Caribbean presence at 2013 Brooklyn Book Fest

Brooklyn Book Fest_Best of Caribbean

A post by Peter Jordens.

Tequila Minsky (Caribbean Life News) and Lavern McDonald (Caribbean News Now) report on the Caribbean presence at the recent Brooklyn Books festival. Here are excerpts from their articles.

“There are over a dozen Caribbean or Caribbean-Americans in this book fair,” beamed E. Wayne McDonald, artistic director of the Caribbean Cultural Theatre, as he finished up his conversation with Jamaican author Diana McCaulay outside of Brooklyn Borough Hall. [. . .] Earlier that day, writer McCaulay spoke on the panel entitled “Rolling the Dice” where the authors’ fictionalized main characters do risky business. In McCaulay’s book Huracan (hurricane god of Mayan mythology), the main character returns to Jamaica and grapples with: where does she fit and is this still home?

Concepts of power were addressed in the novels by the authors on the Idols, Gods and Kings panel where Cuban-American author and former journalist Cristina Garcia spoke of a fictionalized Fidel in her King of Cuba. From her imagination, she explored the substance of life behind the scenes. “People’s lives are their secret lives, not just those in public,” she said. Writer Teddy Wayne and renowned octogenarian author Tom Wolfe also dialogued with her.

Other Caribbean authors prominent on their respective panels included Guyanese, now from Grenada, Oonya Kempadoo (All Decent Animals) who is teaching this year in Connecticut as a Fulbright Scholar and Jamaican Colin Channer (Lover’s Rock) who combines political affairs of the day and sensuality. Antiguan writer Jamaica Kincaid, her fifth novel “See Now and Then” published this year, was a no-show due to personal emergencies.

A festival regular, former Brooklynite and MacArthur Foundation (Genius Award) recipient Edwidge Danticat participated on two panels. In the second one, “Writers Against the Surveillance State,” she, as did the five other writers, WNYC radio journalist Leonard Lopate, and whistle blower Tom Drake, read others writings on this subject. [. . .]

Haiti Cultural Exchange partnered with the festival as part of “Bookends” for a salon that included conversations and readings with Haitian writers Elsie Augustave (The Roving Tree) and Edwidge Danticat (Claire of the Sea Light.)

And bringing more Caribbean talent to the public, at MoCADA, The Best in Caribbean Literature evening featured Trinidadian Robert Antoni (As Flys to Whatless Boys), Antiguan Montague Kobbe (The Night of the Rambler), Trinidadian Barbara Jenkins (Sic Transit Wagon), Jamaican Ifeona Fulani (Ten Days in Jamaica) and Elsie Augustave and Oonya Kempadoo.

As the Brooklyn Book Festival wrapped up, theatre director McDonald commented on its Caribbean presence, “I am tremendously encouraged by the variety and work presented and the commitment of the organizers in inviting a good number of Caribbean and Caribbean-American writers. McDonald saw that the work from these writers was embraced by all ethnicities. “This speaks to the quality of the work coming from the region.”

For the full article, go to

Brooklyn Book Fest_Peepal Tree Press

[. . .] It was standing room only at the Thursday, September 19 evening sponsored by Akashic Books, Bocas Lit Fest, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and the Caribbean Cultural Theatre. This festival bookend event featured Robert Antoni (As Flies to Whatless Boys), Elsie Augustave (The Roving Tree), Ifeona Fulani (Ten Days in Jamaica), Barbara Jenkins (Sic Transit Wagon), [Oonya] Kempadoo (All Decent Animals), Montague Kobbé (The Night of the Rambler), and [Diana] McCaulay (Huracan). All who were gathered in MoCADA’s Fort Greene space seemed to reverently receive the offered readings. Others mingled just outside the doors, surprisingly unruffled by not being able to access the inner hall that housed the writers.
Haiti Cultural Exchange followed that stellar event with a Haitian-inspired evening on Saturday, September 21 at FiveMyles Gallery in the Crown Heights neighborhood. Noted Haitian educator, choreographer, and author Elsie Augustave read from her new novel The Roving Tree while special guest Edwidge Danticat discussed aspects of her career and offered an excerpt from Claire of the Sea Light, her newest novel.

[. . .] The chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council, Akashic publisher Johnny Temple directly addressed the contributions of Caribbean writers to the festival. “There is tremendous value in having Caribbean writers represented in the festival – though I should point out that we have always included Caribbean writers every year, to the point that this feels integral to me. Caribbean writers are an important part of the world’s literary landscape in 2013, not to mention that Brooklyn has such a large Caribbean population. So it wouldn’t do justice to the audience of book lovers here in Brooklyn if we had a huge book festival and didn’t include West Indians in our programming,” he said. “Akashic is committed to giving voice to Caribbean writers simply because we are committed to excellent literature. The Caribbean has a long history of producing phenomenal writers, and this is a tradition that we very much want to be a part of,” Temple added.

The complete article is available at

(Photos are from

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