June is both Pride Month and Caribbean Heritage Month, making this a special time to read and share books that explore the intersections of LBGTQ+ and Caribbean identities.
Here are 18 classic and contemporary titles to enjoy this month and beyond:
Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender
Caroline Murphy is a Hurricane Child.
Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and 12-year-old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. She's hated and bullied by everyone in her small school on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, a spirit only she can see won't stop following her, and -- worst of all -- Caroline's mother left home one day and never came back.
But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline's luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline's first and only friend -- and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush.
Now, Caroline must find the strength to confront her feelings for Kalinda, brave the spirit stalking her through the islands, and face the reason her mother abandoned her. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline's missing mother -- before Caroline loses her forever.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Me Dying Trial by Patricia Powell
From a major voice in Caribbean literature—this is a story of Gwennie Glaspole, a schoolteacher trapped in an unhappy marriage, fighting to resist Jamaican cultural expectations and for her independence.
Written in modified Jamaican patois, Powell traces the life of Gwennie, a strong woman who plays the role of wife and mother while suffering through a loveless and violently abusive marriage to Walter. Faced with choice of remain a victim to her duties or flee from the cruelties of her everyday life, Gwennie decides to start anew and embrace the pressures of sudden and laudable change. Me Dying Trial ambitiously conveys what goes unspoken—issues regarding identity, homosexuality, religion, and personal afflictions, and how often that strong sense of community holds us back from growing.
Powell’s debut solidified her status as “one of the most exciting writers living and writing on the island that is the Caribbean-American hyphen.” (Edwidge Danticat)
Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo
Some secrets never die…
Priya and Alexandra have moved from the city to a picturesque countryside town. What Alex doesn't know is that in moving, Priya is running from her past—from a fraught relationship with an old friend, Prakash, who pursued her for many years, both online and off. Time has passed, however, and Priya, confident that her ties to Prakash have been successfully severed, decides it’s once more safe to establish an online presence. In no time, Prakash discovers Priya online and contacts her. Impulsively, inexplicably, Priya invites him to visit her and Alex in the country, without ever having come clean with Alex about their relationship—or its tumultuous end. Prakash's sudden arrival at their home reveals cracks in Priya and Alex's relationship and brings into question Priya's true intentions.
Seductive and tension-filled, Polar Vortex is a story of secrets, deceptions, and revenge. It asks readers: Are we ever free from our pasts? Do we deserve to be?
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography by Audre Lorde
Zami: A Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers
“Zami is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her . . . Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page.”—Off Our Backs
“Among the elements that make the book so good are its personal honesty and lack of pretentiousness, characteristics that shine through the writing bespeaking the evolution of a strong and remarkable character.”—The New York Times
Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller
In a deeply moving, critical and lyrical collection of interconnected essays, award-winning writer Kei Miller explores the silences in which so many important things are kept. Miller examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it — "to risk words, to risk truth; and through the body and the histories those bodies inherit" the crimes that haunt them, and how the meanings of our bodies can shift as we move through the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.
Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice from a black, male, queer perspective. An almost disarmingly personal collection, Kei dissects his experiences in Jamaica and Britain, working as an artist and intellectual, making friends and lovers, discovering the possibilities of music and dance, literary criticism, culture, and storytelling.
With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of innovation and beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why, "our actions, defense mechanisms, imaginations and interactions" and those of the world around us.
Augustown: A Novel by Kei Miller
Ma Taffy may be blind but she sees everything. So when her great-nephew Kaia comes home from school in tears, what she senses sends a deep fear running through her. A teacher has cut off Kaia’s dreadlocks—a violation of the family’s Rastafari beliefs—and this single impulsive action will have ramifications that stretch throughout the entire community. Kaia’s story brings back memories from Ma Taffy’s youth, including the legend of the flying preacherman and his ties to the history of Jamaican oppression and resistance—all of which will reverberate forward to the present and change Augustown forever.
Vividly bringing to life Jamaica in the 1980s, Augustown follows one family’s struggle to rise above the brutal vicissitudes of history, race, class, collective memory, violence, and myth.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she's not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer--what's sure to be a life-changing experience. And when Juliet's coming out crashes and burns, she's not sure her mom will ever speak to her again.
But Juliet has a plan--sort of. Her internship with legendary author Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women's bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff, is sure to help her figure out this whole "Puerto Rican lesbian" thing. Except Harlowe's white. And not from the Bronx. And she definitely doesn't have all the answers . . .
In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out--to the world, to her family, to herself.
Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo
Patsy: A Novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn
How to Love a Jamaican: Stories by Alexia Arthurs
Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret—Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.
In “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In “Mash Up Love,” a twin’s chance sighting of his estranged brother—the prodigal son of the family—stirs up unresolved feelings of resentment. In “Bad Behavior,” a couple leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In “Mermaid River,” a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In “The Ghost of Jia Yi,” a recently murdered student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in “Shirley from a Small Place,” a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender, comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time. Now in paperback!
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle....
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.
Tentacle by Rita Indiana
An electric tale of apocalypse, sex and time travel from one of the Caribbean’s most extraordinary cultural figures.
Plucked from her life on the streets of post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo, young maid Acilde Figueroa finds herself at the heart of a voodoo prophecy: only she can travel back in time and save the ocean – and humanity – from disaster. But first she must become the man she always was – with the help of a sacred anemone. Tentacle is an electric novel with a big appetite and a brave vision, plunging headfirst into questions of climate change, technology, Yoruba ritual, queer politics, poverty, sex, colonialism and contemporary art. Bursting with punk energy and lyricism, it’s a restless, addictive trip: The Tempest meets the telenovela.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: "He has a nose," people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.
As Tracker follows the boy's scent--from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers--he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?
Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.
What We All Long For: A Novel by Dionne Brand
Dionne Brand powerfully delves into uncharted aspects of urban life, the bittersweetness of youth, and secrets families try to hide. Tuyen is an aspiring artist and the daughter of Vietnamese parents who’ve never recovered from losing one of their children while in the rush to flee Vietnam in the 1970s. She rejects her immigrant family’s hard-won lifestyle, and instead lives in a rundown apartment with friends—each of whom is grappling with their own familial complexities and heartache.
In turns thrilling and heartbreaking, Tuyen’s lost brother—who has since become a criminal in the Thai underworld—journeys to Toronto to find his long-lost family. As Quy’s arrival nears, tensions build, friendships are tested, and an unexpected encounter will forever alter the lives of Tuyen and her friends.
Gripping at times, heartrending at others, What We All Long For is an ode to a generation of longing and identity, and to the rhythms and pulses of a city and its burgeoning, questioning youth.
Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, The Salt Roads, Sister Mine) is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as having "an imagination that most of us would kill for," her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian, and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness.
In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall with unfulfilled ghosts, or herding chickens that occasionally breathe fire, Hopkinson continues to create bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.
Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays by June Jordan
Some of Us Did Not Die brings together a rich sampling of the late poet June Jordan's prose writings.
The essays in this collection, which include her last writings and span the length of her extraordinary career, reveal Jordan as an incisive analyst of the personal and public costs of remaining committed to the ideal and practice of democracy. Willing to venture into the most painful contradictions of American culture and politics, Jordan comes back with lyrical honesty, wit, and wide-ranging intelligence in these accounts of her reckoning with life as a teacher, poet, activist, and citizen.