June is National Caribbean-American Heritage Month

Browse Mercer County Library’s collection of works by several renowned Caribbean-American writers, including:

Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers At Home and Abroad
Edited by Elizabeth Nunez and Jennifer Sparrow
This anthology gathers the major and emerging women fiction writers from the Caribbean, including Dionne Brand, Michelle Cliff, Merle Collins, Edwidge Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid, Paule Marshall, and Pauline Melville. Similar themes grace their stories of life at home and abroad. In some, the sexual exploitation of Caribbean girls and women becomes a metaphor for neocolonialism, a biting rejoinder to enticing travel brochures that depict the Caribbean as a tropical playground and encourage Americans to "make it your own." Other tales deal with the sad legacy of colonial history and the ways in which race, skin color, and class complicate relationships between men and women, parents and children.

But whether writing about childhood or adulthood, life in the islands or life abroad, the writers express their particular concerns with a passion that comes from lived experience, and with a love of place and a feminist sensibility that are accessible to new readers of Caribbean literature as well as to an academic audience. "What matters is how well we have told our tale, how well we have drawn pictures of the people and places we write about, " Nunez says. This anthology makes those pictures come alive.

Mr. Potter
By Jamaica Kinkaid

Jamaica Kincaid’s first obsession, the island of Antigua, comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi chauffeur who makes his living along the roads that pass through the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines squarely overhead, the ocean lies on every side, and suppressed passion fills the air.
Ignoring the legacy of his father, a poor fisherman, and his mother, who committed suicide, Mr. Potter struggles to live at ease amid his surroundings: to purchase a car, to have girlfriends, and to shake off the encumbrance of his daughters—one of whom will return to Antigua after he dies and tell his story with equal measures of distance and sympathy.

In Mr. Potter, Kincaid breathes life into a figure unlike any other in contemporary fiction, an individual consciousness emerging gloriously out of an unexamined life

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
By Junot Diaz
Winner of the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, for Fiction 
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú – the curse that has haunted the Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican–American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

Wide Sargasso Sea
By Jean Rhys
Set against the lush backdrop of Jamaica in the 1830s, Jean Rhys' late, literary masterpiece was inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.  The Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway, born into an oppressive, colonialist society, meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent sensuality and beauty. After their marriage the rumor mill begins to churn, turning her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven mad.

Saving the World
By Julia Alvarez
Latina novelist Alma Huebner is suffering from writer's block and is years past the completion date for yet another of her bestselling family sagas. Her husband, Richard, works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to the health and prosperity of developing countries and wants her help on an extended AIDS assignment in the Dominican Republic. But Alma begs off joining him: the publisher is breathing down her neck. She promises to work hard and follow him a bit later. The truth is that Alma is seriously sidetracked by a story she has stumbled across. It's the story of a much earlier medical do-gooder, Spaniard Francisco Xavier Balmis, who in 1803 undertook to vaccinate the populations of Spain's American colonies against smallpox. To do this, he required live "carriers" of the vaccine. Of greater interest to Alma is Isabel Sendales y Gómez, director of La Casa de Expósitos, who was asked to select twenty-two orphan boys to be the vaccine carriers.  Her strength and courage inspire Alma, who finds herself becoming obsessed with the details of Isabel's adventures.

"In Saving the World, Julia Alvarez, author of perennial bestsellers, takes us into the worlds of "two women living two centuries apart [who] each face 'a crisis of the soul' when their fates are tied to idealistic men" (Publishers Weekly).

“Artfully braids together the stories of two women separated by 200 years. . . .Beautifully written."—Chicago Sun-Times

“Saving the World is wise and spellbinding as it ponders the difficulty of the human condition in any era, and the ways the actions and decisions of a few individuals can make things better or worse.”— Minneapolis Star Tribune

Half a Life
V.S. Naipaul
This is the story of Willie Chandran, whose father, heeding the call of Mahatma Gandhi, turned his back on his brahmin heritage and married a woman of low caste -- a disastrous union he would live to regret, as he would the children that issued from it. When Willie reaches manhood, his flight from the travails of his mixed birth takes him from India to London, where, in the shabby haunts of immigrants and literary bohemians of the 1950s, he contrives a new identity. This is what happens as he tries to defeat self-doubt in sexual adventures and in the struggle to become a writer -- strivings that bring him to the brink of exhaustion, from which he is rescued, to his amazement, only by the love of a good woman. And this is what happens when he returns with her -- carried along, really -- to her home in Africa, to live, until the last doomed days of colonialism, yet another life not his own.

In a luminous narrative that takes readers across three continents, Naipaul explores his great theme of inheritance with an intimacy and directness unsurpassed in his extraordinary body of work. And even as he lays bare the bitter comical ironies of assumed identities, he gives us a poignant spectacle of the enervation peculiar to a borrowed life. In one man’s determined refusal of what he has been given to be, Naipaul reveals the way of all our experience. As Willie comes to see, “Everything goes on a bias. The world should stop, but it goes on.” A masterpiece of economy and emotional nuance, Half a Life is an indelible feat of the imagination.

- Lisa S.


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