(Repeating Islands) “It takes a big mind, or at least a big worldview, to write from a small space,” says Jamaican writer Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, in his introduction to a groundbreaking new anthology, available in December 2017.
Collecting original fiction, essays and poems from seventeen countries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Indian and Pacific Oceans, So Many Islands brings readers stories about love and protest, about childhood innocence and the traumas of history, about leaving home and trying to go home again.
Eight Caribbean writers are among the authors featured in this collection of new writing from Commonwealth small island states, edited by Trinidadian Nicholas Laughlin with the assistance of Barbadian Nailah Folami Imoja, and supported by Commonwealth Writers, the literary programme of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Peekash Press, based in Trinidad and Tobago, is publishing the anthology’s Caribbean and North American edition.
“Island people have a way of taking influences, even powerful ones, and assimilating them even as they try to assimilate us,” writes Marlon James in his introduction. “Everything we write stands one foot on land, the other in the sea. We can’t help it: we’re from where the air is clear, so it’s almost impossible to think small.”
Tracy Assing of Trinidad and Tobago, a member of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, contributes a memoir-inflected essay on indigenous heritage and land rights, while Barbadian Heather Barker considers the slavery reparations debate through an audacious piece of speculative short fiction. In Vincentian Cecil Browne’s comic story, a cricket match becomes a minor drama of personality, while Jacob Ross is inspired by the history of the 1979 Grenada Revolution.
The other Caribbean contributors to So Many Islands are Melanie Schwapp of Jamaica, Tammi Brown-Bannister of Antigua and Barbuda, Kendel Hippolyte of St Lucia, and Angela Barry of Bermuda, among writers from islands as diverse as Fiji, Samoa, Mauritius, Singapore and Cyprus.
“Perhaps what these seventeen pieces have most deeply in common,” writes editor Nicholas Laughlin, “is an urge to contend with both the limits and the possibilities of a small place — whether that means cherishing the intimate territory of a familiar community, or escaping into a more expansive realm of the imagination.”
So Many Islands is the fourth book published under the Peekash Press imprint, which is dedicated to publishing the work of emerging Caribbean writers living at home in the region. Begun in 2014 as a partnership between Peepal Tree Press in the United Kingdom and Akashic Books in the United States (hence the name), Peekash evolved from the CaribLit initiative, devised by the Bocas Lit Fest in partnership with Commonwealth Writers and the British Council.
In 2017, in keeping with the original intention to bring Peekash “home” to a physical base in the Caribbean, the Bocas Lit Fest assumed responsibility for the imprint.
Based in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bocas Lit Fest is a not-for-profit organisation working to develop and promote Caribbean writers and writing, through an annual literary festival, a series of prizes, and year-round programmes and projects aimed at writer and reader development.
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