10 Contemporary Caribbean books to read

Feature image credit: @bookofcinz

The Caribbean is known for its beautiful beaches, pulsating music, and delicious food; these are the images that are marketed to the world. If you have never visited the Caribbean you may think that all we have to offer are beautiful beaches, but if you pick up on these books below you will get refreshing insights to contemporary life in the Caribbean. These books discuss life in the Caribbean, from how we love, our relationships, our history, our culture, and how we deal with trauma and trials. If you’ve always wanted to get a more nuanced look into contemporary Caribbean life, these books should be on your list.

How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Released in 2018, How To Love A Jamaican is Alexia Arthurs love letter to Jamaica and Jamaicans. This book is a collection of 11 short stories that perfectly captures Jamaica, Jamaican life, culture, history sprinkled with a bit of folklore. Each story is filled with characters who you are either rooting for or screaming at. The book gives a deep dive into themes of love, immigration, mental health, and mother daughter relationships. The writing is sharp and unforgettable!


Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Set in the Dominican Republic and New York, Elizabeth Acevedo’s third novel takes us into the world of Camino and Yahaira Rios’ lives as they find out about the death of their father. Clap When You Land was inspired by the true events that happened in 2001 when flight AA587 crashed in Queens, killing 260 people. More than 90% of the passengers on flight AA587 were of Dominican descent. If you are looking for an engaging young adult read, and if you are a fan of Elizabeth Acevedo, this book is what you are looking for.


Where There Are Monsters by Breanne Mc Ivor

Breanne McIvor offers a new and refreshing look into life in Trinidad and Tobago with her collection of short stories, Where There Are Monsters. The stories in this collection examine the monsters that are outside and the ones who live inside of us. If you are looking to read modern twists on local folklore this is your go-to book. Packed with pore raising stories, Where There Are Monsters will get under your skin and stay there.


Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy is Nicole Dennis-Benn’s sophomore novel that is set in Jamaica and the US; it offers us a look into what happens when a woman puts herself first. The book explores themes such as motherhood, religion, mother-daughter relationship, immigration, and identity. Nicole Dennis-Benn, through her character Patsy, offers readers a look into what happens when a woman decides to put herself first.


The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Phaedra and her older sister Dionne are sent to live with their Grandmother in Bird Hill, Barbados as their mother is unable to take care of them because of mental health issues. Phaedra and Dionne are thrust into the life of their very strong Grandmother Hyacinth, who is a midwife and dabbles in Obeah. Set in beautiful Barbados, this book explores themes of community, coming-of-age, identity, and family history. This is the perfect summer read!


Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside is a strong collection of stories filled with complex characters (all dealing with major issues) trying to navigate life with Haiti often being at the centre of the narrative. I am such a fan of Danticat’s writing, and I found myself being immersed in this collection and the lives of the people represented on the pages. Danticat knows Haiti, and I know when I pick up her book, I will be longing for a place I have never visited. The stories explore immigration, family life, relationships, poverty, courage and shame. These stories are explored in such a real and vulnerable way.


The Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital

This debut novel by Krystal Sital unpacks so many issues that Caribbean Women face, particularly focusing on the relationship between mothers and grandmothers. The book is a mix of memoir and biography for Krystal, her Mom and her Grandmother. When Krystal’s Grandfather accidentally falls and is rushed to the hospital, there seems to be no urgency by her Grandmother in trying to save her husband’s life. When Krystal asks her Mom, “Why Grandma doesn’t want Grandpa to live?” the secrets that were kept for generations start unravelling.


Trinidead by Elena Molchanova

In Elena Molchanova’s debut novel, Trinidead we meet British academic Harvey Pryce who recently got divorced from his loveless marriage and is looking to start over somewhere new- away from the London weather. He was offered a job as a lecturer at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago and that is how he ended up on an island he hardly knows, preparing to start a new life. This book is a thrilling look at what happens when you relocate to leave the past behind but trouble comes knocking.


Decolonial Daughter: Letters From a Black Woman to Her European Son by Lesley-Ann Brown

Lesley-Ann Brown writes that unlearning is a tenet of decolonization, which is why she wrote this book for her biracial son so that he can have the knowledge of who came before him and a narrative he can use to navigate his life. Lesley-Ann Brown was born in Brooklyn and spent some of her formative years in Trinidad and Tobago. Decolonial Daughter is her debut non-fiction book. The effects of colonialism is still very present in the Caribbean, and Brown unpacks a lot of it in her novel.


One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

Caroline Mackenzie’s recently released debut novel One Year of Ugly is about the Palacio family, who are originally from Venezuela but fled the country to start a new life in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The family finds out that Aunt Celia lied about the legality of their immigration documents; added to this, Aunt Celia owes a lot of money to a local criminal called Ugly and her debt is now passed on to them. Ugly lets the Palacio family know in no uncertain terms that in order to pay off their debt, they will have to do what he requires or else…. Packed with adventure, comedy and romance, this book will leave you feeling satisfied!

*Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. These picks are editorially selected, but if you purchase, She Reads may get something in return. This does not impact your purchase price. We are a participant in the Bookshop Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Bookshop.org while simultaneously supporting local bookstores. We suggest supporting your local bookstore or one of these black-owned bookstores.

Cindy Allman

Cindy Allman is a Caribbean Girl Reading the World. A Jamaican living in Trinidad & Tobago, she is a Book Blogger, Book Club Host, Bookstagrammer and founder of the #ReadCaribbean initiative. She hopes to inspire you to read, read widely and read Caribbean. Follow her at www.bookofcinz.com or @bookofcinz on Twitter and Instagram.

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