Most of the books that have arrived at my doorstep in the last couple weeks have been for an independent study I am taking over the summer on Caribbean literature. A good portion are science fiction, but some aren’t, and the books below are in the latter category. Should be a very interesting summer for me.
1. The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
We meet him late in life: a quiet man, a good father and husband, a fixture in his Brooklyn neighborhood, a landlord and barber with a terrifying scar across his face. As the book unfolds, moving seamlessly between Haiti in the 1960s and New York City today, we enter the lives of those around him, and learn that he has also kept a vital, dangerous secret. Edwidge Danticat’s brilliant exploration of the “dew breaker”–or torturer–s an unforgettable story of love, remorse, and hope; of personal and political rebellions; and of the compromises we make to move beyond the most intimate brushes with history. It firmly establishes her as one of America’s most essential writers.
2. Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell
Twelve-year-old Beka Lamb lives in Belize City, “a relatively tolerant town” where people with their roots in Africa, the West Indies, Central America, Europe, North America, Asia, and other places, “lived in a kind of harmony. In three centuries, miscegenation, like logwood, had produced all shades of black and brown, not grey or purple or violet.” Beka knows her family’s history from Gran who tells of “befo’ time,” when they were slaves, and now, when Beka can win an essay contest at the Convent school: “Befo’ time… Beka would never have won that contest… But things can change fi true.” And change they do. Before she won the essay contest, Beka’s days were filled with family, domestic work, food, school, neighbors, politics, hurricanes, and dreaming with her best friend, fourteen-year-old Toycie. Before the contest, Sundays were the days she and Toycie walked Beka’s baby brother through the rich neighborhoods to the seashore and planned the redecorating they would do when they owned the houses they passed, the days Beka waited patiently while Toycie talked to her boyfriend. Before the contest, Beka lied, got caught, got punished, and lied again. Before the contest, Toycie was still alive.
3. Ways of Sunlight by Sam Selvon
The master-storyteller turns his pen to rural village life with Ways of Sunlight in Trinidad: gossip and rivalry between village washerwomen; toiling cane-cutters reaping their harvest; superstitious old Ma Procop protecting the fruit of her Mango tree with magic. With equal wit and sensitivity, he reflects the depression of hard times in London, where people live in cold, damp basements, hustling for survival.
4. Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge
A revealing novel of childhood about Tee who is being made socially acceptable by her aunt so that she can cope with the caste system of Trinidad.
5. Myal by Erna Brodber
I actually have no idea what this is about. No information on Amazon.com and the back cover only talks about the author.
6. Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo
Back in print: an extraordinary first novel by “a writer to watch and to enjoy.”*
Told in the voice of a girl as she moves from childhood into adolescence, Buxton Spice is the story the town of Tamarind Grove: its eccentric families, its sweeping joys, and its sudden tragedies. The novel brings to life 1970s Guyana—a world at a cultural and political crossroads—and perfectly captures a child”s keen observations, sense of wonder, and the growing complexity of consciousness that marks the passage from innocence to experience.
7. In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming
George Lamming’s “In the Castle of My Skin” skilfully depicts the Barbadian psyche. Set against the backdrop of the 1930s riots which helped to pave the way for Independence and the modern Barbados, through the eyes of a young boy, Lamming portrays the social, racial, political and urban struggles with which Barbados continues to grapple even with some thirty-three years of Political Independence from Britain. Required reading for all Caribbean people. The novel also offers non-Barbadians and non-Caribbean people insight into the modern social history of Barbados and the Caribbean. A writer of the people one is back again in the pages of Huckleberry Finn_ the fundamental book of civilisation Mr Lamming captures the myth-making and myth-dissolving mind of childhood.
Anything sound interesting to you? These are pretty old, so maybe you’ve already read a few of them. If so, let me know what you thought.