Our Caribbean

A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles

Our Caribbean

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: Published: June 2008

Caribbean Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

The first book of its kind, Our Caribbean is an anthology of lesbian and gay writing from across the Antilles. The author and activist Thomas Glave has gathered outstanding fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and poetry by little-known writers together with selections by internationally celebrated figures such as José Alcántara Almánzar, Reinaldo Arenas, Dionne Brand, Michelle Cliff, Audre Lorde, Achy Obejas, and Assotto Saint. The result is an unprecedented literary conversation on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experiences throughout the Caribbean and its far-flung diaspora. Many selections were originally published in Spanish, Dutch, or creole languages; some are translated into English here for the first time.

The thirty-seven authors hail from the Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Suriname, and Trinidad. Many have lived outside the Caribbean, and their writing depicts histories of voluntary migration as well as exile from repressive governments, communities, and families. Many pieces have a political urgency that reflects their authors’ work as activists, teachers, community organizers, and performers. Desire commingles with ostracism and alienation throughout: in the evocative portrayals of same-sex love and longing, and in the selections addressing religion, family, race, and class. From the poem “Saturday Night in San Juan with the Right Sailors” to the poignant narrative “We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?” to an eloquent call for the embrace of difference that appeared in the Nassau Daily Tribune on the eve of an anti-gay protest, Our Caribbean is a brave and necessary book.

Contributors: José Alcántara Almánzar, Aldo Alvarez, Reinaldo Arenas, Rane Arroyo, Jesús J. Barquet, Marilyn Bobes, Dionne Brand, Timothy S. Chin, Michelle Cliff, Wesley E. A. Crichlow,
Mabel Rodríguez Cuesta, Ochy Curiel, Faizal Deen, Pedro de Jesús, R. Erica Doyle, Thomas Glave,
Rosamond S. King, Helen Klonaris, Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, Audre Lorde, Shani Mootoo,
Anton Nimblett, Achy Obejas, Leonardo Padura Fuentes, Virgilio Piñera, Patricia Powell, Kevin Everod Quashie, Juanita Ramos, Colin Robinson, Assotto Saint, Andrew Salkey, Lawrence Scott,
Makeda Silvera, H. Nigel Thomas, Rinaldo Walcott, Gloria Wekker, Lawson Williams


“[A]n excellent collection. . . . Our Caribbean is another crucial book published by Duke University Press, who are in the habit of churning those out.” — Georges-Claude Guilbert, Cercles

“[A]nthologies like Our Caribbean reminds us that the breadth of Gay and Lesbian experience is more wide and varied, and richer, then we normally realize. . . . You will fall in love with many of the authors in this book.” — Dan Vera, White Crane Journal

“In gathering the collection around the focus of shared experiences—current and historical, the regionality of the collection makes sense. The majority of the anthology is made up of fairly recent, if not new writing, and some of it is translated into English for the first time. It is an exciting collection for anyone working on the queer postcolonial. . . .” — Shamira A. Meghani, Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

“[O]ne of the most innovative, gifted and important writers to emerge on the literary scene today. . . .” — MOC Magazine

“[S]uperb for what it does, for what it wants to do, and for what many of its readers hope it inaugurates.” — Kelly Baker Josephs, Caribbean Review of Books

“[T]his anthology is bold and brave - as well as timely and most welcome. It offers more complex and modulated representations of lesbian and gay sexualities than the prevailing focus on homophobia in Caribbean popular cultural forms allows. The 37 writers from across the Caribbean whose work is gathered together here provide diverse, engaging and powerful testimonies of the complicated, painful - and pleasurable - realities of being Caribbean and queer. , , , This anthology needs to be read and responded to because of the merits of the individual contributions but also because its collective significance suggests possibilities not ‘just’ for how lesbian and gay subjects are interpellated within Caribbean discourses, but for how constructions of Caribbean subjectivity more broadly might be unsettled and revisioned.” — Denise Decaires-Narain, Darkmatter

“[T]his anthology will be of great interest to students and general readers alike in courses of Caribbean studies, gender studies, and postcolonial theory; it fi lls a wide gap left out by traditional literary studies on Caribbean culture. It is a powerful manifesto that will actively engage students’ minds in the discussion of gender roles and politics in classrooms today.” — Débora Maldonado-DeOliveira, Rocky Mountain Review

“What unites Our Caribbean is the simple, palpable need of the authors to let their voices be heard, as they write about and often against their experiences as gay women and men in a region that is a long, long way from getting to grips with what continues to be a taboo subject. This is a groundbreaking work, one whose mere existence should be celebrated. It is also the beginning of a conversation one can only hope will widen and grow louder.” — Caribbean Beat

“Featuring 37 authors from over 16 Caribbean nations, including Barbados, the book represents an unprecedented literary conversation on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experiences throughout the Caribbean and its far-flung Diaspora. The new anthology is part of the ongoing works of Caribbean writers to bring varied ideas on sexuality into the same public sphere as popular culture.” — Khalil Goodman, Barbados Advocate

“Glave must be lauded for this timely, and very necessary collection.”
— Kate Houlden, New Formations

“Glave’s own narrative style is elegant, fluid, and reader friendly, and the anthology as a whole is clearly organized, well presented, and the narratives flow smoothly. . . . Our Caribbean is an enormously stimulating text that is indeed unique and extremely valuable to anyone interested in issues related to LGBT community in the Caribbean or globally. . . . Our Caribbean is a superb book, which more than adequately fulfills its promise.” — Steeve O. Buckridge, CLGBTH Newsletter

“Some very rich and powerful themes are explored in this book. Let’s make one thing clear. Caribbean writers are some of the best writers in the world. Get your copy of Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles. Read it with an open mind and see how it compares with writings from great Caribbean writers of the past. Please keep the conversation going. Every Jamaican should have equal rights to Jamaica.” — Garvin Gray, Bonita Jamaica

“The literary works in here are as varied in style as they are in perspective, from journalistic academic essays, to poetry, to bittersweet humorous narratives and more.” — Richard, fem.men.ist blog

“The rich variety of material, and the mix of well-known authors—such as Audre Lorde, Michelle Cliff, Reinaldo Arenas, José Alcántara Almánzar—and lesser well-known and less-circulated authors are some of the most striking features of the collection. . . . [T]he collection is a much-needed contribution to both queer studies and Caribbean studies, and we may hope that future discussion of same-sex experience will build on the engaging and multifarious writings in Our Caribbean.” — Gráinne O’Connell, GLQ

“This book is an excellent contribution to Third World and Black Feminist studies, Black and Queer of Color critique. . . . The gathering that is Our Caribbean presents a new challenge to the processes of silence and invisibility facing same-gender-desiring peoples of the Caribbean and its diaspora. These narratives are tangible and proof of life, pointing to and providing a means with which we may sustain an interrogation of material, symbolic, and structural oppression, thus ushering in new voices and new futures in Caribbean literature.” — Alix Chapman, E3W Review of Books

“Thomas Glave certainly must be credited with a profound generosity of vision having brought together and given voice to all the writers and all of the histories, individual and collective, included in this volume. . . . [Our Caribbean] certainly deserves to inspire future writers and artists to build on and expand from its important and vital foundational work.” — Ricardo L. Ortíz, Lambda Book Report

“While solidarity can literally save lives, however, and institutional acceptance is often the first step toward greater gains, it is on the front lines, within the separate communities to which the authors at once belong and do not belong, that Our Caribbean holds the greatest potential for influence. Its very existence is a challenge to the usual defensiveness of identity politics. For this reason—and because we all stand to benefit from a more inclusive cultural mindset—this book represents a profound achievement.” — Courtney Arnold, Foreword Reviews

“While the motivation is to highlight the struggles of the Caribbean LGBT community, the goal of the stories is to impart to the audience a population underserved and undernourished. Here's hoping that these writers will find mainstream success and be able to pen stories with happy endings.” — Peter Piatkowski, Feminist Review blog

‘The book is reader-friendly. . . . It has connectivity with music, literature, the visual arts, and public culture at large in the Caribbean and its various lingual domains. It could well anchor a course on the region as a textbook upon which to assemble added materials.” — Eduardo González, EIAL

Our Caribbean will likely become a classic compilation and a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about what it means to be from the Antilles region of the world and to find a home in the LGBT community.” — Rachel Pepper, Curve

“[An] important and amazing collection. . . . All of the essays, fiction, and poems in this collection impress, and with this text, Glave has created a very important addition to the growing shelf of international GLBT literature.” — Michael G. Cornelius, Bloomsbury Review

“Glave has given us a valuable record of the real beauty and brutality that lurks behind the travel posters.” — Harry E. Baldwin, Frontiers

“With excerpts from the work of luminaries like Audre Lorde, Reinaldo Arenas, Michelle Cliff, Assotto Saint, Achy Obejas, and Aldo Alvarez, there's no question this anthology has serious literary heft, beyond its import as a first-of-a-kind collection. But it's the lesser-known (and, in some cases, never-before translated) contributors who add value. . . . everal contributions are emphatically academic, footnotes and all, but these provide ballast for Glave's authentic, eclectic collection.” — Richard Labonte

“You don’t have to be gay, lesbian, or Caribbean . . . to appreciate this anthology, though it is certainly a seminal contribution to the fields of Caribbean literature and gay and lesbian studies. Most of its contents are worth reading for the drama, sensitivity, and complexity required of such identities.” — Emily Raboteau, American Book Review

“You need to take time with this collection. It is a delicious gathering of voices, all different, but with interweaving themes. You cannot rush this experience. From the luscious, sexy racy prose to the cutting edge politics, every line has shape and depth and plays upon you long after the reading. This book will rock you, rock within you, like This Bridge Called My Back, edited by Cherie Moraga, did in the 1970’s”. — Cathie Koa Dunsford, Asia and Pacific Writers Network

Our Caribbean is a superb anthology. Thomas Glave does not exaggerate when he writes that this is ‘a book that I and others have been waiting for and have wanted for all our lives.’ Here we have a book that makes literal the ongoing necessity to write ‘against silence.’” — Elizabeth Alexander, author of American Blue: Selected Poems

“Traversing boundaries of geography, history, language, and desire, Thomas Glave has assembled a poignant testament of how we dare to love differently and yearn for justice in the same breath...Necessary and timely.” — M. Jacqui Alexander, author of Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Thomas Glave is the author of the short story collections Whose Song? and Other Stories and The Torturer's Wife, and the essay collections Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent (Lambda Literary Award, 2005) and Among the Bloodpeople: Politics and Flesh.  A founding member of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), Glave has been Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor at MIT, a 2012 Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick. He lives in Birmingham (U.K.).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Desire through the Archipelago / Thomas Glave 1

Lulú or the Metamorphosis (1995) / José Alcántara Almánzar, Dominican Republic 13

Property Values (2001) / Aldo Alvarez, Puerto Rico 21

Eroticism (1992) / Reinaldo Arenas, Cuba 34

Three Poems: Saturday Night in San Juan with the Right Sailors (2004), Almost a Revolution for Two in Bed (2004), Tropical Fever (2003) / Rane Arroyo, Puerto Rico/US 51

Three Poems: Transactions (2001), San Francisco - New Orleans (2001), The Image Saves (1994) / Jesús J. Barquet, Cuba 53

Somebody Has to Cry (1998) / Marilyn Bobes, Cuba 57

Elizere, Beckoned (1996) / Dionne Brand, Trinidad 70

"Bullers" and "Battymen": Contesting Homophobia in Black Popular Culture and Contemporary Caribbean Literature (1997) / Timothy S. Chin, Jamaica 78

Ecce Homo (2002) / Michelle Cliff, Jamaica 97

History, (Re)Memory, Testimony, and Biomythography: Charting a Buller Man's Trinidadian Past (2004) / Wesley E. A. Crichlow, Trinidad 101

Other Islanders on Lesbos: A Retrospective Look at the History of Lesbians in Cuba (2004) / Mabel Cuesta, Cuba 132

Autonomy in Lesbian-Feminist Politics (2004) / Ochy Curiel, Dominican Republic 142

Three Poems: Young Faggot (2003), The Magical Real (2003), Surrender (2003) / Faizal Deen, Guyana/Trinidad 153

The Portrait (1998) / Pero de Jesús, Cuba 158

Tante Merle (1999) / R. Erica Doyle, Trinidad/U.S. 173

Whose Caribbean? An Allegory in Part (2005) / Thomas Glave, Jamaica/U.S. 177

More Notes on the Invisibility of Caribbean Lesbians (2005) / Rosamond S. King, Trinidad 191

Independence Day Letter (2004) / Helen Klonaris, Babamas 197

De un pájaro las dos alas: Travel Notes of a Queer Puerto Rican in Havana (2002) / Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, Puerto Rico 202

Of Generators and Survival: Hugo Letter (1990), From Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982) / Audre Lorde, Grenada/Barbados/U.S. 233

Out on Main Street (1993) / Shani Mootoo, Trinidad/Ireland 252

Time and Tide (2002) / Anton Nimblett, Trinidad 261

We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? (1994) / Achy Obejas, Cuba 268

The Hunter (1999) / Leonardo Padura Fuentes, Cuba 281

The Face (1956) / Virgilio Piñera, Cuba 290

Dale and Ian (1994) / Patricia Powell, Jamaica 296

Genesis (2003) / Kevin Everod Quashie, St. Kitts 304

Bayamón, Brooklyn y yo (1987) / Juanita Ramos, Puerto Rico 308

The Mechanic (1998) / Colin Robinson, Trinidad 316

Haiti: A Memory Journey (1996) / Assotto Saint, Haiti 320

Johnnie, London, 1960 (1960) / Andrew Salkey, Jamaica/Panama 325

I Want to Follow My Friend (1994) / Lawrence Scott, Trinidad 336

Man Royals and Sodomites: Some Thoughts on the Invisibility of Afro-Caribbean Lesbians / Makeda Silvera, Jamaica 344

Jerome (1993) / H. Nigel Thomas, St. Vincent 355

Fragments of Toronto's Black Queer Community: From a Life Still Being Lived (2005) / Rinaldo Walcott, Barbados/Canada 360

Mati-ism and Black Lesbianism:; Two Idealtypical Expressions of Female Homosexuality in Black Communities of the Diaspora (1996) / Gloria Wekker, Suriname 368

On Homophobia and Gay Rights Activism in Jamaica (2000) / Lawson Williams, Jamaica 382

Glossary 389

Contributors 393
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2009 Lambda Literary Award (Anthology category)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4226-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4208-3