Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean edited by Olive Senior

Date Read: November 10th 2017

Published: 2014

Publisher: Peekash Press / Akashic Books

Pages: 224

 

 

 

The Blurb

Akashic Books and Peepal Tree Press, two of the foremost publishers of Caribbean literature, launch a joint Caribbean-focused imprint, Peekash Press, with this anthology. Consisting entirely of brand-new stories by authors living in the region (not simply authors from the region), this collection gathers the very best entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including a mix of established and up-and-coming writers from islands throughout the Caribbean.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

I always enjoy reading anthologies. It’s an opportunity for me to discover new writers and to get a taste of their writing styles through their short stories. I discovered a good number of new Caribbean writers from Pepperpot, especially as this anthology purposely featured stories by lesser-known Caribbean writers, mostly residing on the Islands. I absolutely love that these stories contain local dialect WITHOUT a glossary at the back of the book. If a reader wants to look-up a certain word or phrase, they can Google it! It’s almost as if this anthology was written for readers in the Caribbean and not necessarily Western readers/ the white gaze – which is awesome.

It was refreshing to read a Caribbean anthology free from Island tropes like the sandy beaches & blue skies, palm trees, coconuts, cliché Jamaican jargon – nope, not in this collection! The stories in Pepperpot explore a myriad of issues, such as: family secrets, violence, domestic abuse, infidelity, spirituality (Christianity), incest, death, homosexuality, fraught relationships, coming-of-age, poverty, grief, mental illness. Every story in this anthology had a different flavor – it’s as if the editor (Olive Senior) carefully selected these stories such that the flavor of this pepperpot (pun intended) wouldn’t be off balance.

Even though the 13 stories in this anthology were divided into 3 parts, I felt most of the stories had a cryptic, mysterious nature to them, and I really loved that. Among the 13 short stories – 5 stories are from Jamaica, 4 stories are from Trinidad & Tobago and 1 story each from Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and the Bahamas.

• •

My favorite stories were:

The Science of Salvation by Dwight Thompson (Jamaica) – This story had me at the edge of my seat. The threat of violence from a notorious gang member, coupled with the staunch Christian lifestyle of a family in a panic-struck neighborhood made for an intense tale. The evolution of the story was so heartless and unexpected. I loved it.

This Thing We Call Love by Ivory Kelly (Belize) – What I loved most about this story was the dialogue in local dialect and the mentions of popular Belizean dishes like Salbutes, Garnaches, Panades etc. This tale was a pretty hilarious take on a woman trying to prevent her husband from committing adultery.

A Good Friday by Barbara Jenkins (Trinidad & Tobago) – This story started off strange as hell! It’s Good Friday (the day Jesus was tortured and killed) and a woman walks into a bar from church, and starts crying. A fellow at the bar who had been admiring this woman from afar approaches her and a strange conversation ensues. The way this tale evolved was just so unpredictable and… had me in awe!

All the Secret Things No One Ever Knows by Sharon Leach (Jamaica) – “Ten years ago, I found out that I wasn’t my father’s only girlfriend” is the first line of this story. YES, it’s insane! This tale turned out to be pretty sick and twisted. I NEED to indulge in more of Sharon Leach’s work! Lord!

Amelia at Devil’s Bridge by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Antigua & Barbuda) – I was happy to see Joanne C. Hillhouse’s name as one of the contributors of this anthology, as she is a favorite of mine (and a reader of this book blog, which is how I got to know her! Last summer, I had a pretty popular book chat on Caribbean literature with Hillhouse). This story felt so light and read so smoothly. Hillhouse captured nuance in such a beautiful way. The tale follows a naked 13 year old girl – Amelia, who seems to be a ghost at Devil’s Bridge. It’s a layered, mysterious tale that explores Amelia’s family life.

Waywardness by Ezekel Alan (Jamaica) – Initially, I thought this story was brilliant. Alan writes with such force and he’s extremely vivid with his descriptions. But as the story progressed, I found the storyline quite ridiculous to the point where I was started to feel queasy and confused. This tale follows Brian, who is described as a deranged bisexual… he’s homeless, he’s a rapist, he sleeps with his cousin (consensual sex) and he seems poor. In short, I found this tale brutal, yucky, violent and impossible! The storyline felt too forced and I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a satire on homosexuality in Jamaica (?). But I commend Ezekel Alan. His imagination is WILD.

Mango Summer by Janice Lynn Mather (Bahamas) – *sigh* This tale follows 2 sisters – the younger sister is rude and nosy, while the older sister is hardworking and actively tries to protect her younger sister. The sisters quarrel from time to time, but they are quite close and it’s evident that they love one another. When the younger sister is kidnapped, the story progresses with the older sister feeling perplexed and lonely. This story was so poetic, so gentle and so innocent. Mangoes play a humorous role in the storyline as well. I LOVED it (Mather’s debut novel will be published this year! – June 2018).

I highly recommend this anthology and I will be re-reading this collection again.

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase Pepperpot on Amazon

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LIT Links mélange

Hey everyone!

Here are links to some great resources, literature finds and gems I’ve been loving and just had to share. Enjoy!

Thanks to my 2016 Reading Goals, I’ve been slacking on my Carib reads this year – but that will be rectified very soon! The annual Bocas Lit Fest – Trinidad and Tobago’s Literary Festival took place about a week ago and some great Caribbean writers received prizes for their awesome works. The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is a major award for literary books by Caribbean writers. Books are classified in three categories: poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction. Below are the book covers of the works that made the OCM Bocas Prize Shortlist:

2016-ocm-bocas-prize-shortlist-covers

The winner of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature was announced last weekend to be Jamaican writer, Olive Senior for her collection, The Pain Tree! Olive Senior has been on my TBR for a while and this win just reminded me to bump her up my TBR list. As one of the pioneer Caribbean writers, in my opinion I don’t think Olive Senior gets enough shine for her contribution to Caribbean Literature. Below is a showcase of some of her work from 1987 to present day:

Add Olive Senior to your TBR, maybe?

  • Self-published short stories collection: Flight

Fellow book blogger – Stephanie, of Steph Hearts Books (check out her blog!) published a collection of short stories called Flight back in December (2015) on Tumblr. From her blog, she describes the collection – ‘Flight is a multimedia collection of short stories that uses photo, film, and written text to explore themes of escapism for black women. The collection features 4 short stories, films, and photosets’.

I finally just finished reading the collection and I’m really impressed! The first story entitled ‘Thelma’ (which actually ties in well with present day police brutality in the U.S and the constant fear black mothers face for their sons) will reel you in to reading the rest of the stories in this great collection. Stephanie is a talented writer and a lot of emotions are accurately expressed in these stories! Please do check out Flight and share the collection with your friends once you finish reading! Stephanie is also a contributor for Blavity and I enjoy the content she produces there as well.

  • How Not To Talk About African Fiction by Ainehi Edoro

Ainehi Edoro of Brittle Paper wrote an important essay that was published in The Guardian, entitled How Not To Talk About African Fiction. The title of the essay reminded on me of Binyavanga Wainaina‘s satirical essay (2005) – How To Write About Africa which I thoroughly enjoyed in an Anthropology class I took junior year in college (2010/2011) – shoutout to Prof. Sheridan! Anyways, with regards to Ainehi Edoro’s essay – I wholeheartedly agree with everything that’s said. African fiction deserves to be seen as literary work of art instead of solely being appreciated for its ‘anthropological value’. It’s unfair to market African fiction around the social/political issues they address because there’s so much more to these stories that go unseen from how they are described by publishers and even reviewers of African fiction. I think book bloggers and reviewers should try and rectify this issue by adequately portraying the layered complexities of African fiction. What do you all think?

  • Big Belly Ache

Big Belly Ache is captivating artwork I discovered on Instagram months ago by New York based illustrator and writer, Elaine Musiwa. She showcases her work at @bigbellyache where she boldly portrays images that represent varied black women experiences. I enjoyed a conversation Elaine Musiwa had with LAMBB (Look At My Black Beauty)here. Key quotes I got from this interview were:

“The name Big Belly Ache came out of this idea; tackling the topics that are hard to stomach or admit. When I was growing up it took a long time for me to embrace having bold features like a wide nose, large lips, puffy hair, thick thighs, a large ass; all the things that were part of my genetics. This statement art is representative of my progress in self-acceptance”

“Words often leave a need for translation but the beauty of images is that they can be understood worldwide” (Yesss!)

“I hope my images are inspiring young black girls to tell their stories and support each other. As black women, one of our biggest challenges has always been to encourage each other and find our voices in mainstream dialogue”

(quotes taken from Elaine Musiwa’s insightful interview with LAMBB (Look At My Black Beauty)

Below are my favorite illustrations from Big Belly Ache. Enjoy!

Images via bigbellyache.com

  • More Short Stories!

Have y’all been keeping up with AFREADA? There are some really talented writers from the continent and in the diaspora who have been sending in brilliant stories which I have been enjoying! Some stories I really, really love are: The Disappearance of Self by Zainab Omaki (Nigeria), A House in the Sky by Mirette Bahgat (Egypt) and My Father’s Shadow by Kariuki WaKimuyu (Kenya). There are also photo-stories as well as book reviews (by yours truly) on AFREADA‘s website. Head on over there and indulge in great short fiction 🙂

Let me know which of these LIT links intrigued you the most and please share some interesting links you’ve been loving as well!