Ah...June. The time of year when Bookstagrammers put away spring-themed novels and delve into stories set among the volcanoes, rivers and gullies of the islands between North and South America. Spearheaded by its fearless leader Cindy Allman, Read Caribbean ties into National Caribbean Heritage month and focuses on the literary works that define and reflect the various cultures that make up our eclectic region. This year's Read Caribbean Month promises to be especially exciting with lots of author interviews, giveaways and lots more. Read Caribbean will of course feature classics such as A House for Mr. Biswas and In the Castle of My Skin but will also include contemporary new writers who are contributing handsomely to the art form.
I've curated a list of my favourite island books (thus far) and some that I'm looking forward to reading. Caribbean books are available in every genre and many of the ones I picked have received rave reviews and won awards, so feel free to grab one (or a few) of these great books. To make it easier to choose, I've segmented them into categories: Romance, Children & Middle Grade, Literary Fiction and Non-Fiction.
First up...Go Deep by Rilzy Adams. Set on the island of Antigua, this steamy Amazon best-seller won a coveted 2021 Ripped Bodice Award and has been racking up accolades ever since its incredible debut. If you're looking for a juicy friends-to-lovers romance, this one is for you.
Sweet Hand by N.G Peltier is a new release fresh out of Trinidad & Tobago. Pastry chef Cherisse is forced to work with Keiran during her sister's wedding. They've always butted heads, but can they figure out how to survive the countdown to the wedding day after a rainy night of bedroom fun?
A World War II romance written by a Guyanese author? Sign me up! As a lover of historical fiction, this one is definitely on my TBR. The Soldier's Girl by Sharon Maas has been hailed as "perfect for fans of The Letter by Kathryn Hughes, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr."
The Lettuce Pals by Chloe Christina is an adorable interactive series about friendship, the environment and healthy eating habits. Created by a 12 year old Barbadian illustrator, this set of books was given an enthusiastic thumbs up by scores of Barbadian children when it was launched at select primary schools. I love the fun characters and memorable stories and I bet that The Lettuce Pals will become your child's new favourite series too.
When Life Gives You Mangoes has been featured by Oprah Magazine and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize so you already know it's an amazing book. Jamaican author Kereen Getten's story about a little girl who doesn't remember the last summer and finds the courage to face the truth even in the darkest storm has been hailed as an excellent discussion book to tackle diversity.
I've already downloaded Musical Youth by Joanne Hillhouse and I'm sure it will live up to all of the Bookstagram hype. Caribbean Beat says "There are no missteps in this tender coming-of-age romance" so of course I'm eager to check this one out.
I read Til the Well Runs Dry in January 2021 and it has stayed with me. This Trinidadian book is sharp, smart and magnificently done. Based on her own family's story, author Lauren Francis-Sharma spins the yarn as though she were there first-hand instead of having heard it from her grandmother. While it feels like two books set in one due to the length, this book captivated me with its rich prose.
Krik Krak is set in Haiti and this too is an epic book. I have the 20th anniversary edition of this short story anthology and I enjoyed the stories set during Haitian wars. Edwidge Danticat is a gifted writer and I'm sure you'll enjoy this.
Annie John by Jamaica Kinkaid was one of the books I read in 2020 that made me wonder why I took so long to get around to this doyenne of Caribbean literature's work. This Antiguan classic must take its rightful place on your shelf so please do that as soon as you can.
Lauren Francis-Sharma delivers a stunning novel for Read Caribbean. Til the Well Runs Dry is a great Caribbean book.
Books by Callie Browning
Starting in Trinidad and Tobago before it crisscrosses North America, Beneath my Smile by Anna Bella is a raw and honest memoir about the heart-wrenching accounts of her life. Through child birth and sexual abuse, this book is facing the most terrible odds but finding a way out of them by following the soul's truest melody.
Murders That Shocked Barbados is the perfect read for true crime buffs who want a gritty read. Criminologist Kim Ramsay goes as far back as 1933, cataloguing some of the island's most horrific crimes.
The First Black Slave Society by Prof. Hillary Beckles examines Barbados' history, going beyond the surface to examine how a small island became Britain's first 'manufactured black society'. The disposable workforce employed was at the root of the massive fortunes which secured Britain's place as an imperial superpower.
Both of my books are also great choices for Read Caribbean. The Girl with the Hazel Eyes is a multi-award winning book that's been featured by Oprah Magazine and shortlisted for the JAAWP Writer's Prize. When exiled author, Susan Taylor, hires an amateur writer from Barbados to pen her biography, the young woman realizes there's more to Susan's story than meets the eye.
My follow up novel, The Vanishing Girls is getting rave reviews and features a shocking Easter Egg at the end (no spoilers from me, though!) When a lonely mortician starts to fall for his mysterious assistant that he hires in the dead of night, he gets more than he's bargained for. As a serial killer terrorizes the island, they soon come to realize that not only might they be attracted to each other, but they have to hurry to find the serial killer before they run out of time. Loosely based on the true events of Barbados' only serial killer, The Vanishing Girls is a romantic suspense filled with memorable characters and jaw-dropping scenes.