Monique Roffey’s Discovery of Caribbean Literature

The following essay by Vladimir Lucien from St. Lucia is causing some waves among Caribbean literati. When is a writer a Caribbean writer was a debate that raged on Facebook for a while in May and seems to have spun off this searing critical response. Lucien takes the discussion into territory we don’t examine enough. His comments below amplify my own initial introductory remarks.  The question “Who has the right to call themselves a Caribbean writer?” appeared in the original discussion on Facebook and remains a cogent one. Do Caribbean writers have the responsibility to represent the corpus of writing from the region with a depth born of serious engagement and research are additional questions he’s asking. And of course much much more. What do YOU think?


Monique Roffey’s recent article on the Waterstones blog created quite a stir when it was posted and shared over various social media. The article was an echo of an essay Roffey had published in Wasafiri, Vol. 28 No. 2, in June 2013, entitled ‘New Writing from the Island of Trinidad’. This contentious one however was supposedly wider in scope, entitled ‘The New Wave of Caribbean Writers.’ In both articles, Roffey seems to be attempting to inform persons about not just who is writing or worth reading, but also on the trajectory that Trinidadian and Caribbean literature has taken to bring them both to what she thinks is a particularly auspicious and mature period.  Via e mail threads, facebook threads, private messages, there has been a lot of talk going around about the article on the blog. Many persons were displeased with it for a number of reasons, many of which…

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Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

17 thoughts on “Monique Roffey’s Discovery of Caribbean Literature”

  1. Hey Annie, I am not sure if I was questioning Monique’s Caribbeanness but perhaps chiding her for being a writer from the Caribbean engaging the Caribbean but at the same time denying its depth. I only speculate on the issue, in the article, about how we may determine it , and my speculation leaves the boundaries wide open. It can for instance account for and accept someone not born and bred in the Caribbean but who has moved here and lives here and is willing to engage with it in a profound and complex way, which necessitates, no matter the colour, economic status or ethnicity of the person, a complex engagement with this space and what their presence means which funny enough must take into account in varying degrees — colour, economic status, ethnicity. For some it may require more than others. And for the record, I actually feel like Monique’s article created more of a STIR than my article, but I suppose in quieter places but all members of the Caribbean literati who I am sure won’t mind speaking out about how they felt.

    Kwame Dawes is from Ghana, lived there till he was eleven I think. But I don’t think there are any questions there. And I suppose this commitment to a depth of engagement does begin with saying I AM A CARIBBEAN WRITER which is a harder question than having CARIBBEAN CITIZENSHIP OR BEING BORN HERE. As a writer one has more responsibility. And Monique was being irresponsible and blithely so, in the British press. The article was meant to add another voice in a space that was as accessible as the Waterstones article. But glad that you have reblogged. Will only widen the debate.


      1. Thanks for the correction Vlad, i thought i was describing the Fbk convo which was started by a comment of Christian Cambell’s, when i said that. will try and make it clearer…kudos to you for taking this on, these discussions need to happen. Publicly. Not just on Facebook.

    1. Thanks Vladimir, didn’t meant to misrepresent you and will correct what I’ve said or amplify it to make it clear…this is such a rich discussion, unfortunately I haven’t read the original article by Monique and i doubt many here have so your piece allows us to go back and read and engage…

  2. Or even this simple analogue: if one is a paediatrician—- we cyah just expect to call on him to do urologist wuk? And we expect that he would represent the specialty properly by at least havin the most rudimentary understanding of the field. Unless of course Dr. Roffey is a General practitioner…..unless we just expect people to be WRiters. period. 🙂

    1. oh boy! well hopefully someone kept a copy of the original. I always keep copies i’ve clipped and saved. But do not despair maybe it just means that Monique now sees your point and is therefore making the required changes?

    2. Disappointed that the original wasn’t left up, since that’s the one that was doing the work in the world everyone is responding to; though she says it was not a final draft. There IS a footnote indicating it’s changed, however.

    1. Well Waterstones notes the amendment at the bottom of the post. all you have to do is add a note to your post explaining that the points you were responding to have been removed by the author.

  3. your post was fine from the beginning Annie. I took no offense. Just wanted to give my two cents. Cuz i am sure the post is being used in other places tendentiously and with some malice. but its all good.

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