10 must-read books by Caribbean authors to add to your bookshelf
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In The Know is proud to celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month. During this month, our team will highlight a wide range of Caribbean and Caribbean American-owned brands. We encourage you to support today and beyond.
Caribbean American Heritage Month, celebrated throughout June, marks a time of celebration and appreciation for the many contributions Caribbean people have made to the United States and the world at large. From music to cuisine, Caribbean Americans and Caribbean natives enrich the lives of so many who encounter their art and experiences.
One of their most underrepresented contributions, however, is literature. Caribbean authors, for centuries, have written some of the best literary works known today. As for the present day, there are several contemporary Caribbean authors whose works deserve much more praise than they currently are.
Hailing from countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and more, these authors show that no single Caribbean experience or perspective is the same.
In celebration of CAHM and beyond, check out 10 must-read books by Caribbean authors that deserve a spot on your reading list below.
1. The Girl with the Hazel Eyes by Callie Browning, $12.99
Callie Browning is an award-winning Barbadian (Bajan) author who writes mainly about historical fiction set in her home island of Barbados. Her first novel, The Girl with the Hazel Eyes, is a top-rated pick on Amazon and was even featured in Oprah Magazine‘s list of the “16 Caribbean Books to Add to Your Reading List”.
Reviewers say this book, described as “an adrenaline rush read,” is both entertaining and gripping.
2. These Ghosts Are Family: A Novel by Maisy Card, $9.99
Maisy Card was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, and grew up in Queens, New York. She’s currently a writer and librarian whose debut novel, These Ghosts Are Family received high praise from The New York Times. The publication called the 2020-released book a “rich, ambitious debut novel.” Amazon editors added that it “reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations.”
3. How to Love a Jamaican: Stories by Alexia Arthurs, $14.69
Alexia Arthurs was also born in Jamaica and raised in New York. However, she spent most of her upbringing in Iowa City and began writing her first book, How to Love a Jamaican, during her first year of graduate school. In her Amazon author page, she explained that these stories “are personal experiments,” which she described as her “anxieties.”
Reviewers described this book as a “good, quick short story reading” that forces you to “immerse yourself into the lives and perspectives of not only Jamaicans but a large population of immigrants.”
4. One Year of Ugly: A Novel by Caroline Mackenzie, $12.25
Caroline Mackenzie was born and raised in Trinidad and studied abroad for five years in both France and the U.K. After earning her bachelor’s degree in French and Spanish studies and a master’s degree in specialized translation, she returned to Trinidad, where she now lives with her family.
She published her debut novel, One Year of Ugly, in 2020, which several publications and reviewers described as a “glorious stew of family, friendship and felony” with “beautifully drawn characters.”
5. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, $13.50
Clap When You Land is a popular “Teacher’s Pick” on Amazon with over 3,000 reviews. The author, Elizabeth Acevedo, born of Dominican immigrants and raised in Harlem, New York, was inspired to write this story after the November 2010 American Airlines Flight 587 crash that routinely flew from JFK to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The crash claimed 260 lives. Approximately 90% of the victims were Dominican or of Dominican descent.
6. The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, $7.67
“Jumbie” stories and fairytales are integral parts of Trinidadian and Tobagonian upbringings, and author Tracey Baptiste, born and raised in the twin Caribbean islands, used these as inspirations for her book series.
Jumbies, her second novel, is a fairytale about a brave young girl and her adventures among Caribbean creatures. It pulls inspiration from themes present in several Caribbean folk traditions. Several outlets describe the children’s book as “addictive,” “hypnotic” and “refreshing.”
7. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika and Maritza Moulite, $10.99
Authors Maika and Maritza Moulite are Miami natives and the daughters of Haitian immigrants. Their 2020-released novel, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, is a reviewer-favorite on Amazon, with several readers dubbing the book a “delightful” and “enchanting read.”
The journey of Alaine, the product of Haitian immigrants like the authors, blends storylines and allusions to Haiti’s rich history and culture to deliver a stunning coming-of-age story that so many readers love.
8. Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell, $15.20
Florenz Webbe Maxwell is a Caribbean Young Adult Literature author hailing from the island of Bermuda. Her most popular book, Girlcott, tells the story of 16-year-old Desma Johnson and her experience during the 1959 theatre boycott — a pivotal time in Bermudian history. The book received the second-place distinction of the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature in 2016.
9. The Lesson: A Novel by Cadwell Turnbull, $13.43 (Orig. $16.99)
Cadwell Turnbull is an author and scholar born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. His native country heavily influences his work and serves as the setting for his debut novel, The Lesson. The book, which stands as the Amazon Editors’ pick in the “Best Science Fiction & Fantasy” category, explores the interactions between a local community and an alien population that arrives at its shores.
10. Love After Love: A Novel by Ingrid Persaud, $14 (Orig. $27)
Ingrid Persaud is a Trinidad-born author who divides her time between London and Barbados. Her debut novel, Love After Love, published in 2020, was highly praised by The New York Times Book Review. The publication dubbed it “a stellar debut about an unconventional family, fear, hatred, violence, chasing love, losing it and finding it again just when we need it most.”
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