Welcome to the latest issue of Bocas Book Bulletin, a monthly roundup of Caribbean literary news, organized by NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival, and published in the Sunday Express.
Hurricane Watch: New and Collected Poems (Carcanet Press), a new volume by Jamaican Poet Laureate Olive Senior, brings together content from her four previous poetry collections with new works, including a sequence written during and about the Covid-19 pandemic. 19. Whether Senior writes about Caribbean landscapes, flora and fauna, domestic observations or historical meditations, issues of justice and community are never far from his mind.
One Day, One Day, Congotay (Peepal Tree Press), Merle Hodge’s long-awaited third novel, is set in pre-independence times on Cayeri, a fictional Caribbean island inspired by Trinidad. It follows the life, aspirations and struggles of Gwynneth Cuffie, a schoolteacher and community leader, navigating through class and ethnic tensions towards “another vision of family that has little to do with biology and everything to do with human beings.” ‘love”.
A Scream in the Shadows (Papillote Press), a new detective story from St. Lucian writer Mac Donald Dixon, uses the conventions of the detective novel to explore issues of contemporary violence and corruption on a small Caribbean island. After a young girl is murdered in a rural village, her stepfather is arrested for the crime and held without trial – until his son joins the police in an attempt to clear his name.
Velorio (HarperVia), Xavier Navarro Aquino’s debut novel, is set in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Camila, mourning the death of her sister, carries her body as she searches for a utopian community founded by cult leader Urayoán. Memoria promises peace and justice, but when troubled human emotions and motives erupt, its members must confront their ideas of power, loyalty, and the meaning of home.
Haitian Revolutionary Fictions: An Anthology (University of Virginia Press), edited by Marlene L Daut, Grégory Pierrot, and Marion C Rohrleitner, is a groundbreaking collection of 18th- and 19th-century fiction, poetry, and drama inspired by the Haitian Revolution. Two hundred excerpts, from texts originally written in several languages, show how generations of writers have approached the themes and characters of one of the defining events of modern history. Famous authors like Alexandre Dumas and William Wordsworth mingle with less famous contemporaries from Europe, North and South America, and Haiti itself.
Awards and prizes
Guyanese-American writer Rajiv Mohabir’s collection of poetry Cutlish has been named a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Awards. Presented annually by the US National Book Critics Circle, whose members include literary critics and journalists, the awards are open to books published in the United States within the past calendar year. The winners will be announced on March 17.
Mohabir is also on the shortlist for the 2022 PEN Open Book Award, this time for his book Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir. Accompanied by a cash prize of US$10,000, the prize is awarded to “an author of color who, prior to the publication of the book, has not received widespread media attention”. Another annual award administered by PEN America, the 2021 PEN/EO Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, named The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, by Chanda Prescod Weinstein, a particle physicist from part Barbadian Descent. The winners of the PEN awards will be announced on February 28.
The Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2022, awarded annually by British magazine Wasafiri, is open for applications, with a deadline of June 30, 2022. International in scope, the prize is open to writers who have not yet published book in length, and writers can fall into three genre categories: fiction, life writing, and poetry. The jury for the 2022 prize is chaired by Marina Salandy-Brown, former director of the festival and current president of Bocas Lit Fest.
NGC Bocas Lit Fest has announced that its 2022 festival will run from April 28 to May 1. As usual, program highlights will include the announcement ceremony of the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, sponsored by One Caribbean Media. Full details of the festival program will be announced in March.
Meanwhile, organizers of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica have announced that their 2022 festival, scheduled for May – and previously postponed from 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic – has been cancelled. No information is yet available as to whether the event, long considered the main event of the Jamaican literary calendar, will be postponed.
Independent bookstore Paper Based (paperbased.org) shares its best-selling Caribbean titles from the past month:
1. Black Conch Mermaid, by Monique Roffey
2. Pleasantview, by Celeste Mohammed
3. Fortune, by Amanda Smyth
4. In the law: Memoirs of a West Indian jurist, by Michel de la Bastide
5. Where the Monsters Lie, by Breanne McIvor.