From The Caribbean Bookshelf This Holiday

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By Annan Boodram

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Dec. 13, 2012: Several Caribbean authors recently released stellar works that can make great stocking stuffers or just gifts this holiday season.

1: Improving Public Accountability: The Guyana Experience, 1985 -2007, by Dr Swatantra Anand Goolsarran, former auditor general of Guyana is a well researched undertaking arising out of his doctoral thesis.

2: Rantin From Inside The Dancehall, by veteran Jamaica journalist and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, is a collection of journalistic essays that focuses on the musical genre.

3: My Path to Freedom by Guyanese born, Conrad Taylor’s is an autobiographical novel, which has been selected for display by the Smithsonian Institute, in its Anacostia Museum Library. The book was the Second Place Winner in the Autobiography/Memoir category of the 2011 Royal Palm Literary Awards Competition held in Orlando Florida October 2011. According to the author, Path to Freedom provides a unique prism through which to see the cultural trauma of emigration, the unique experience that is West Point, the personal side of Cold-War-era geopolitics, and the mayhem of Third World politics, including Guyana’s army, the Guyana Defence Force.

4: Taking Words for a Walk, by Jamaican Ralph Thompson is published by UK based Peepal Tree Press Hailed as a “superb craftsman” by the Routledge Encyclopaedia of Post Colonial Literature in English, Thompson is at home in many forms: free verse, rhymed quatrains, haiku and villanelles – in patois or standard English. The center piece is a long poem, “The Colour of Conscience,” which explores the dynamics, personal and social, of being a white poet in a black country.

5: Jubilation, published by Peepal Tree Press, comprises over fifty living, contemporary Jamaican poets reflect in complex, nuanced, outspoken, meditative, humorous and outrageous ways upon the historical and existential moment of Jamaican independence from Britain and the years that have followed. Edited by Kwame Dawes, the collection includes the work of, among others, Opal Palmer Adisa, Lillian Allen, Edward Baugh, Jacqueline Bishop, Jean “Binta” Breeze, Francis Coke, Mel Cooke, Christine Craig, Kwame Dawes, Richard “Dingo” Dingwall, Delores Gauntlett, Lorna Goodison, Jean Goulbourne, Millicent Graham, Sally Henzell, Ishion Hutchinson, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Evan Jones, Easton Lee, Ann-Margaret Lim, Rachel Manley, Mbala, Shara McCallum, Earl McKenzie, Mark McMorris, Kei Miller, Monica Minott, Pamela Mordecai, Mervyn Morris, Mutabaruku, Geoffrey Philp, Velma Pollard, Claudia Rankine, Heather Royes, Olive Senior, Tanya Shirley, A-dZiko Simba, Fabian Thomas, Ralph Thompson, Donna Aza Weir-Soley, and d’bi.young.

6: New Day by Victor Stafford Reid, republished by Peepal Tree Press, is set on the eve of the achievement of universal adult suffrage in Jamaica in 1944 and the rise of the mass political parties of the nationalist movement. It is told through the memories of John Campbell an old man whose memories go back to the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865, when after years of drought and repression a peasant rebellion lead by a Baptist Deacon Paul Bogle briefly flared and was then put down with the utmost savagery, including the slaughter of some of Campbell’s family. In the present, Garth Campbell, John’s grand nephew, is a leader of the nationalist and trade union movement, a lawyer who, unlike his father, has never lost touch with the people and is a keen listener to the history his great uncle tells him must inform his actions.

7: The Hills Were Joyful Together, by acclaimed Jamaican writer, Roger Mais, is published by Peepal Tree Press. Surjue, like other characters in his Kingston yard, is struggling for survival when he is persuaded to take part in a robbery by the trickster figure of Flitters. He is arrested, tried and sentenced to the appalling world of a Jamaican colonial prison, full of people like himself whose only desire has been to put bread into their families’ mouths. Whilst in prison, his woman, Rema, goes mad and Surjue puts his life on the line in trying to escape to see her. This is a starkly brutal novel of prophetic rage that points to the fact that for the poor and black little had changed since slavery.

8: The Caribbean Writer, an annual publication of the University of the Virgin Islands, features new and exciting voices from the region, and beyond that explore the diverse and multi-ethnic culture in poetry, short fiction, personal essays, creative non-fiction, and plays. Social, cultural, economic and sometimes controversial issues are also explored, employing a wide array of literary devices. This edition showcases some of the Caribbean’s best, including Kamau Brathwaite, Edwidge Danticat, George Lamming, Caryl Phillips and Earl Lobvelace.

9: Andean Express by Bolivian, Juan de Recacoechea, published by New York City based, Akashic Books is a translation of the Spanish original. Set in 1952, Andean Express is the story of a tragic overnight train journey that unfolds in an environment at once carnivalesque and sinister. Beginning near La Paz, Bolivia, the austere Andean plateau serves as a surreal backdrop for most of the trip before giving way to a winding descent to the Chilean coast. Ricardo Beintigoitia, a recent high school graduate from a prosperous La Paz family, unwittingly becomes ensnared in the personal drama of one of his peers, a captivating girl named Gulietta Carletti who has been forced into an arranged marriage with a man she despises.

10: Havana Lunar, a Cuban noir novel by Robert Arellano, published by Akashic Books is a literary crime novel on the last island of socialism, during a period of intense desperation. One hungry, hallucinatory night in the dark heart of Havana, Mano Rodriguez, a young doctor with the revolutionary medical service, comes to the aid of a teenage jinetera named Julia. She takes refuge in his clinic to break away from the abusive chulo who prostituted her, and they form an unlikely allegiance that Mano thinks might save him from his twin burdens: the dead-end hospital assignment he was delegated after being blacklisted by the Cuban Communist Party and a Palo Monte curse on his love life commissioned by a vengeful ex-wife. But when the pimp and his bodyguards come after Julia and Mano, the violent chain-reaction plunges them all into the decadent catacombs of Havana’s criminal underworld.

11: Diwali Magazine: Trinidad & Tobago based, Indo-Caribbean Divali Publication Ltd (ICC), presents the publication of its latest Divali souvenir magazine. Divali, the Hindu Festival of Lights which was observed worldwide on Tuesday November 13, 2012.
The theme of this year’s edition of the magazine is The Brilliance of Indo-Trinidadian Literary Writers. Beginning 1930s, Seepersad Naipaul in the 1930’s whose son Vidia (VS), won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, and has been the only Trinidadian to claim this internationally coveted prize so far, the timeline includes writers such as Neil Bissoondath, Rabindranath Maharaj, Ron Ramdin, Raymond Ramcharitar, Kevin Baldeosingh, Rajandaye Ramkissoon-Chen, Madeleine Coopsammy, Lakshmi Persaud, Ramabai Espinet, Shani Mootoo and Niala Maharaj. The 80-page full-colour glossy magazine is edited by anthropologist Dr. Kumar Mahabir, an assistant professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and sells for TT$40.00.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Annan Boodram is the founder of The Caribbean Voice newspaper.