Cherie Jones’ Favourite Caribbean Writers

Author Cherie Jones and her novel How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

From Jamaica Kincaid to Olive Senior, Cherie Jones on the Caribbean writers you should discover now.

Cherie Jones has been shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, a powerful, visceral novel of lives across race and class, set on the apparent ‘paradise island’ of Barbados. We asked Cherie to tell us about some of her favourite Caribbean writers.

1. Earl Lovelace – Lovelace taught me about creating empathy in the reader for an anti-villain. I was probably 12 or 13 the first time I read ‘The Wine of Astonishment’ and when I encountered the character of Bolo, I understood complexity in characterisation, I understood how Bolo sacrificed himself and his placement within his community for the greater good of that community, in a way that was not accepted or understood by that community. I remember how my heart went out to him and how I wrestled with whether he was ‘bad’ or ‘good’ until I understood that no-one is ever just one or the other. Of all the characters in that novel, he is the one who never left me. I don’t think I ever looked at a ‘villain’ in literature or life the same ever again.

2. Jamaica Kincaid – I loved how Kincaid made the personal political for me. I think she was the first writer I read who truly made me understand that the personal and family lives and relationships of women are reflective of larger social issues and problems. Her work challenged a lot of the social restrictions on women that I struggled with, with a lyricism and defiance I found irresistible. 

3. V.S Naipaul – ‘Miguel Street‘ is one of my favourite works of prose, ever. I have several copies and I return to it often. In it I think Naipaul demonstrates his mastery of characterisation and also his ability to capture Caribbean life in all its beauty, lyricism and complexity. The ‘man on the street’ is examined so compassionately and elevated, as we all are, as a result. I also really enjoyed ‘A House for Mr. Biswas‘.

4. Edwidge Danticat – ‘Haunting’ is the word I’d use to describe Danticat’s work and it’s impression on me. Her writing helped me to accept and better appreciate the supernatural, and my connection to it, whether that is my inheritance of the experiences of my personal ancestors or how I am impacted by those of a different community. Her beautiful evocation of the impact of trauma on the personal and national psyche, first helped me to appreciate that a story can be a safe place to explore difficult, complex subject matter, that beautiful language can draw you in and keep you there.

5. Olive Senior – I love Senior’s ear for the way that we speak in the Caribbean and for the simplicity and subtlety of her writing. Her treatment of her subject matter is gentle, nuanced and economical. 

Discover the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist here.

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