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  • Writer's pictureAshley Abdul

3 Books by Indo-Caribbean Authors you Need to Read

These authors that have gone above and beyond to define the Indo-Caribbean experience in literature


The need to connect and learn about the places we came from can be a strong desire we can’t fight, especially for many of us who were born in North America or migrated here early on in our lives. Given the distinct history of our people and the obstacles we’ve faced, we’ve brought unique voices and experiences to literature. The books below deal with a number of themes that have been faced by those who came before us. They paint vivid pictures of what the early years of Indians in the Caribbean were like. Whether an avid reader or not, these three novels are must-reads for anyone looking to learn more about the cultural experience and history of Indo-Caribbean’s.

1. Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture by Gaiutra Bahadur

Released in 2013, Bahadur created a staple for any Indo-Caribbean household. Coolie Woman tells of the author's experience immigrating from Guyana to the United States. She takes us on a journey in attempting to trace her great grandmother who emigrated to Guyana on an indenture ship alone and pregnant. The book is meant to focus on the women of indenture, those whose voices and history were lost amongst the tribulations of the times. Many of our foremothers left behind families and husbands to embark on what they thought would be a life changing journey. Through archives and other resources, Bahadur is able to recount specific incidents and dates during the 80 year period of indenture.

2. Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital

Sital brings life to the stories of abuse, hope and resilience faced by the women in her Trinidadian family. Sital grew up idolizing her grandfather, Mr. Shiva Singh. Years later, to escape the economic situation in Trinidad, the family settles in the United States. When illness falls upon Shiva, her mother and grandmother begin to open up about a side of the family’s brutal past that has never been shared. Through the perspective of her mother and grandmother, Sital tells the story of how her grandparents met, and what her mother’s upbringing was truly like. The account is raw and honest, leaving no detail out. Sital’s ability to describe every element accurately makes for a captivating page turner from beginning to end.

3. Jahaji: An Anthology of Indo- Caribbean Fiction edited by Frank Birbalsingh

Jahaji (meaning “ship traveler”) anthology features 16 short fiction stories by Indo-Caribbean authors and a rich introduction by the editor. The authors represent three generations of Indo-Caribbean’s from Ismith Khan to Shani Mootoo. Each story tells of a different experience faced by our people over the past fifty years. This includes the aspirations post-indenture as well as frustrations. Authors from the recent generations speak more to the tribulations of those of us who have found it difficult to find the meaning of our identity after migrating or growing up in North America. This imaginative collection provides insight into life particularly in Trinidad and Guyana and allows us to better understand the colonial era in the Caribbean.

Indo- Caribbean culture isn’t always represented in the mainstream and it can be hard to find ways to connect with our people.

Through the works of these authors and more, we’re able to hear and relate to the stories that we otherwise may not be able to hear— especially if we don’t have access to someone to tell them. The past century has been critical to our growth as a culture. We have made ourselves present in the Caribbean as a people that have contributed to the present day culture. Each of these books has history lessons specially weaved in or in some cases presently in cold hard facts. The more we consume Indo-Caribbean content, the better we’ll be able to understand ourselves and learn how those before us created the things we know today. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools for us, whether the new or old generation. The more we pass on, the stronger our culture and people will be in the decades to come.

This article was written By Tiara Chutkhan. Tiara calls herself a "booktuber" and a "bookstagrammer." With a versatile taste, Chutkhan gives you a look into hundreds of interesting titles. Follow her at @bookwormbabee

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