Reading Through The Pandemic

To be honest, like many people, I never thought that this pandemic would have lasted so long and would have picked up with the speed which it has. Not to mention that I would have ever imagined there would be variants that would spread more rapidly.

On March 23, when we closed our offices and were told to work from home, I was happy because it was something I wished for throughout most of my working life.

Then came the state of emergency here in Bermuda, the lockdowns and everything else which accompanied the SOE.

Into the second or third month of working from home, I realized that it wasn’t all that it is cracked up to be. I grew tired of the zoom meetings; I longed for the office camaraderie and the scenic morning and afternoon commute.

My time on social media increased and I found groups to suit my interests. One of those groups was, Exploring Caribbean History, a very active group which lives up to its name. One member of the group suggested that we form a book club as an adjunct and I echoed the suggestion. We started the book club in May and had our first discussion in June. It is virtual book club, naturally called, the Caribbean Book Club having participants throughout the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora.

Here are the selections which we have read and have discussed to the end of December.

June – Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul
Naipaul was a Nobel Laureate from Trinidad and Tobago. Naipaul travelled extensively during his lifetime.

Miguel Street is a series of short stories about 17 connected, colorful, unique characters living on Miguel Street in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago during the WWII era. The narrator remains unnamed but it is believed that it was Naipaul himself reliving part of his childhood before emigrating to pursue higher education in England.

July – Black Skin White Masks by Franz Fanon

Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925. He studied medicine in France specializing in psychiatry. BSWM was Fanon’s first novel. It’s clinically and philosophically written so it’s not the easiest of reads. It became a civil rights manifesto of sorts.

‘This century’s most compelling theorist of racism and colonialism’ ~ Angela Davis.

August – Augustown by Kei Miller

Miller a writer/poet originally from Jamaica is currently an English professor at the University of Miami.

“ Augustown, a former hamlet on the outskirts of St. Andrew founded by slaves freed in 1838. (It bears, as an introductory note explains, “an uncanny resemblance” to the real village of August Town, which was absorbed into the sprawl of Kingston.) The chapters tell of the flying preacher, but also the histories of Ma Taffy; her brainy niece, Gina; Clarky, a Rastafarian fruit vender bullied by policemen; a young gang leader who hides a cache of weapons under Ma Taffy’s house; the affluent light-skinned principal of Kaia’s primary school; and Mr. Saint-Josephs, a teacher at that school who triggers what Jamaicans call an “autoclaps,” or catastrophe, when, in a fit of pique, he cuts off Kaia’s dreadlocks” ~ The New Yorker.

September – Breath Eyes Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Danticat is Haitian-American.

Breath, Eyes, Memory tells the story of Sophie Caco beginning from her younger years in Haiti living with her Tante Atie. Sophie was the product of rape perpetuated by an unidentified man during one of the most turbulent times in Haiti. Her mother, Martine, moved to New York and she arranged for Sophie to join her. Martine continued the Haitian tradition of “testing” but Sophie violated herself to defy the testing. Sophie was never able to love her husband Joseph with whom she had a child, Brigitte. Over the course of the novel, Sophie must come to terms with her family, her family’s past, her childhood, and her own identity.

October – Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

Yanique hails from the US Virgin Islands. LOLAD is her debut novel set in her home country. It is the saga of the Bradshaw family, Owen and Antoinette, and their two daughters, Eeona and Anette.


Owen had an incestuous relationship with Eeona and also bore a child (Jacob) with his mistress Rebekah. Anette eventually had a child with Jacob; at the time they did not realize they were siblings. The child Youme bore folklorish features.

November – In The Castle of My Skin by George Lamming.

Lamming was from Barbados. It is considered an autobiographical coming of age novel set in Barbados during 1930-1940.

December – Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Rhys was Born in Dominican. It is believed the setting of the book is Jamaica and Dominica in the post Emancipation period. Antoinette is an “arranged” loveless marriage to an man who calls her Bertha. He takes her to England where she is locked away in a garret room which then becomes the beginning of the classic novel, Jane Eyre.

The common themes running throughout all these books are:

  • Legacy of colonialism

  • White Supremacy, Classism and Colorism

  • Domestic abuse, subjugation of women, male dominance and patriarchy

  • Abandonment and Escapism

  • Loss and search for identity and belongingness

  • Caribbean mythology and folklore.

There were strong female characters but not enough.

In between reading Caribbean Literature, I also read titles such as The Japanese Lover, The Pearl Thief, If Beal Street Could Talk, The Island. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows.

I am currently reading the Assassination of Maurice Bishop.

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