The Caribbean: Wrap-up!

I think, dear reader, that I start all of these wrap-up posts with “can you believe this month is over?”, and every time it’s genuine! So, without further ado: Can you believe April is over?

Here in the fine state of Georgia, we’re experiencing a wet and rather cool spring, so when I go outside it feels like the end of March (somedays February!) rather than the beginning of May. I’ve had to aerate my poor plants’ soil once a week so all the rain won’t make them sad and droopy. Today, I even put on a coat to go out! As if everything the world wasn’t confusing and uncertain enough!

Enough about the weather!

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If you’ve been following along with me this week, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling a lot with reading lately. The new normal of this quarantine time is setting in and making things that used to be normal, like reading ten books a month, aren’t as doable as they once were. We’re dealing with an extremely weird and stressful time, so I haven’t been too hard on myself about this, and I hope you, dear reader, haven’t either.

So before I dive in, I want to do a quick brief about this month’s global reading challenge.

First, it was extremely difficult to find books by Caribbean authors. I said last month that I think the finding of books is going to continue to be difficult as we move away from American-centric viewpoints, and I was right! If you do a quick Google search of Caribbean authors, you’ll find either the stories are by Caribbean-American authors or are set in America (immigrant stories are amazing, but I want a non-America-centric perspective!), are nearly impossible to find, or are dealing with slavery and colonialism (I just do not have the mental or emotional strength to read traumatic things right now, but I am creating a list of important titles to revisit when everything isn’t so overwhelming and terrifying as a whole).

And second, not having access to a library made this even harder! I was able to get a library account with a larger system which has the Libby service for e-books and audiobooks, so I was able to access more than I would have with my own library system’s digital service (post about this to come!). Still, the Libby catalogue is not as large as my state’s physical library catalogue is. Not being able to access the catalogue and have books sent to me made this month very hard!

I did, however, manage to read two books this month for the Caribbean. Both came recommended to me by our dear @desibookaunty so big thank you to her for her knowledge and sharing! Please give her a follow on Instagram for more amazing recommendations and truth sharing. So, let’s get to it!

What I Read

  • Claire of the Sea-Light by Edwidge Danticat: This was my favorite read of the month, and probably is going to be one of my favorites of all time. I read about a quarter of it each night and every night I had to make myself put it down when I reached the mark so I wouldn’t gobble it up. I wanted to savor this one. This moving story follows the inhabitants of Ville Rose, a small community in Haiti, and how their lives entangle, intersect, and affect one another. It was kind of like a beautiful, moving version of Love, Actually, where you had a cast of characters, seemingly unrelated, and slowly their stories begin to intersect and overwrite one another. I won’t go into much detail, because I’m always giving spoilers that I don’t realize are spoilers, but trust me, this one is a must read.
  • A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid: I have a vivid memory of the experience of reading Jamaica Kincaid for the first time when I was in the eleventh grade. I cannot for the life of me remember what the essay was (it might have been “On Seeing England for the First Time,” but I’m not certain), but I remember the effect it had on me. I volunteered to read the essay aloud to the class at the start of a rhetoric lesson, and I remember sitting quietly for a while after, thinking “So, writing can be like this?” I was enamored. I loved the way she crafted her sentences, the flowing beauty of her words as they hooked and trailed around each other. I think in some ways, I’ve modeled a lot of my own writing voice after hers. I had the same experience as I read A Small Place this month. It was the first time I’d read Kincaid since that moment in my Composition course, but I immediately was transported back to that classroom, over seven years ago. This short book reflects on the post-colonial state of Kincaid’s home of Antigua. It’s chilling and moving, reflective and incisive. I think it should be required reading for every person who boards a Caribbean cruise ship or volunteers for a missionary venture. Kincaid calls us all to reconsider how we, especially Western folks, especially white folks, travel and explore in the world, and how we all should work to uproot colonialism, because it’s just as alive and well as ever, only buried under the surface.

Further Reading

  • A playlist: Since I didn’t listen to any Caribbean music this month (I didn’t listen to hardly anything! Another normal thing that I’m not doing like I used to!), I wanted to share a playlist with you instead. Enjoy!
  • The Coronavirus in the Caribbean: With tourism essentially ground to a dead halt, places in the world that basically survive off the industry are being hard hit. Many countries in the Caribbean, once reliant on the money flow that poured in from cruise ships and luxury resorts are struggling to survive. This report details how Caribbean countries are being left out of worldwide relief efforts — though after reading Kincaid, we have to question the leaders who are begging for this money and hope they will see that the funds help the poor and working classes of their communities who are hard hit by a loss of jobs in food, service, and tourism.
  • A set of recipes: Another lighter piece for you this month, here is a set of recipes for Caribbean foods. I see several here I want to try next week, hoping I can get the ingredients I need!

What did you read to celebrate and learn about Caribbean? Let me know in the comments below!

We’re moving right along and traveling to South America next week! Keep your head up, dear reader, and I’ll see you soon.


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