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Writers from 7 Caribbean countries in Bocas Prize longlist

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Writers from seven Caribbean countries are on the longlist for the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, including three from T&T: poet Vahni Capildeo and novelists Monique Roffey and Lawrence Scott. The prize is presented as part of T&T’s annual literary festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.


The prize longlist, announced by the judges on February 28, covers poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction. In the poetry category, Vahni Capildeo’s Dark and Unaccustomed Words uses diverse forms to bring little-heard voices and little-known stories into the realm of literary awareness. Fault Lines, by the St Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte, is both lyrical and prophetic, matching spiritual searching with social critique. And in South Eastern Stages, Barbadian Anthony Kellman uses travel as a metaphor for contemporary life, finding unexpected music in unlikely places. The judges singled out one additional book for special mention: The Festival of Wild Orchid, by Jamaican Margaret Ann Lim.


Three novels and a book of linked short stories vie in the fiction category. This Is How You Lose Her, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, born in the Dominican Republic, is equally funny and tragic in its no-holds-barred tales of romance, desire, and betrayal. In Monique Roffey’s Archipelago, devastating personal loss leads to a voyage of discovery, both inward and outward. Lawrence Scott’s novel Light Falling on Bamboo is a vivid fictionalised re-imagining of the life of the 19th-century Trinidadian artist Michel Jean Cazabon. And God Carlos by the Jamaican writer Anthony C Winkler is an uproarious historical fable, set in the 16th century, a generation after Columbus’ arrival in the New World.


In the non-fiction category, The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race, by the Haiti-born scholar Jemima Pierre, brings Caribbean insights to an extra-Caribbean subject. It is joined by The Sky’s Wild Noise, a wide-ranging collection of essays on art, literature, politics and society by Guyanese Rupert Roopnaraine; and Barbadian Andrea Stuart’s Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire, in which the author uses her own family history to explore migration, slavery, and capital in the early development of Caribbean societies. Two further books receive special mention: Abolition and Plantation Management in Jamaica, 1807–1838, by Jamaican historian Dave St Aubyn Gosse, and Ismith Khan: The Man and His Work, by Trinidadian literary scholar Roydon Salick.


The judges read 40 books entered for the prize, which is open to books by Caribbean writers published in the previous calendar year, and comes with an award of US$10,000. The winners in the three genre categories will be announced on March 17, and the prize will be presented on April 27, during the third annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Port-of-Spain.
Details of the four-day festival will be released on March 20 at a media conference in Port-of-Spain. The 2013 judges include a range of distinguished Caribbean and international writers, editors, and scholars. The poetry panel, chaired by Bahamian Marion Bethel, also includes Guyana-born Cyril Dabydeen and Trinidadian Anson Gonzalez. UK-based Barbadian historian Richard Drayton chairs the non-fiction panel, which also includes scholars Antonia MacDonald-Smythe of St Lucia and Sir Howard Fergus of Montserrat. And Jamaican literary scholar Michael Bucknor is chairman of the fiction panel, joined by prize-winning author Robert Antoni and literary agent Elise Dillsworth. The final cross-genre judging panel, headed by the celebrated Jamaican writer Olive Senior, will also include Marjorie Thorpe as representative of the prize administrators.



Dark and Unaccustomed Words,
Vahni Capildeo (T&T)
Fault Lines, Kendel Hippolyte (St Lucia)
South Eastern Stages, Anthony Kellman (Barbados)

Special mention:
The Festival of Wild Orchid, Margaret Ann Lim (Jamaica) 

This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz
(Dominican Republic/USA)
Archipelago, Monique Roffey (T&T)
Light Falling on Bamboo, Lawrence Scott (T&T)
God Carlos, Anthony C Winkler (Jamaica)

The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race, Jemima Pierre (Haiti/USA)
The Sky’s Wild Noise: Selected Essays, Rupert Roopnaraine (Guyana)
Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire, Andrea Stuart (Barbados)

Special mention:
Abolition and Plantation Management in Jamaica, 1807–1838, Dave St Aubyn Gosse (Jamaica)
Ismith Khan: The Man and His Work, Roydon Salick (T&T)

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