The Top Ten Tuesday (http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday) for March 27th 2018 is ‘Books That Take Place In Another Country’. I’m not sure what they mean by ‘Another Country’, other than America probably; but I’m Caribbean-based so I’m going to go with ‘other than the Caribbean’ with an extra challenge ‘but written by a Caribbean author’. Yes, you read that right I’m pulling books I’ve read which are that rare unicorn of a book by an author born and/or raised in the Caribbean, but set largely in a Country other than the Caribbean (though the Caribbean is not a Country). Listed in top to bottom – faves to less fave – with Author’s Country referring to the country the author was born and grew up in (not always the same country), and the Story’s Country referring to the main setting.
Edwidge Dandicat’s The Farming of Bones – “It is 1937 and Amabelle Désir, a young Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, has built herself a life as the servant and companion of the wife of a wealthy colonel. She and Sebastien, a cane worker, are deeply in love and plan to marry. But Amabelle’s world collapses when a wave of genocidal violence, driven by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, leads to the slaughter of Haitian workers. Amabelle and Sebastien are separated, and she desperately flees the tide of violence for a Haiti she barely remembers.” (from Amazon) Author’s Country: Haiti & USA; the Story’s Country: Dominican Republic.
Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners – “a 1956 novel by Trinidadian author Samuel Selvon. Its publication marked the first literary work focusing on poor, working-class blacks following the enactment of the British Nationality Act 1948. The book details the life of West Indians in post-World War II London, covering a period of roughly three years.” (from Wikipedia) Author’s Country: Trinidad-Tobago; the Story’s Country: (London) Britain.
<–me with Jamaica Kincaid, left; USVI Lit Fest 2015
Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy – “From the beginning I was seduced by the literary style (the use of rhetoric, the imagery and poetic flow of the narrative) and affected by the tale of a young woman from the Caribbean breaking with her past (her homeland, her mother, her previous identity) and redefining herself in NY.” (excerpted from my review) Author’s Country: Antigua-Barbuda; the Story’s Country: (New York) USA. Full review at Blogger on Books.
<–This image of me reading Lucy was taken in NYC in 2012 by Mali A. Olatunji. It appears in his book (co-authored with Paget Henry) The Art of Mali Olatunji: Painterly Photography from Antigua and Barbuda.
Marie Elena John’s Unburnable – “Set in both contemporary Washington, D.C. and Dominica, and switching back and forth between contemporary and historical stories, Unburnable weaves together the Black experience with Caribbean culture and history. Among the themes in the novel are the Caribs (the Kalinago), the Maroons, the history of Carnival and masquerade, the practice of Obeah, the fusion of African religions and Catholicism, resistance to slavery, and post-colonial issues.” (from Wikipedia) Author’s Country: Antigua-Barbuda; the Story’s Country: Dominica.
Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem – “With sensual, often brutal accuracy, Claude McKay traces the parallel paths of two very different young men struggling to find their way through the suspicion and prejudice of American society. At the same time, this stark but moving story touches on the central themes of the Harlem Renaissance, including the urgent need for unity and identity among blacks.” (from Amazon) Author’s Country: Jamaica; the Story’s Country: (New York) USA
Jean Rhys’ After Leaving Mr McKenzie – “This is my third reading of a Jean Rhys book after Wide Sargasso Sea, the prequel to Jane Eyre, and one of her short story collections – and the first I’ve come across that doesn’t reference the Caribbean (Rhys is from Dominica) even in passing. What’s familiar is the sense of a daring writer well ahead of her time in her handling issues of gender (and in particular the interior life of complex women) and ‘madness’, and in a broader sense humanity (and too often, the lack of humanity underneath it all).” Author’s Country: Dominica; the Story’s Country: (Paris) France and (London) Britain. Full review at Blogger on Books.
Eugenia O’Neal’s Dido’s Prize – “You’ve never met a pirate quite like this plucky heroine who masques her true identity and holds her own as she deals with the uncomfortable realities of being a woman on a ship full of rowdy men. By turns spirited and fool hardy, Dido’s a pirate you root for – but still a pirate who tries to hang on to her principles even as she gets her hands bloody. what Dido’s Prize does that most pop culture pirate tales don’t is meet the reality of the world – the reality of slavery (and misogyny) in their world – head on (well, not as head on as say Roots or 12 Years a Slave but it doesn’t ignore it as they do in the world of Captain Jack).” Author’s Country: British Virgin Islands; the Story’s Country: Jamaica. Full review at Blogger on Books ll.
Althea Romeo-Mark’s If Only the Dust Would Settle – “Part poetry collection, part memoir, it’s thoroughly engaging capturing not only the character of the various places she’s inhabited in her journeying, but the ways they – Antigua, the USVI, the US, Liberia, England, and Switzerland – have inhabited her.” Author’s Country: Antigua & US Virgin Islands; the Story’s Country: USVI, the USA, Liberia, Britain, & Switzerland. Full review at Blogger on Books.
Caryl Phillips’ Dancing in the Dark – “(about) Bert Williams, real life star of the Vaudeville era and son of the Caribbean, but, perhaps even more so by his stage partner and friend George Walker, and saddened by the tough lot of the ladies Lottie and Ada. There’s a sense of loneliness and desperation about all of their lives, representative perhaps of any African American at the time trying to separate him/herself from the role society wants him/her to play.” Author’s Country: St. Kitts-Nevis & (Leeds) Britain; the Story’s Country: (New York) USA. Full review at Blogger on Books.
Joan Riley’s The Unbelonging – “And one of the things the writer handled deftly was the shifts between her physical world and the fantasy world that was her homeland Jamaica, another was the hostility of the environment, and yet another was how damaged this character was by her experiences.” Author’s Country: Jamaican; the Story’s Country: Britain. Full review at Blogger on Books.
And a few Bonus picks by non-Caribbean authors writing ‘Another (not necessarily Caribbean but other than their own) Country’ – in no particular order:
Alan Brown’s Audrey Hepburn’s Neck – I’ll admit I picked this one because of the Audrey Hepburn in the title but I liked it. “The American author Alan Brown crosses both racial and cultural lines to tell his story through the eyes of a young, handsome Japanese cartoonist, Toshiyuki (“Toshi”) Okamoto, who traces his strong attraction to Western women bock to his ninth birthday, when his mother took him to see Audrey Hepburn in the movie ‘Roman Holiday’.” (from Goodreads) Author’s Country: USA; the Story’s Country: Japan
James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room – I’ve been reading Baldwin since my university days and he is, in my head, just part of the American canon. So, I was surprised watching You Tube reviews after viewing the 2017 Academy Award nominated documentary ‘I am Not Your Negro’ based on his last uncompleted book about race in America that each of the five (all white, three American, all old enough to have been around awhile, all clearly interested in the arts) reviewers I saw had either never heard of him or heard very little. Considering his stature in the Black arts community, I was surprised. How is that possible? Takes me back to a point made in the documentary about blacks knowing more about the white experience than vice versa (because of cultural dominance, yes, but also because it was at one time a matter of survival). I thought Baldwin was one of those people who had ‘transcended race’ though. Guess I was wrong. Anyway, the book: “In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.” (from Goodreads) Author’s Country: USA; the Story’s Country: (Paris) France
Joanne Harris’ Chocolat – “In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of its buyer’s private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival.” (from Amazon) Author’s Country: Britain; the Story’s Country: France
Tracey Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring – “Set in 17th century Delft, Holland, the novel was inspired by Delft school painter Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier presents a fictional account of Vermeer, the model, and the painting.” (from Amazon) Author’s Country: USA & Britain; the Story’s Country: Holland
Andrew O’Connor’s Tuvalu – “Tuvalu, is described in an exchange between Noah and Tilly as a physical place in the Pacific but also that mysterious place beyond the horizon that eggs us on…a dream. Its appeal lies more in the possibility than the reality of it. Tilly: ‘We all have to look forward to something don’t we?’ Of course, at the time that she said this she already knew her own fate which makes the whole exchange just kind of sad in retrospect.’ Author’s Country: Australia; the Story’s Country: Japan. Read the full review in Blogger on Books V.
Karen Connelly’s The Lizard Cage – “The bulk of the book is an unflinching look inside of a Burmese prison from the perspectives of a political prisoner, two of the guards (one kind, one sadistic), and an orphaned boy who has never known anything different and who though he has committed no crime is as trapped as the other prisoners.” Author’s Country: Canada; the Story’s Country: Burma/Myanmar. Read the full review in Blogger on Books lV.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass – “Also interesting to me is the way the explanations of how glamour works are woven in to the plot and even used as a plot device in a major budding romance – it’s an interesting way of exploring where technique ends and instinct takes over in creating (and appreciating) living art.” (excerpted from my review) Author’s Country: USA; the Story’s Country: Britain (Shades of Milk and Honey) & France (Glamour in Glass). Read the full review of Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass in Blogger on Books lV.