A monthly roundup of news about Caribbean books and writers, presented by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest
Welcome to the latest installment of the Bocas Book Bulletin, a monthly roundup of Caribbean literary news, curated by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival, and published in the Sunday Express.
2024 publishing preview
Caribbean books continue to be prominently on the radar of international publishers’ trends, with much-awaited releases in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction scheduled for publication throughout the year. Smaller, dedicated Caribbean presses, such as Peepal Tree, have also unveiled a promising roster of titles from well-established and emerging talents alike.
Naniki (Dundurn Press) by Oonya Kempadoo channels First People’s knowledge, presenting an elemental world in which protagonists Amana and Skelele contend with environmental devastation on their quest towards a spirit-infused Caribbean.
Broughtupsy (House of Anansi, Canada; Catapult, US) by Christina Cooke spotlights a burgeoning intimate relationship between Akúa and Jayda, in a Jamaica where attitudes towards LGBTQ+ identities are emotionally mercurial.
The House of Plain Truth (Zibby Media), Donna Hemans’s second novel, triangulates Jamaica, Brooklyn, and Cuba as it navigates a family’s tempestuous journey through migration, caregiving, and traumatic sibling dynamics.
Edgar Mittelholzer: In the Eye of the Storm (Peepal Tree Press), edited by Juanita Cox, curates essays engaging with the lauded Guyanese writer’s positions on race, genre mastery, formal proficiency, alongside charges that Mittelholzer wrote pornography.
Code Noir (Penguin Random House Canada) the debut work of fiction from 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature winner Canisia Lubrin, links fifty-nine fragmentary episodes responding to King Louis XIV’s Code Noir.
Oh Witness Dey! (Book*hug Press) by Shani Mootoo uses poetry to reconstruct a body of belonging, focusing on the incomplete records of indentureship in the Indo-Caribbean world and its diaspora, asking questions of inheritance, possession, and harmony.
Colonial Countryside (Peepal Tree Press), edited by Corinne Fowler and Jeremy Poynting, gathers commissioned poetry and fiction writing responding to UK National Trust houses bearing direct ties to the slave trade: the anthology includes work by 2023 OCM Bocas Prize winner Ayanna Lloyd Banwo.
Village Weavers (Tin House) by Myriam J. A. Chancy foregrounds a decades-old friendship in fiction, one that endures political devastation, sweeping social change, and the tumultuous span of sixty years marked by resettlement in the United States.
The Lost Love Songs of Boysie Singh (Faber), Ingrid Persaud’s second novel, tackles the infamous gangster who terrorised Trinidad and Tobago in the 1940s and 50s, as told through the voices of four women, Popo, Mana Lala, Doris, and Rosie.
A Literary Friendship (Peepal Tree Press) by the late Gordon Rohlehr traverses some fifty years of the author’s correspondence with, and musings on, the life and work of poet Kamau Brathwaite, assembling a testament to Caribbean literary citizenship and camaraderie.
It Waits in the Forest (Penguin Random House/Rick Riordan), the newest young adult novel and first in the fantasy genre from T&T’s Sarah Dass, draws on Caribbean folklore to thread elements of the mythic, murderous, and supernatural into the fictive island of St. Virgil.
Amazing Scenes: Selected Journalism 1928-1953 (Peepal Tree Press) by Seepersad Naipaul, edited by Aaron Eastley, Nivedita Misra, Kenneth Ramchand and the late Brinsley Samaroo, views Naipaul’s journalistic career through the lens of shaping Caribbean social history, particularly in the Indo-Caribbean community.
Chasing the Marbleu (Peepal Tree Press) by prolific Trinidad-born Guyanese poet Ian McDonald, takes stock of a life diversely and richly lived, gathering remembrances of family, homegoings and homecomings, principally steeped in an appreciative Caribbeanness that transcends mere patriotism.
Polkadot Wounds (Carcanet Press) by Anthony Vahni Capildeo addresses the multitudinous emotional responses brought about by living in the world’s anthropocene, ranging from places, stations and perspectives with virtuosic density.
Later in 2024
Look At You (Peepal Tree Press) by Amanda Smyth marries pathos and humour in its examination of a life roving between Trinidad and the United Kingdom, striving towards understanding a girl, then woman’s, place in the world amidst sometimes-competing narratives.
The Nightward (Harper Voyager) by R.S.A Garcia, framed as a reading experience in which Caribbean mythos meets The Witcher, melds fantasy and science fiction to treat with tropes of encroaching technologies, warrior women, and precocious savant children.
Jennifer Rahim’s Goodbye Bay (Peepal Tree Press) will be posthumously launched on 13 January 24, by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, in partnership with the Faculty of Humanities and Education and the Department of Literary, Cultural and Communication Studies of The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
The special event, free and open to the public, will be hosted at The UWI’s School of Education Auditorium on Agostini Street, St. Augustine. Starting at 5 pm, the launch will include readings from Goodbye Bay, music, and an introduction to the novel by novelist and academic Barbara Lalla.
Paper Based Bookshop (paperbased.org) shares its top-selling Caribbean titles for 2023, sorted by four genres:
- Sonnets for Albert, by Anthony Joseph
- Everyone Knows I am a Haunting, by Shivanee Ramlochan
- Narcissus, by Andre Bagoo
- Selected Poems, by Linton Kwesi Johnson
- The Animated Universe, by Samantha Thornhill
Biography, Autobiography, Memoir
- Love the Dark Days, by Ira Mathur
- The Stranger Who Was Myself, by Barbara Jenkins
- Breaking Free, by Angela Laquis-Sobrian
- Born on an Island, by Golda Lee Bruce
- My Name is Love, by Troy Hadeed
- Growing Up Woodbrook, by Dylan Kerrigan
- The Illustrated Story of Pan, by Kim Johnson
- Equal to Mystery: In Search of Harold Sonny Ladoo, by Christopher Laird
- A History of Modern Trinidad 1783-1962, by Bridget Brereton
- Things I Have Withheld, by Kei Miller
- Hungry Ghosts, by Kevin Jared Hosein
- When We Were Birds, by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
- The God of Good Looks, by Breanne Mc Ivor
- Pleasantview, by Celeste Mohammed
- What a Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You, by Sharma Taylor