A monthly roundup of news about Caribbean books and writers, presented by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest
Welcome to the latest installment 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.
2021 publishing preview
The new year brings a busy publishing calendar for Caribbean writers, with dozens of new books by established and emerging writers scheduled for the coming months. Some upcoming 2021 highlights include the following (months of publication are subject to changes in publishers’ schedules).
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House (Tinder Press), the first novel by Barbadian Cherie Jones, a story of love and sacrifice set in the author’s home country.
We Must Learn to Sit together and Talk About a Little Culture (Peepal Tree), a long-anticipated collection of essays by the influential Jamaica-born scholar and critic Sylvia Wynter.
Dangerous Freedom (Papillote Press) by Trinidad-born Lawrence Scott, a historical novel set in the 18th century and based on the true story of a mixed-race child brought up in the home of England’s Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield.
Riff: The Shake Keane Story (Papillote Press), Philip Nanton’s groundbreaking biography of the late Vincentian poet and musician.
All That Rage (Nightboat), the second collection of poems by Trinidadian-American Rosamond S King, tacking “state violence, racism, and the persistence of Black desire, resistance, and joy”.
What Noise Against the Cane (Yale), the debut book of poems by Trinidad-born, US-based Desiree C Bailey, “a lyric quest for belonging and freedom”.
One Thousand Eyes (UWI Press), the latest novel by Jamaica-born, Trinidad-based Barbara Lalla, speculative fiction set in the Caribbean after a catastrophic event.
This One Sky Day y (Faber), the latest novel by Jamaica-British Leone Ross, a fantasy love story which will also be published in the US under the title Popisho (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux).
The Bread the Devil Knead (Myriad) byT&T’s Lisa Allen-Agostini, a “domestic noir of sex and survival” set in contemporary Trinidad.
Where the Rhythm Takes You (Balzer + Bray), the debut of T&T’s Sarah Dass, a young adult novel inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion and set in Tobago.
Things I Have Withheld (Canongate), a new collection of essays by Jamaica-born Kei Miller, winner of the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Fortune (Peepal Tree), the third novel by Irish-Trinidadian Amanda Smyth, centred on a tragic but almost forgotten 1928 fire in Trinidad’s oil belt.
Mother Muse (Carcanet), a new collection of poems by Jamaican Lorna Goodison, who recently completed her term as Poet Laureate of Jamaica.
Thinking With Trees (Carcanet), the debut book of poems by Jason Allen-Paisant, born in Jamaica and currently based in the United Kingdom.
Beginnings, Endings and Salt: Essays on a Journey through Writing and Literature (Books & Books Press), a new collection of creative non-fiction by Haitian-American Edwidge Danticat.
Waiting for the Waters to Rise (World Editions), by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox, the latest novel by the revered Guadeloupean writer to be translated into English.
One Day, Congotay (Peepal Tree), the long-awaited third novel by beloved Trinidadian writer Merle Hodge, author of the classic Crick Crack Monkey.
No Gods, No Monsters (Blackstone), the second novel by USVI-born Cadwell Turnbull, a speculative tale tackling contemporary racism and violence.
Velorio (HarperVia), the debut novel by Puerto Rican Xavier Navarro Aquino, to be published simultaneously in English and Spanish.
Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet), the latest book of poems by Trinidad-born Vahni Capildeo, winner of the 2016 Forward Prize for Best Collection.
Check future editions of the monthly Bocas Book Bulletin for further information on these and other new Caribbean titles.
Awards and prizes
Celebrated speculative fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson — who was born in Jamaica, grew up in Guyana, Trinidad, and Canada, and now lives in the United States — has been named the 37th Damon Knight Grand Master by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The award recognises “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy,” and past recipients include such luminaries as Ursula K Le Guin and Ray Bradbury. The award will be presented at the 56th Annual Nebula Conference and Awards Ceremony, to be held online from 4 to 6 June, 2021.
The 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the region’s most important literary award, closes for submissions on 8 January. Books may be entered in three genre categories — poetry, fiction, and non-fiction — and must be written by an author of Caribbean birth or citizenship and published in the calendar year 2020, among other requirements. For details, visit www.bocaslitfest.com/2021/awards/ocm-bocas-prize-entry
The Belizean writer Zee Edgell died on 20 December, 2020, at the age of 80. She was best known for her debut novel Beka Lamb —published in 1982, the year after Belizean independence — which “details the early years of the nationalist movement in British Honduras from the eyes of a teenage girl attending high school in the colony”. Her three subsequent novels made her Belize’s best-known contemporary writer. She was also esteemed as an editor and teacher, and in 1967 she was the founding editor-in-chief of The Reporter, one of Belize’s main newspapers.
2020 Caribbean bestsellers
Independent bookshop Paper Based (paperbased.org)
shares their top-selling Caribbean titles for the year 2020:
1. Love After Love, by Ingrid Persaud
2. One Year of Ugly, by Caroline Mackenzie
3. The Murders of Boysie Singh, by Derek Bickerton
4. Where There Are Monsters, by Breanne Mc Ivor
5. Minshall By Norton: Photographs by Noel P Norton
6. Book of the Little Axe, by Lauren Francis Sharma
7. The Mermaid of Black Conch, by Monique Roffey
8. The Assassination of Maurice Bishop, by Godfrey Smith
9. Golden Child, by Claire Adam
10. Everything Inside, by Edwidge Danticat