May 03, 2022
Monique Roffey, the Costa-winning author of The Mermaid of Black Conch, on the lit-boom that’s happening on the Caribbean island
Last week, Trinidadian writer Lisa Allen-Agostini’s novel The Bread the Devil Knead landed a coveted spot on the Women’s prize shortlist. As a fellow Trinidadian writer, this is both exciting and unsurprising. These days Trinidad is producing world-class female writers hand over fist. Allen-Agostini’s shortlisting comes on the heels of the announcement, two weeks ago, that Trinidadian writer Amanda Smyth had made the Walter Scott prize for historical fiction shortlist, the only woman on the list, and the first Caribbean writer ever to be chosen. Meanwhile, Celeste Mohammed has become the fifth woman (and third Trinidadian woman) to win Trinidad’s regional OCM Bocas prize.
Something has happened in Trinidad, in our small but dense hothouse of a literary world. Perhaps it’s 12 years of the Bocas literary festival, or five waves of feminism, or maybe it’s to do with the internet opening up opportunities for those from developing countries, but in the last decade Trinidad has produced a host of outstanding female writers. It’s a trend that anyone in Caribbean literary circles knows about. Myself, Smyth, Allen-Agostini, Mohammed and others are part of a “lit-boom”, and most of this boom is female. We are finding ourselves on the global stage, on prestigious shortlists in North America and the UK. This huge generational and gender shift would have been unthinkable only 15 years ago. Continue reading...
Jul 09, 2021
The Costa winner on the James Baldwin novel she most cherishes, devouring Willard Price adventures as a child, and the sex scene she wishes she had written
The book I am currently reading
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang is a fierce and compelling debut, the tale of two recently orphaned Chinese American sisters dragging their dead father’s body across the American wild west. Crazy good, richly poetic in the telling, I devoured 100 pages at first sitting. The story of immigrant experience, but one we’ve rarely read or imagined. A rollicking adventure story to boot.
The book that changed my life Continue reading...
Another Country by James Baldwin is about love and the longing for love; it’s also about the drama of masculinity. Set in Harlem in the late 1950s, a time of racial segregation, it features a Bohemian community of black, white, gay and straight people who fall in love with each other and also fight and let each other down. A book I cherish and need to read again and again.
Jun 29, 2021
An unlikely adventure in the Himalayan foothills is full of rare wisdom and spirituality
Four people arrive for a wedding in Pathankot, Punjab, one year on from the 2008 financial crash. They are an elderly white man, Jackson, and three others: Yosh, a yoga teacher; Monica, a Canadian-born amateur photographer; and Reema, a classical singer with a hard choice to make. All three have Indian ancestry and are carrying their own quiet conflicts of displacement and belonging. The white man, Jackson, has had many homes over a long life; even so, he holds his identity intact – his place in the world is secure and his dark past well behind him. He is carrying his wife’s ashes and hopes to scatter them in the Ganges when the wedding is done; as a younger man and hydraulic engineer, he worked and lived in the Punjab with his wife, and they were happiest there. Continue reading...
May 29, 2021
, Malcolm Gladwell
, Imbolo Mbue
, Sathnam Sanghera
, Alice Roberts
, Guvna B
, Horatio Clare
, Val McDermid
, Kehinde Andrews
, Jon McGregor
, Tahmima Anam
, Nina Stibbe
, Hafsa Zayyan
, Maaza Mengiste
, Monique Roffey
, Peter Scott-Morgan
, Hollie McNish
, Mel Giedroyc and Maggie Shipstead | Guardian |
As our thoughts turn to life after the pandemic, authors from this year’s Hay festival choose books that have inspired lasting change in them
Ali Smith, novelist Continue reading...
Books, and all the arts, naturally and endlessly inspire change because they free up the possibilities between reality and the imagination, and the possibilities for change in us. They never stop doing this. It’s one of the reasons the current powers that be are hellbent on controlling the arts, devaluing them, removing easy access to them and controlling history’s narratives. Last week I read a debut novel called Assembly by Natasha Brown. It’s a quiet, measured call to revolution. It’s about everything that has changed and still needs to change, socially, historically, politically, personally. It’s slim in the hand, but its impact is massive; it strikes me as the kind of book that sits on the faultline between a before and an after. I could use words like elegant and brilliantly judged and literary antecedents such as Katherine Mansfield/Toni Morrison/Claudia Rankine. But it’s simpler than that. I’m full of the hope, on reading it, that this is the kind of book that doesn’t just mark the moment things change, but also makes that change possible.
• Ali Smith, the author of Summer (Penguin), will present an exclusive film in collaboration with Sarah Wood at Hay festival on 6 June at 6pm.
Dec 09, 2020
Away from Disney’s candied revisions, these stories – from Hans Christian Andersen to Helen Dunmore – tell archetypal truths about women’s experience
Stories about mermaids emerged from our collective unconscious, are thousands of years old and found globally. Contrary to Disney’s cute film about bikini-clad, red-haired Ariel, these myths and tales are mostly quite grim.
They have several tropes in common: the mermaid has often been cursed or can curse and lure others (sailors, princes, pirates) to their fate. Mermaids often sing and have a sweet voice or an enviable talent that provokes jealousy in other women. Continue reading...