More Than A Literary Festival

Bocas Book Bulletin: April 2024

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.

New Releases

Set in Trinidad, Palmyra (Friesen Press), shortlisted for the 2023 Guernica Prize for Literary Fiction, is Karen Barrow’s debut novel, channelling Caribbean Gothic suspense in the ruins of a former “great house” cocoa estate. Barrow also incorporates coming-of-age elements to the narrative, impressing the importance of place upon the reader.

By Such a Parting Light (UWI Press) by Barbara Lalla deftly explores the intergenerational complexities of lockdown-era dynamics, in a novel that sees three children navigating life with their ageing grandparents. Lalla’s prose contemplates cycles of care and responsibility in the face of identity-altering crises, asking what holds us together.

String Bank (Keensdee Productions), by veteran storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas, illustrated by artist-architect Tara Keens-Douglas, brings the tradition of kite-flying to life in vibrant drawings and rhythmic words. Encompassing the joys of Easter kite season, the father-daughter Keens-Douglas duo portray the revelry and commotion of an enterprising, mischievous youth’s flying foray.

Zo and the Invisible Island (Knights Of Media), the middle-grade (ages 8 to 12) sequel to Alake Pilgrim’s Zo and the Forest of Secrets, reprises the title character’s folkloric quest, setting Zo on a mission to redeem her friends and right the injustices she and her cohort faced in Book One.

West of West Indian (Mawenzi House), the debut poetry collection by Linzey Corridon, born and raised in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, explores daily LGBTQI+ Caribbean lives, in states of both ordinariness and activism. Notably, Corridon populates the poems with explorations and subversions of common queer Caribbean slurs, challenging biases.

Fractal Repair: Queer Histories of Modern Jamaica (Duke University Press) by Matthew Chin uses fractals, a detailed geometric system of patterning, as an allegory for the trajectories of lived Queer experience in Jamaica. Drawing on historical and sociological archives, Chin frames a system of reparations for LGBTQI+ survivors of trauma.

Oh Witness Dey! (Book*hug Press) by Shani Mootoo marks the Trinidadian-Canadian author’s return to full-length published poetry books; her first, The Predicament of Or, was released over twenty years ago in 2001. Oh Witness Dey! responds to the history of indentureship in Trinidad, as experienced by Mootoo’s great-great-grandparents. 

Awards and Prizes

Books by authors from the US Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica have won the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction categories of the 2024 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The Ferguson Report: An Erasure (Knopf/Bloodaxe) by US Virgin Islands–born Nicole Sealey has won the poetry category; Hungry Ghosts (Ecco/Bloomsbury) by Trinidadian Kevin Jared Hosein has won the fiction category; How to Say Babylon (Simon & Schuster/HarperCollins) by Jamaican Safiya Sinclair has won the non-fiction category. The overall winner of the 2024 OCM Bocas Prize, chosen from the three genre winners and awarded US$10,000, will be announced on Saturday 27 April during the 2024 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. The other category winners will receive US$3,000.

Vaneisa Baksh’s Son of Grace (Fairfield Books) has been shortlisted for The 2024 Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Award, one of six titles in the running for the overall award, to be announced on 9 April. 

Safiya Sinclair’s How to Say Babylon, winner of the 2024 OCM Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction, has won the 2023 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. How to Say Babylon has also moved from the longlist of 16 to the shortlist of 6 in the 2024 Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction, which awards £30,000 to its overall winner.

Sharma Taylor, Jamaican novelist and winner of the Bocas Lit Fest’s 2019 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize, received an Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Medal (Bronze) for Literature medal, for her contributions to the genre in Jamaica and the region.

Ishion Hutchinson’s School of Instructions (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) has been longlisted for the 2024 Griffin Poetry Prize, the world’s most generous international prize for a book of poetry written in, or translated into English. The winner of the award, who receives $130,000 CAD, will be announced on 5 June. School of Instructions was previously longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Festival News

The programme of events for the 2024 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, running from 25 to 28 April, was announced in late March. Now in its 14th year, the Festival includes over 150 authors, speakers, and performers, in a packed schedule of events for adults, teens, and children at the National Library and Old Fire Station in downtown Port of Spain, and satellite venues around the city. For full programme details, visit

Caribbean Bestsellers

Independent bookshop Paper Based (Instagram: @paperbasedbookshop) shares its top-selling Caribbean titles for the past month:

1. Design Social Change, by Lesley-Ann Noel

2. How to Say Babylon, by Safiya Sinclair

3. Ocean Stirrings, by Merle Collins

4. Uprooting, by Marchelle Farrell

5. Goodbye Bay, by Jennifer Rahim

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