Photo: Roseau, Dominica (2009). Writing: September 2011.
This is a list of the books I have read, am currently reading, or plan to read for what I have often referred to as my Self-Directed Caribbean Literature course. This course has no syllabus, order, certification, or end for that matter. This is for life. I read what I want as I am compelled to and I add books as I find them.
I am looking for answers. I am looking for understanding. I can’t find these truths in public records, and there are no relatives left to ask. And so I look to the stories told in books to teach me things I don’t know and to provide pieces to this gigantic puzzle that I may never be able to put together. It has been surprisingly helpful. The most common themes (belonging, class, race, abandonment, motherlessness, loss, madness, Caribbean culture/history, the legacy of slavery) just happen to be the ones I need to read about most.
I’ve marked the books I have read so far with an *. Note that these are not in alphabetical order, nor are they all of the books I have as I haven’t updated this list in years.
- My Brother – Jamaica Kincaid*
- Annie John – Jamaica Kincaid*
- Lucy – Jamaica Kincaid*
- A Small Place – Jamaica Kincaid*
- At the Bottom of the River – Jamaica Kincaid*
- Mr. Potter – Jamaica Kincaid*
- The Orchid House – Phyllis Shand Allfrey*
- It Falls Into Place – Phyllis Shand Allfrey*
- Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (I’ve read this one several times. Depressing and paints a grim view of Dominica, but important and brilliant none-the-less.)*
- Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography – Jean Rhys*
- Unburnable: A Novel – Marie-Elena John*
- Black and White Sands: A Bohemian Life in the Colonial Caribbean – Elma Napier*
- Home Again: Stories of Migration and Return – Celia Sorhaindo*
- The Autobiography of My Mother – Jamaica Kincaid (Have read this several times, including while on my trip to Dominica. This was the first of these books that I read. The beginning of this journey…)*
- The Dominica Story: A History of the Island – Lennox Honychurch*
- Heading South – Dany Laferrière (You should also check out the movie adaptation.)*
- Brother, I’m Dying – Edwidge Danticat*
- Create Dangerously – Edwidge Danticat*
- Breath, Eyes, Memory – Edwidge Danticat*
- The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (Great book. Affecting.)*
- Abeng – Michelle Cliff (Brilliant book. I refer back to it often.)*
- No Telephone to Heaven – Michelle Cliff*
- Black Shack Alley – Joseph Zobel*
- At the Full and Change of the Moon – Dionne Brand*
- In Another Place, Not Here – Dionne Brand (Have read a few times. This is a beautiful book.)*
- A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging – Dionne Brand (I read this while in Dominica.)*
- The Book of Color: A Novel – Julia Blackburn
- Jamaica Kincaid: Writing Memory, Writing Back to the Mother – J. Brooks Bouson*
- Caribbean Genesis: Jamaica Kincaid and the Writing of New World – Jana Evans Braziel*
- A Brief History of the Caribbean: From the Arawak and Carib to the Present – Jan Rogozinski (This is a basic overview and quite dry.)*
- Women in Caribbean History: An Introductory Text for Secondary Schools – Verene A. Shepherd*
- Caribbean Waves: Relocating Claude McKay and Paule Marshall – Heather Hathaway
Photo: I took this photo in December 2009 as the sun was going down one evening as we were walking past the Government Cemetery on Bath Road, Roseau, Dominica on our way up to the cottage we were renting in Morne Bruce.