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Thomas Glave, Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing form the Antilles.

Thomas Glave, Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing form the Antilles, Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2008, 405pp; $24.95 paperback, $89.95 cloth.

Thomas Glave is an American-Jamaican author and gay rights activist frequently praised for his bravery in advocating for change amidst the notoriously homophobic climate of the Caribbean. This book is a continuation of that work, comprising the region's first collection of writing from gay and lesbian authors. Admirably wide-ranging--contributors originate from across the Archipelago and the fiction and non-fiction works included were first written in a variety of languages--Our Caribbean powerfully refutes any idea that such content is relevant only to 'special interest' groups; it speaks to the Caribbean in its entirety. Expressing a heartfelt desire for greater dialogue between the heterosexual and homosexual communities of the Antilles, this collection also serves as a rallying cry for those of minority sexual persuasion to 'lay claim' to the region as 'our place' too.

Although some contributions are variable in quality the overall standard is high and the diverse writings on offer serve as a salutary reminder of the human cost behind headline figures concerning homophobia in the Caribbean. The innovation of early pioneers such as Audre Lorde and Andrew Salkey is made clear whilst excerpts from work by much-vaunted contemporary writers Dionne Brand and Michelle Cliff remind us of the calibre of their writing. Newer authors are introduced--pieces by Marilyn Bobes, Pedro de Jesus, Achy Obejas and Colin Robinson are particularly fine--whilst works by established writers are translated and given a new airing. Glave also includes a number of critical essays, including trailblazing works by Makeda Silvera and Timothy Chin.

Many of the contributions--in common with writing from the region more generally--share a concern with questions of migration and exile. In focussing upon the difficulties faced by homosexual persons within the Caribbean, however, these works emphasise the often unacknowledged role of sexuality in such diasporic trends, with it being no coincidence that many of their authors themselves write from outside of their home islands. Their frequent emphasis upon the fluidity and performativity of sexual relations also complicates existing tropes around the hybrid nature of Caribbean identity, properly troubling such narratives to account for the sexual realm. At the same time, no easy summation of queer life is offered; stories of pain and love stand side by side, whilst overtly political pieces can be contrasted with those illustrating the constraints at work within the community itself (Reinaldo Arena's contribution is one example here).

Glave's very personal introduction provides a poetic and suggestive opening to the collection--the whispers of those previously silenced are almost tangible in his words. Careful to acknowledge the intertwined nature of various identificatory categories, Glave also recognises that certain amongst his contributors may not have been comfortable with labels such as 'gay' or 'lesbian'. This could perhaps have been further explored as the diverse nature of his chosen texts only serves to emphasise the different interpretations applied to these terms. Occasionally, there is some disunity between contributions, with authors clearly writing for very different audiences. As a result, a brief afterword reflecting on the collection as a whole may have been useful. Finally, one might have wished for a more equal representation of female to male writers. Overall, however, Glave must be lauded for this timely, and very necessary collection.

DOI: 10.3898/NEWF.71.B00KN0TES.2011
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Author:Houlden, Kate
Publication:New Formations
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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