Earlier this year, we asked the question: what makes an unforgettable Caribbean read? Which books have meant the most to you, from childhood to your adult life?
Since then, hundreds of readers have commented on social media to tell us about the Caribbean books that hold pride of place on their bookshelves and their hearts. Now that we’ve heard from you, we’re getting ready to unveil the list of 100 (or more) Caribbean Books That Made Us.
See what some of our friends have been saying on social media by searching the hashtag #MyCaribbeanLibrary!
Why the Books That Made Us Campaign?
If we’ve learned anything from a decade of running a national literary festival, it’s that people love our unique Caribbean stories, and they want more. Fortunately, we are in a glorious period of Caribbean literature: numerous prizewinning titles; books selected for national reading campaigns; hundreds of children encouraged to script their own tales. Call us biased, but we think life-shaping writing originating from our islands deserves a big, bright place on the world stage. That’s why we took the recently published BBC’s 100 Books That Shaped Our World not as a challenge, but as an invitation.
Four Caribbean novels made the BBC’s list: Small Island by Andrea Levy; A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul; Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys; Golden Child by Claire Adam. We took to our social media to ask a simple question: Which Caribbean books would you add? The answers were varied, enthusiastic, and thought-provoking. From Michael Anthony to Maryse Condé, you, the reading and writing public, wanted to weigh in – and weigh in you did!
The first score of books we’re sharing below encompasses a diverse, exciting mix of all that’s best in Caribbean reading. Containing several selections from overall and category winners of the OCM Bocas Prize, multiple genres are represented here, spanning generations, styles, settings, and concerns. Some of the themes explored in these fiction, non-fiction, and poetry titles include class division; xenophobia; young love; rural development; exile; colourism; amid so many more.