This time we go to the Caribbean islands through the sun-soaked twin-island country of Antigua and Barbuda . Surrounded by coral reefs and shipwrecks, the country is a popular diving destination. Along with these, the many colourful beaches make it a popular tourist haunt, reminiscent of India’s Goa. The spectular beauty of the landscape combined with the air of carnival has made the place an art hub as well. All forms of art, like painting and music flourish here. Previously a part of the British empire, this is an English speaking country, along with native creole.Source: naturalhistoryonthenet.com
The literature scene also seems to be alive and thriving considering there is an Antigua and Barbuda Literary Festival held in the islands, although I don’t find any recent news about the same! Most works set in Antigua are either romances, predictably inspired by the breathtaking background or depicting the struggle of the native population in the modern world.
My research for a book to read set in and written by an author from Antigua and Barbuda was hugely simplified by the wonderful blog maintained by Joanne C.Hillhouse (wadadlipen.wordpress.com). Its a huge archive of anything literary that is Antiguan and Barbudan trying to capture every book written in every genre by an Antiguan and Barbudan author or an author having roots here along with evey reference to a work from such an author, a list of awards won plus book reviews! The sheer volume of information here is highly useful and the effort is commendable.
The most popular literary name from Antigua and Barbuda is Jamaica Kincaid with works like Lucy, about an Antiguan girl trying to adapt to the United States and Mr.Potter, about a native taxi chauffer from Antigua. However for my reading, I am choosing ‘All that Glitters is not Gold’ by Marcel Marshall. This is because Marshall is currently living and working in Antigua whereas Kincaid is a resident of the United States. This is keeping with the list of preferences for my reading (updated in the About page). This is the first romance in the blog and I hope to enjoy reading it.
The first thing to be put out in the open about ‘All that Glitters is not Gold’ is that the author is presumably not a native English speaker. This comes through clearly in the way the language is used and the many grammatical errors. The editing of the book is abysmal. What made me keep at it though, was the author has a story to tell. She has a clear vision of the plot although it’s not always well translated onto the page. There is a genuine interest to familiarise the reader with the native culture and concerns as well as the islands themselves. We see many aspects of the life like natives protesting against Antigua turning into the Vegas of the Caribbean, the widespread reach of HIV/AIDS, the descriptions of the beautiful sail from Antigua to Barbuda and the many hurricanes common here.
The plot is set around Te’kare and D’mitri who have been going out for quite a while. Te’kare wants to preserve her virginity till the wedding , while D’mitri keeps pushing her to have sex right away. Then one day, Te’kare meets Shane Woodberry, the White billionaire who sweeps her off her feet with elaborate and expensive displays of affection. However there is an aura of danger surrounding him all the while. Whethe Te’kare finds her happily ever after is something the reader has to find out for herself.
This is intended as a cautionary tale of young girls who fall for the wealthy foreigner because of the bling and glitz surrounding him. Some elements like young adults living at home and obeying their parents is very similar to Indian lifestyle and hence resonated with me. Also the great-grandmother living with them and passing on her wisdom – ‘who cannot hear, will surely feel‘ – is very similar to india. The adopted sister being an eternal outsider and an HIV victim added an interesting flair to the story.
Overall, I stand by my choice of reading a lesser known native writer over a better known Western approved author.
Other Choices from Antigua and Barbuda: