‘The pendulum has swung’: Why we female Trinidadian writers are having our moment

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.

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