What’s on Our Nightstands: Oonya Kempadoo’s “All Decent Animals”

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Oonya Kempadoo has just published her third novel, All Decent Animals (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2013). I had the honor of attending a reading by the author at the ARC Magazine launch, a beautiful evening of film screenings, art, and literature—and now I have a signed copy of the book, which I am now enthusiastically reading.

Kempadoo’s evocative novel recently appeared on the new Oprah Magazine. About the novel, Karen Russell writes: “How am I only now finding out about this writer? It’s as if she’s inventing her own language, which is incantatory, dense, and lush. The authority and blood pulse of it seduced me. The novel is set in Trinidad, amid the circus-like world of Carnival. You’re a hostage in that island world—there’s nowhere to go, but you’re happy about it.” I agree.

Description: Oonya Kempadoo’s moving third novel, All Decent Animals, looks at the personal and aesthetic choices of a multifaceted cast of characters on the Caribbean island of Trinidad—a country still developing economically but rich culturally, aiming at “world-class” status amid its poor island cousins. It is a novel about relationships, examined through the distinct rhythms of the city of Port of Spain.

Loyalties, love, conflicting cultures, and creativity come into play as Ata, a young woman working in carnival design but curious about writing, and her European boyfriend, Pierre, negotiate the care of their friend Fraser, a closeted gay man dying from AIDS. The contradictory Trinidadian setting becomes a parallel character to Fraser’s Cambridge-derived artistic sensibility and an antagonist to Ata’s creative journey.

For more information, see http://www.oprah.com/book/All-Decent-Animals and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-decent-animals-oonya-kempadoo/1005402963?ean=9780374299712

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