More Than A Literary Festival

Bocas Book Bulletin: June 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

It Waits in the Forest (Rick Riordan Presents) by Sarah Dass is a young adult thriller with Caribbean folkloric roots, set in a tiny island called St. Virgil. Dass, based in Tobago, creates in Selina DaSilva a central character more convinced by tangible natural science than superstition. It Waits in the Forest explores the entanglements of grief with the pursuit of a spooky, elusive truth. 

Police Dogs of Trinidad and Tobago (McFarland) by Debbie Jacob presents a comprehensive seventy-year history of the four-legged service animals in our republic. These canine officers have been a part of T&T history since the inception of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Canine Unit in 1952. Jacob presents the dogs’ work through noteworthy and catalytic happenings in both islands.

Last Reel (Ian Randle Publishers) is the eighth book of poems by Mervyn Morris, former Poet Laureate of Jamaica. Morris, who held the laureateship from 2014 to 2017, is Professor Emeritus at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. The short and tautly-plotted poems in Last Reel adopt various, diverse foci, ranging from the natural landscape to religious histories.

Iere: Living in the Land of the Hummingbird (self-published) by British-born, Trinidad-resident Sarah Beckett combines poems and paintings to represent an immersive, sensory experience of T&T. Particular attention is paid to the vividness and abundance of the islands’ flora and fauna, with the poet remarking on human interconnectedness with the natural world. Accompanying paintings render an additional layer of artistic fascination.

Two Times Removed Volume III: An Anthology of Indo-Caribbean Futures (Bookworm Publishing), edited by Tiara Jade Chutkhan, assembles diasporic voices to reflect on a centenary of East Indian indenture in the Caribbean. The twenty-two contributors address mental health, intergenerational divides, and the non-linear, complex relationship between honouring the past and safeguarding the future. This ambitious anthology seeks to serve both young and old Indo-Caribbean people.

King of Dead Things (Atheneum Books) by Nevin Holness focuses on two Black British teens, Eli and Malcolm, as they navigate the subterranean magical realm of London. This young adult fantasy novel melds Afro-Caribbean worldbuilding with high-action stakes, setting the stage for encounters with a duppy king, and a tussle with ancient powers governing good, evil, and everything in between.

Awards and Prizes

Trinidad and Tobago’s Portia Subran has won the 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Caribbean region. The judges’ citation for her winning story, “The Devil’s Son”, called it an “immense, gripping” tale that “harnesses horror, myth, and the colonial utility of religion to explore a deeply personal family trauma.” Subran joins fellow regional winners to vie for the overall prize, which will be announced on 26 June, 2024. Regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize each receive £2,500; the overall winner receives £5,000. “The Devil’s Son” can be read online at granta.com/the-devils-son.

Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson’s School of Instructions (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) has moved from the longlist to the shortlist of 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 CAD$130,000, will be announced in early June. School of Instructions was previously shortlisted in the poetry category of the 2024 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

The 2024 Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival Short Fiction Story Contest is now open for entries. The prize administrators offer two awards, both named after Trinidadian-American novelist and memoirist Elizabeth Nunez: The BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Caribbean-American Writer’s Prize, and The BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean. Prizes in both categories include USD$1,750. Entries close on 1 July, 2024. Further submission details and eligibility requirements are available online at www.bklyncbeanlitfest.org/about-bclf-short-fiction-story.

Caribbean Bestsellers

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

  • Hungry Ghosts, by Kevin Jared Hosein
  • Love the Dark Days, by Ira Mathur
  • A Different Energy, by Celeste Mohammed
  • Palmyra, by Karen Barrow
  • Son of Grace, by Vaneisa Baksh

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