Carrying our writers with us: ArtsEtc’s third annual Independence book list

WHAT is it we understand about ourselves, our politics, our place in the world? What is it we value and celebrate and would defend with our lives, with our soul, as a people? What makes us laugh and cry and sing, and cook with gusto, or eat with passion, love with pride? And why?

As ArtsEtc rolls out its third annual Reading List for Barbados’ Independence, and the futility of finding such answers among politicians or would-be prophets is more evident than ever, this greater sense of self, to our mind, is what reading our own literature gives to us—as individuals, not just as a nation.

And more than that: a sense, as Lamming might put it, of our own “style,” our own expression of culture. “The term,” observed the poet and monologuist Philip Nanton, “denotes the index of the entire personality of an individual and its (or his or her) impact on society.”

A retired Barbadian academic recently discovered for the first time Geoffrey Drayton’s novel Christopher (which appeared among the dozen titles on ArtsEtc’s second Independence Reading List). She called it “a wonderful book,” and was saddened and amazed she had not read Drayton before.

To read a story, any story in any form, is first to seek to be entertained. Many of our writers knew or know this and still await such discovery by readers, at home more than anywhere else.

We would presume that a Bajan who didn’t know what it meant to be Bajan wouldn’t know, to paraphrase another writer, his or her own step. We would also presume that wherever Bajans who DO know their own step roam, that they’d carry their artists with them, especially their writers. So that wherever they were in the world, when they told their stories, our stories, to amuse themselves or to enlighten others, they’d always find themselves on ground sure as the Rock they came from.

Happy Independence...happy reading.

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ArtsEtc would like to thank those sponsors who are back again—Days Books, the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment, the Barbados Association of Reading, the University Bookshop, the National Library Service—and The Bajan Reporter for coming on board this year. We invite, nay, urge, all bibliophiles, writers, bookstores, schools, book clubs and reading groups to use our lists; to read, discuss and share—and give us your feedback. What would be on your ultimate Barbadian reading list?