The Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Award 2011

At the 2011 book launch last night (June 2) at the Curacao World Trade Center, the Caribbean Studies Association announced the winner of the Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Award: Anne-Marie Lee-Loy’s Searching for Mr. Chin: Constructions of Nation and the Chinese in West Indian Literature (Temple University Press, 2010).

This yearly award was established to honor the memory of distinguished Caribbeanists Gordon K. Lewis and Sybil Lewis.  It is granted to the best book about the Caribbean published over the previous three-year period in Spanish, English, French or Dutch. The nominated book should approach the chosen subject or aspect of Caribbean life conditions and situations from an interdisciplinary perspective, and should clearly show to have regional impact.

Publisher’s description:

What do twentieth-century fictional images of the Chinese reveal about the construction of nationhood in the former West Indian colonies? In her groundbreaking interdisciplinary work, Searching for Mr. Chin, Anne-Marie Lee-Loy seeks to map and understand a cultural process of identity formation: “Chineseness” in the West Indies. Reading behind the stereotypical image of the Chinese in the West Indies, she compares fictional representations of Chinese characters in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana to reveal the social and racial hierarchies present in literature by popular authors such as V.S. Naipaul and Samuel Selvon, as well as lesser known writers and hard to access literary texts.

Using historical, discursive, and theoretical frameworks for her literary analysis, Lee-Loy shows how the unstable and ambiguous “belonging” afforded to this “middleman minority” speaks to the ways in which narrative boundaries of the nation are established. In addition to looking at how Chinese have been viewed as “others,” Lee-Loy examines self-representations of “Chineseness” and how they complicate national narratives of belonging.

Anne-Marie Lee-Loy is a literary and cultural scholar of the Anglo-Caribbean and its diaspora with a particular interest in the experiences of Chinese Caribbeans. She currently teaches in the English Department at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada).

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