I hope that you have been following the #ReadCaribbean hashtag on Instagram! If you need an intro into this annual celebration of Caribbean literature every June be sure to check out all of the posts dedicated to Caribbean authors, books about the Caribbean, and books set in the Caribbean on Book of Cinz.
Ever since I started studying the art of writing more seriously with the aim of improving my own I’ve been reading differently—I’ve been reading with an eye on the craft. There is a sea of incredible Caribbean literature and it’s my belief that one can learn something from absolutely everything but that said I have a few personal favorites I like to study when looking for examples of exceptional writing elements.
The details that Dennis-Benn chose to point out in both her NYC and Jamaica settings in Patsy are incredibly important. Which characters are noticing them, and what they are noticing speaks volumes. Setting is a character, an important one, and this book proves it just like Golden Child by Claire Adam where Trinidad comes alive as much as the characters inhabiting it.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
With something like 75 characters in this tome it provides an incredible collage of voices all of which come through with such clarity that it makes an excellent study on creating realistic characters with dimension and depth, even over the course of just a single paragraph.
The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
You can read this book as a collection of short stories or as a novel but either way the narrative strategy is amazing. It reminds me of dropping a stone into a pond and watching the ripples move outwards. Which ripples Danticat chose to write and which she didn’t (and in what order!) provides a great study in narrative strategy and movements through time.
Dialogue and Language
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Most of the dialogue in this novel is written in Jamaican Patois which is one of the pleasures in reading Here Comes the Sun and becomes a major point, in its way, when set against the colonial English spoken in school and to guests at the hotel in this book.
In Next Year in Havana Cleeton tells the story of a Cuban-American woman who in 2017 travels to Havana to find her roots alongside the narrative of the woman’s grandmother in Havana starting in 1958. This dual narrative is a fun read alongside Acevado’s recently released Clap When You Land since in the latter both narratives are in the present day but in different countries.