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8 Best Books About Jamaica
A Dive Into Our History, Culture & Beliefs

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Best Books About Jamaica | Anancy StoriesBest Books About Jamaica | Anancy Stories

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Travelling to a new island, especially by yourself can be a bit daunting, scary even. It helps to make yourself as knowledgeable as possible about where you are going. And what better way to do so than to grab a book?

So here are a few books about Jamaica’s history, culture and beliefs, that will prepare you for your trip.


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1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This book, which was published in 1966, barely four years after Jamaica gained its independence, is a postcolonial investigation of some of the problems of the day. The story is narrated in three different voices, beginning and ending with that of the protagonist Antoinette, who serves as a forerunner to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, better known as the "crazy woman in the attic".

Rhys examines the subject of racial, sexual, and cultural inequality by narrating the origin tale of Antoinette/Bertha. Antoinette is the literary personification of the simultaneously possessed and dispossessed subjects of colonial powers because she is steadily deprived of her name, cultural identity, and independence.

2. The Story of the Jamaican People by Hazel Bennett and Philip Manderson Sherlock

This beautifully drawn book is primarily concerned with the history of the Africans that European colonizers brought to Jamaica. This book's Afrocentric perspective provides a particularly particular lens through which to observe Jamaica's history.

This book, which traces the history of the Jamaican people from slavery and struggle to emancipation and independence, should be read in conjunction with other traditional history texts to get a full and accurate understanding of Jamaican history.

For individuals who want to comprehend contemporary Jamaica, additional study will be necessary, but the authors do a great job of portraying a frequently ignored facet of Jamaican history.

3. Abeng by Michelle Cliff

A 1984 book that is related to Maroons. A mixed-race Jamaican girl named Clare Savage grows up in the 1950s in this semi-autobiographical book. It investigates Jamaica's historical repression brought on by British imperialism.

Information about the island's empire, as well as information about slavery in Jamaica and Jamaican mythology, is scattered throughout the story.

It is underlined that the heroes are frequently ignorant of these details, which frequently help to highlight how horrific slavery and imperialism are.

4. The Dead Yard: A Story of Modern Jamaica by Ian Thomson

The Dead Yard is a captivating description of Jamaica as it is today, populated by many interesting characters, from Chinese and Indian business owners to criminals, rastas, and corrupt authorities.

It paints a contemporary vision of modern Jamaica through first-hand journalistic coverage. In this critically acclaimed novel, the numerous difficulties and problems of this ostensibly stunning Caribbean island are vividly depicted.

However, the picture it presents is not positive and focuses too much on Jamaica's problems rather than everything that is admirable about this well-known island. A tale of contemporary Jamaica that is both highly recommended and intriguing, if a little gloomy.

5. The Harder They Come Michael Thelwell

This novel is a compelling depiction of postcolonial Jamaica and was inspired by the same Jimmy Cliff film, which in turn was influenced by actual events in Jamaica.

A young guy moves to the city in search of fame and money, but as is common in such stories, his moral character deteriorates and he ultimately falls.

This book is completely engrossing and offers a profoundly nuanced cultural portrayal of Jamaica with vividly portrayed people. It is well worth reading on its own, but anyone interested in learning more about contemporary Jamaica will find it very satisfying.

6. Anancy and Friends by Beulah Richmond

Eight cultural folk tales for kids are included in "Anancy and Friends," which is an attempt by a grandmother to tell her grandkids traditional tales.

With fresh plotlines and intriguing characters, the stories inventively adapt classic Anancy tales. The cartoonist Clovis Brown provided the visuals for the stories, which capture the enthusiasm and creativity of Jamaican culture.

7. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

This critically acclaimed book is smart, challenging, compelling and unsettling, lyrical and shocking. The technical mastery of James' writing also presents the reader with some difficulty since it depicts the history of Jamaica in a violent manner through the voices of numerous different characters.

The book needs perseverance but is all the more gratifying for it since the patois voices, while distinct and authentic, can be challenging to follow. This book depicts the spirit of Jamaica at the time, spanning a period from the turbulent 1970s, when the foundations of modern Jamaican society were laid, through the early 1990s.

As its name implies, A Brief History of Seven Killings offers a unique perspective on Jamaica that is both vital and profoundly frightening.

8. Doctor No by Ian Fleming

The Bond books were written from the author's residence in Goldeneye on Jamaica's north coast during the final years of colonial Britain. Fleming sends Bond to Jamaica to look into the disappearance of an MI6 officer based on his personal knowledge of Jamaica and naval information.

The Chinese businesspeople, hired guns, political schemers, and other fantastical characters are all based on real people. The fact that many of the locations where the action is happening are actual locations that can be visited is one of the reasons this is such a fun novel to read before travelling to Jamaica.

You can go to some of the same places that James Bond frequents, take the same routes, and even go to the author's house.

Most of these books can be found with a quick Google search, but if you happen to be in Jamaica and you have the time, The Jamaica Library Service must have copies!

And you know what, even if you are not coming to Jamaica any time soon, these books all make fun, interesting reads.

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References & Sources For Best Books About Jamaica

  1. https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/jamaica/articles/6-books-to-read-before-visiting-jamaica/
  2. https://www.bookfusion.com/books/114403-anancy-and-friends
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