If we’ve learned anything from a decade of running a national literary festival, it’s that Caribbean people love our unique 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 the most 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 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!
From the spark of this initial conversation, we’re excited to launch The Bocas Book Network, an inclusive space for keeping Caribbean book chat going. The Bocas Book Network is a true collaborative effort: we’re teaming up with local and regional book clubs, beloved local writers, and independent booksellers to provide a reading experience focused on community, on a sustainable, energetic debate that revolves around our literature, and our passionate readers.
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.
We want to hear from you: what makes an unforgettable Caribbean read? Which books have meant the most to you, from childhood to your adult life? This isn’t a competition; it’s a forum for the stories that hold pride of place on your bookshelves and in your hearts. Have your say via our social media channels: comment on this post and use the hashtag #MyCaribbeanLibrary.
When we have our own 100 titles, we will tell the world!