Fiction and Non-Fiction are not opposites, no. No, they are identical twins with different personalities. Both tell good and necessary stories.
As a queer person hailing from the greatest and one of the most problematic countries in the Caribbean, I’m hungry for signs of queer life. There was a time when I didn’t think that queer people existed in Jamaica. Books (and, honestly, Twitter) made me realize that WE OUTCHEA. Not only do we exist, we thrive, we create, we love. We celebrate ourselves and each other. We navigate a country that tells us we’re wrong. Non-Fiction stories about queer lives in the Caribbean are some of the most validating forms of validation.
Some of the most powerful books about queer life/life as a queer in the Caribbean are listed below. A lot of these are anthologies, or as I like to call them, choirs. Multiple voices from multiple real experiences, made even more powerful because people thought we don’t exist or have anything to say. But these books have spoken up:
The Queer Caribbean Speaks: Interviews with Writers, Artists, and Activists
Ed. Kofi Omoniyi Sylvanus Campbell
Kofi Campbell conducts several interviews with writers, artists, and activists from all over the Caribbean, and records their personal and political experiences of being queer in the Caribbean. Interviewees include literary greats like Thomas Glave, Shani Mootoo, and Nalo Hopkinson. The take-away from this book: we are here, and each generation helps pave the way a little more for the next. Get it here.
The Other Side of Paradise
by Staceyann Chin
The Other Side of Paradise is Staceyann Chin’s autobiography. In it, she tells readers about growing up in Jamaica as an outspoken, feisty country girl who eventually seeks asylum in America because of her sexuality. Staceyann Chin, as usual, is unapologetic in her exploration of her sexuality, and simultaneously delicate and brutal in how she tells her story. I sometimes felt frustrated by Staceyann Chin, but I generally feel frustrated by stubborn characters in a book. In the end, I was glad of her bravery, because it gave us this art. Get it here.
Tongues on Fire: Caribbean Lesbian Lives and Stories
Ed. by Makeda Silvera
An anthology that centers women and their queer experiences. What becomes clear in this book is that lesbians are simultaneously invisible and hyper-visible. That violence against lesbians is often ignored because it looks a lot like the violence against women in general. The first half of Tongues on Fire is Non-Fiction, and the second half in Fiction. Double bang. Dope read. Get it here.
Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles
Ed. Thomas Glave
An anthology of stories, poems, and essays by Caribbean writers about their lives as queer citizens of their Caribbean homes. It spans genres, countries, cultures, and sexualities. The stories reclaim the Caribbean as a queer space by mere virtue of its authors living there. The stories are sad and beautiful. Tense and free-flowing. Frustrating and emotional. It gets me every time. Get it here.
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
This book is essential reading! A biomythography of Audre Lorde about growing up in Grenada with a mother who was as as strict as she was loving. This book is a mix of autobiography and fiction. It’s both true and false, but it’s real. It’s personal and political, dark and illuminating. Zami is as inspiring as much of Lorde’s work is, and provides a window into the life of one of the greatest feminist thinkers of our time. Get it here.