Bookshelf (Jan/Feb 2022) | Book reviews

This month’s reading picks from the Caribbean, with reviews of Dangerous Freedom by Lawrence Scott; How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones; The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein; and Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean by Andil Gosine

  • Dangerous Freedom
  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
  • The Disordered Cosmos
  • Nature’s Wild

Dangerous Freedom

by Lawrence Scott (Papillote Press, 290 pp, ISBN 9781999776862)

Dido Belle is perhaps best known through her stunning 1779 portrait by David Martin, in which she stands next to her cousin and companion Lady Elizabeth Murray. What lies behind her enigmatic gaze is the work of Dangerous Freedom, Lawrence Scott’s tender fictional revisioning of what Dido’s life might truly have held in its most private moments. Elizabeth d’Aviniere — Dido’s married name — navigates states of duality in the late eighteenth century: mixed-race, installed at London’s Kenwood House yet ever-aware of her dubious grasp of respectability, fearful as a young mother for the possible fate of her children at the hands of slavecatchers. Scott illuminates the obscure areas of Elizabeth’s freedoms, rendering overlooked domestic and social exchanges in luminous narrative portraiture. In its finest moments, the novel tugs at connective emotional tissue between Elizabeth and her mother, revealing chasms of love and loss.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

by Cherie Jones (Little, Brown, 289 pp, ISBN 9780316537001)

Women the world over die because men can’t control their rage: this grim manifesto is hammered into the pages of Cherie Jones’s debut novel, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House. Taking the image of the Caribbean luxury resort to immediate task, Jones reveals the chipped teeth behind the grinning façade of respectability, both in and outside of the bedroom. Lala, the protagonist of this anti-fantasy, lies next to her abusive unicycling husband Adan, leveraging the life of violence into which she’s been thrust against hopes for security, succor, a kind of home warmth that has little to do with Barbados’s heat. Nothing about these characters or their circumstances promises comfort, yet in the book’s aching machinery are threaded glimmers of hope: Lala does what she can, despite unfathomable odds, to survive her life.

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred

by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (Bold Type Books, 336 pp, ISBN 9781541724709)

If a racist shouts epithets into a black hole, will any star matter be around to hear its echoes? Barbadian-American theoretical cosmologist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein unveils systemic racism even among the celestial bodies. The Disordered Cosmos unpeels layers of institutional disenfranchisement of Black intellect in STEM fields, with particular focus on astronomy and physics. What emerges in this extraordinary study is not solely science: personal essays and cultural criticism saddle up alongside explanations of theory that combine depth and accessibility. The future of science, Prescod-Weinstein affirms, must be open to Black girls and children everywhere, so that there are no more lone exceptions like herself, studding laboratories. This work soars with an inquisitive passion.

Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex, and Law in the Caribbean

by Andil Gosine (Duke University Press, 192 pp, ISBN 9781478014584)

“I would come to understand that I deviated from something.” In Nature’s Wild, Trinidadian-Canadian scholar and artist Andil Gosine reckons with no less a vulnerable and complex subject than himself. Querying his origins in rural Trinidad, his migration to Canada as a teenager, and his life in art and activism, Gosine enables a vast canvas for the examination of sexual autonomy inCaribbean cultures. Revealing the homophobic structures that criminalise and repudiate queerness as holdovers of a rigid colonialism, the book involves its reader in a celebration of “wildness.” We must, all of us, be open to becoming more free: this is the rallying, community-oriented cry of Nature’s Wild, which devotes an entire segment to the radical pioneering resistances of the late Colin Robinson, whose LGBTQI+ labour is lovingly remembered here.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.