2021 #ReadCaribbean

Can you believe 2021 was my third year doing #ReadCaribbean on the Insta? Thanks to Cindy Allman of Book of Cinz, this project has really taken off, encouraging readers all over the world to explore Caribbean literature.

We bookstagrammers and writers highlight what’s on our reading list during June – books about the Caribbean, usually written by Caribbean people living at home or abroad. Many people, particularly Caribbean people, get to discover the length and breadth of the canon, not just the bitter aftertaste they experienced in Lit/English class in secondary school.

This year, I read the following:

Things I have Withheld by Kei Miller (Jamaica)

After reading Augustown, I was curious to read this collection of essays by the Jamaican author. Overall, the writing was excellent and thought-provoking. I especially loved the travel essays. My favorite bits were:

  • “Mr. Brown, Mrs. White, and Ms. Black” which looks at how each character is viewed through the prism of class in Jamaican society.
  • “The Boys at the Harbor” about the Gully Queens in Kingston.
  • “The Buck, the Bacchanal, and Again the Body” about the buck that terrorizes a family in Gasparillo, Trinidad after Carnival 2019.
  • “The White Woman and the Language of Bees” about the author’s contradictory feelings towards a white Jamaican author who is offended when a black Jamaican author tells her off for being inauthentic.
  • “Sometimes the Only Way Down a Mountain is by Prayer” about the author’s sojourn in Ethiopia, the promised land for Rastafarians.
  • “My Brother, My Brother” about the author facing his ancestral past at Elmina Castle.
  • “The Old Black Woman Who Sat in the Corner” which reveals a skeleton in the closet of the author’s family.

Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir (Guyana/US)

This is a memoir from Guyanese-American poet Rajiv Mohabir. For me, the best part of it was where Mohabir described his relationship with his grandmother, Aji. I also found that his journey to India to find out more about her Bhojpuri folk songs paralleled Naipaul’s search for ancestry in An Area for Darkness.

Unlike Naipaul however, Mohabir has a distinct passion for India, its culture, and its language and the trip is one that cements his identity rather than splinters it even further.

However, I noticed that when his grandmother dies, the narrative becomes fragmented and difficult to follow with mythologies, imagined conversations, details about his depression and failed relationships, and more songs and poetry.

Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne (Barbados)

I haven’t read any middle grade Caribbean fiction so this was new territory. That being said, Bourne did a fantastic job of sucking me into the protagonist’s world. This novel would also translate well on the screen.

I also like how seamlessly she blended local folklore with the plot. It was also nice to read about bits and pieces of Bajan culture which seems very similar to Trini culture!

And that’s a wrap! Can’t wait for next year. If you took part in #ReadCaribbean this year, share what you read/discovered/put on your TBR list in the comments!

Goodreads Challenge 2019!

It’s nearing the end of 2019 so you know what that means – it’s time to sum up my reading (yay!). 2019 was a good year. Overall, I surpassed my Goodreads challenge of reading 52 books this year by clocking 67 books!

Here’s the list divided into novels, short story collections, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and graphic novels/comics. The ones I’ve starred are the ones that had a considerable impact on me.

Novels

  1. Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
  2. Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan *
  4. The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
  5. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  6. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok *
  7. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
  8. Augustown by Kei Miller *
  9. Golden Child by Claire Adam
  10. Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis Benn *
  11. My New American Life by Francine Prose
  12. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  13. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith *
  14. A House For Mr. Biswas by VS Naipaul *
  15. Crick, Crack Monkey by Merle Hodge
  16. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid *
  17. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  18. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery *
  19. My Enemy’s Cherry Tree by Wang Ting-Kuo
  20. A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl Philips *
  21. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  22. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  23. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
  24. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  25. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat *
  26. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Short story collections

  1. Trinidad Noir: The Classics edited by Earl Lovelace and Robert Antoni
  2. What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
  3. How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs *
  4. A Kitchen in the Corner of the House by Ambai
  5. The Transformation and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
  6. Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf
  7. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link *

Nonfiction

  1. Three Tigers, One Mountain by Michael Booth *
  2. Thin Places by Jordan Kisner *
  3. VS Naipaul’s Journeys by Sanjay Krishnan
  4. Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall
  5. Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke
  6. Writing is Essential by Judine Slaughter
  7. Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley
  8. Footnotes by Peter Fiennes
  9. We Need New Stories by Nesrine Malik
  10. Focal Point by Brian Tracy
  11. Beyond Guilt Trips by Anu Taranath
  12. An Uncommon Atlas by Alastair Bonnett
  13. The Bells of Old Tokyo by Anna Sherman
  14. Cuba Then, Cuba Now by Joshua-Jelly Shapiro
  15. Imaginary Homelands by Salman Rushdie
  16. Diasporic (Dis)locations by Brinda J Mehta *
  17. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
  18. How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom
  19. The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker
  20. Unconventional Medicine by Chris Kresser
  21. How to Polish Your Manuscript in 10 Days by Anne Victory

Memoir

  1. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
  2. At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
  3. The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
  4. Autumn Light by Pico Iyer
  5. Educated by Tara Westover *
  6. Apple, Tree by Lisa Funderburg
  7. Malaya by Cinelle Barnes *
  8. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid *
  9. A Map to the Door of No Return by Dionne Brand
  10. Magic Realism for Non-Believers by Anika Fajardo *
  11. Belonging by bell hooks *

Graphic Novel/Comics

  1. The Wonderful World of Sazae San by Machiko Hasegawa

Poetry

  1. Modern Sudanese Poetry by Adil Babikir

How many books did you read this year? What were your favorites?