Worldwide, the islands of the Caribbean have become well-known for their year-round sunny climes, rich cuisine, picturesque locations and ancestral history.
Despite this, one aspect of the Caribbean’s culture that has remained largely underrepresented in mainstream media is the non-commercialised Caribbean product being articulated in the literary works of Caribbean authors.
These literary products offer a firsthand perspective to themes ranging from Caribbean history, family life, migration, religion, tradition and the immigrant experience.
Needless to say, if you have yet to indulge in the diverse world of Caribbean literature, you have most certainly been missing out.
To get you started on your #ReadCaribbean journey, here are four short story collections by contemporary Caribbean writers to add to your reading list.
1. How to Love a Jamaican
Author: Alexia Arthurs
Release Date: July 24, 2018
How to Love a Jamaican is a collection of 11 short stories that feature the life and experiences of Jamaicans who live on the island as well as those who have migrated to America.
Throughout the collection, Arthurs expertly describes Jamaican life, culture and history relaying the sensibilities that Jamaican natives and those of Jamaican heritage can truly relate to.
Typical of Caribbean literature, the short stories feature vivid imagery and symbolism.
2. A Million Aunties
Author: Alecia McKenzie
Release Date: November 17, 2020
A Million Aunties is a short story collection told from multiple perspectives that tells the tale of family that goes beyond blood.
Set against the backdrop of rural Jamaica, New York City, Paris and France, McKenzie introduces a cast of characters linked together by friendship, family, community and circumstance.
A play on the Caribbean belief that aunties aren’t just blood relatives, but is a title to be shared by women older than you for whom you have much respect and who are towers of strength in times of need, the collection embodies what it means to have “a million aunties”.
Author: Celeste Mohammed
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Pleasantview is a series of interconnected stories told from the perspective of residents from the fictional town of Pleasantview, in Trinidad.
Written in a combination of English and Trinidad Creole, Pleasantview reveals the dark side of the Caribbean dream. One far removed from the idyllic images of easy-going Irie Caribbean life, where savage patriarchal rule and poverty are the realities of everyday life.
The themes discussed mirror those of contemporary Trinidad and include: prostitution, generational trauma, father-son relationship, racism, classism, poverty, religion and sexuality.
4. Frying Plantain
Author: Zalika Reid-Benta
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Frying Plantain is a series of 12 interconnected stories that follow the life of Kara Davis, a girl caught in the middle of her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican.
Despite being a Canadian by birth, both Kara’s mother and grandmother are Jamaican.
Throughout the short stories which follow Kara from elementary school to university, Reid-Benta tells the story of striking the balance of life as a second-generation Canadian, managing Jamaican cultural expectations in a predominantly white society.