June is the beginning of summer, Pride month, and also Caribbean heritage month. A few years ago, @Bookofcinz on Instagram started #ReadCaribbean and it's one of my favorite things in the bookstagram community. I aim to read widely but I like to focus on works written by African ( On the continent and in the diaspora) authors. That's why it only makes sense for me to read Caribbean books. I highly recommend checking out the hashtag and following along for awesome recommendations. I have found some great books so far and I'm hoping to find more this year.
These are the books that I think you should add to your reading list. Some of them I have read & enjoyed, but most of them are on my possibilities pile for this month.
Sweethand ( Island bites #1) by N.G. Peltier
I love a good romance! This particular one has many of my favorite elements: secret crushes, "haters" to lovers, pining, family drama, spicy food, sexy times, a dual POV, and a whole lot of cuteness. Bonus points for being a self-published book, set in Trinidad.
It follows Cherisse "Cherry", a pastry chef who's trying to grow her business while dealing with her matchmaking mother; and Keiran, a local music producer who has always had a reluctant crush on her. They've known each other since they were kids but have never really gotten along despite running in the same circles. With Cherry’s sister marrying one of Keiran's good friends, wedding activities keep throwing them together and things start heating up from there.
Clap when you land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Novels in verse are amazing and this is one of the best ones I have ever read. I read & reviewed it last year and it was one of my favorite books of 2020. Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X introduced me to novels in verse and I have loved them ever since.
This particular book follows two sisters who are separated by distance and their father's secrets. Camino Rios, who lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic; and Yahaira Rios who lives in New York City. After their father dies in a plane crash, they are left to deal with the aftermath of losing a parent and finding out that their hero was flawed.
Frying plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta
As an immigrant, I expect that this book will be very relatable. It is a series of interconnected stories about a girl named Kara who is trying to balance her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, as she moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood.
I tend to struggle with short stories but I am always fascinated by questions of identity so I intend to bury my nose in this one as soon as possible.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Bonus points for the voodoo representation in this book that is not demonized. I really enjoyed it and I especially recommend it if you like coming-of-age YA novels.
Witches steeped in gold by Ciannon Smart
First of all, do you see that cover? I mean, I didn't need any more convincing after I saw that cover and read that title. It's a Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy. I can't wait to read this one.
The secret lives of church ladies book by Deesha Philyaw
This is the summary of this book on Goodreads: The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.
I can't wait to get into it. It is a short story collection so I already know that I'll read it slowly but I'm still excited.
Patsy by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
Patsy was a complicated read because I honestly hate the main character of this book. The character in question is Patsy, who has finally received her long-coveted visa to America. She has been yearning to leave Pennyfield, the beautiful but impoverished Jamaican town where she was raised. She wants to be reunited with her oldest friend, Cicely, and rekindle their young love. Patsy’s plans don't include her mother, or even her five-year-old daughter, Tru. The story follows her as she gets a rude awakening and those that she left behind.
As I said, Patsy is not the most likable character but the writing and the story in this book make getting angry with her so worth it. I highly recommend it.
Bonus points: This is a Queer read so it's perfect for June. #Pride
One of the good ones by Maika Moulite
& Maritza Moulite
This book is supposed to be The Hate U Give meets Get Out and a few of my favorite bookish people have confirmed that that's exactly what it reads like. I am really excited to read it because it explores something that every person from a marginalized community has thought about in one way or another at some point in their life: Isn't being human enough? why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed and others are not?
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs
This is a collection of short stories that I ( the person who doesn't really love this format) devoured in one day. Some of the pieces feel more like reflection essays than short stories but they are all engaging and vibrant. Each story follows a Jamaican immigrant or their families back home so you get stories from all over the place and this sort of casual diversity that I just love. The multiple characters of Jamaican descent vary in gender, sexual preference, age, concerns and so much more. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, relatable, and sometimes very emotional.
There you go. Those are the books that I recommend you check out this Caribbean heritage month but of course, there are many more out there. Let me know which ones you read, have already read or are planning to read. Also, make sure to check out the #Readcaribbean hashtag for book reviews and more suggestions for your ever growing reading list.