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.
Zo and the Forest of Secrets (Knights of Media), the first fictional children’s book by Trinidadian Alake Pilgrim, follows a young girl on a thrilling supernatural journey through the forests of her island home. This first novel in a new fantasy series brings together elements of mystery and mysticism, rooted in the very real landscape of the author’s native island.
Sonnets for Albert (Bloomsbury), the new collection of poetry by Trinidad-born Anthony Joseph, is a deeply personal and deeply emotional exploration of family, masculinity and “the impact of being the son of a absent or nearly absent father”. Using a form Joseph calls the calypso sonnet – an Afro-Caribbean variation on the classic 14-line pattern – the poems extend their meditations to issues of loss, longing and self-creation.
Now Lila Knows (Akashic Books), the latest novel by Trinidadian-American Elizabeth Nunez, tells the gripping and timely story of a Caribbean professor on her way to a college position in a small town in Vermont, where she witnesses the murder of a black man. by the police. Nunez’s story brings together pressing questions about race and violence in today’s United States and timeless questions about personal and collective responsibility, in “a page-turner with universal resonance.”
The Drowned Forest (Peepal Tree Press), the latest novel by Bermudian Angela Barry, explores issues of class, race and religion in contemporary Bermuda, against the backdrop of ongoing climate change and uncertainty over the ‘coming. Around the central figure of Genesis – a troubled black teenager – a cast of characters from different backgrounds and ethnicities collide and negotiate their ambitions and fears, jealousies and complexes, creating a rich and nuanced portrait of a island society little known to the general public. Caribbean.
Greenland (Amistad), the debut novel by Bahamian-American David Santos Donaldson, features a young black queer author, Kip, researching and writing the story of Mohammed el Adl, the Egyptian lover of famous British author EM Forster . The novel “seamlessly evokes two distinct but overlapping worlds where the past mirrors the present, and the artist’s journey morphs into a quest for truth that opens up a world of possibilities”.
The Animated Forest (Peepal Tree Press) is the long-awaited debut collection of poetry from Trinidad-born, US-based Samantha Thornhill, who has already authored a series of children’s books. The poems speak of Thornhill’s “fundamental belief in the power of empathy and compassion as aesthetic markers.” The book reveals “the splendid tensions and graces of an immigrant’s imagination and language, rooted as she is in her hometown of Trinidad and in her troubled American homeland.”
The Tribe: Portraits of Cuba (Graywolf Press), a collection of non-fiction pieces by Carlos Manuel Álvarez, translated by Frank Wynne, explores the last decade of Cuban history, through portraits of artists, musicians and writers, as well as market vendors, nurses, policeman and a wide range of real-life characters. The form of the crónica—a common genre in Latin America, mixing reportage and storytelling—suits perfectly this study of “the extraordinary mosaic of Cuba today,” by one of Granta magazine’s top young Spanish-language novelists. .
The Che Guevara Reader: Writings on Politics and Revolution (Seven Stories Press), edited by David Deutschmann and Maria del Carmen Ari Garcia, brings together essays, speeches and personal letters from the Argentine hero of the Cuban Revolution, to “highlight his principled policy and practice in the struggle against capitalism and American imperialism.” A chronology of Guevara’s life, a bibliography of his writings, and a glossary of individuals and groups provide biographical and political context.
John Humphrey: The Ideology of Partnership (Royrds), by Zorina Shah, a biography of the iconic Trinidadian politician, government minister, architect and masman, helps fill a gap in T&T’s recent social history. Often considered a maverick or political radical, Humphrey is best known for his efforts to make land – for housing and agriculture – accessible to a wider range of citizens, in order to combat economic inequality.
Awards and Prizes
The novel Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed of T&T has been named the winner of the 2022 CLMP Firecracker Prize for Fiction. Presented annually by the U.S.-based Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, the annual Firecracker Awards “celebrate books and magazines that make significant contributions to our literary culture and publishers that strive to feature important voices to readers around the world. Pleasantview was previously the winner of the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.
Sonnets for Albert by Anthony Joseph (see above) has been shortlisted for the 2022 Forward Award for the best collection of poetry published in Britain in the past year. Endowed with £10,000, the Forward Prize is considered one of the leading prizes for poetry in the English language and has been won in recent years by Caribbean authors such as Kei Miller and Vahni Capildeo. The winner will be announced in October.
Children’s author and YA Malorie Blackman, born in Britain to parents from Barbados, is the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize winner. Established in 2009 in memory of Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, the prize “is awarded every year to a writer of outstanding literary merit residing in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, looks to the world with an ‘unyielding, unwavering’ and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination…to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’”.
US-based Trinidadian writer Stephanie Ramlogan has been named the winner of the 2022 Iowa Review Award for Fiction. Founded in 2003 by the American literary journal Iowa Review and awarded in the categories of fiction, poetry and non-fiction, the prize comes with a cash prize of US$1,500 and publication in the journal.
The 2022 Bocas Lit Fest Children’s Book Prize opened on June 20, with a submission deadline of August 31, 2022. Sponsored this year by the Wainwright family, the prize recognizes an outstanding children’s book in English (for readers aged 7 to 12) written by a Caribbean author. It comes with a cash reward of US$1,000. For entry guidelines and more information, visit www.bocaslitfest.com/awards/childrens-book-prize.
Caribbean Literature Day, commemorated annually on July 12, is dedicated to celebrating books and writers from across the Caribbean region, with individual readers and writers and literary organizations offering a range of activities, from both digitally and in person. For Caribbean Literature Day 2022, Bocas Lit Fest will launch a special online capsule exploring the work of the late Barbadian writer George Lamming, as well as a new podcast series exploring the 100 Caribbean books that made us. Further details will be announced on the Bocas Lit Fest website.
After several auditions in June, the semi-finalists for the 2022 First Citizens National Poetry Slam were announced yesterday. The selected poets will take part in a special workshop in July to prepare for the semi-final of the competition, which will be held in August. 2022 marks the tenth anniversary of the slam, which offers the largest spoken word prize in the Caribbean, with the winner receiving TT$50,000.
The second year of Write Away!, the high school creative writing project produced by Bocas Lit Fest and sponsored by the Scotiabank Foundation, recently launched. Offering valuable learning tools in the form of a series of dynamic videos, the 2022 series focuses on poetry, a central part of CSEC’s English B curriculum. Over 50 secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago have already used Write Away! Poetry series for the 2021-2022 academic year. Students were also invited to participate in writing workshops with Bocas Lit Fest via Zoom, and submit original poems for posting on the Bocas Lit Fest website at www.bocaslitfest.com/youth/write-away.