Caribbean Bookshelf (Summer 1993)

Some new and recent books about the Caribbean


Satellite City and other stories

Alecia McKenzie (Longman Caribbean Writers, 1992)

This is a first collection of stories by one of the most interesting of the new generation of Caribbean writers. Born in Jamaica, McKenzie has worked in journalism in the United States and now teaches in Belgium. But her stories are Caribbean through and through, and her themes are contemporary: generation conflict, male-female relationships, wealth and poverty, language and politics. The stories are sharp, thought-provoking, passionate and often funny; and they are always a good read.

Disappearance

David Dabydeen (Martin Secker & Warburg, 1993)

This is a second novel from the Guyanese poet David Dabydeen, who teaches at Warwick University: it’s a sad tale, cleverly constructed and full of strange echoes and ironies. A young Guyanese engineer is sent to help save a village that sits on a crumbling cliff on England’s south coast (the new world returning to shore up the old). Staying with an elderly English lady who has spent time in Africa and found it hard to fit back into England, he starts to understand the maelstrom of small passions and jealousies, resentments and broken dreams, that lie beneath the peaceful surface of an English village. And he learns too that the terrible loneliness of the outsider in the end spares nobody.

And I remember many things

Christine Barrow (ed.) (lan Randle Publishers, Kingston, Jamaica, 1992)

This is a collection of Caribbean folklore: stories, memories, sayings, legends, fables, customs from generations now gone. They are slight but resonant, sensitively laid out almost like a Victorian children’s book with subtle drawings by Wendy Donawa. The editor explains: “Caribbean children today are growing up in a world of television, fast foods and ready-mades — a world dramatically different from that of their grandparents. The purpose of this collection is to preserve some of their heritage for them and for the generations yet unborn.

Houses of Leaders

Dr Henry Fraser and Warren Alleyne (Carib Publicity Co., Barbados, 1991)

Barbados is full of grand and stately homes, many of which are accessible to visitors under the Barbados National Trust programme. But this slim paperback is by the president of the National Trust (and a leading author on Barbadian heritage, including the handsome 1990 volume Treasures of Barbados published by Macmillan) and the Trust’s “councillor emeritus” and a leading writer on Barbadian history; it concentrates on ten distinguished Barbadians and the houses most closely associated with them. The houses include those of Errol Barrow (The Garden in St Lucy), Sir Grantley Adams (Tyrol Cot, on Spooner’s Hill in St Michael), Sir Frank Worrell (an improved chattel house on Pavilion Road next to the Empire cricket ground), Frank Collymore (Woodville), and Government House, where the Governor General (currently Dame Nita Barrow) lives. The profiles were originally written for the New Bajan magazine for the 25th anniversary of Barbados’s independence.

Caribbean and African Cookery

Rosamund Grant (lan Randle Publishers, Kingston, Jamaica)

The fact that this book has a foreword by the American writer Maya Angelou immediately marks it out from the mountain of Caribbean cookbooks. More than that, it gives an interesting African dimension to Caribbean kitchen traditions, and includes chatty pages on things like Caribbean Christmas and memories of Guyana alongside the recipes, illustrated with attractive line drawings as well as colour photographs. First published by Grub Street Press in England in 1988, the book is now reissued by the enterprising lan Randle imprint in Jamaica.