My 2020 Goal was to Read More Caribbean Literature: Here’s how I did it!

Ashly Cork
December 21, 2020

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and as soon as I learned to read it quickly became one of my favourite hobbies. But as I grew older I found myself not reading much for pleasure anymore and only for school or work, and so reading became more like a chore than something fun. 

In indulging myself back into the world of reading I decided my 2020 New Year’s Resolution would be to read more Caribbean Literature. It felt important for me to engage with stories that were relatable and close to home, allowing for a connection both physically and emotionally. But I had only one issue, Caribbean Literature is such a broad genre, where do I start?

That’s where Rebel Women Lit came in. The independent library boasts a vast collection of all kinds of literature, particularly Caribbean Lit. They have various subscription packages where you can sign up to get a book in a particular genre or theme randomly selected for you.

I signed up for the ‘Caribbean Classics’ subscription which was only $11 USD per month running through September to December. What caught my eye on this subscription description was the way they broke down the idea of Classic Literature and how they sought to position the Caribbean within this space. The description says, “Classic literature can teach us so much about the past and what our ancestors hoped for our future. Notably however, the literary canon most associated with the term “Classic Literature” tends to be dominated by white, European & American men and about the world through their eyes.” Rebel Women Lit sought to reimage what classic literature was by focusing on books published across the Caribbean region from the period of the 1920s-1999. Because, as they rightly quoted Shivanee Robinson, “reading Caribbean means reading the world.”

Through the novels and poetry books selected for me I was transported through the history and cultures of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Haiti, Guyana and of course, Jamaica, as well as delved into the experience of the Caribbean diaspora in London during the Windrush era. In total (and in addition to other forms of literature) I was able to complete eight Caribbean literature books from my 2020 reading list. These were:

  1. Song of Night by Glenville Lovell
  2. The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon 
  3. Stuart Hall by Annie Paul 
  4. Masters of the Dew by Jacques Romain
  5. Madam Fate by Marcia Douglas 
  6. Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo
  7. Gardening in the Tropics by Olive Senior (poetry)
  8. In This Breadfruit Kingdom: An Anthology of Jamaican Poetry selected by Mervyn Morris. 

My favourite of the bunch would most definitely have to be Madam Fate by Marcia Douglas. Douglas’ style of writing is so poetic and colourful, I was literally caught from the first page (and not to be biased, but it was set in Jamaica). Madam Fate covers Jamaican folklore, spirituality, femininity as well as notions of madness and mental health. It’s not everyday a novel catches you from page one. I will definitely be reading more from Marcia Douglas! 

Madam Fate by Marcia Douglas Cover Art

This New Year’s Resolution has definitely evolved my mindset when selecting books to read. I am now not only open to but actively looking to reading broader literature. It is through these various forms of art we are able to connect with all corners of the world.

One thing I must commend Rebel Women Lit for is the way in which they have filled every gap they have identified within their industry- in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Recently, they created the Caribbean Readers’  Awards where they have outlined various categories of Caribbean Literature and allowed the general public to select the nominees and vote on their favourites. The list of nominees is a perfect resource in guiding your selection of Caribbean Literature to add to your reading lists, particularly new releases.

2020 has been a whirlwind of a year and for many, reading and being transported to worlds outside of the often chaotic one we exist in has been the perfect escape from reality. If you are from the Caribbean and found yourself like me reading more West Indian Literature, take pride in the enjoyment of reading stories written for you, by your own people. And if you aren’t from the Caribbean but are interested in broadening the art you engage with, I would definitely suggest Caribbean Lit as a good place to start.

What are some of your favourite Caribbean books? Give me suggestions to add to my reading list 😁

2 thoughts on “My 2020 Goal was to Read More Caribbean Literature: Here’s how I did it!

  1. I really loved this. Like you, I love reading but after entering university, reading became more of a chore than anything else. It’s about time I resume some recreational reading and you gave me a good place to start. Thanks! I really enjoyed A Wine of Astonishment from my days of literature too btw. It’s set in Trinidad.

    Liked by 1 person

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