100 Caribbean books that made us

What makes an unforgettable Caribbean read? Which books have meant the most to Caribbean readers, from childhood into adult life? The NGC Bocas Lit Fest wants to know.

The Caribbean’s premiere annual literary festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, now rescheduled to September 18-20, 2020, has created a virtual forum for the stories that have held pride of place on the bookshelves and in the hearts of Caribbean people everywhere.

Organisers are inviting festival fans and followers to determine the “100 Caribbean Books that Made Us” by sharing their picks online via Bocas Lit Fest social media channels, and to comment, where possible, with reasons for their choices, while using the hashtag #MyCaribbeanLibrary.

“If we’ve learned anything from a decade of running a national literary festival, it’s that people love our unique Caribbean stories: they want more of them, and they want to celebrate the classics, too. The current times provide us with a golden opportunity to get people interested in reading and talking more about books,” says Festival founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown.

The idea was inspired by the BBC’s 100 Books That Shaped Our World released in 2019, which saw four Caribbean novels make the BBC’s list: Small Island by Andrea Levy; A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul; Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys; and Golden Child by Claire Adam. Festival organisers took to social media to ask the simple question: Which Caribbean books would you add?

This early round of social media engagement, even before the thought of localising the initiative, yielded a list of 20 books, which now serve as a starting point for the 100 Caribbean Books That Made Us campaign, and can be found at https://www.bocaslitfest.com/2020/celebrating-10-years/100-caribbean-books/.

Salandy-Brown added, “The answers were varied and thought-provoking. From Michael Anthony to Guadeloupe’s Maryse Condé, the reading and writing public weighed in enthusiastically. So it’s important to emphasise this is not a competition but an invitation. We’re in a glorious period of Caribbean literature: numerous prizewinning titles; books selected for national reading campaigns and so much more. Call us biased, but we think the most life-shaping writing originating from our islands deserves a big, bright place on the world stage.”

The first score of books contains several selections from OCM Bocas Prize winners. They also represent multiple genres spanning generations, styles, settings, and concerns. Some of the themes explored include class division; xenophobia; young love; rural development; exile; and colourism.

Members of the public are invited to present their selections for the 100 Caribbean Books That Made Us via all Bocas Lit Fest social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For more information, e-mail info@bocaslitfest.com

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