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Caribbean Writers Making the List: Best Books of 2016

Best Caribbean Books of 2016

It’s almost Christmas, the time of year that is the unofficial literary Olympics as magazines and newspaper make their lists, check them twice and declare which books had the inky muscles to be hailed among the year's best. Caribbean authors were not to be left out of the fray, grabbing kudos in fiction, poetry and children’s literature.

Three Jamaican writers skanked their way on to the New York Times notable books of 2016 lists, showcasing that international audiences continue to eagerly ride the literary rhythms of the Caribbean. Along with the New York Times listing, writers from across the region made their way to the Kirkus Best Books of 2016 lists as well as snagged positions on the Dublin International Literary Awards longlist. 

Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel Here Comes the Sun (published by Liveright) and Ishion Hutchison’s latest poetry collection House of Lords and Commons (published by Farrar, Staus and Giroux) both made their way to the NY Times’ fifty best fiction and poetry books. 

Indeed, the November NYT review of Hutchinson’s collection lauded him as Jamaica’s best new poet. “Ishion Hutchinson’s darkly tinged yet exuberant new poems are the strongest to come out of the Caribbean in a generation,” the review said. 

Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun, which the New York Times had dubbed “the ultimate antibeach novel” in its June review, also made its way to the Kirkus Best Fiction Books of 2016 list. The Kirkus review said of Here Comes the Sun, “Haunting and superbly crafted, this is a magical book from a writer of immense talent and intelligence.” 

Nicola Yoon joins these two on the NYT list over in the notable children’s books section with her sophomore novel The Sun is Also a Star, published by Delacorte. 

Describing the novel as an eclectic mash-up of Romeo and Juliet and One Fine Day, the NYT review says of The Sun is Also a Star, “It’s a deep dive into love and chance and self-determination - and the many ways humans affect one another, often without even knowing it.”

Trinidadian author Lynn Joseph’s Dancing in the Rain (published by Blouse & Skirt Books) also made its way into the best books listing for children having been dubbed by Kirkus as worthy to be among its list of Best Middle-Grade Books of 2016. 

“Beautifully placing moments of loss and grief on the page, Joseph turns tragedy into poetry and gives hope even in the darkest parts ... This book will break reader’s hearts and then but them back together again in the best way,” the Kirkus starred review declared. 

On the other side of the pond, two writers were included in the recent announcement of  for the International Dublin Literary Award 2017 longlist (which features books published in 2015). This list of books nominated by libraries from across the globe included Trinidad and Tobago’s André Alexis with Fifteen Dogs as well as The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson, who is a Brooklyn native by way of Barbados.