Nine writers in Bocas Prize longlist

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Bocas Lit Fest has announced books by nine writers for its longlist for this year’s OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

The Prize recognises books in three categories—poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction—published by Caribbean authors in 2016.

In the poetry category, the judges have named books by three younger Jamaican writers.

Ishion Hutchinson’s House of Lords and Commons is a meditation on home and abroad, personal and communal history.

Ann-Margaret Lim’s lyrical Kingston Buttercup has a deep grounding in the landscape of Jamaica, whether the penetrating poems address the persistent legacy of slavery, Lim’s relationship with her mother, or the complications of contemporary Kingston.

And Safiya Sinclair’s debut Cannibal is haunted by the character of Caliban from The Tempest, as it explores Jamaican childhood and womanhood, and otherness in a strange place that may be the United States where the poet now lives, or language itself.

The fiction category includes novels by two Jamaicans and one Trinidadian.

Marcia Douglas’s magical realist novel The Marvellous Equations of the Dread is set after the deaths of Bob Marley and Emperor Haile Selassie, and coveys a sense of both history’s dread and the hope born of human creativity.

In his debut novel The Repenters, Kevin Jared Hosein tells a transgressive, almost gothic tale of violence and punishment, exploring the darkest side of Trinidadian society and family history.

And in Augustown, Kei Miller offers a historical epic ranging over 60 years of Jamaican history, with its complexities of class, ethnicity, religion, and language.

“Due to the excellence and range of so many of the works, selecting a shortlist was extremely difficult,” said the fiction judges.

In the non-fiction category, the long-listed books are all historical studies.

Barbadian Hilary McD Beckles’s The First Black Slave Society: Britain’s Barbarity Time in Barbados, 1636–1876 is a compelling history of the first 140 years of the colonisation of Barbados, “with great resonances for contemporary debates about reparatory justice for the crimes of history,” say the judges.

Angelo Bissessarsingh’s twin books Virtual Glimpses into the Past and A Walk Back in Time collect vignettes from the history of Trinidad and Tobago, offering an effortless read for those for whom the past is a forgotten country.

And in Inward Yearnings: Jamaica’s Journey to Nationhood, Colin Palmer tells the story of Jamaica’s struggle to define an identity that embraces both its African heritage and its Anglophone western past.

The winners in each genre category will be announced on March 27 and the Prize of US$10,000 will be presented to the overall winner on April 29, during the seventh annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port-of-Spain.