10 Female Caribbean Authors You Should Know


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] In “10 Female Caribbean Authors You Should Know and Add to Your American Lit Syllabus,” Gerty Dambury (Literary Hub)—theater director, novelist, and poet from Guadeloupe—explains that, when she was studying English and American literature, she was struck by the fact that not a single black woman was included on any of the syllabi. In this brief article, she offers recommendations on Caribbean women authors who deserve more attention. Here are excerpts of her descriptions:

Una Marson, Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press): The author of the 1974 anthology West Indian Poetry described Una Marson as “the earliest female poet of significance to emerge in West Indian literature.” She was an advocate for Jamaican literature and the first black woman to be employed by the BBC—she established their “Carribbean Voices” program. Uma Marson’s poetry was clearly political, addressing themes of disarmament, the women’s international movement, and Pan-Africanism. [. . .]

Alecia McKenzie, Stories from Yard (Peepal Tree Press): I first met Alecia McKenzie in Paris in 2014, not remembering that I had previously read and loved one of her short stories, “Private School,” in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories. [. . .] Each story develops many different aspects of life in Jamaica, and her women—as we often are in the Caribbean—are powerful and resilient. McKenzie’s latest book Sweetheart received the Prix Carbet des Lycéens in 2016.

Afua Cooper, Memories Have Tongue (Sister Vision Press): Jamaican-born poet and historian Afua Cooper has published four collections of poetry. “I Remember. . .” is the first poem in her 1994 book, Memories Have Tongue. I remember that, in this wide-ranging collection—sometimes joyful, sometimes heavily informed by reality—a certain Donald Trump was already mentioned—in 1992. [. . .]

Elma Napier, A Flying Fish Whispered (Peepal Tree Press): Elma Napier was born in Scotland, but she is ranked among the writers of Dominica—she moved to the island at age 40 in 1932 and went on to become the first woman elected to a Caribbean parliament. The person who introduced me to Napier’s work said, “From Dominica, you’ve probably only heard of Jean Rhys.” At the time, this was true. So I had to read her. Her work is not as easy to find, but A Flying Fish Whispered was worth the wait. [. . .]

Marion Bethel, Guanahani, My Love (House of Nehesi Publishers): I met Marion Bethel, a poet from the Bahamas, in Guadeloupe in 2014; we had both been invited there by the Congress of Caribbean Writers. She is widely-accomplished—aside from her career as a poet, she is also an attorney, activist, documentary filmmaker. [. . .]

Mahadai Das, A Leaf in His Ear (Peepal Tree Press): Guyanese poet, dancer, actress, teacher, and beauty queen Mahadaï Das was an advocate for Indo-Guyanese culture and “Coolie” art forms. Her 1988 collection Bones drew wide acclaim. [. . .]

Marcia Douglas, The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim (Peepal Tree Press): Although this book has received a good deal of attention, it deserves more (which it will hopefully get with New Directions’ forthcoming reissue, due out this July). Male writers have long been honored for books playing in the same yard—it creates a marvelous, magical realist world in which the dead (namely, one Bob Marley) summon the living to act.

Joanne C. Hillhouse, Oh, Gad! (Strebor Books): With this book, Joanne Hillhouse tells a well-known story: how does it feel to return home when it is no longer truly home? Nikki, the main character, was born in Antigua but raised in the USA. When she comes back to Antigua for her mother’s funeral, she decides to remain on the island. Turmoil and chaos ensue. [. . .]

Velma Pollard, Considering Woman (Peepal Tree Press): Velma Pollard’s poetry is well-known in Jamaica, her native land, and in Great Britain—you can listen to her poem “At Cienfuegos I” at the Poetry Archive. I did not know her as a short story writer, however, until her 1989 debut collection Considering Woman was republished in 2011. The book is made of poems, parables, and stories. [. . .]

Myriam Chancy, The Loneliness of Angels (Peepal Tree Press): Before The Loneliness of Angels, Myriam Chancy had already written two novels on Haiti: Spirit of Haiti and The Scorpion’s Claw. Like the two that preceded it, The Loneliness of Angels more mingles spirituality and earthly affairs, past and contemporary history. [. . .]

Gerty Dambury is a theater director, novelist, and poet from Guadeloupe. She won the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde in 2015 for her play Le rêve de William Alexander Brown. Her English novel debut is The Restless.

For full article, see http://lithub.com/10-female-caribbean-authors-you-should-know

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