Time to read, Caribbean! | Local features
If you are an avid reader, you will have noticed that the hashtag #ReadCaribbean has been trending for the whole month of June, dedicated to Caribbean literature, Caribbean authors and authors of Caribbean heritage.
The mastermind behind the Read Caribbean initiative is Cindy Allman, a well-travelled, well-read Jamaican who lives in Trinidad and Tobago. The blogger and bookstagrammer emigrated to Trinidad seven years ago for a job opportunity and created the Book of Cinz blog with the intention of encouraging people to read, read more, read widely and read the Caribbean. Since 2018, Book Of Cinz has become one of the most influential online platforms for book reviews and recommendations in the region.
In an interview with the Express, Allman discussed the inspiration behind Read Caribbean.
“When I started Book of Cinz, I noticed that while many communities had a specific month where they promoted reading about their culture such as Black History Month, LatinX, and American Heritage Month in Asia-Pacific, there was no month dedicated to celebrating the contributions Caribbean authors have made. During my research, I discovered that June is considered Caribbean-American Heritage Month. There are four years ago, so I started the Read Caribbean Challenge to raise awareness among Caribbean writers and literature,” says Allman.
For the past four years, the community of readers and bookstagrammers have taken up the #ReadCaribbean challenge and joined us to create awareness and content every June around the Caribbean books they love.
“I wanted everyone to be involved because the Caribbean is made up of so many different islands and cultures. Each island has a different story and everyone is unique,” she says.
Caribbean writers are finally getting the recognition they deserve on the international stage, says Allman.
“I see a lot of Caribbean authors getting published. Their books are picked up by Good Morning America and Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. I have the impression that at the moment, Antillean authors are really flourishing, I read such well-made books. But I feel that, overall, more needs to be done, especially on the local scene, because while Caribbean authors are doing great things. I feel like locally it’s hard to get hold of the books and they’re expensive,” she says.
The response to #ReadCaribbean has been overwhelmingly positive. Since the initiative burst onto the scene, it has been featured on OprahMag.com and media from Jamaica, Barbados and T&T also helped raise awareness of Read Caribbean. As a result, more and more people are discovering Caribbean authors and literature. People are shocked that there are so many great Caribbean writers and contemporary Caribbean books, Allman says.
When the bookstagrammer started her Book of Cinz blog, she had no idea it would become what it is today. Allman grew up in a large family in Stony Hill, Jamaica. Both of her parents are readers, her first summer job was at a bookstore where she spent most of her time reading all the books. Over the past six years, she began to focus on the type of books she liked to read.
“I saw myself, my family and my friends represented in Caribbean literature and felt more people needed to see that too,” she says.
Best Book Recommendations
In an effort to make newly released books accessible and fill the void for those who cannot afford to purchase books every month, Allman also created the free BookofCinz library, which is open to people living in Trinidad.
Among her top book recommendations are The Island of Forgetting by Jasmine Sealey, When We Were Birds by Ayana Lloyd Banwo, If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, and People Person by Candice Carty-Williams.
“Two books that I always come back to and recommend to people are How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs and Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed. They are short stories and it is easier for people to read a collection of short stories rather than a complete novel. it motivates them to read more,” she says.
Every time Allman picks up a book and gets lost in its pages, it’s like being transported to another place and another time.
Reading was like a springboard to her itinerant lifestyle. Some of the countries she visited were already familiar to her because she first discovered them in books.
In the future, Allman hopes to create a literary think tank in the form of a Read Caribbean festival that would facilitate in-person events such as Caribbean author panels and workshops where aspiring writers can meet and chat with writers. published authors. Until then, she invites all bibliophiles to unite and join the Read Caribbean movement.
“Caribbean writers are doing amazing things, I encourage people to support Caribbean literature and share it with others – it’s a great way to spread awareness of the books,” says Allman.
To get in on the action and see what books are in Allman’s library, go to www.bookofcinz.com