It’s vacation time at SWAN and we’re in a rush to pack and get going. But below are five carefully selected books and one journal that will definitely be in our hand luggage. They are listed in no particular order.
Dimitry Elias Léger's God Loves Haiti has been called a “wonderful book” by several readers that we trust. This first novel by the Haitian-born, France-based writer traces the story of three lovers in Port-au-Prince and the “challenges they face readjusting to life after an earthquake devastates their city”. According to publishers Harper Collins, God Loves Haiti is an homage to a lost time and city, and to the people who embody it.
One just has to hear Caryl Phillips read an excerpt from his latest book to become hooked on the story, and we had that privilege recently in Belgium at a conference on "madness in Caribbean Literature". The Lost Child (One World) is partly a prequel to, or a “dialogue with” Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. It moves between time and space to tell the story of a Heathcliff-type lost child as well as the “lost” descendants of enslaved Africans. The Independent newspaper said the novel is also “a more familiar story of marriages gone wrong and of children who must find their own way in the world”. The St. Kitts-born Phillips, who grew up in England, has won many awards for his work, which includes Crossing the River, A Distant Shore and Dancing in the Dark.
For those who are fluent in French and want to practice the language over the summer, a great way would be to read Hemley Boum’s Les maquisards. This is the Paris-based, Cameroonian writer’s third novel, and it is a compelling read, shining a light on little-known aspects of the fight for Cameroon's independence. The story is told as a family saga, without sentimentality or beatification of the characters, as the author tries to clarify the past to explain the present. Boum’s French publisher Sylvie Darreau, director of the independent compnay La Cheminante, calls the book “a lighthouse in the night of memory”.
Moving away from novels, Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision: Essays and Prophecies also comes highly praised. The Jamaican poet, essayist, novelist and all-round writer won the prestigious Forward prize for the best poetry collection of 2014 for his work The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way To Zion; but he told SWAN that he feels most “revealed” writing essays. Many of these pieces will have you laughing out loud at the sharp and witty observations because Miller has the keenest of eyes - able to spot foible and foolishness from afar. (Peepal Tree Press)
Tansy E. Hoskins is a British journalist and activist who describes the failings of the fashion and retail apparel industry in Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion (Pluto Press). With summer being a time for holiday shopping - adding to the coffers of the trillion-dollar industry - this is a good book to remind one to buy ethically. To paraphrase Hoskins: think, and read, before you buy. For more about this book and the ethical fashion movement, see: http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/ethical-fashion-champions-marginalised-artisans-from-south/
Finally, the Spring 2013 issue of the Journal of Caribbean Literatures arrived in the mail this summer, two years after it was expected. But it has been worth the wait. Edited by Dr. Maurice Lee and Aaron Penn, the journal comprises scholarly essays as well as fiction, poetry and book reviews. “In literature, there are a surprising number of universal themes, stemming from shared experiences that ignore human boundaries,” says Penn in his introduction. “We all share these basic experiences, and we all can see the reflections of these themes in [other] cultures.” A good reminder when we travel.