Caribbean Bookshelf (Spring 1992)

New and recent books about the Caribbean


A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago

by Richard ffrench (Cornell University Press 1991)

This is a revised and updated version of Richard ffrench’s definitive guide to Trinidad and Tobago’s birds, more than 430 species including nearly all the South American families. Trinidad and Tobago has long been recognised in the ornithological world as a rewarding site, and this is the classic book for anyone making the trip. Richard ffrench lived in Trinidad for many years, and is now based in England, leading expeditions to the Caribbean area. His book, now in paperback, is a methodical guide to individual species and includes valuable background material about the country, the environment and bird behaviour.

Caribbean Islands Handbook 1992

eds. Ben Box and Sarah Cameron (Trade and Travel Publications 1991)

This annual guide to the Caribbean islands has been widely praised for its wealth of useful detail and the extensive annual updating it goes through. Its enthusiasts were rewarded last year when the 1991 edition won the Thomas Cook Best Travel Guide Book Award for the year, the leading prize in the world for travel guides. “High quality stuff,” the judges reported, “clear concise writing.” The book covers the entire region, including Bermuda and the Bahamas, and packs an astonishing amount of information into a size which is still easy to carry around. The 1992 edition is highly recommended.

The Muslimeen Grab for Power

by Dr Selwyn Ryan (Imprint Caribbean, Port of Spain 1991)

The coup attempt that startled Trinidad and Tobago and indeed the world in July 1990 has received little serious analysis. This book, by a leading political scientist in Trinidad and Tobago, at last provides some. It traces the long tradition of political upheaval in Trinidad, and examines the African Muslim presence in the Caribbean and its relationship with Trinidad and Tobago’s Indian community. It takes a close look at the leader of the coup attempt, Yasin Abu Bakr, and the reasons for his actions, in which brutality and courtesy, courage and poor planning were all combined. It examines the theory that Abu Bakr seriously expected to establish an Islamic state, and it looks at the evidence for a Libyan connection. The result is essential reading for anyone interested in Trinidad and Tobago or in the broader implications of the coup attempt for the Caribbean.

Sonny Jim of Sandy Point

by S.B. Jones-Hendrickson (Eastern Caribbean Institute 1991)

This is a fictionalised account of growing up in St Kitts’s Sandy Point in the fifties and sixties, and is personal, honest, sensitive and funny all at once. Anyone who knows the area will recognise the affectionate evocation of the details of island life and language. The author is an economist, now at the University of the Virgin Islands in St Croix; the book can be obtained from the Eastern Caribbean Institute, Box 1338, Frederiksted, US Virgin Islands 00841.

The Turks and Caicos Islands: Lands of Discovery

by Amelia Smithers (Macmillan 1990)

Dominica: Isle of Adventure

By Lennox Honychurch (Macmillan 1991)

Trinidad and Tobago: an Introduction and Guide

by Jeremy Taylor (Macmillan 1991)

These are recent additions to the Macmillan Caribbean Guides series. The Turks and Caicos book is the only guide devoted to those islands, the Dominica book is the only guide of its sort in the market, and the Trinidad and Tobago book is a revised edition of the 1986 Masquerade. These Macmillan guides are part practical guidebook, part exploration of history and culture and society. They are now appearing in a standard format, with plenty of large colour pictures; books on many of the other islands are already on the shelves.

The Jamaican People 1880-1902

By Panick Bryan (Macmillan 1991)

Europe and the Caribbean

ed. Paul Sutton (Macmillan 1990)

These are recent additions to the Warwick University Caribbean Studies series, serious and detailed examinations of Caribbean issues. The Jamaica book covers a period that has been little described, after emancipation and before adult suffrage, and provides valuable new insight into the island’s history and development. The links between Europe and the Caribbean go back centuries, of course, but the second book, a collection of essays on various related issues, is a useful guide to the sort of changes that must take place in the relationship with the advent of Europe’s single market at the end of this year.

The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of Central America and the Caribbean

eds. Phil Gunson, Greg Chamberlain, Andrew Thompson (Routledge 1991)

This is a small encyclopaedia of regional politics, covering all the major political personalities, parties, movements and events in an area famous for the turbulence and diversity of political life. It is a useful reference book for anyone writing about the region or charting a way through the minefields of political history. All the basic background is here, from the Abaco secessionist movement to Benjamin Zeledon, the Nicaraguan revolutionary hero.

Creation Fire

ed. Ramabai Espinet (Sister Vision Press, Toronto, 1990)

This is an astonishing outpouring of poetry, much of it passionate and even angry, by Caribbean women. Produced by CAFRA (the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action), it ranges across the entire region and across all borders of race, class and language. Many Caribbean readers who would be hard put to it to name one Caribbean female poet should have a look at the very wide range of writers represented here and the powerful voice with which they speak.

The Lucayans

by Sandra Riley, with paintings by Alton Lowe (Macmillan 1991)

This year, as you must have noticed, is the anniversary year, five centuries since Columbus set foot in the Caribbean. Then, he was greeted by Lucayan Indians; within fifteen years they had been wiped out. Hence the scepticism with which the anniversary is being treated in some quarters, This book attempts, admirably, to look back at that fatal encounter and understand it from both points of view. The style is poetic, but there is plenty of historical explanation. One good thing about this year’s anniversary is that it might draw more attention to the people who actually lived in the Caribbean when Columbus arrived, and who are virtually extinct. This book should help.