• Gabby Womack

Caribbean Book Recommendations


June was Caribbean American Heritage Month, as well as Pride Month. I didn't have the capacity to put this list together last month so I'm doing it now because it's never too late to share book lists!


This list is divided similarly to my past recommendations with beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections. All of the authors are Caribbean/West Indian or Caribbean American. This is not an exhaustive list! Some of these are books I have read and/or others have recommended. Please share your book recommendations in the comments!


For more information you can check out the following resources:

Book Instagrammers to follow for more:


- Beginner -


Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Country: Haiti & US

Genre: Teen/Young Adult Fiction

Themes: growing up, visiting home, family, dementia, Haitian history, spirituality, lore

Description:

"Co-written by sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite, and told in epistolary style through letters, articles, emails, and diary entries, this exceptional debut novel captures a sparkling new voice and irrepressible heroine in a celebration of storytelling sure to thrill fans of Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi and Jenna Evans Welch!

-

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…


You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.


Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I'm spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a "spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.


All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.


You know, typical drama. But it's nothing I can't handle." - TheStoryGraph


Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Country: US & Dominican Republic

Genre: Teen/Young Adult Fiction

Themes: grief, unknown family, sapphic/queer love, immigration

Description:

"Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people...


In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal's office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.


Separated by distance - and Papi's secrets - the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they've lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.


Papi's death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive." - TheStoryGraph


Note: I recommend everything Acevedo has written!


History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

A recommendation by @bookdragon217

Country/Ethnicity: US - Puerto Rican

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Themes: mental illness, grief, gay/LGBTQ+

Description:

"When Griffin's first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he's been imagining for himself has gone far off course.


To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin's downward spiral continues. He's losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he's been keeping are tearing him apart.


If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life." - TheStoryGraph




- Intermediate -


The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Country: Trinidad and US

Genre: Teen/Young Adult Fiction

Themes: starting new, immigration, sapphic/queer love, anti-lgbtq views, divorced parents, spirituality

Description:

"Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.


Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.


Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.


Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.


Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars." - TheStoryGraph


The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle

Country: Cuba

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Themes: enslavement, abolition, Cuban history, arranged marriage

Description:

“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.”


Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute." - TheStoryGraph


Educator’s Guide: The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Vamos a Leer




- Advanced -


A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James


A recommendation by @bookdragon217

Country: Jamaica and US

Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: assassination, mystery, politics, music

Description:

"On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven gunmen stormed the singer's house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but much has been whispered, gossiped and sung about in the streets of West Kingston. Rumors abound regarding the assassins' fates, and there are suspicions that the attack was politically motivated.


A Brief History of Seven Killings delves deep into that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica's history and beyond. James deftly chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters - gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents, even ghosts - over the course of thirty years as they roam the streets of 1970s Kingston, dominate the crack houses of 1980s New York, and ultimately reemerge into the radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Along the way, they learn that evil does indeed cast long shadows, that justice and retribution are inextricably linked, and that no one can truly escape his fate.


Gripping and inventive, shocking and irresistible, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a mesmerizing modern classic of power, mystery, and insight." - TheStoryGraph


Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma

Countries: Trinidad & Tobago, US

Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: marriage, immigration, multiculturalism, au pair, power, mystery

Description:

"A multigenerational, multicultural saga that sweeps from the 1940s through the 1960s in Trinidad and the United States.


In a seaside village in the north of Trinidad, young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed sixteen-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policeman the rewards and risks in Marcia's life amplify forever.


'Til the Well Runs Dry sees Marcia and Farouk from their courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia's secret, entangle the couple and their children in a tumultuous scandal, and put the future in doubt for all of them." - TheStoryGraph



What am I reading this month?


Here are my July hopefuls:

  • Sirena Selena by Mayra Santos-Febres

  • Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

  • Daughters of the Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

  • Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (buddy read with my mom)

  • Sweethand by N.G. Peltier

  • Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass

  • Mangos & Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera

  • American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera (rec. by Elizabeth Acevedo)

If I have time, I want to read:

  • Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma

  • Women Writing Resistance edited by Jennifer Browdy

  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi

19 views0 comments