Also noted

Other new and recent books

Molly and the Muslim Stick, by David Dabydeen (Macmillan Caribbean, ISBN 978-0-2300-2870-8, 179 pp), the sixth novel by the Guyana-born writer, traces the progress of a young woman born at the end of the First World War, from a grim mining town in the north of England to Coventry in the aftermath of the Blitz — and thence to the interior of Guyana, after the apparition of a mysterious stranger. When the “boy-man” she calls Om turns up on her doorstep, trailing leaves and twigs, Molly’s already unconventional life takes a turn for the truly fantastic — or perhaps the truly lunatic.

Songster and Other Stories, by Jennifer Rahim (Peepal Tree Press, ISBN 978-184-523-0487, 145 pp), a collection of short fiction by the Trinidadian writer best known for her poems (Mothers Are Not the Only Linguists, 1992; Between the Fence and the Forest, 2002). Set mostly in contemporary Trinidad, these blunt, sometimes fierce stories survey a Caribbean reality far removed from the fantasies of tourist brochures and nostalgic novelists alike. “My island, which is my home, is the place that hurt me,” says the narrator of the final piece. “My home is a word without end, and its meanings thunder like the arrival of this sea.”

The River’s Song, by Jacqueline Bishop (Peepal Tree Press, ISBN 978-184-523-0388, 181 pp), a heartwarming coming-of-age story set in Jamaica, by the former editor of the literary journal Calabash. As the novel opens, Gloria, the bright, lively daughter of an ambitious working-class mother, wins a scholarship to a prestigious girls’ high school. As Gloria grapples with Jamaica’s social realities and her own adolescent sexuality, she learns that the route to freedom and self-fulfillment is not often a straightforward channel. “I envied the river’s certainty, the sense that it knew where it was going on its tried and true path to the sea.”

Writing Life: Reflections by West Indian Writers, ed. Mervyn Morris and Carolyn Allen (Ian Randle Publishers, ISBN 978-976-637-329-0, 171 pp), a collection of essays by a range of Anglophone Caribbean writers, all considering “the writing life,” in all the meanings of that phrase — plus poems and stories by four more writers best known for their live performances. All the contributors — Derek Walcott, Erna Brodber, Olive Senior, Cecil Gray, Merle Hodge, Mark McWatt, to name just a few — participated in a conference at the University of the West Indies Mona campus in 2006.

The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Labourers and African Slaves in Cuba, by Lisa Yun (Temple University Press, ISBN 978-1-59213-581-3, 311 pp), a groundbreaking analysis of the system of indentureship that brought over one hundred thousand Chinese labourers to Cuban sugar plantations in the mid-nineteenth century, where they toiled alongside African slaves. In 1874, the Chinese government sent a commission of enquiry to Cuba to investigate complaints of brutal treatment. The commissioners collected testimonies from 2,841 “coolies”; Yun engages this remarkable archive in “a deep and lengthy process of disclosure, one of unfixing entrenched binaries: slave versus free, black versus white, East versus West, Pacific versus Atlantic.”

Caribbean Migration to Western Europe and the United States: Essays on Incorporation, Identity, and Citizenship, ed. Margarita Cervantes-Rodríguez, Ramón Grosfoguel, and Eric Mielants (Temple University Press, ISBN 978-1- 59213-954-5, 261 pp), a collection of data-rich papers, originally presented at a conference in Paris in 2002, contributing to the burgeoning field of Caribbean migration and diaspora studies. The authors — sociologists and anthropologists — focus on the Hispanic, French, and Dutch Caribbean as they examine “issues pertaining to incorporation, citizenship, and identity formation among immigrants who move between a geopolitically strategic, albeit subordinated, area of the world and core zones.”

Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, by Michael E. Veal (Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0- 8195-6572-5, 338 pp), a historical analysis of the evolution of Jamaican dub which argues that “the production style of Jamaican music has helped transform the sound and structure of world popular music.” Veal believes that “the sounds and techniques of classic dub,” which developed in Kingston recording studios in the 1970s and 80s, “have been stylistically absorbed into the various genres of global electronic popular music.” He examines the specific styles and techniques of individual Jamaican sound engineers like “Scratch” Perry and “King Tubby” Ruddock, situates dub in the wider continuum of Jamaican popular music, and claims it as a vital ancestor of contemporary “remix culture.”

A History of the Turks and Caicos Islands, ed. Carlton Mills (Macmillan Caribbean, ISBN 978-1-4050-9894-6, 300 pp), a useful reference book compiled by a former minister of education, covering the landscape, flora, fauna, and political and social history of these northern Caribbean islands. More than a dozen authors contribute chapters on subjects including slavery and shipwrecks, and Mills himself wrote “The Road Ahead: The Constitutional Debate”; that road seems recently to have doubled back on itself, after the British authorities suspended the territory’s internal self-government and began an investigation into alleged corruption by Premier Michael Misick.


The Caribbean Review of Books, February 2009