From the TBR Shelf #17: How to Escape From a Leper Colony by Tiphanie Yanique to Escape From a Leper Colony (2010) by Tiphanie Yanique

I must admit that I've read very few Caribbean writers (I have read Jean Rhys, V. S. Naipal, and Jamaica Kinkaid, but that was back in college...). Yanique's collection of stories in How to Escape From a Leper Colony makes me want to read so much more by writers from this part of the world.

While the term "Caribbean" fails to convey the vibrant multitude of peoples and cultural practices from Haiti to Jamaica, the Virgin Islands to Trinidad, and beyond, Yanique offers us stories that reveal the richness and diversity of the region. Moving from 1930s Trinidad to the Virgin Islands of the present day, and from Florida to England, these stories of interracial relationships, coffin-shop owners, Carnival participants, and artists are fully-imagined worlds. 

Yanique dwells on each character's ambitions and desires with a patience born of intense curiosity. Often, within a story, she will present different perspectives on the same event, creating a kind of 3-D image in our mind's eye. It is this element in particular that drew me wholeheartedly into this collection.

One especially interesting example of this is in "The Bridge Stories: A Short Collection." In each of the four brief stories, one character describes events happening to another character, all involving a bridge connecting two of the islands. The first story- a parable- invites us to read an attempt to connect all of the Caribbean islands as naive, since a man-made structure alone cannot bridge linguistic, cultural, and religious differences. Each narrator has a distinctive voice, and each brief story describes a life impacted by the bridge. Indeed, many of the stories in this collection are about metaphorical bridges, mostly connecting lovers of different religions or races.

I look forward to reading Yanique's upcoming novel, Land of Love and Drowning (out this July).

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