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Books on Black History in Caribbean Explore Immigration, Culture, Politics

2/20/2013, 1:35 p.m.

Constructing Black Selves: Caribbean American Narratives and the Second Generation By Lisa Diane McGill

In 1965, the Hart-Cellar Immigration Reform Act ushered in a huge wave of immigrants from across the Caribbean--Jamaicans, Cubans, Haitians, and Dominicans, among others. How have these immigrants and their children negotiated languages of race and ethnicity in American social and cultural politics? As black immigrants, to which America do they assimilate?

Constructing Black Selves explores the cultural production of second-generation Caribbean immigrants in the United States after World War II as a prism for understanding the formation of Caribbean American identity. Lisa D. McGill pays particular attention to music, literature, and film, centering her study around the figures of singer-actor Harry Belafonte, writers Paule Marshall, Audre Lorde, and Piri Thomas, and meringue-hip-hop group Proyecto Uno.

Illuminating the ways in which Caribbean identity has been transformed by mass migration to urban landscapes, as well as the dynamic and sometimes conflicted relationship between Caribbean American and African American cultural politics, Constructing Black Selves is an important contribution to studies of twentieth century U.S. immigration, African American and Afro-Caribbean history and literature, and theories of ethnicity and race.

The Other America: Caribbean Literature in a New World Context By J. Michael Dash

A wide-ranging work that explores two centuries of Caribbean literature from a comparative perspective. While haunted by the need to establish cultural difference and authenticity, Caribbean thought is inherently modernist in its recognition of the interplay between cultures, brought about by centuries of contact, domination, and consent.

The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern By Antonio Benitez-Rojo

In The Repeating Island, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, a master of the historical novel, short story, and critical essay, continues to confront the legacy and myths of colonialism. This co-winner of the 1993 MLA Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize has been expanded to include three entirely new chapters that add a Lacanian perspective and a view of the carnivalesque to an already brilliant interpretive study of Caribbean culture. As he did in the first edition, Benitez-Rojo redefines the Caribbean by drawing on history, economics, sociology, cultural anthropology, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and nonlinear mathematics. His point of departure is chaos theory, which holds that order and disorder are not the antithesis of each other in nature but function as mutually generative phenomena. Benitez-Rojo argues that within the apparent disorder of the Caribbean--the area's discontinuous landmasses, its different colonial histories, ethnic groups, languages, traditions, and politics--there emerges an "island" of paradoxes that repeats itself and gives shape to an unexpected and complex sociocultural archipelago. Benitez-Rojo illustrates this unique form of identity with powerful readings of texts by Las Casas, Guillen, Carpentier, Garcia Marquez, Walcott, Harris, Buitrago, and Rodriguez Julia.