In 1994, to mark the journal’s 75th anniversary, Gert Oostindie wrote a useful history of the evolution of the New West Indian Guide beginning with its first half-century as the Dutch-language, Dutch-oriented West-Indische Gids, founded in 1919 and renamed the Nieuwe West-Indische Gids in 1959 (“From Wig to NWIG, 1919–1993,” published with vol. 68). He noted that in the first 40 volumes, fully 250 of the 280 articles dealt with Dutch territories and concerns, and that the book reviews reflected the same national focus, a trend that continued during the 1960s and 1970s. But once a decision was taken in the early 1980s to “transform the Gids into a major English-language journal,” it began providing “the world’s most complete review of books covering all parts of the [Caribbean] region and all disciplines of Caribbean studies.”
In 1982, when the Nieuwe West-Indische Gids was rebaptized the New West Indian Guide and became an exclusively English-language publication, the two of us joined the editorial board, with Sally becoming book review editor. She held that position for the next five years, producing an average of 36 reviews and 3 review articles annually. (At that time the review process was distinctly pre-computer-era—reviews were submitted on typescript pages, editing was done in handwriting, and all correspondence with reviewers arrived and left through the post office; once a review was published, she scissor-clipped it from a spare copy of the journal and put it in the mail to the book’s publisher.) After we moved to the Caribbean, recent Johns Hopkins Ph.D. Michel-Rolph Trouillot replaced her for five years, producing some 21 reviews per year, but almost no review articles. Then, when the two of us took over in 1992, we began publishing 50–60 reviews and 5 review articles per year. In 2012, we were afforded greater space in the journal, which allowed us thenceforth to effectively double the number of reviews to an annual offering of 100 reviews, two-to-six review essays, and an essay commenting on more than a hundred additional books. The first six of these essays adopted Caribbean culinary themes, discussing recipes before turning to books—“Callaloo,” “Rundown,” “Migan,” “Sancocho,” and “Turning Coo-coo”—ending with “Cook’s Day Off,” before settling into yearly “Bookshelf” essays (though we realized in 2002 that we’d neglected an essential component of French Caribbean meals and began that year’s essay with an homage to the “Ti Ponch”).
As we wrote in “Bookshelf 2014,” the process of producing over a hundred reviews a year is complicated, especially from our noninstitutional home base in the rural Caribbean. The current 100th anniversary moment (1919–2019) might be a good time to spell out further details of the way it all plays out, with Rich handling the early stages and Sally taking over once the reviewers send in their texts.
Scouting for relevant titles is the first task. In contrast to their standard practice with other academic journals, publishers do not simply send review copies of new books to the NWIG unsolicited. Rather, we must identify the books we want to have reviewed, find a willing reviewer, and then ask the publisher to send the book directly to that person. The process for discovering new books involves consultation of such resources as
Next comes figuring out an appropriate specialist (someone who works in a related field, isn’t already reviewing another book for us, hasn’t blurbed the book, and, if it’s an edited volume, isn’t a contributor). For the past year, Rich’s Gmail account lists 2,301 emails involved with finding reviewers and following through with them until final submission. (We’d like to thank two colleagues on the editorial board who have been particularly helpful with suggestions at this stage—Peter Hulme for [mainly Anglophone] literature books and Jorge Giovannetti-Torres for books on the Hispanophone Caribbean; in addition, Ken Bilby has kindly assisted with ideas on the smaller number of books about Caribbean music.) About half of the scholars who are solicited say yes, and when they can’t take on the review they often make suggestions for someone else to contact. Some never reply at all, even after a reminder or two. Senior scholars who decline the invitation sometimes let us know about a younger colleague, occasionally a Ph.D. candidate or recent postdoc, who may be interested. Finding a reviewer usually takes three or four (sometimes six or seven) email exchanges, and in some cases, we’re forced to give up and merely list the book in “Bookshelf.” (One of our tricks is to scout out books and secure a reviewer before a book is published, in effect “getting there” before another journal; this demands being precise about the book’s publication date, which publishers sometimes shift, and making sure to ask the publisher, a couple of weeks before that date, to send the book to the reviewer—if we ask too soon, publishers tend to forget.)
As for the status of our reviewers, a count of our three most recent issues produced the following distribution by academic title (using U.S. equivalencies for foreign titles). Out of the total of 153 reviews, 55 percent were by full professors (20 percent of whom were emeritus), 24 percent by associate professors, 12 percent by assistant professors, 5 percent by recent postdocs or Ph.D. candidates, 2 percent by part-time faculty, and 2 percent by independent scholars. In terms of the books reviewed, one-third were the author’s first book (often a revised dissertation), while the rest were by people who had previously published one or more others on the Caribbean. (For statistics on Caribbean publishing—which publishers are most active, which academic disciplines are most represented, and which regions of the Caribbean are most written about—see “Bookshelf 2017.”)
Once a reviewer has accepted the task, Rich provides style guidelines (including word limit, deadline, et cetera) and asks the publisher to send the book directly to the reviewer. This is another stage of the process that often requires multiple requests, especially when international mailing is involved; in some cases, the publisher never gets the book to the reviewer and we’re forced to forego a review of it.
Then the fun begins. Perhaps half of reviewers submit their files within a month or two of the deadline—blessed be they! The others receive gentle email reminders, sometimes extending over a two-year period. Reviewers often cite personal reasons, from ill health, a birth or death in the family, or divorce to tenure reviews and teaching loads, for being late. When these exchanges drag on for a couple of years, we send a final reminder, and then give up and post the title in “Bookshelf,” partly to let the book’s author know that we’ve done our best to have it reviewed. For several years these listings were dubbed the “Caribbeanist Hall of Shame,” and included the initials of the delinquent reviewer (who had kept the book but provided no review). Authors of unreviewed books appreciated the practice, but after one NWIG (delinquent) reviewer sent us a virulent complaint, we stopped including initials, simply noting that the book was not being reviewed because the (anonymous) reviewer had never come through. We are immensely grateful to all the reviewers who accept our nudges with good humor and eventually submit their work, however tardily. It’s what keeps the journal going.
Once a review comes in, Sally takes over the editorial process—finetuning everything from spelling and grammar to phrasing and citations, sometimes checking details with GoogleBooks or
For the books mentioned in “Bookshelf,” we proceed differently, first identifying the books we’d like to include, then asking the publisher to send them (sometimes as a pdf or ebook) to us in Martinique, and then reading and writing about them. A number of such books never reach us, either through a publisher’s reluctance to spend international postage or less-than-perfect delivery systems. So, the books reviewed in “Bookshelf” (Caribbean fiction, poetry, photo books, cookbooks, and relevant others) represent a more haphazard sample of Caribbean publishing than those that get fully reviewed elsewhere in the journal.
This year, once again, we express our gratitude to all the reviewers who have, collectively, provided such a rich resource for keeping up with writing on the region. At the same time, we must lament the fact that some of the people who’ve accepted a book and promised to review it have, despite a long series of gentle reminders over a year or two, never shared their reactions to the book with NWIG readers. With our apologies to the authors of books that have therefore not been given their due in these pages, we simply list them here—seven books that we had intended to review, but for which the reviewers never sent their review:
Transnational Narratives from the Caribbean: Diasporic Literature and the Human Experience, by Elvira Pulitano (London: Routledge, 2016, cloth US$ 140.00)
C. Wright Mills and the Cuban Revolution: An Exercise in the Art of Sociological Imagination, by A. Javier Treviño (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017, paper US$ 29.95)
Haiti Will Not Perish: A Recent History, by Michael Deibert (London: Zed Books, 2016, paper US$ 22.95)
Democratic Political Tragedy in the Postcolony: The Tragedy of Postcoloniality in Michael Manley’s Jamaica and Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, by Greg A. Graham (New York: Routledge, 2017, cloth US$ 150.00)
Aftermath of Empire: The Novels of Roy A.K. Heath, by Ameena Gafoor (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2017, paper US$ 35.00)
Crossing the Line: Early Creole Novels and Anglophone Caribbean Culture in the Age of Emancipation, by Candace Ward (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017, paper US$ 29.50)
La Hoja de Mar (:) Efecto Archipielago I, by Juan Carlos Quintero-Herencia (Leiden, the Netherlands: Almenara, 2016, paper US$ 43.00)
There are also a couple of books for which we valiantly tried to find a reviewer (asking three, four, or sometimes more scholars over a period of months), but found no takers. We merely list them here:
Empire of Neglect: The West Indies in the Wake of British Liberalism, by Christopher Taylor (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2018, paper US$ 26.95)
Cuban Foreign Policy: Transformation under Raúl Castro, edited by H. Michael Erisman & John M. Kirk (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018, paper US$ 35.00)
Some of the books that we requested from publishers, often multiple times, never reached us (for Bookshelf) or the scholar who had agreed to provide a full review:
Kill the Ámpaya! The Best Latin American Baseball Fiction, edited and translated by Dick Cluster (Simsbury CT: Mandel Vilar Press, 2017, paper US$ 19.95)
L’ art caribéen, le penser pour le dire: Réflexions autour de la littérature, des arts visuels, de la musique et de la danse, by Patricia Donatien (Paris: L’ Harmattan, 2018, paper € 28.00)
Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country, edited by Leila Guerriero (New York: Ecco, 2019, paper US$ 16.99)
Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad, by Krystal A. Sital (New York: W.W. Norton, 2018, cloth US$ 25.95)
Migrant Brothers: A Poet’s Declaration of Human Dignity, by Patrick Chamoiseau (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2018, paper US$ 12.00)
Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago, by Rita Pemberton, Debbie McCollin, Gelien Matthews & Michael Toussaint (Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018, cloth US$ 109.58)
Everything I Kept: Todo Lo Que Guardé, by Ruth Behar (Chicago: Swan Isle Press, 2018, paper US$ 22.00)
The Empire Remains Shop, edited by Alon Schwabe (Cooking Sections) & Daniel Fernandez Pascual (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018, paper US$ 32.00)
Season of Mist: Vendettas Bittersweet, by Mac Donald Dixon (s.l.: Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency, 2018, paper US$ 16.50)
Isla Escrita: Antología de la poesía de Cuba, Puerto Rico y República Dominicana, edited by Néstor E. Rodríguez (Madrid: Amargord Ediciones, 2018, paper € 20.00)
The Sea Needs No Ornament, edited and translated by Loretta Collins Klobah & Maria Grau Perejoan (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper n.p.)
The Naipauls of Nepaul Street, by Savi Naipaul Akal (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 13.99)
The Fiction of Garth St. Omer: A Casebook, edited by Antonia MacDonald (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 16.99)
Derek Walcott’s Love Affair with Film, by Jean Antoine-Dunne (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 19.99)
Collected Poems, Ian McDonald (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper US$ 32.95)
A New Beginning, by Kwame Dawes & John Kinsella (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper US$ 14.61)
The Coup Clock Clicks, Brian Meeks (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper US$ 16.53)
Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, Shivanee Ramlochan (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper US$ 18.95)
Don’t Stop the Carnival: Black Music in Britain. Volume One: From the Middle Ages to the 1960s (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 19.99)
Teoría y práctica de La Habana, by Rubén Gallo (Mexico DF: Jus, 2017, paper US$ 20.99)
Redemption Ground: Essays and Adventures, by Lorna Goodison (Oxford: Myriad Editions, 2018, paper £ 9.99)
Black Africans in the British Imagination: English Narratives of the Early Atlantic World, by Cassander L. Smith (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2017, cloth US$ 45.00)
Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South, by Von Diaz (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2018, cloth US$ 28.00)
Social Policies and Decentralization in Cuba: Change in the Context of 21st Century Latin America, edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, María del Carmen Zabala Arguelles, Mayra Espina Prieto & Lorena Barberia (Cambridge MA: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 2017, paper US$ 24.99)
Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought: Genealogies, Theories, Enactments, edited by Gabrielle Jamela Hosein & Lisa Outar (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, cloth US$ 99.99)
Fabrics of Indianness: The Exchange and Consumption of Clothing in Transnational Guyanese Hindu Communities, by Sinah Theres Kloss (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, cloth US$ 139.99)
We apologize to all these authors for not being able to review their books.
We begin our mini-reviews, as is our custom, with fiction.
This year’s favorite novel: Anthony Joseph’s Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 10.99), a joyous collage of vernacular narrative voices about the dapper giant of the genre, who lived from 1922 to 2000. As Joseph writes in his afterword, “While he remains at the centre of the [community’s] stories, the community which reflects and constructs him also reveal themselves in the telling … tracing Kitchener’s story within a wider political narrative which comments on the Caribbean experience in colonial Trinidad, postwar Britain, and finally, in postcolonial, independent Trinidad.” From his early days coming up in Arima, his arrival in the malodorous yards of Port-of-Spain, the voyage on HMT Empire Windrush, steamy adventures in the clubs of Manchester and London, and the Road March victories against Sparrow and the rest, the (fictionalized) stories—whether told by fellow calypsonians or lovers and wives, or even through newspaper clippings—capture the language of the times pitch perfectly, revealing a wondrous bygone world. The smells, the sounds, the talk—it’s all here.
In A View of the Empire at Sunset (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018, cloth US$ 26.00), prize-winning author Caryl Philips (St. Kitts-born, Leeds-raised, Oxford-educated Yale professor) once again highlights themes of exile, emigration, alienation, and displacement, concerns similar to those of his fictionalized protagonist, Jean Rhys, in her own writings. In 65 evocative vignettes, ranging from her childhood (hiding up in a mango tree) in colonial Dominica through schooldays in Edwardian Cambridge, her time as a louche chorus girl touring England, and her continuing self-destructive relationships with lovers and husbands, boozing all the while, “Gwennie’s” rebellious, unsettled nature is evoked with subtlety and penetration, as are the racial and gender imbalances of power that structure the imperial system. Rhys’s literary production is largely skipped over; during the years covered in this selectively biographical novel, her early work was in fact published as she worked with her editor-lover Ford Madox Ford, all of which is absent here. Rather, the book insistently creates a mood, the sunset of an empire, its structures and its mores—it’s almost always drizzling or raining in this bleak but finely crafted book. (A correction to make in the second printing: Martinique’s 1902 volcano eruption was in the island’s north, not the south.)
Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Washington Black (New York: Knopf, 2018, cloth US$ 26.95) is Esi Edugyan’s third novel, an adventure story that is strongest in the opening pages depicting the horrors of slavery on an early nineteenth-century plantation in Barbados, as narrated by a now free (but still damaged) man in his twenties. His escape from bondage as a pre-adolescent, engineered by the master’s brother who’s visiting from England, leads the pair, via a Jules-Verne-like hydrogen balloon, first to a passing ship, then on to Virginia, Hudson Bay, Nova Scotia, and eventually England, Amsterdam, and Morocco. Throughout this picaresque tale, the meaning of freedom is the central issue. It is a strange, not-always-convincing story that uses all-too-familiar narrative devices but, in the end, provides a good read—it has received excellent reviews in the international press.
Michelle Jana Chan’s debut novel, Song (London: Unbound, 2018, cloth £ 18.99) has, presumably by coincidence, a similar plot to Washington Black, though concerning an indentured Chinese boy in British Guiana rather than a young enslaved Afro-Bajan. The eponymous protagonist journeys out from a rural Chinese village, barely survives the interminable, ghastly sea voyage to Georgetown, and briefly tastes life on a sugar plantation before being taken in by the local vicar as a houseboy and taught to read and write and participate in studies of natural history. In Washington, the protagonist, at the same age, was taught to read and write and participate in scientific experiments by the master’s eccentric brother; here, it’s third- rather than first-person narrative, with much of the book set in Bartica, with its brothels, rumshops, and murders by the banks of the Essequibo and Mazaruni, another part upriver seeking gold with the pork-knockers, and the final portion in Georgetown, as Song enjoys prosperity and married life even as he battles colonial prejudice. More sentimental than Washington, and with more than a trace of the author’s day job as an award-winning magazine travel writer.
Javelle Black’s fine debut novel, Death and the Afterwife (Caymorelle, FVI: Mango Tree Press / Kindle Direct, 2018, paper US$ 10.99) takes place partly in the “French Virgin Islands.” Equally spot-on about life in the U.S. academy (Johns Hopkins in the 1980s comes to mind) and in the islands, it weaves together the ups and downs of academic rivalry and sexual jealousy as seen through the gaze of an insightful Caribbean domestic worker. Although the professor at the center of the tale claims an affiliation with Marxist postcolonial studies, the writing sometimes reminds us less of Karl than Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. Might this be a pseudonymous roman à clef?
The Black Peacock (Toronto: Cormorant, 2017, paper US$ 22.95), Rachel Manley’s debut novel, follows in the wake of her three admired memoirs (about her grandfather, Norman, grandmother, Edna, and father, Michael). A moving love story that begins in Jamaica, travels across the Caribbean and beyond, and ends in fictional Peacock Island off St. Vincent, the book’s protagonists live largely separate lives, nonetheless ever-emotionally entangled with each other. The two elder Manley generations, here renamed, are a major presence, and one wonders how much of the story is autobiographical. But no matter—this is an effectively-told story, narrated in syncopation from the perspective of the two, often faraway, friends and lovers, she Jamaican-born, he a successful Trinidadian poet. It’s a fine read.
Chauncy Knuckle, the narrator of Dwight Thompson’s debut novel, Death Register (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 10.99), is a teenager, deeply engaged both in his aspirations to be a writer and the environment of sex and violence that are at the center of his Montego Bay environment. This book (“written with a raw and poetic energy” as the back-cover blurb puts it) is a “coming of age” novel winding its way through kitchens and schoolrooms, brothels and police stations. It’s also infused with literary allusions, from Vic Reid and Sonny Ladoo to Lamming, Selvon and even Faulkner and Tristram Shandy, and characters in the tradition of Naipaul’s Miguel Street such as “Chicken Friday,” “Fish Tea,” and “Jesus Saves” all contribute to the rich evocation of local life in Jamaica, setting it firmly in its broader Caribbean context.
Words somehow fail us in trying to accurately describe Cut Guavas (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 14.99), the sixth novel by Robert Antoni, who calls himself “equal parts Trinidadian, Bahamian and US citizen.” While we found his award-winning As Flies to Whatless Boys “a pure joy” (“Bookshelf 2013”) and wrote something about it, for his latest, we will simply quote from what he (apparently) wrote for the back cover: “A mash-up of three fictional stories: that of the actual Trinidadian-born actor, Austin Stoler [a friend of the author’s], who is, in old age, shooting the sequel to the Hollywood film in which he made his name, Assault on the Civilization of the Simians; the story of Austin’s origins in 1940s Trinidad; and scenes in which Austin and his wife, Robin, scrutinize the film he is making … [The novel], written wholly in film-script form, pays fan-fiction homage to that famous simian brand [think also Planet of the Apes], whilst at the same time deconstructing the saga for what it has to say about race in the film and in American society.” At intervals, readers are referred to (actual) Youtube videos relating to the characters; they are reminded that Donald J. Trump eventually reinstated his “ancestral Germanic [surname] ‘Drumpf,’ thus evading all alleged conflict-of-interest charges with his Real Estate Company and Brand [and] by this shrewd legal maneuver … successfully negated his still unreleased, and outstanding back taxes.” The man can write—and what an imagination!
Trinidadian Barbara Jenkins, winner of several short story prizes, presents her debut novel, De Rightest Place (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 10.99), whose back cover calls it (twice, a few lines apart) “warm, funny, sexy, and bittersweet,” but that gloss fully captures neither its many charms nor occasional longueurs. The protagonist, a white woman raised in India but now a Trini, is abandoned by her lover (who migrates to Canada) and left with his Belmont rumshop, which, with the help of a complicated cast of characters, she refurbishes into an aspirationally middle-class pub, “like a Trinidadian Cheers” (again, according to the back cover). Leaning on friends, self-help books, and horoscopes, she offers up varied drinks and an impressive variety of midday bellyful soups: “So if it isn’t callaloo with coo-coo balls, is corn soup with cornmeal dumplings, or is beef soup with breadfruit chunks, or dhal with channa flour balls, or fish broth with cassava and green fig, or oxtail with sweet potato wedges, or coconut milk oil down, with mixed provision, or even … pigtail sancoche with wheat flour dumplings.” The local color is the book’s real joy and comes out in the abundance of sharp girl-talk (which contrasts with the weak development of male characters). The plot doesn’t always hold together (nor is it really the point) and the several (interesting) speech registers are not always internally consistent, but with its varied denizens—from a sign-and-wall-painter lothario to a single-mother best friend of the proprietor—the pub called De Rightest Place seems authentically Trini and, on the whole, well worth a visit.
Havana Libre (Brooklyn, New York: Akashic, 2017, paper US$ 15.95) is veteran novelist Robert Arellano’s latest neonoir, an engaging page-turner built around the 1997 bombings of tourist spots in Havana. A self-reflective physician (who was also the protagonist in his earlier Havana Lunar) is recruited as an undercover agent to pretend to defect in Miami, where he is caught up in the dangerous web of Little Havana anti-Castro intrigue, before finally escaping back to his homeland, at once beloved and barely livable. We recommend it.
Wendy Guerra’s Revolution Sunday (Brooklyn, New York: Melville House, 2018, paper US$ 16.99), in a fine translation by Achy Obejas, is as strong and frightening a novel as one is likely to read about life as a thirty-something female poet in early twenty-first-century Havana. Her life is filled with surveillance, betrayals, eroticism, and desperation, even for the narrator, who—like the author herself—is celebrated abroad but muzzled in her nevertheless beloved Cuba. A memorable read.
Adjacentland (Hamilton ON, Canada: Buckrider, 2018, paper US$ 22.00), by prizewinning Trinidad-born and -raised novelist Rabindranath Maharaj, who lives and works in Canada, is a surreal novel that out-Kafkas Kafka but, as far as we can see, bears no evident relationship to the Caribbean.
Two decades ago, in “Bookshelf 1998,” we wrote that Patrick Chamoiseau’s L’ esclave vieil homme et le molosse was “a haunting tale of Old Man Slave, who one day maroons, and the beastly hound who pursues him through the Martiniquan wilderness; in magical language, interspersed with snippets from Glissant, Chamoiseau has produced what we find his most powerful writing since Chronique des sept misères.” Finally published in an excellent English translation by Linda Cloverdale as Slave Old Man (New York: New Press, 2018, cloth US$ 19.99), the book has aged well, spilling over with a waterfall of images and marvelous phrases. At its heart, the project is, of course, poetic, identitarian, and myth-making rather than historical, so perhaps we shouldn’t be bothered by the fact that the solitary runaway becomes a poetic extension of Chamoiseau (and Glissant), with the narrative of the slave’s escape even slipping into the first person in the latter part of the book. But for those few of us who have lived with the descendants of real (not mythical) Maroons—in Jamaica, in Suriname, or elsewhere—and engaged seriously with their own visions of marronage (the feelings, the knowledge, the faiths that their ancestors possessed), Chamoiseau’s imaginings of how a maroon might feel and think clearly reflect the perspective of a highly-educated, anticolonial, yet profoundly French Creole late-twentieth-century intellectual. Chamoiseau’s maroon is miles away from the consciousness of the early Suriname Maroons related by Saamakas (R. Price’s First-Time, Travels with Tooy) or the Moore Town Maroons quoted in Ken Bilby’s True-Born Maroons. To take but one example, Africa is pretty much gone from memory for Chamoiseau and his Old Man—yet such memories would have been manifest on any large plantation (such as the one in Chamoiseau’s novel) since the small island of Martinique imported almost as many enslaved Africans as the whole United States. But then, this is a fable, a myth, a kind of poetic dream rather than history—and he writes so well.
Fillette Lalo (Paris: HC Editions, 2018, paper € 12.50), a strong, frightening 73-page novela, is an unusual roman à clef based on the “mythology/legend” (in effect, oral history) gathered by Martiniquan anthropologist Gerry L’ Étang in Haiti about Madame Max Adolphe, leader of Papa Doc’s “Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale” (whose men became known as Tontons Macoutes and women as Filletes Lalo). Coauthored by L’ Étang and Haitian journalist/novelist Dominique Batraville, it evokes the darkest times of the président-à-vie and is chillingly effective.
Maître-Minuit is by prize-winning Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel (Paris: Zulma, 2018, paper € 20.00). The first of his novels that we read was narrated by a prostitute, the second by a cadaver (see “Bookshelf 2016”), and this one astounds again, taking us back to the same world of “le dictateur, Papa-à-vie,” with his Tontons Macoutes, the nonfunctioning hospitals, the well-functioning prison torture chambers …, covering in a far more imaginative yet personal vein the lived realities of Haiti in the second half of the twentieth century.
Pays sans chapeau (Paris: Zulma, 2018, paper € 9.95), originally published in 1996, recounts Haitian novelist (and now French Academician) Dany Laferrière’s return to his native land after he had spent twenty years in exile in Montreal, following an assassination attempt by Baby Doc’s Tonton Macoutes. Writing soon after his return to Port-au-Prince, at a table under a mango tree, he depicts in a series of brief vignettes a familiar, mystical, poetic land, as he revisits family and friends.
Frankétienne’s Dézafi (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018, paper US$ 24.50), the first novel written fully in Haitian Creole, has finally been translated into English, with a very useful introduction by the translator, Asselin Charles, and an erudite afterword by Jean Jonassaint. First published in 1975, this pinnacle of the Spiralist aesthetic came in mid-career of this author (and painter) who had already published seven works in French, and it cemented his place as, arguably, Haiti’s greatest living writer. Ultimately an allegory of Haitian life under the Duvaliers, the book depicts zonbis toiling on a plantation, an eventual rebellion of the oppressed, dice games, and the bloody cockfights of the title, all of which come alive in a multi-voiced work that combines poetry, myth, and social and magical realism.
Haitian writer Fernand Hibbert’s final novel, Les simulacres (1923), was published eight years after the U.S. Marines landed and has now been translated by Matthew Robertshaw as Pretenders: The Hellénus Cato Affair (Aylmer QC, Canada: Deux Voiliers, 2018, paper US$ 14.95). It depicts the world of the bourgeoisie from the perspective of a strong opponent of the ongoing American occupation, which lasted till 1934.
With Sur le ciel effondré (Arles, France: Rouergue, 2018, paper € 23.00), Colin Niel offers up his fourth polar set in Guyane, this time with its central protagonist a female Aluku police officer, Angélique Blakaman (though the hero of his previous prize-winning mysteries, the Ndyuka police captain André Anato, also plays a major role). As in his other books, the 500-plus pages of this one combine a great deal of up-to-date, impressive local color—from the suicide epidemic among the Wayana or soaring crime rates on the littoral to the debate over industrial mining on the Montagne d’ Or (and the massive illegal goldmining by garimpeiros) or the recently built Family Plaza US-style mall outside Cayenne or the Chinese supermarkets and whore-houses of Antonio do Brinco, aka Albina II, across from Maripasoula—with unfortunately predictable plotlines. Anyone going to Guyane might learn something from it, despite its heavily action-flick scenario and, to us, multiple boring passages.
On to short stories.
Firmly rooted in Jamaica, Alexia Arthurs’s How to Love a Jamaican: Stories (New York: Ballantine Books, 2018, cloth US$ 27.00) is set mainly in the diaspora (Iowa, Canarsie), but most stories have a mother or granny back home (receiving occasional barrels filled with clothes, canned goods, and maxi pads from daughters in “foreign”) or a child in Jamaica, whose mother is working for a white family in the United States. Thoroughly transnational in spirit, these fine stories revolve around mother-daughter relations, sexual and racial identity, and the contrast between traditional Jamaican morality and slack U.S. behavior. Many of the characters are memorable, from NYC grad students exploring their sexuality and racial identities to the J-born pop star touted as “the sexiest woman alive” who longs for (and finally gets, on a visit home) her mother’s cornmeal porridge and cow foot soup. Whether narrated in first person or third, whether the protagonists are female (almost always) or male, these stories are engaging and often funny. We recommend this collection—it’s the debut of a serious writer.
In The Ice Migration (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 9.99), Jacqueline Crooks weaves together two dozen short stories (each 4–8 pages long), some first-person, most not. They follow several generations of an extended family of mixed African and East Indian heritage from indentured laborers in plantation Jamaica to twenty-first-century immigrants in snowy England, navigating through duppies and prayer groups, love and betrayals, back and forth time-travel … and even encounters with archeologists bent on discovering secrets of the Tainos. Evocative Jamaican speech and manners but doesn’t always hold together.
Black Dogs and the Colour Yellow (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 9.99) is Christine Barrow’s first published collection; half of these short stories initially appeared in such journals as Bim, Poui, or Callaloo. Everyday Bajan life, often seen through conflictual family relations, forms the core of this series of tales whose protagonists range from an elderly woman seeking out her grandfather’s history in the Panama Canal Zone to a recently retired returnee from England who is still wondering about which of two men (a fisherman or an Anglican priest) was his real father.
In Where the Dream Ends: Short Stories (Coconut Creek FL: Caribbean Studies Press, 2018, paper US$ $ 24.50), José Alcántara Almánzar (called by translator Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert in her substantive introduction “the Dominican Republic’s foremost contemporary short-story writer”) has selected two dozen of his stories that he considers “most representative of his career as heir to his admired predecessors, the writer and politician Juan Bosch, Edgar Allan Poe and his disciple Julio Cortázar, and Franz Kafka.” Almost all are set in Santo Domingo, and they engage military oppression, the rot of politics, environmental degradation, erotics, and the grotesque.
Thicker Than Water: New Writing from the Caribbean, edited by Trinidadian Funso Aiyejina (Port-of-Spain: Peekash Press, 2018, paper US$ 15.99), is an anthology of poems, short fiction, and memoirs by writers who were short-listed for the Hollick Arvon Prize for [Anglophone] Caribbean Writers between 2013 and 2015. Varied fare from the new generation.
So Many Islands: Stories from the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific Oceans (Leeds, U.K. & Brooklyn NY: Peekash Press, 2018, paper US$ 8.62), edited by Trinidadian Nicholas Laughlin, presents eight stories from the Anglophone Caribbean (out if 17 total), all submitted as part of an open call made in 2016. As Marlon James writes in the introduction, “Everything we write stands one foot on land, the other in the sea.” These stories, like those in Aiyejina’s collection, cover varied themes and are of mixed quality.
Our poetry favorite of the year, Jamaican-raised Kwame Dawes’s City of Bones: A Testament (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tress Press, 2018 [Evanston IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017], paper £ 12.99), his twentieth collection. Magnificent, magisterial poems, many set in or evoking the U.S. South in the eras of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, or the Great Migration (and in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh), with slavery, and lynchings always lurking in the shadows. Blues singers, strong men and women in the fields, in the pews, and in the juke joints—picture Romare Bearden’s Mecklenburg County images—love, sex, and work, sweat and blood. Dawes gets inside these southern realties as well as any native ever has. It’s his Redemption Song, crying out for freedom and justice. He takes us deep.
Looking back at Dawes’s early masterpiece, Prophets, first published in 1995 by Peepal Tree and now reissued by them (2018, paper £ 9.99), the press’s founder and original editor of Prophets, Jeremy Poyting, has brought out Kwame Dawes’ Prophets: A Reader’s Guide (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree Press, 2018, paper £ 14.99), a careful and fulsome lit-crit unpacking of the poem, especially helpful in explaining its sociogeographical, historical, and literary allusions. The Jamaica of the 1980s comes alive again, both in this magnificent poem and in Poyting’s highly recommended guide.
Doe Songs (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree Press, 2018, paper £ 8.99) is Trinidadian artist and poet Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné’s first published collection. The poems’ fluid intimacy with the natural world, permeable boundaries between humans and animals or forest and sea, and concern with body image, childbirth, and motherhood made us realize, in contrast, just how masculanist are the muscular poems of Kwame Dawes. Several of her poems, published individually, have won Caribbean poetry prizes. We found them more interesting than her visual art, which is viewable on her website.
Leviticus, by master poet/preacher Kamau Brathwaite (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehisi, 2017, paper US$ 25.00) takes its place alongside The Lazarus Poems and Strange Fruit (both reviewed in “Bookshelf 2017”) to form a Sycorax Video Style trilogy of prophetic, sorrowful, soundings. As he writes, it is “The first poem of the Burning of the Body / and the Tearing of the Flesh / the crucifixion of the Spirit on two crossed sticks of cane / and the Basilisk justification of this in my cultural lynching.” And “They slit my wife’s throat and cut off the breasts of her ovals / and hauled me away to the coast of the Tree. The crowd / shimmering like cloudy blue silence / … i know i will nvr new sunrise”.
Puerto Rican poet Loretta Collins Klobah, whose first collection, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, we admired in “Bookshelf 2011,” now offers Ricantations (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2018, paper £ 9.99), a series of strong, direct, sometimes funny, often surprising poems written in her trademark Spanish-inflected English that is quintessential Boricua. A delight.
Fantasies—Love-making poems (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehisi, 2018, paper US$ 15.85) is Nigerian-born, St. Martin dweller Fabian Adekunle Badejo’s first published collection, though he has been a local journalist and cultural fixture for over three decades. It’s far from subtle. “Girl Talk” for example, opens “Tell me, tell me everything / … How was it? I mean, did you come? / Was it a c-orgasm or an ‘f’? / Was it huge like an elephant / or tiny like a mouse?”
Venus as a Bear (London: Carcanet, 2018, paper US$ 13.00) is Trinidad-born Vahni Capildeo’s eighth published collection. Intellectual and scholarly, ranging widely over animals and plants, the sea, and much else, and crossing multiple geographic boundaries, these poems are demanding but rewarding; several engage the Caribbean.
In Countersong to Walt Whitman and Other Poems (Leeds, U.K.: Peepal Tree, 2017, translated by Jonathan Cohen & Donald D. Walsh, paper £ 12.99), the great Dominican poet Pedro Mir describes himself as “a son of the Caribbean, / Antillean to be exact, / the raw product of a simple / Puerto Rican girl and a Cuban worker / born precisely, and poor, / on Quisqueyan soil.” First published in this facing-page dual language Spanish-English version in 1993, the collection, with a helpful introduction by Silvio Torres-Saillant and a foreword by Jean Franco, shows why Mir should be considered alongside Césaire, Guillén, and Walcott as one of the great twentieth-century poets of the Caribbean.
We welcome PREE (
Two comic books/graphic novels about Maroons, neither seemingly for children; both are curiosities more than something for NWIG readers to dwell on:
In “Bookshelf 2016,” we discussed Quincy Saul’s edition of Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz, one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party who was convicted of killing a police officer and given multiple life sentences, and by now has been incarcerated for well over 40 years, more than 20 in solitary confinement. Saul has now edited and produced, with the help of six illustrators and the blessing of Shoatz, Maroon Comix: Origins and Destinies (Oakland CA: PM Press, 2018, paper US$ 15.95). He calls it “a vision quest/manifesto … a fire on the mountain” and it touches on leaders and communities from Palmares to Saamaka, from Accompong to the Seminoles, with bits on Zapatistas, the Kurds, Ujamaa, and more, urging readers to “join the Maroon movement, now more than ever!” RP is thanked in the acknowledgments and Maroon Societies is much quoted though, unlike Marcus Rediker and a host of nonacademic activists, he chose, when asked, not to supply a blurb.
Nengue: L’ histoire oubliée des esclaves des Guyanes, text by Stéphane Blanco, drawings by Samuel Figuière (Paris: Steinkis, 2018, cloth € 18.00), is a graphic novel recounting French explorer Jules Crevaux’s 1877 expedition up the Maroni, with special attention to the stories told by his faithful Aluku guide, Apatou, about the history of his people. Rather fragmented and simplistic, it is prefaced with faint praise by Aluku historian Jean Moomou, whose own work served as an inspiration.
On to nonfiction that is not being otherwise reviewed in the journal.
Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes’s Escenas transcaribeñas: Ensayos sobre teatro, performance y cultura (San Juan: Isla Negra, 2018, paper US$ 24.00) brings together two decades of cultural criticism (previously presented separately as newspaper columns, blog entries, and conference papers) by this gay Puerto-Rican scholar who teaches at the University of Michigan, focusing on theater, performance, the visual arts, cinema, pop culture, and literature, with an emphasis on LGBTQ topics. La Fountain-Stokes ranges widely, from an extended analysis of the early work of Antonio Martorell to shorter, lighter pieces about books and films written under the nom-de-plume Lola von Miramar. This engaging collection helps open eyes about little-talked-about aspects of life in twenty-first-century Borinquen and its diaspora.
Regla (Heidelberg, Germany: Kehrer Verlag, 2017, cloth US$ 44.62) is the latest addition to art photographer Nicola Lo Calzo’s long-term “Cham” project, which attempts to record living memories of colonial slavery and resistance (including books already published on West Africa, Haiti, Guadeloupe, and Suriname/Guyane). This one chronicles his trip across the face of Cuba, highlighting carnival and Palo Monte in Santiago, Regla de Ocha, Francmasonería, Abakuá, and rap artists in Havana, and vestiges of cimarrones in the countryside. Stunning color photos.
El retrato ovalado, published in Havana in 2015, collected the responses of three dozen Cuban women writers, artists, and thinkers to poet Soleida Ríos’s invitation to “choose a mask.” Translated by Margaret Randall as The Oval Portrait (San Antonio TX: Wings Press, 2018, paper US$ 16.95), its brief stories take us deep into the thoughts and dreams of 36 writers, expanding the boundaries of feminist introspection and imagination, and providing precious insights into the lives of creative Cuban women. Intriguing and often arresting.
This Is Cuba: An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018, cloth US$ 28.99) is David Ariosto’s fairly predictable, somewhat melodramatically written report of his experiences as a cub photojournalist working for CNN in Havana between 2009 and 2011 and returning to the island frequently on other journalistic gigs in the interim. Aimed at a general audience, it’s doubtful that NWIG readers will encounter any surprises here.
Two new volumes in the University of the West Indies Press Caribbean Biography Series, intended to “celebrate and memorialize the architects of Caribbean culture.” Derek Walcott, by fellow poet and friend Edward Baugh (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2017, cloth US$ 24.99), culled from his much longer 2012 Cambridge University Press study of Walcott’s œuvre, presents the poet/playwright’s life and works in 100 very readable pages. Marcus Garvey (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2018, cloth US$ 24.99), by veteran Garvey scholar Rupert Lewis, makes more of an argument—that Garvey’s Jamaican upbringing shaped his life and thought and that his local political work stimulated his better-known pan-African project.
In Nager parmi les piranhas: Carnet guyanais (Paris: Gallimard, 2017, paper € 12.00), prolific French philosopher Michel Onfray presents his case against France’s mission civilisatrice, using his very brief stay among the Wayana (a day? a weekend?) as fodder and producing a vision of Guyane that could not be harsher. The book has been violently criticized for its exaggerations and fantasies (for example, the canard that Wayana boys wear penis sheaths under their loincloths) by both Guyanais and anthropologists. Despite the fact that he writes fluidly, this essay, at once simplistic and caricatural, takes its place among a host of others that use stereotypical Amerindians as a foil to the failings of Western civilization. (We do not, however, disagree with Onfray about the plight of the Wayana, a once proud and independent people like the neighboring Aluku Maroons, from whose territory we recently returned feeling deeply saddened by their current situation at the edge of the French empire.)
Guyane (Paris: Les Petits Mains, 2017, paper € 15.00) is Fabien Nury’s screenplay for the eight-part Canal+ TV series of that name—Hollywood-style action film in the jungle amidst Brazilian garimpeiros, sex-workers, and adventurers of all kinds.
Sustainable Art Communities: Contemporary Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean, edited by Leon Wainwright & Kitty Zijlmans (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018, cloth US$ 100.00) brings together essays by artists, policy makers, curators, and art historians from the entire region, but places special emphasis on the Dutch Caribbean as a corrective to the usual focus on Anglophone, Francophone, and Hispanophone contexts. Mimi Sheller’s afterword reflects usefully on the various “meanings of sustainability” addressed by the contributors, and underscores “the need to cultivate locally grounded ecosystems of arts training, art institutions, and art criticism, which do not simply catapult individual artists out of the Caribbean into the global circuits of metropolitan arbiters of taste, without some kind of payback.” The beautifully reproduced color illustrations, ranging from postage-stamp size to full-page, offer excellent support to the arguments in the text.
Kas di Shon: Plantation Houses on Curaçao: Past and Present, edited by Sandra van Noord (Volendam, the Netherlands: LM Publishers, 2018, cloth US$ 24.50), is the English-language version of an illustrated guide, with historical and architectural commentary, to 18 surviving and restored “master’s houses” on the island, mentioned enthusiastically by Rosemarijn Hoefte in her roundup of Dutch books in “Bookshelf 2017.” As she noted, “Despite its weight, it’s highly recommended for visitors”; many of these properties are open to visitors and feature dining facilities.
I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (Los Angeles: Kaya Press, 2019, paper US$ 16.95) is a remarkable book of songs (that read like poems), written and published over one hundred years ago by Lalbihari Sharma, an Indian immigrant bound to the Golden Fleece Plantation in British Guiana as an indentured servant. Said to be the only known literary work written by an indentured servant in the Anglophone Caribbean, and written in the Devanagari script in a combination of Awadhi and Bhojpuri, which the afterword describes as “the idioms of the northern India regions that sent the most indentured immigrants abroad,” and in Braj Bhasha, “the literary language in which medieval saint-poets from India’s Hindu heartland wrote,” the poems are devotional yet strangely moving, attesting to the many hardships and small joys of indentured labor. Gaiutra Bahadur, whose Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (2013) was reviewed favorably in NWIG 89 (2015), wrote the afterword, having “discovered” the printed pamphlet in the British Library, and relentlessly carrying out research on its author (with his descendants, with aged East Indians in Trinidad and elsewhere, and so forth), with surprising results. Sharma turns out not to have been a simple early twentieth-century field coolie, as she first imagined, but a man who rose to a position as a kind of sugar plantation “driver” or “sub-overseer” and later to owner of several plantations and landlord to sharecropping tenants. The lyrics are lovingly translated by Rajiv Mohabir, who hails from the same region of Guyana.
A Mouth is Always Muzzled: Six Dissidents, Five Continents, and the Art of Resistance, by American cultural critic Natalie Hopkinson (New York: The New Press, 2018, cloth US$ 23.95), despite its subtitle, is mainly about one continent and one country, Guyana. Hopkinson’s journalistic gaze is enhanced by her personal attachments to the place (her parents and foreparents were born there), as she recounts her visits and discussions with leading artists and activists: painter Bernadette Persaud, poet/public intellectual/political activist Ruel Johnson, and others. A chapter on her visit to Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx in Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar factory leads her to discussion of the violence of African plantation slavery and East Indian indenture in Guyana. Another that begins with John Berger’s denunciation of the Booker Company at the 1972 Booker Prize ceremony in London lets her point out that it owned much of the economy of Guyana at independence, with some 30,000 local workers: “By the late 1960s, it controlled 80 percent of Guyana’s sugar estates, as well as retail shops, news media, taxis, and insurance companies.” From which she segues into a discussion of the great Guyanese poet Martin Carter and the difficulties of writing and publishing in this authoritarian, postcolonial country. A chapter beginning with a visit to the 2015 exhibit at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London entitled “No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action, 1960–1990” brings her to a consideration of the life and legacy of Walter Rodney (“His voice, image, and biography dominated the iconography”), from the 1968 “Rodney Riots” in Jamaica through the years in Tanzania to his final days in Georgetown as revealed in her own interviews and in the report of The Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry in Guyana, 2014–2016, three decades after his assassination. In all, a well-meaning book, politically-informed, aimed at the general reader.
In Encounters Unforeseen: 1492 Retold (New York: All Persons Press, 2017, cloth US$ 32.95) retired attorney Andrew Rowen does his best to imagine the Columbian moment from both sides of the encounter, giving us the protagonists’ thoughts and observations—some based on documents, most fictional. Unfortunately, as a historical novel, it seems wooden. Though liberally sprinkled with Taino ethnographica and toponyms, the if-I-were-a-Taino (whether Caonabó or Anacaona) dialogues seem no more plausible than the if-I-were-Isabella-or-Cristóbal ones. The author’s earnest research and travels during the six-year preparation for writing the book are simply not matched by his imaginative or writing skills. It stands as a well-meant but largely unsuccessful attempt at historical revisionism.
In his 702-page The Cultural History of the American Virgin Islands and the Danish West Indies: A Companion Guide (Christiansted VI: Antilles Press, 2018, paper US$ 50.00), Arnold R. Highfield draws on his four-decades-long engagement with Virgin-Islands history to produce some 900 entries on people, places, institutions, events, and documents concerning the islands. Replete with personal perspectives, backed by selective bibliography, this potpourri of an encyclopedia is a starting place for students interested in the islands. Among many other surprising omissions, we saw no reference to the important works of Karen Olwig on St. John or Ray Kea’s on that island’s famous slave revolt.
We found veteran geographer Colin Clarke’s Mexico and the Caribbean Under Castro’s Eyes: A Journal of Decolonization, State Formation & Democratization (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, cloth US$ 84.99) disappointing. The Caribbean chapters that make up about half the book consist of diary entries made on visits (often only one or two days long) to various islands during the late 1960s and 1970s. Honest, and perhaps useful for reminding readers of the issues of the times, it remains largely superficial.
The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists, by journalist/activist Naomi Klein (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2018, cloth US$ 40.00), with blurbs by Junot Diaz and Carmen Yulín Cruz (the indomitable mayor of San Juan), is a brief but hard-hitting polemic. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Klein describes the clash of two utopian projects: “the vision of Puerto Rico in which the wealth of the island is carefully and democratically managed by its people, and the libertarian project some are calling ‘Puertopia’ that is being conjured up in the ballrooms of luxury hotels in San Juan and New York City. One dream is grounded in a desire for people to exercise collective sovereignty over their land, energy, food, and water; the other in a desire for a small elite to secede from the reach of government altogether, liberated to accumulate unlimited private profit … Who is Puerto Rico for? Is it for Puerto Ricans, or is it for outsiders … and who has the right to decide?” On the one hand, there are conferences for “high-net-worth individuals” at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel featuring talks on, for example, “How Deregulation and Blockchain Can Make Puerto Rico the Hong Kong of the Caribbean.” On the other, there are meetings at the university about how to resist disaster capitalism and create community groups to protect a Puerto Rico that is equitable, democratic, and sustainable for all. Klein meets with local groups throughout the island, trying to build community in the wake of a century of colonial rule from the mainland, and she makes clear that the often-unequal battle is far from over.
Hindus in the Netherlands, by Freek L. Bakker (Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2018, paper € 34.90), concerns the roughly 120,000 Hindus in the Netherlands (at least 80 percent of whom have Suriname roots), focusing on their five “purpose-built” temples, all constructed in the twenty-first century—their architecture, images, rituals, and so forth. (The conclusion lists some 37 additional Hindu temples that were converted from empty buildings such as schools.) The book is largely descriptive, with little analysis.
Sisters Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau, great-granddaughters of Jamaica’s first commercial patty maker, have compiled an impressive collection of sophisticated vegetarian recipes in Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking (New York: DaCapo Press, 2018, cloth US$ 30.00). With elegant photos, historical background on the dishes, an afterword about women in plantation society, and commentary on foods from callaloo to cassava root, this will give ambitious cooks plenty to chew on.
How many cookbooks do you know that were authored by a professional boxer? Virgin Islander Julius Jackson, who is also a professional chef, has pulled it off nicely in My Modern Caribbean Kitchen (Salem MA: Page Street Publishing, 2018, paper US$ 21.99), presenting favorite VI foods from Johnny cakes to stewed conch. We would point out that his “fungi” is nothing other than Bajan coo-coo (see NWIG 70:113–31). And we would contest the idea that soursop juice needs evaporated milk or almond extract; it’s quite delicious on its own or with just a touch of sugar and juice from local limes.
Cuba: The Cookbook (London: Phaidon Press, 2018, cloth US$ 49.95) is quite a production. Even without the recipes, its rich discussions of Cuban dishes, meals, food history, and culture would make an impressive resource. One author, Cuban Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez, is Ukrainian-educated, host of a cooking show in Cuba, a former restauranteur, and a voracious collector of historical cookbooks; the other, Imogene Tondre, is an American who moved to Cuba in 2010 and quickly began organizing exchanges between chefs in Cuba and elsewhere (for example, chefs from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse visited Havana). The hundreds of recipes range through Cuba’s history and the regions of the island, from traditional Cuban fare to Beef Stroganoff and Borscht for those nostalgic for the Soviet-era foods of their youth and on to the imaginative offerings of contemporary paladores (and even to pizzas and pastas preferred by younger Cubans). The book features stunning photos of the island and ends with pages of recipes contributed by “guest Cuban chefs” currently practicing their art in Camagüey, Brooklyn, London, Miami, and beyond.
Gert Oostindie kindly provided the following report on Walter D. Mignolo & Catherine E. Walsh’s, On Decoloniality: Concepts Analytics Praxis (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2018, paper US$ 25.95). As the first publication in a new series, equally entitled “On Decoloniality” and edited by Mignolo and Walsh, this book offers a series of essays introducing “the perspective, concept, analytic, practice, and praxis of decoloniality that find their base and ground in the compound concept modernity/coloniality” (p. 3). Throughout the book the authors pay homage to Aníbal Quijano who coined the concept of coloniality. As the (de)colonial perspective emerged mainly in a Spanish-America context, most of the “decolonial” authorship and praxis discussed in this book is, indeed (continental) Spanish American. There are references to a few Caribbean thinkers though, mainly Frantz Fanon. The colophon promises that the series will cover wider horizons and “different local histories from across the globe,” including the Caribbean.
We also note the Spanish translation of Stuart B. Schwartz’s excellent Sea of Storms (see NWIG 90:303–4): Mar de tormentas: Una historia de los huracanes en el Gran Caribe desde Colón hasta Maria (San Juan: Ediciones Callejón, 2019, paper n.p.)
Once again, Rosemarijn Hoefte has provided an overview of recent Dutch-language books that may be of interest to our readers:
De geschiedenis van Aruba tot 1816: Van zustereiland tot imperium in imperio (Volendam, the Netherlands: LM Publishers, 2018, cloth € 19.50), the first part of a multivolume history of Aruba by Adi Martis, is aimed at debunking old colonial histories and “Indian stories.” (In Dutch Indianenverhalen refers to myths or unbelievable stories.) Martis deftly integrates primary research in Spain, the Netherlands, and Aruba with up-to-date research and includes transcripts of key historical documents in an appendix. Luc Alofs also intends to puncture colonial myths in Koloniale mythen en Benedenwindse feiten: Curaçao, Aruba en Bonaire in inheems Atlantisch perspectief, ca. 1499–1636 (Leiden, the Netherlands: Sidestone Press, 2018, paper € 18.71). He unravels facts and myths in the historiography and the belles lettres of the three islands, placing the conquest and colonization of the long sixteenth century in the broader context of the European expansion in the Atlantic. Given the limited attention to these islands in this period, both engaging syntheses are a welcome addition to the literature.
In De Stoep: Chris Engels en de literatuur op Curaçao 1940–1951 (Volendam, the Netherlands: LM Publishers, 2018, paper € 19.50), Jan de Heer reconstructs the role of Chris Engels in the history of the only Dutch-language journal that continued to be published during World War II. Engels (a.k.a. Luc. Tournier) was a multitalented physician on the island and the driving force behind the often surrealistic De Stoep. He also invited the Rotterdam-born painter Dolf Henkes (known for his murals at Hato airport and the chapel in St. Elisabeth hospital) to the island. Henkes’s story is related in Dolf Henkes and Curaçao, edited by Cathy Jacobs (also LM, 2018, paper € 19.50), which covers three exhibitions of Henkes’s work in museums in Curaçao in 2018 and 2019.
Moving on to art in Suriname, Stuart Robles de Medina: Pionier van de moderne Surinaamse kunst, by Paul Faber (LM Publishers, 2018, paper € 19.50), is another of LM’s nicely produced books offered at a reasonable price. In accessible prose, Faber introduces Robles de Medina, one of the three founders of Surinamese modern art, yet ultimately the illustrations tell his story.
Three more books on Suriname. Michel Bakker’s De hoofdmoskee van de Surinaamse Islamitische Vereniging: Ontwikkeling en achtergronden van de Lahore Ahmadiyya-beweging (Volendam: LM Publishers, 2019, cloth € 24.50) is a somewhat enumerative history of the construction and architecture of the monumental mosque in downtown Paramaribo. The story is embedded in a sketchy description of the development of Islam in Suriname and illustrated with many floor plans and gorgeous pictures. Bish Ganga’s De rechteroever van de Saramaccarivier: Korte verhalen (s.l.: Brave New Books, 2018 paper € 17.99) contains 19 “factional” short stories depicting everyday life in Suriname’s countryside that give a lively impression of rural society in the 1950s. Frank Ferdinand’s Toontaal: Sprekende Surinaamse liedjes van 1650 tot 1950 (Volendam: LM Publishers, 2018, paper € 20.00) documents the texts of 67 noncommercial songs in 13 thematic chapters (songs of love, politics, food et cetera). Each song text is followed by explanations varying in length from five lines to more than two pages, and a CD contains 15 abridged unlabeled songs from the book.
We end this year’s Bookshelf by listing information on titles that we have noticed but neither examined nor requested for review—in some cases because their Caribbean content is restricted to a chapter or two, in others because they didn’t seem sufficiently compelling given NWIG space limitations, or for a variety of other reasons. Together, they testify to the large number of books being published that at least touch on the Caribbean.
Fidel Castro and Baseball: The Untold Story, by Peter C. Bjarkman (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2019, cloth US$ 38.00)
Cuba Libre!: Che, Fidel, and the Improbable Revolution That Changed World History, by Tony Perrottet (New York: Blue Rider Press, 2019, cloth US$ 28.00)
Cuba: My World Ends Here, by John Partipilo (New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2018, cloth US$ 56.95) [photos]
A Cuban Refugee’s Journey to the American Dream: The Power of Education, by Gerardo M. González (Bloomington IN: Well House Books, 2018, paper US$ 20.00)
Bobby Maduro and the Cuban Sugar Kings, by Lou Hernández (Jefferson NC: McFarland, 2018, paper US$ 39.95)
Tourism and Cuba: Complexities of Tourism Planning and Development, edited by Lauren Duffy & Carol Kline (London: Routledge, 2019, cloth US$ 140.00) [originally published as a special issue of the journal Tourism Planning & Development]
The New Cuba: How US Relations Will Change the Island and the Caribbean, by Mimi Whitefield (Miami: Herald Books, 2018, paper US$ 16.95)
Our Woman in Havana: Reporting Castro’s Cuba, by Sarah Rainsford (London: Oneworld Publications, 2018, paper US$ 25.95)
The Corporation: An Epic Story of the Cuban American Underworld, by T.J. English (New York: William Morrow, 2018, cloth US$ 28.99)
Bay of Pigs: CIA’s Cuban Disaster, April 1961, by Phil Carradice (Barnsley, U.K.: Pen and Sword, 2018, paper US$ 24.95)
Chano Pozo: La vida, by Rosa Marquetti (Santiago de Cuba: Editorial Oriente, 2018)
Current Landscape: Walking Across Puerto Rico, by Maria de Mater O’Neill & Sara Marina Dorna Pesquera (s.l.: CreateSpace, 2018, paper US$ 22.00)
Julia de Burgos en Santo Domingo, by Chiqui Vicioso (San Juan: Editorial Patria, 2018, paper n.p.)
Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris Between the Wars, by Michele Greet (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2018, cloth US$ 60.00)
Mas ramas que raices: Diálogos musicales entre el Caribe y el continente africano, by Errol L. Montes Pizarro (San Juan: Ediciones Callejón, 2018, paper US$ 19.95)
Las caras de poder: Ensayos sobre estrategía, política caribeña y educación superior, by Jorge Rodríguez Beruff (San Juan: Ediciones Callejón, 2018, paper US$ 18.95)
Piratas y corsarios en Puerto Rico y el Caribe, by Robiou Lamarche (s.l.: CreateSpace, paper US$ 21.00)
In situ: Visiones del paisaje en las grandes antillas, by Antonio Martorell, Mariel Quiñones Vélez, et al. (Cayey: Dr. Pío López Martínez Art Museum, Universidad de Puerto Rico-Cayey, 2018, paper n.p.)
Una suave, tierna línea de montañas azules: Nicolás Guillén y Haití, by Emilio Jorge Rodríguez (Havana: Casa de las Américas, 2017, paper US$ 25.00)
Narradoras del Caribe hispano, by Carmen Centeno Añeses (San Juan: Editorial Tiempo Nuevo, 2018, paper n.p.)
Unstoppable: A Memoir of Adversity, Perseverance & Triumph, by Simone “Jamaican Hurricane” Edwards with Jobi Tyson (Atlanta GA: Diverse Writers Room, paper US$ 15.99). [a WNBA memoir]
The Politics of Coexistence in the Atlantic World: The Greater Caribbean, by Priya Parrotta (Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.: Cambridge Scholars, 2016, cloth US$ 78.95) [sorry, we missed this when it came out]
The Specter of Peace: Rethinking Violence and Power in the Colonial Atlantic, edited by Michael Goode & John Smolenski (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2018, cloth US$ 151.00) [mainly non-Caribbean]
The Desiring Modes of Being Black: Literature and Critical, by Jean-Paul Rocchi (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018, cloth US$ 120.00)
Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Luisa Marcela Ossa & Debbie Lee-DiStefano (Lanham MD: Lexington Books, 2019, cloth 95.00)
The Universal Machine, by Fred Moten (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2018, paper US$ 26.95)
Les amours de Zémédare et Carina et La description de l’ île de la Martinique, by Auguste Prévost de Sansac de Traversay, edited by Jacqueline Couti with the collaboration of Roger Little (Paris: L’ Harmattan, 2017, paper € 23.00)
Free Communities of Color and the Revolutionary Caribbean: Overturning, or Turning Back?, edited by Robert D. Taber & Charlton W. Yingling (London: Routledge, 2018, cloth US$ 140.00) [originally published as a special issue of Atlantic Studies]
Cultures of Anti-Racism in Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Peter Wade, James Scorer & Ignacio Aguiló (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, 2019, paper US$ 30.00) [Only one chapter fully devoted to the Caribbean: “Cultural agency and anti-racism in Caribbean conceptual art,” by Fabienne Viala]
J’ essaie de vous parler de ma patrie, by Jacques Viau Renaud, edited by Sophie Maríñez & Daniel Huttinot (Montréal: Mémoire d’ encrier, 2018, paper US$ 19.95)
Transnational Organized Crime in Latin America and the Caribbean: From Evolving Threats and Responses to Integrated, Adaptive Solutions, by R. Evan Ellis (Lanham MD: Lexington Books, 2018, cloth US$ 99.83)
Identity and Ideology in Haiti: The Children of Sans Souci, Dessalines/Toussaint, and Pétion, by Paul C. Mocombe (London: Routledge, 2018, cloth US$ 149.95)
Creole Languages in Postcolonial Diversity, edited by Jacqueline Knörr & Wilson Trajano Filho (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2018, cloth US$ 171.56) [only one chapter, by the Prices, on the Caribbean]
Viability and Sustainability of Small-Scale Fisheries in Latin America and The Caribbean, edited by Silvia Salas, María José Barragán-Paladines & Ratana Chuenpagdee (Berlin: Springer, 2018, cloth US$ 179.99)
Politics and Violence in Central America and the Caribbean, by Hannes Warnecke-Berger (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, cloth US$ 129.00) [Jamaica, El Salvador, Belize]
The Price of Poverty: An Analysis of Jamaican Gang Development, by Asheka Jackson (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, cloth US$ 99.99)
Caribbean Revolutions: Cold War Armed Movements, by Rachel A. May, Alejandro Schneider & Roberto González Arana (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, paper US$ 24.95) [Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Puerto Rico]
Writing Puerto Rico: Our Decolonial Moment, by Guillermo Rebollo Gil (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Pivot, 2018, cloth US$ 69.99)
The Existence of the Mixed Race Damnés: Decolonialism, Class, Gender, Race, by Daphne V. Taylor-Garcia (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018, cloth US$ 120.00)
Travel and Tourism in the Caribbean: Challenges and Opportunities for Small Island Developing States, by Andrew Spencer (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, cloth US$ 129.00)
Black Women, Academe, and the Tenure Process in the United States and the Caribbean, by Talia Esnard & Deirdre Cobb-Roberts (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, cloth US$ 99.99)
The Social Museum in the Caribbean: Grassroots Heritage Initiatives and Community Engagement, by Csilla E. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke (Leiden, the Netherlands: Sidestone Press, 2018, paper US$ 65.00)
Island Compliance Risk and the Protocol of Global Finance, by Kirk Taitt (London: Routledge, 2018, cloth US$ 109.95)
The Caribbean Court of Justice: Regional Integration Court in a Global Context, by Jan Yves Remy (London: Routledge, 2018, cloth US$ 150.00)
Hayti, by Kurtis Sunday (s.l.: Cambria Books, 2017, paper US$ 17.95 2017) [historical novel set in the Caribbean during the sixteenth century]
La littérature haïtienne dans la modernité, by Anne Marty (Paris: Karthala, 2017, paper € 25.00)
Masonic Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (vol. 1), by Jacky Ranston (London: Lewis Masonic, 2017, £ 35.00)
Travel and Tourism in the Caribbean: Challenges and Opportunities for Small Island Developing States, by Andrew Spencer (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, cloth US$ 129.00)