Caribbean Authors

To kick off my regional reading lists, I’ve put together this list of authors from Caribbean countries / of Caribbean descent.

If you’ve followed me this far, you’ll know that I love diverse contemporary and historical character driven novels, particularly featuring women and social issues. So, I’ve scoured the internet to find a range of brilliant books that showcase some of the best authors that I’ve read and, more importantly, want to read.

I’m shamefully bad at languages so I’ve selected books written in English or available in English translations. I’m aiming to read at least one author from each country. If you think you have similar taste in books to me and want to join in, let me know on Instagram and Twitter @aminasbookshelf.

Antigua & Barbuda

Oh Gad! By Joanne C.Hillhouse

Nikki Baltimore was born in Antigua but grew up with her dad in the United States. With each year, she’s grown further apart from her mother and maternal siblings, potters in rural Antigua until her mother’s funeral brings Nikki back to the island.

Genre/Themes: Coming of Age, Political Instability

Unburnable by Marie-Elena John

The narrative of family, betrayal, vengeance, and murder follows a fictional character named Lillian Baptiste as she is willed back to her island home of Dominica from Washington, D.C. to finally settle her past.

Genre/Themes: Detective, Thriller

Bahamas

Back to Life by Wendy Coakley-Thompson

Set in 1989 New Jersey, it tells the story of the turbulent interracial relationship of Lisa, who is Black, and Marc, who is Italian-American.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, romance,

A Shift in the Light by Patricia Glinton-Meicholas

A Shift in the Light is an expression of cultural nationalism, offering a chronology of a Bahamian family and a socio-political history spanning the last half century.

Genre / Themes: Historical fiction, cultural identity

Barbados

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

After their mother can no longer care for them, young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados to live with their grandmother Hyacinth.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, coming of age

Tell My Mother I Gone to Cuba by Sharon Milagro Marshall

Stories of Early Twentieth-Century Migration from Barbados is their story. The migrants were citizens of the British Empire, and their ill-treatment in Cuba led to a diplomatic tiff between British and Cuban authorities.

Genre/Themes: Nonfiction, immigration

Tracing Ja Ja by Anthony Kellman

Tracing Ja Ja is about the emerging love between an ailing African king in exile and his Barbadian servant Becka.

Genre/Themes: Historical fiction

Belize

Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell

Set in Belize, this book is the record of a few months in the life of Beka and her family. The story is built around Beka’s victory over her habit of lying and her relationship with her friend Toycie.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, coming of age

Cuba

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

The book chronicles Cesar, an aged musician, in his last hours as he sits in a seedy hotel room, drinking and listening to recordings made by his band, the Mambo Kings.

Genre/Themes: Classic, Immigration (Pulitzer winner)

The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier

Set in Haiti during the struggles for independence in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Genre/Themes: Classic, historical fiction

Everyone Leaves by Wendy Guerra

A woman’s coming of age in Cuba, facing privation, poverty and a dysfunctional family.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, coming of age

Dominica

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

A feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre, describing the background to Mr. Rochester’s marriage from the point-of-view of his mad wife Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress.

Genre/Themes: Classic, mental health, romance

Dominican Republic

How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

The story spans more than thirty years in the lives of four sisters, beginning with their adult lives in the United States and ending with their childhood in the Dominican Republic, a country from which their family was forced to flee due to the father’s opposition to Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s dictatorship.

Genre/Themes: Coming of age, political instability, family dynamics

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, coming of age, romance

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Story of a teenage illegal migrant from the Dominican Republic who moves to New York in 1960’s with her troubling, older husband.

Genre/Themes: Immigration, family dynamics, abuse

Star rating: Current read

Grenada

White Spice by D.E.Ambrose

A single drug deal gone wrong awakens the resolve of the government of Grenada to tackle the drug trade head-on.

Genre/Themes: Detective, thriller

Guadeloupe

Segu by Maryse Conde

The year is 1797, and the kingdom of Segu is flourishing, fed by the wealth of its noblemen and the power of its warriors. But from the east comes a new religion, Islam, and from the West, the slave trade.

Genre/Theme: Historical fiction, slavery, religion

Star Rating: Five stars

Guyana

Frangipani House by Beryl Gilroy

Set in an old person’s home in Guyana, it reflects one of Gilroy’s professional concerns: the position of ethnic minority elders and her persistent emphasis on the drive for human freedom.

Genre/Theme: Aging, loneliness,

Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo

Set in 1970’s Guyana, told in the voice of a girl as she moves from childhood into adolescence, Buxton Spice is the story the town of Tamarind Grove: its eccentric families, its sweeping joys, and its sudden tragedies.

Genre/Themes: Coming of age, family dynamics

Haiti

The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat

Set in the Dominican Republic in the 1930s, a young Haitian girl named Amabelle Desir goes on a journey in pursuit of her lover while Haiitian distrust of the Dominican government grows.

Genre/Themes: Coming of age, family dynamics

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

A retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

Genre/Themes: Coming of age, contemporary, young adult

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street is about Fabiola Toussaint who immigrates to America with her mother from Haiti, but upon arrival, her mother is detained at customs.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, young adult

Jamaica

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

The story of Lilith, a beautiful young woman born during the 18th century on a Jamaican sugar plantation.

Genre/Themes: Historical fiction, slavery

Star rating: Four stars

Queenie by Candice Carty-William

The life and loves of Queenie Jenkins, a vibrant, troubled 25-year-old Jamaican Brit who is not having a very good year.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, romance, social issues

Puerto Rico

America’s Dream by Esmerelda Santiago

It’s 1996, and América Gonzalez is a hotel housekeeper on Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. When América is offered the chance to work as a live-in housekeeper and nanny for a family in Westchester, New York, she takes it as a sign to finally make the escape she’s been longing for. 

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, romance, immigration

Our Lady of the Night by Mayra Santos-Febres

Born into poverty and then abandoned by her mother, Isabel “La Negra” Luberza blossoms into a supremely sensual young woman obsessed with attaining aristocratic status.

Genre/Themes: Historical fiction

Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That role brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary, coming of age

Trinidad & Tobago

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

The book details the life of West Indians in post-World War II London.

Genre/Themes: Classic, immigration, historical fiction, windrush generation

Star Rating: Five stars

De Rightest Place by Barbara Jenkins

Indira Gabriel, recently abandoned by her lover, embarks on a project to reinvigorate a dilapidated bar into something special.

Genre/Themes: Contemporary

St Kitts and Nevis

A Distant Shore by Caryl Philips

Dorothy is a retired schoolteacher who has recently moved to a housing estate in a small village. Solomon is a night-watchman, an immigrant from an unnamed country in Africa. Each is desperate for love. And yet each harbours secrets that may make attaining it impossible.

Genre/Themes: Romance, interracial relationships (Commonwealth Writers Prize)

Only God Can Make A Tree by Betram Roach

Adrian is the son of a black Caribbean woman and an Irish immigrant father, and is blessed with the pale skin and European features to allow him social mobility in the rigidly hierarchical society of twentieth-century Caribbean life.

Genre/Themes: Historical fiction

St Lucia

Omeros by Derek Walcott

A retelling of the Odyssey and Trojan War, featuring Achille and Hector – two fishermen in St Lucia, and the housegirl they both love, Helen.

Genre/Themes: Classic, Epic Poetry (Nobel Prize Winner)

Star Rating: Five Stars

Mini Review: I wrote my BA dissertation (coming to terms with the past; metaphor, metapoetics and memory in the Odyssey and Omeros) on this extraordinary epic poem. It’s not an easy read, but well worth it if you love ancient history.

St Vincent & the Grenadines

The Moon is Following by Cecil Browne

A collection of short stories about life in the Caribbean in the seventies featuring a host of characters: some ambitious, some hopelessly naive, all determined to make a name for themselves in the world.

Genre/Themes: Historical fiction

Suriname

The Cost of Sugar by Cynthia McLeod

The historical story of Jewish family planters and their slaves in Suriname.

Genre/Themes: Slavery, prejudice, anti-Semitism, historical fiction