Lakshmi Holmstrom can be considered feminist literature as many of her stories examine what’s it’s like to be a woman in India, particularly regarding how the female body is portrayed and treated in Indian society. In one story, adults regard one woman’s body as one that never “blossomed” because she never bore children even though children see her differently. The author also explores the traditionally female space of the kitchen as one where women think they hold power. She also re-examines the story of Sita, Rama’s wife, whose faithfulness to her husband came into question after she was rescued from her kidnapper.

Sometimes, I found Ambai’s stories difficult to follow because they were peppered with local references but overall, her work carries a somber tone and is sure to resonate with female readers.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a digital Advance Reader Copy from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Bells of Old Tokyo

As a fairly new expat living in the land of the rising sun, it’s always interesting to hear the perspectives of seasoned expats who have called this place home for several years.

Anna Sherman moved to Asia in 2001 and The Bells of Old Tokyo: Meditations of Time and a City is her first book. In this part-memoir/ part travelogue, Sherman retraces the steps taken by composer Yoshimura Hiroshi in his book, Edo’s Bells of Time, listening for the chime of the old city’s bells in the silent spaces of her loud, 21st century metropolis. Her prose is both lyrical and clipped, as she meditates on seasonal time-keeping in old Edo and contrasts it with digital time-keeping in modern-day Tokyo.

She shows how the traditional Japanese conception of time as non-linear is constantly at odds with Japan’s adoption of progressive, mechanical Western time, a push and pull struggle that mirrors Japan’s juggling between its slick, contemporary image as a postmodern mecca and its ancient Eastern roots. This conflict is also evident in Tokyo’s constant reinvention of itself, forever destroying and rebuilding its spaces so that nothing ever remains permanent, even the author’s beloved coffee shop in the bowels of the enigmatic capital city.

Overall, The Bells of Old Tokyo is a fresh take on a much-admired and much-misunderstood city and highly recommended for anyone who wants to probe into what really makes the Japanese capital tick.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a digital Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Beyond Guilt Trips

Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World by Anu Taranath is written largely from the perspective of an individual from the Global North traveling to the Global South. It investigates why these travelers feel guilty and uncomfortable when going overseas because they start to experience how invisible global systems privilege them over others in the lesser developed countries they travel to.

The most interesting parts of the book were the actual scenarios that played out these abstract issues in real time. For me, as a traveler/expat who was born and raised in the Global South and who wrote about meaningful travel for GoAbroad, this book raised serious issues about how privileged travelers should engage with locals in the Global South and how they should deal with the attention, negative or positive, they may receive from them. For me, these are some of the book’s important takeaways:

1. We should pay attention to difference because difference is real and noticing difference is not a bad thing.
2. Some travelers from the Global North crave difference as a product, something to eroticize, commodify, and consume.
3. How far or close we are from the “mythical norm” determines how we perceive ourselves and how other perceive us.
4. We hold many identities and some of these identities are visible while others are invisible. Our identities are never fixed but fluid. We are different in different contexts.
5. Global travel often capitalizes on the legacy of imperialism, where relationships between travelers from the Global North and locals in the Global South still rest on the premise of unequal systems.
6. In the final analysis, the author says that “trips abroad must intersect with our local lives… Otherwise we’re just exoticizing difference abroad while refusing to engage with it at home.”

Overall, it was a good read that asks important questions about travel and privilege and I really hope more Western travelers read this book carefully before they take those “well-intentioned” trips to the Global South.

Disclaimer: I received this book as a digital Advance Reader Copy from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.