Beyond beaches and cocktails: A reading list of the Caribbean

British writer Eleanor Shearer (granddaughter of Windrush generation immigrants, and author of River Sing Me Home) recommends a reading list of Caribbean authors for Literary Hub. See Literary Hub for descriptions of Curdella Forbes, A Tall History of Sugar; C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins; Marlon James, The Book of Night Women; George Lamming, In the Castle of My Skin; Andrea Levy, Small Island; Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place; Kei Miller, Things I Have Withheld; Monique Roffey, The Mermaid of Black Conch; and Derek Walcott, Omeros

For many tourists, the Caribbean is a paradise. A place outside time—with no history and no future. A place for cocktails on the beach and escaping the relentless rhythms of modern life. But to me, the Caribbean has always been beautiful because of its history, not in spite of it.

A cross-roads of cultures—African, Indigenous, Asian and European—it is a place where slavery and colonialism cast a long shadow. But it is also a place of joy and hope, not just of suffering. When writing my own debut novel, River Sing Me Home, which is about a mother searching for her children after the abolition of slavery, I wanted to centre all the ways Caribbean people have resisted their exploitation and made a kind of freedom for themselves, sometimes in desperate circumstances. All of the books below I admire because they do not shy away from the pain and suffering in the Caribbean’s past (and present), but they show Caribbean people as agents of their own liberation and authors of their own destinies.

My grandparents moved from St Lucia to the UK in 1957. I was born and grew up in London, a far cry from the muggy heat and tropical rains of my grandparents’ childhoods. So when I visit the Caribbean, it is at once familiar and unfamiliar to me—I experience its beautiful landscapes as an outsider, but then I see a village name and recognize it as the home of a relation, or spot hibiscus growing on the side of a road and remember stories of my step-grandmother crushing the flowers to make shampoo. Perhaps it is this feeling of being somewhere in between, both belonging and not belonging, that makes me love Caribbean literature so much—helping, as it does, to bring me closer to my heritage and to my grandparents. [. . .]

For full article and book descriptions, see

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