We return to the world of literature with the Read the World Project and the next country is a small one. We head to the Caribbean this time. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small island country in the Caribbean with the bulk of the population living on Antigua. Although it only has a population of around 91,000, it is an English speaking country, so no translation is necessary. I was able to discover a few authors, all women. Let’s take a look at the video I made.
Lucy, by Jamaica Kincaid
Goodreads Rating: 3.71
Goodreads Description: Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers’ world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is.
At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unraveling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new character possessed with adamantine clearsightedness and ferocious integrity–a captivating heroine for our time.
Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid
Goodreads Rating: 3.63
Amazon Description: Annie John is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Kincaid’s novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. Annie’s voice―urgent, demanding to be heard―is one that will not soon be forgotten by readers.
An adored only child, Annie has until recently lived an idyllic life. She is inseparable from her beautiful mother, a powerful presence, who is the very center of the little girl’s existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mother’s benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, “It was in such a paradise that I lived.” When she turns twelve, however, Annie’s life changes, in ways that are often mysterious to her. She begins to question the cultural assumptions of her island world; at school she instinctively rebels against authority; and most frighteningly, her mother, seeing Annie as a “young lady,” ceases to be the source of unconditional adoration and takes on the new and unfamiliar guise of adversary. At the end of her school years, Annie decides to leave Antigua and her family, but not without a measure of sorrow, especially for the mother she once knew and never ceases to mourn. “For I could not be sure,” she reflects, “whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.”
A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid
Goodreads Rating: 3.87
Goodreads Description: Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright, A Small Place magnifies our vision of one small place with Swiftian wit and precision. Jamaica Kincaid’s expansive essay candidly appraises the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up, and makes palpable the impact of European colonization and tourism. The book is a missive to the traveler, whether American or European, who wants to escape the banality and corruption of some large place. Kincaid, eloquent and resolute, reminds us that the Antiguan people, formerly British subjects, are unable to escape the same drawbacks of their own tiny realm—that behind the benevolent Caribbean scenery are human lives, always complex and often fraught with injustice.
Ladies of the Night, by Althea Prince
Goodreads Rating: 3.88
Goodreads Description: Ladies of the Night is set in Toronto and Antigua. With women’s loves and lives as their focus, the stories contain dramatic twists and turns: some humorous, others shocking and disturbing, all leaving a haunting melody behind.
The Toronto stories capture the issues women face as they walk the ground of intimate and family relationships in that city. The Antiguan setting of some of the stories are reflective of Prince’s insight into relationships, captured in her novel and essays. The characters reveal their different ways of managing a range of struggle, pain, rage, love and pure unadulterated joy. The humour of some stories complement the plaintive sadness and emotionality of the strings some other stories pluck.
Unburnable, by Marie-Elena John
Goodreads Rating: 3.76
Goodreads Description: In this riveting narrative of family, betrayal, vengeance, and murder, Lillian Baptiste is willed back to her island home of Dominica to finally settle her past. Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian left Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival: “Matilda Swinging” and “Bottle of Coke”; songs about the village on a mountaintop and bones and bodies: songs about flying masquerades and a man who dropped dead. Lillian knew the songs well. And now she knows these songs—and thus the history—belong to her. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to face the demons of her past, and with the help of Teddy, the man she refused to love, she will find a way to heal.
Set partly in contemporary Washington, D.C., and partly in post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.
It’s an interesting set of books from Antigua and Barbuda. If you’ve read any of these books, please let me know what you thought. If you know of any other books from Antigua and Barbuda, let me know in the comments below.
Next up is Argentina!