Detail of a Haitian vodou flag for Sen Jak and Danbala (mid twentieth century, artist unknown), from the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Songs of the road

Simon Lee reviews Vodou Songs in Haitian Creole and English, by Benjamin Hebblethwaite, and Nan Dòmi: An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou, by Mimerose Beaubrun, trans. D.J. Walker:

“Two recent books on Vodou provide precisely the insider perceptions and experience, along with invaluable source material, which allow those with a genuine interest, rather than vicarious thrill-seekers, to understand and appreciate the living tradition which sustains Haitians either at home or in the diaspora.”

Image above: detail of a Haitian vodou flag for Sen Jak and Danbala (mid twentieth century, artist unknown), from the collection of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Make you real

David Knight, Jr., reviews Tiphanie Yanique’s novel Land of Love and Drowning:

“Yanique, from the start of her career, has shown an interest (perhaps too mild a word) in expressing an American colonial ontology. The US Virgin Islands, the unincorporated territory that is her home ground, is not so much a geographic location or political reality in her writing as it is a way of being.”

Image above: Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, around the time of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the US. Photograph by the Bain News Service, posted at Flickr by the Library of Congress

Grandfather’s backpay

F.S.J. Ledgister reviews Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, by Hilary McD. Beckles:

“In the modern era, British officialdom has sought to place slavery in the remote past, and to argue that it was too large a system to make it possible to construct any structure of reparation. Britain has responded to demands for reparations, essentially, by moving the goalposts and by seeking to intimidate those who have been making the demands.”

Image above: Montpelier Estate, St James, from A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica (1825), by James Hakewill

The show must go on

Andre Bagoo reviews two books of poems: Performance Anxiety, by Jane King, and Subversive Sonnets, by Pamela Mordecai:

“If poetry is concerned with creating experiences, perhaps this is what links it to the idea of performance. Just as actors aim to provoke emotion or convey feeling and ideas through tools such as gesture and body language, so too do poets aim to assemble feeling, albeit through the artefacts of words drizzled on a page; or text represented on a canvas-like computer screen; or type patterned onto objects; or projected, ephemerally, in a space.”

Image above: Shrine Circus, 22 February 1972; posted at Flickr by Marion Doss under a Creative Commons license

Patois canticles

Oonya Kempadoo, author of All Decent Animals, talks to Stephen Narain about writing Caribbean speech, Port of Spain as a literary character, and tackling the complexity of contemporary Caribbean life in fiction:

“Trying to define national identity and Caribbeanness in a deliberate way need not be necessarily the best way to go about it, because I think literature in any part of the world, in any form, is about the way individual characters and voices resonate, and about the bigger themes which make readers connect with these individuals. These resonances should cross boundaries.”

Image above: Oonya Kempadoo. Photograph by Thomas Langdon, courtesy Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Rupert Roopnaraine in 1979

Risker, risk

Gaiutra Bahadur on The Sky’s Wild Noise: Selected Essays, by Rupert Roopnaraine:

“Over the decades, Roopnaraine has been many things: university lecturer, orator (often in eulogy), political prisoner (accused of burning down government buildings in 1979, and jailed), envoy to warring factions of the socialist revolution in Grenada, candidate, parliamentarian, and now education minister. But above and beyond all that, he has been the bearer of Walter Rodney’s urgent message against racial polarisation, and he has been an eyewitness.”

Image above: Rupert Roopnaraine (centre) with Walter Rodney (right) and their WPA colleague Omowale in 1979, in a newspaper photograph published after Rodney’s death


The CRB’s online archive includes the full contents of every issue since 2009, and selections from older editions. In the coming months, we will add the full contents of every past issue to the new archive and subject index.