?This is a bumper season for Trinidadian literature. Hear nah, book like rain, you know! Coming from all directions, and licking shot from Atlantic to Pacific.
Before I make any more noise, I want to big-up all the Trinidadian and Tobagonian authors who gone before. The CLR Jameses, Alfred Mendeses, Ralph de Boissierres, come right down to Wayne Brown (God rest he soul), Gordon Rohlehr, Anson Gonzales. Kevin Baldeosingh have to get a special shout-out, because up until the other day he was, as he put it in a column, the only Trinidadian novelist of he generation who living in Trinidad. And of course, Uncle Earl Lovelace deserve he own sentence. Not to mention Lawrence Scott, Shani Mootoo and Robert Antoni. You go be amaze at how much of Trinidadian and Tobagonian it have out there writing, yes. They writing novels, poems, movie and all, for real years now, while we hardly know about them. I tell a girl in a insurance company the other day I's a writer. She say, oh, like Nora Roberts? I say no. She say, like Danielle Steele? I say no. Conversation done, because I didn't want to be pretentious and say like VS Naipaul, but somehow I feel that is the onliest Trinidadian literary writer I feel she might of recognise.
But I could of been wrong, because over the past few months a good few Trinidadian writers come out with new titles and they getting good notices.
Charity begins at home, as my mother would say, so I want to start with Francis Escayg and myself. Both of we have children novels in a new Macmillan Caribbean series name Island Fiction. Two out of six of the books is by Trinis, so that is a good ratio, I feel. Francis does call he book "a prequel to Papa Bois," and so far children eating it up. My book is about twins living in Trincity who find out that they is genetic experiments. The series come out late last year, but only reach Trinidad early this year. (Both of we, plus the series editor Joanne Johnson, going and read on Sunday in Nalis Celebrity Read-a-Thon at the National Library Amphitheatre, starting at 1.30pm. You could come; plus it free.) In June, Amanda Smyth come out with Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange (Random House). It name one thing in the States and another thing in England–they call it Black Rock there. Any way you take it, the book doing very good, and the UK Independent call it "a vivid and compelling story". Not a bad review at all, especially for a first-time novelist.
Then whaps! July come and a next Trini come out with a novel. Monique Roffey book name The White Woman on a Green Bicycle (Simon and Schuster). I had the pleasure of interviewing she the other day for Guardian, and I have to say that overnight success doesn't be no overnight nothing. She might be looking at a Orange Prize for Fiction–that is a UK prize for the best book by a woman–but bet your bottom dollar is work she work for that. She first novel, Sun Dog, well get good write-up, and this book seem to be doing as good or bet-ter. A Trini name Anton Nimblett bring out a book name Sections of an Orange (Peepal Tree Press), and one review say this about it: "The stories' emotions sneak up on you, hidden between lyrical descriptions of everyday life." I didn't read it yet, but I looking forward to it. Is a collection of short stories about gay Trinidad, and that is something you doesn't read about every day. The reviewer I just quote, Rosamond S King, point out that not since Aelred's Sin it had a book dealing with Trini gay men. Willi Chen write a book of short stories too–not about gay men but about country people and some Chinese Trinidadians, and other people in we landscape. Crossbones and Other Stories (Hansib) also have a story in it that he publish in Trinidad Noir last year. (I co-edit Trinidad Noir with Jeanne Mason, and Akashic Books publish it in the US.)
Finally, Prof Elizabeth Nunez, a big sawatee writer and Provost of Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, bring out her new novel, Anna In-Between (Akashic Books). The Prof have about a million books, and the reviews seem to say this one is the best so far. Again, I can't wait to read it. What all these new books have in common is that all of them publish outside the region. Hansib, Willi Chen publisher, is Caribbean, but they based in England. Akashic in Brooklyn; Peepal Tree in Leeds; Simon and Schuster and Random House in America and in England. Nobody not publishing no literary books in Trinidad. I want to know when we will start back taking responsibility for we own self in this area, and put some money into publishing. Is a point I does make over and over again, that if your brightest and best have to go outside to get published, that is a problem. In other words, I have to wait for somebody in England or America to tell me they find my book good enough? The other route is self-publishing and that... let we not even go there, because that is a next story altogether. Alfred Mendes, one of we first boss writers, get lick-up as a writer because he went outside to try and get he work publish. When he fail, because nobody didn't want to publish it out there, he burn he manuscripts and stop writing for almost the rest of he life. I hope that don't happen to more of we. But you know, wherever they get publish, I real proud of my people and their achievements, and I would tell anybody to go out and buy their books.