Zion Roses

A monthly roundup of news about Caribbean books and writers, presented by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest

Welcome to the latest instalment of the Bocas Book Bulletin, a monthly roundup of Caribbean literary news, curated by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival, and published in the Sunday Express.

New releases

Zion Roses (Peepal Tree Press) is the second book of poems by Jamaican Monica Minott. The publisher describes the collection as “a constant dialogue between four quadrants of engagement: with history, with landscape, with personal and family experience, and with the worlds of literature, music and art. Minott’s sense of history is deeply informed by a knowledge of the brutalities of commercial empire and of slavery and black people’s struggles against injustice and for selfhood.”

Dangerous Freedom (Papillote Press), the latest novel by celebrated Trinidad-born, UK-based Lawrence Scott, is set in London at the start of the 19th century. Based on historical figures, it tells the story of a mixed-race woman brought up in the household of the Lord Chief Justice. The novel “imagines Elizabeth’s adult world where she reflects on her disturbed childhood and fears for her own children’s safety at risk from slave catchers,” in a moving exploration of themes of family and racial identity.

Anansi and the Book of Night (Passion Fruit Publishing) by Rubadiri Victor is the second novel in a planned seven-book series. Based on traditional folklore, the fantasy series includes original illustrations by the author. The latest instalment is conceived as a detective story featuring characters drawn from the animal kingdom.

The newly launched Caribbean Contemporary Classics series from Hodder Education, aimed at younger readers, was launched with familiar titles such as the novels Green Days by the River by Michael Anthony; The Young Warriors by VS Reid; and Letters Home by Paulette Ramsay; and the anthology The Sun’s Eye, edited by Anne Walmsley.

Awards and prizes

Trinidad-born Dionne Brand and St Lucia-born Canisia Lubrin, both based in Canada, were named winners of 2021 Windham Campbell Prizes, alongside six other writers. Administered by the Beinecke Library at Yale University and first awarded in 2013, the annual Windham Campbell Prizes “are global English-language awards that call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.” Winners are selected by an anonymous judging panel and receive a grant of US$165,000 each.

Suriname-born writer Astrid Roemer was named the winner of the 2021 Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren (Dutch Literature Prize), considered the most prestigious literary award for writers in the Dutch language. The prize of 40,000 euros is awarded every three years, and recognises lifetime achievement. Roemer is the first Surinamese writer to be honoured with the prize since its founding in 1956.

The three winners of the genre categories of the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature have been announced:

In the poetry category, The Dyzgraphxst, by Canisia Lubrin; in the fiction category, These Ghosts Are Family, by Maisy Card; and in the non-fiction category, The Undiscovered Country, by Andre Bagoo.

Considered the leading award for Caribbean writers, the OCM Bocas Prize is sponsored by One Caribbean Media. The three genre winners now form the shortlist for the overall prize of US$10,000. The overall winner will be announced on April 24 during the 2021 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

Three writers from Trinidad and Tobago have been named on the shortlist for the 2021 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. Dedicated to advancing the work of emerging Caribbean writers, the prize is sponsored by philanthropist and medical practitioner Dr Kongshiek Achong Low in memory of his parents, and administered by the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago and the literary charitable trust Arvon in the UK. Akhim Alexis, Jay T John, and Desiree Seebaran will now compete for the award, which this year recognises and supports an emerging writer of poetry. The winner will be announced on April 24 during the 2021 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

Other news

Olive Senior—poet, fiction writer, and historian—has been named Poet Laureate of Jamaica, succeeding Lorna Goodison. The appointment runs for a three-year term. Senior was formally invested by Jamaica’s Governor General Sir Patrick Allen at a ceremony on March 17. “Over the next three years,” said Allen, “Ms Senior will be charged with creating an avenue for public involvement in the spoken arts, by stimulating the writing of poetry and improving youth appreciation for poetry.”

In memoriam

The Trinidadian writer and activist Colin Robinson died on March 4, 2021, at the age of 58. One of the founders of the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), and considered one of the Caribbean’s leading advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, Robinson was also the author of a book of poems, You Have You Father Hard Head, and a weekly columnist for the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, where he often wrote about issues of citizenship, social equality, and human rights, and where he also openly discussed his battle with colon cancer. In 2020, CAISO founded the annual Colin Robinson Hard Head Award, to honour his life and work and “to recognise exceptional leadership in transforming how others see and imagine the world”.

Caribbean bestsellers

Independent bookshop Paper Based (paperbased.org)—which celebrated its 34th anniversary at the end of March—shares its top-selling Caribbean titles for the past month:

1. Love After Love, by Ingrid Persaud

2. One Year of Ugly, by Caroline Mackenzie

3. The Mermaid of Black Conch, by Monique Roffey

4. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, by Cherie Jones

5. Deep Indigo: Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte and St Yves de Verteuil in Tobago 1933–1978, by Elizabeth Cadiz Topp

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