2009 – 2010 Reading List
October 18, 2009 Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon (Martinique)
A major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world, Black Skin, White Masks is the unsurpassed study of the black psyche in a white world. Hailed for its scientific analysis and poetic grace when it was first published in 1952, the book remains a vital force today. “[Fanon] demonstrates how insidiously the problem of race, of color, connects with a whole range of words and images.” — Robert Coles, The New York Times Book Review
November 8, 2009 Anna In-Between, Elizabeth Nunez (Trinidad & Tobago/USA)** Elizabeth will be in attendance
Traveling back to her Caribbean island home on vacation from her high-pressure job as a book editor in Manhattan, Anna Sinclair is predisposed to be at odds with the vast dichotomy between her two worlds. Not only does the languid pace of tropical life take some adjustment but Anna is perennially frustrated by the fractious relationship with her mother, taking quick umbrage at the hypercritical woman's subtle faultfinding. So it goes until the day when her normally proper and reserved mother swallows her pride and reveals the hideous lump that has deformed her breast. Shocked by her mother's life-threatening condition, appalled by her father's seeming indifference to his wife's deteriorating health, Anna struggles to convince her parents to return with her to New York, where her mother can receive proper care.
January 17, 2010 Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael, Michael Thelwell (Jamaica)
The firebrand civil rights leader who led the call for Black Power in the 1960s looks back on nearly five decades of protests and freedom fighting in this passionate, posthumous autobiography. In collaboration with his friend Thelwell (a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts), Carmichael, who died in Guinea in 1998, traces his path from immigrant child of Trinidad to charismatic U.S. student activist and unrepentant revolutionary. The story is told largely in Carmichael's own stylish, often thunderous, first-person words and is named for the telephone greeting that the author used for much of his life. It covers the full sweep of events that shaped Carmichael's life: his years at the elite Bronx High School of Science and Howard University; summers spent registering black voters in Mississippi and Alabama; personal encounters with such leaders as Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and Malcolm X; and his sudden decision in 1969 to relocate to Africa and change his name to Kwame Ture. Carmichael also addresses controversial issues that surrounded him as a young civil rights activist: his splits with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panthers, and reports of ideological struggles with the pacifist King all "[u]tter, utter nonsense," he insists.
February 21, 2010 Ladies of the Night, Althea Prince (Antigua/Canada)
Ladies of the Night is set in Toronto and Antigua. With women's loves and lives as their focus, the stories contain dramatic twists and turns: some humorous, others shocking and disturbing, all leaving a haunting melody behind. The Toronto stories capture the issues women face as they walk the ground of intimate and family relationships in that city. The Antiguan setting of some of the stories are reflective of Prince's insight into relationships, captured in her novel and essays. The characters reveal their different ways of managing a range of struggle, pain, rage, love and pure unadulterated joy. The humour of some stories complement the plaintive sadness and emotionality of the strings some other stories pluck.
March 21, 2010 The Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier y Valmont (Cuba)
A few years after its liberation from French colonial rule, Haiti experienced a period of unsurpassed brutality, horror and superstition under the reign of the black King Henri-Christophe. Through the eyes of the ancient slave, Ti Noel, The Kingdom of This World records the destruction of the black regime – built on the same corruption and contempt for human life that brought down the French – in an orgy of voodoo, race hatred, erotomania, and fantastic grandeurs of false elegance.
April 18, 2010 In the Falling Snow, Caryl Phillips (UK/St. Kitts)
Keith—born in England in the early 1960s to immigrant West Indian parents but primarily raised by his white stepmother—is a social worker heading a Race Equality unit in London whose life has come undone. He is separated from his wife of twenty years (whose family “let her go” when she married a black man), kept at arm’s length by his seventeen-year-old son, estranged from his father, and accused of harassment by a co-worker. And beneath it all, he has a desperate feeling that his work—even in fact his life—is no longer relevant.
May 16, 2010 Black Midas, Jan Carew (Guyana)
Astonishingly vivid, bawdy, and tempestuous, this novel is a cautionary tale about greed and class conflict in postcolonial Guyana. Comparing ruthless 20th-century prospectors to the long-ago Spanish explorers who raped a continent in their quest for El Dorado, the novel follows the dreams and delusions of Aron Smart, a youth orphaned early in life and brought up on a farm by his grandparents who impressed upon him the value of an education. When Aron’s schooling is cut short after a reversal of fortune, however, he becomes deeply discouraged by his lack of opportunity and decides to follow in his father’s footsteps as a diamond prospector. He quickly becomes very rich—his companions in the mines call him “Shark”—and he is determined to use his new wealth to buy his way into the middle class. But Aron is out of his element in the world of property and prestige, and, cheated of his fortune, he returns to the interior, mining with a reckless madness that leaves him terribly maimed in an accident—and causes him to dream of returning to his grandfather’s life, built on the solid rhythms of farming and caring for the land.
June 20, 2010 More, Austin Clarke (Barbados/Canada)
At the news of her son BJ’s involvement in gang crime, Idora Morrison, a maid at the local university, collapses in her basement apartment. For four days and nights she retreats into a vortex of memory, pain, and disappointment that becomes a riveting expose of her life as a Caribbean immigrant living abroad. While she struggled to make ends meet, her deadbeat husband, Bertram, abandoned her for a better life in New York. Left alone to raise her son, Idora has done her best to survive against immense odds. But now that BJ has disappeared into a life of crime, she recoils from his loss and is unable to get out of bed, burdened by feelings of invisibility.
July 18, 2010 Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, US/Can/Jamaica
Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."