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What to read in 2016

Published: 
Sunday, January 10, 2016

Last year, 2015, was an outstanding year for Caribbean reading. If you were in attendance at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, odds are you’ve got a generous stack of select titles from the festival, still awaiting complete absorption. This year is shaping up to be no less remarkable, with new releases from fiction and poetry favourites, as well as the promising debuts of writers worth watching.

At Sunday Arts, I’m especially looking forward to writing that’s innovative, pushing against the barriers of misconceptions, stereotypes, and complacencies: these titles render both the Caribbean and the world beyond it in astonishingly keen-eyed vision. They are evidence of the massive groundswell in Caribbean book publication. Here’s a quartet of forthcoming selections that you’ll want to ink into next year’s bookish calendar:

Measures of Expatriation
by Vahni Capildeo (Carcanet Press)
Expected Publication: January 2016

If you think you know where you’re headed in Trinidadian Vahni Capildeo’s poems, guess again: these verses are strewn with engagements in curiosity, splendour and arcane portents, residing in even the most seemingly domestic minutiae. Nothing can be taken for granted, the poet shows us, and in her newest collection, Measures of Expatriation, she is poised to unveil the world we take for granted, presenting a reality that is at once ours, and even sharper in its truths than that which we inhabit.

Contemplating home, exile, and the navel-string connectivity we feel to places we designate as ours by birth or affection, these poems won The Poetry Society’s Spring 2016 Book Award. This honour pre-shortlists the collection for the 2016 TS Eliot Prize, awarded to the best collection of verse published in the UK and Ireland. I’ll be busily rooting for Vahni, while buried deep in her newest offering.

The Repenters
by Kevin Jared Hosein
(Peepal Tree Press)
Expected Publication: July 2016

Trinidadian Kevin Hosein’s The Repenters is an ambitious arrival on the regional literary scene: it’s the first full-length novel from the winner of this year’s regional arm of the Commonwealth Short Story prize. Earning that accolade confers serious promise and potential: Hosein’s debut novel is as unconventionally-told and framed as his Commonwealth winner, The King of Settlement 4.

With one collection of short fiction for young readers, Littletown Secrets, tucked beneath his belt, the author’s literary career seems poised on the threshold of a significant breakthrough. This novel portrays the swift dissolution of childhood innocence, told by an unorthodox narrator with more than his fair share of cryptic concealments: it may well deepen Hosein’s triumphant advent. 

Riding Boundaries
by Colin Robinson
(Peepal Tree Press)
Expected Publication: June 2016

Perhaps Peepal Tree’s most exciting poetry selection in its announced line-up of 2016 books thus far, Robinson’s first collection announces a necessary Trinidadian voice in verse, by turns audacious, whimsical and reflective. In poems that think hard and unstintingly on what it means to present, and represent, masculine sexualities in the Caribbean, desire is a cornerstone of Riding Boundaries, but it’s not the only citadel of concerns from which Robinson hoists his flags.

Anyone who’s not familiar with the poet’s work would do well to read his selection in Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets from the Caribbean. His work within that 2015 anthology is heralded by Peepal Tree’s associate poetry editor, Kwame Dawes, as “a quiet unearthing of the complications of affection and love.” This is what I have returned to repeatedly in Robinson’s poems: a steadfastness of interrogation, and an utter lack of complacent verse—and it is to these things that I most look forward in Riding Boundaries.

On the radar
Other 2016 Caribbean titles on the Sunday Arts Section’s radar include:
• Augustown, by Kei  Miller
• The Colour of Shadows, by Judy Raymond
• Madwoman, by Shara McCallum
• House of Lords and Commons, by Ishion Hutchinson
• In the Eye of the Storm: Edgar Mittelholzer 1909–2009: Critical Perspectives, by Juanita Cox
• Kingston Buttercup, by Ann-Margaret Lim
• Strange Fruit, by Kamau Brathwaite