Friday, March 26, 2010

World Literature: The Caribbean (2)

In my February 22 post, World Literature? Try the Caribbean, I featured three of my favorite Caribbean writers and their work, writers who all happened to belong to my own little rock, Trinidad. Today I'm venturing out a bit into the wider Caribbean with three more of my favorite authors from the region.

Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson in Antigua in 1949 and migrated to New York at the age of 16. Her family disapproved of her writing so she changed her name in 1973 and went on to write a series of articles for Ingenue magazine. She also worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker until 1995.

In her novels she deals with issues such as coming of age in a foreign country, her anger at colonialism, and mother-daughter relationships. Until 2009 she was a visiting professor and teacher of creative writing at Harvard University, and is currently a Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College. Her novels include (my favorite) Annie John, A Small Place and The Autobiography of My Mother.

Jean Rhys was born in 1890 in Dominica of Welsh and Dominican creole ancestry and moved to England when she was sixteen. The harshness of a patriarchal society, feelings of displacement and rootlessness, and racial inequality became important themes in her writing.

Her masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea, was published in 1966 and won the prestigious WH Smith Literary Award in 1967. A prequel to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, it's the story of the first Mrs. Rochester from the time of her youth in the Caribbean to her unhappy marriage and relocation to England.

eorge Lamming was born in 1927 in Barbados, and later taught school in Trinidad. In 1950 he emigrated to England where he became a broadcaster for the BBC Colonial Service.

My favorite of his novels is his first, In the Castle of My Skin (1953), a coming-of-age account of his childhood in a small Barbadian village. Common themes in his novels are colonialism and its effects on the Caribbean people, particularly the absence of a sense of identity.


Chris Stovell said...

I'm ashamed to say that whilst I've heard of all of these writers I've only read 'Wide Sargasso Sea'. Some putting right to make, I think. Thanks for this post.

Liane Spicer said...

Chris, you're welcome! While doing a bit of research for these columns I realized just how many good books I've missed. I also have some putting to rights to do.

Debs said...

I daren't think how many excellent books I still have to read. One of these days I'll make a proper list and work my way through them.

Liane Spicer said...

Debs, me too! Reading a lot of them will be one of the benefits of that writing program I applied for - if I'm accepted!