Afro-Caribbean Literature

In this study guide collection, you'll find insightful analysis of some of the most prominent voices of Afro-Caribbean Literature, including Aimé Césaire from Martinique and Edwidge Danticat from Haiti. Read on to learn how common themes such as identity, exile, and the cultural and political consequences of colonialism play out differently in each narrative.

Publication year 1984Genre Novel, FictionTags Afro-Caribbean Literature

Abeng (1984) is a fictionalized semi-autobiographical novel by Jamaican-American author Michelle Cliff (1946-2016). Born in Kingston, Cliff spent most of her life in the US where she taught at several prestigious colleges and universities. Abeng, the first of Cliff’s three novels, is a subversive history of Jamaica, as well as a coming-of-age story of bi-racial girl Clare Savage. Through her efforts to understand her surroundings and her own place in the world, Clare gradually uncovers... Read Abeng Summary

Publication year 1962Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Natural World: Nurture v. Nature, Society: War, Identity: Language, Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Lyric Poem, History: African , Afro-Caribbean Literature

Publication year 1988Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Society: Colonialism, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Society: Class, Society: Education, Society: Economics, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Values/Ideas: Power & GreedTags Creative Nonfiction, Afro-Caribbean Literature, History: World, Politics / Government, Black Lives Matter

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid is a work of creative nonfiction originally published in 1988. Kincaid shares memories of her home country, Antigua, both while it was under colonial rule and self-governance. She illustrates how life has and hasn’t changed for Antiguan citizens because of government corruption, the legacies of slavery, and the preoccupation with tourism over public welfare. Though the book won no awards, Kincaid has won a plethora of awards for her... Read A Small Place Summary

Publication year 1969Genre Play, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Afro-Caribbean Literature

Une Tempête, or A Tempest, is Aimé Césaire’s modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The play was first published in French in 1969 by Éditions de Seuil (Paris). A Tempest was performed in France, as well as in different countries in Africa and the Middle East and in the West Indies. Richard Miller translated the play into English in 1985, and the play premiered in America in 1991, at the Ubu Repertory Theater in... Read A Tempest Summary

Publication year 2019Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags LGBTQ, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019) is a dark fantasy novel. It’s the first title in his Dark Star Trilogy, and a fusion of conventional epic storytelling, oral tradition, and creative folklore. A finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, as well as one of Washington Post’s Top Ten Books of 2019, this novel had its film rights purchased only weeks after publication.Plot SummaryAn interrogation frames the story: Tracker, a mercenary, recounts his... Read Black Leopard, Red Wolf Summary

Publication year 1952Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: RaceTags Sociology, Existentialism, Race / Racism, Afro-Caribbean Literature, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks is a psychological study of colonialism. According to Fanon, the encounter between white European colonizers and black slaves and their descendants creates a unique social and psychological situation with a characteristic set of psychopathologies. Black Skin, White Masks analyzes these psychopathologies, traces their roots in the colonial encounter, and suggests how healing might become possible.Fanon works within a broadly existentialist and phenomenological framework, his project is psychoanalytic, and he... Read Black Skin, White Masks Summary

Publication year 1994Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Emotions/Behavior: Forgiveness, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Gender, Identity: Race, Society: ColonialismTags Historical Fiction, Trauma / Abuse / Violence, Gender / Feminism, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Breath, Eyes, Memory is a novel by Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat, first published in 1994. The book is semi-autobiographical: like the protagonist, 12-year-old Sophie Caco, Danticat herself was born in Haiti but moved to the United States at a young age. She has since written several novels and short stories about Haiti, immigration, and the complex ways that one’s identity is formed by where they are from and where they now live. The novel... Read Breath, Eyes, Memory Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: Immigration, Relationships: FamilyTags Immigration / Refugee, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Brother I’m Dying is a family memoir by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, originally published in the United States in 2007. Alternating between the author’s past in Haiti and present in the US, this memoir combines personal histories with sociopolitical contextualization to pay homage to Danticat’s father and uncle as well as give voice to Haitian people in their struggle for a peaceful life. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was a finalist... Read Brother, I'm Dying Summary

Publication year 2013Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: MemoryTags Afro-Caribbean Literature

Claire of the Sea Light is a 2013 work of historical fiction by Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat. The novel portrays the lives of the various inhabitants of a small town in Haiti, relaying a series of related events from several different characters’ perspectives. This guide is based on the 2013 Random House e-book version of Claire of the Sea Light.Plot Summary The novel begins on Claire Limyè Lanmè Faustin’s seventh birthday. That morning, a fisherman... Read Claire of the Sea Light Summary

Publication year 1989Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Colonialism, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Identity: Sexuality, Relationships: Family, Self Discovery, Society: ClassTags Mystery / Crime Fiction, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Crossing the Mangrove (1995) by Maryse Condé was originally published in French as Traversée de la Mangrove. It was translated to English by her husband Richard Philcox. Told from multiple perspectives, the novel opens with a mystery—that of Francis Sancher’s murder. As characters gather to speak at Sancher’s wake, they reveal his impact on the village of Rivière au Sel (“Salty River”), as well as why he returned to the village of his ancestors. While... Read Crossing the Mangrove Summary

Publication year 1955Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: ColonialismTags Philosophy, Afro-Caribbean Literature, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Discourse on Colonialism is an essay written originally in French by Aimé Césaire and published in 1950. This seminal work by Césaire opens with a thesis that Europe currently suffers from two problems. The first problem is the state of the proletariat and colonialism and the second is its moral hypocrisy. Throughout the essay, Césaire elaborates on this thesis by identifying the proletariat as the colonized laborer and the bourgeois as the European academic, scholar... Read Discourse on Colonialism Summary

Publication year 1978Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Relationships: Mothers, Society: Colonialism, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Identity: Femininity, Society: CommunityTags Gender / Feminism, Colonialism / Postcolonialism, Prose poetry, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” was first published on June 26, 1978 in The New Yorker and was later included in Kincaid’s debut 1983 short story collection, At the Bottom of the River. According to Kincaid, her works, including “Girl,” can be considered autobiographical. Kincaid grew up on the Caribbean island of Antigua and had a strained relationship with her mother before Kincaid moved to New York City. These same cultural and familial contexts are present in... Read Girl Summary

Publication year 2023Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Religion / Spirituality, Women's Studies (Nonfiction), Afro-Caribbean Literature

Publication year 2018Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Grief, Identity: Gender, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, LGBTQ, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Hurricane Child is a middle-grade debut novel by Kacen Callender. The realistic fantasy and coming-of-age book was published in March 2018 by Scholastic Press and received the Stonewall Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award in 2019. (While the author’s name on the cover is Kheryn, they are trans and prefer to be called Kacen.) Callender was born in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, where Hurricane Child is set. Kacen is a queer Black writer... Read Hurricane Child Summary

Publication year 1992Genre Novel, FictionTags Historical Fiction, Afro-Caribbean Literature, French Literature

Part I relates the story of Tituba from her birth to her arrival in Salem. Part II begins with the witch trials and ends with Tituba’s execution in Barbados in the 1700s. The Epilogue, narrated by Tituba’s spirit, brings the story from the century of her death to that of the present-day reader. Following the Epilogue are two sections that Condé included in the original French publication: a Historical Note on the Salem witch trials... Read I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem Summary

Publication year 1987Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: MothersTags Afro-Caribbean Literature

No Telephone to Heaven is the critically-acclaimed 1987 sequel to Michelle Cliff’s first novel, Abeng. This novel continues the semi-autobiographical story of Cliff’s Jamaican-American heroine, Clare Savage. Clare—just as Cliff—was born in Jamaica, moved to New York, and pursued university studies in London.The novel opens with Clare traveling across the Jamaican countryside with a revolutionary resistance group. The group members have settled on farmland formerly owned by Clare’s grandmother. They use this land to grow food... Read No Telephone to Heaven Summary

Publication year 1953Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Colonialism, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags History: World, Race / Racism, Afro-Caribbean Literature, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Publication year 1993Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: MusicTags Sociology, Race / Racism, Arts / Culture, History: World, African American Literature, Afro-Caribbean Literature, British Literature

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, published in 1993 by Harvard University Press, combines historical, social, political, and cultural dimensions to reconceptualize the contours of Western modernity. Paul Gilroy, noted sociologist and cultural historian, proposes that modernity can be better understood through the analytical frame of the Black Atlantic, a transnational, intercultural, fractal structure of Black political and expressive cultures in the West. Reflections of experiences of modernity by early Black Atlantic intellectuals and... Read The Black Atlantic Summary

Publication year 1938Genre Book, NonfictionTags Afro-Caribbean Literature

First published in 1938, C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution examines the Haitian Revolution of 1791 to 1804, with emphasis on the role of slave-turned-commander Toussaint L’Ouverture. As a historical treatise, the book aims to unfold the inner workings of the Revolution, with the socialist views of the author, a Trinidadian historian, framing the analysis. Readers have come to recognize The Black Jacobins as not only a crucial exploration... Read The Black Jacobins Summary

Publication year 2009Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Society: Colonialism, Emotions/Behavior: Revenge, Identity: RaceTags Historical Fiction, Race / Racism, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Publication year 2015Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: courage, Relationships: Mothers, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Fantasy, Fairy Tale / Folklore, Horror / Thriller / Suspense Fiction, Action / Adventure, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Publication year 2016Genre Novel, FictionTags Realistic Fiction, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Published in 2016, Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star is a young-adult novel and National Book Award Finalist. Told from multiple character perspectives, the novel tells the story of the romance that transpires over one day between two young people, Natasha Katherine Kingsley and Daniel Jae Ho Bae, and the impact they have on the people around them. Natasha and Daniel come from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Natasha is an undocumented... Read The Sun Is Also a Star Summary

Publication year 1922Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Emotions/Behavior: NostalgiaTags Lyric Poem, Immigration / Refugee, Afro-Caribbean Literature, Harlem Renaissance, Food

Publication year 1961Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: ColonialismTags Race / Racism, Existentialism, Afro-Caribbean Literature, Colonialism / Postcolonialism, History: European

Wretched of the Earth (1961) is a nonfiction book by Frantz Fanon, a French West Indian psychiatrist and philosopher. Together with such texts as Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1988), and Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (1994), The Wretched of the Earth is a founding text of modern postcolonial studies. It is also Frantz Fanon’s most internationally acclaimed book, translated into more than 25 languages.Written at the height of... Read The Wretched of the Earth Summary