[Many thanks to Emilio Jorge Rodríguez for bringing this item to our attention.] On January 23, 2018, at Casa de las Américas in Havana, Cuba, the jury of the 2018 Casa de la Américas Literary Award in the Category of Anglophone Caribbean Literature, decided that the award goes to Tracing JaJa, a novel by Barbadian writer Anthony Kellman (Peepal Tree Press, 2016).
Having read and fully discussed all the books submitted for the prize, the members of the jury—Elizabeth Nunez (Trinidad and Tobago), Jacob Ross (Grenada), and Emilio Jorge Rodríguez (Cuba)—arrived at their decision for the following reasons:
“It is a passionate work of historical fiction drawing on actual events, to uncover one of the many atrocities of British colonial history. The novel engages the reader on both the emotional and cerebral level. We admired, and were moved by, Kellman’s portrayal of Jubo Jubogha, the African King, his resilience and refusal to submit to the indignities imposed on him by his British colonial jailers.
Much of the strength of Kellman’s work lies in his lyrical evocation of place, especially the Caribbean landscape. His portrayal of the people of Barbados captures both their pride in their African past and the suffering they endured. Tracing JaJa is a remarkable novel about human endurance, our capacity to find beauty and love even in the darkest of circumstances.”
By unanimous decision, the jury decided, to give honorable mention to two works, with similar levels of importance. In alphabetical order, they are:
Tell My Mother I Gone to Cuba by Sharon Milagro Marshall, from Barbados (The University of the West Indies Press, 2016). It is a nuanced and outstanding exploration of the role of West Indian migrants in the economic formation of Cuba, from the early 20th century to the present. The research is based on field study that adds to the work done by Cuban researchers during the last decades. The narrative is made richer by the living testimonies of the people who were part of this migrant experience. A highly commendable work that will be useful to publish in Spanish.
Canouan Suite & Other Pieces by Philip Nanton, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Papillote Press, 2016). It is a stunning collection of poems that establishes a conversation with visual artists of the Caribbean. The collection stands out for its stylistic and tonal diversity as well as its subject matter that ranges from the portentous to the banal. There is much to admire in this outstanding collection.