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Caribbean-American Heritage Month Book Recommendations

Updated: Jun 22, 2022





June is Caribbean-American Heritage Month! Since 2006, the United States of America has honored the cultural contributions made from people of Caribbean descent. The list below represents only a few selected literary works that are available at the Long Branch Public Library.



 

Children's



Islandborn by Junot Díaz, Illustrated by Leo Espinosa


Every kid in Lola's school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.


So when Lola's teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can't remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola's imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family's story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela's words: “Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you.”


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Freedom Soup by Tami Charles, Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara


Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year's soup -- and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.


The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes.

Ti Gran's feet tap-tap to the rhythm.


Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup -- Freedom Soup -- just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle's family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle's family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcantara's lush illustrations bring to life both Belle's story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles's lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.


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Climb On! by Baptiste Paul, Illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara


When a young child reminds her dad about the hike they planned, her father is hesitant —To the tippy top? It’s a great day to watch futbol (soccer). But as the two climb on, her enthusiasm is contagious. Filled with setbacks, surprises, and stunning views, this warm and humorous story highlights in vivid colors the bonding power of a shared experience. A list of creatures at the end prompts a second look for keen-eyed readers to make discoveries of their own.


Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara (co-creators of The Field) have teamed up again! Baptiste’s humorous and tender text, with a sprinkling of Creole words straight from the Pitons, and Jacqueline Alcántara’s vibrant and evocative illustrations capture the wonder and emotions experienced on the trail and the special relationship between a parent and a child.


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The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold


It’s 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is excited to be moving from Haiti to America. Unfortunately, her parents won’t be able to join her yet and she’ll be living in a place called Brooklyn, New York, with relatives she has never met. She promises her parents that she will behave, but life proves to be difficult in the United States, from learning the language to always feeling like she doesn’t fit in to being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to speak English perfectly and be “American,” she makes the deal. But soon she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and, along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat), takes on the witch in an epic battle to try to reverse the spell.


Gabrielle is a funny and engaging heroine you won’t soon forget in this sweet and lyrical novel that’s perfect for fans of Hurricane Child and Front Desk.


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Young Adult


Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

I wonder what it would be like to be free? Not to need wings because you don’t have to fly away from your country?


Anita de la Torre is a twelve-year-old girl living in the Dominican Republic in 1960. Most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared, Papi has been getting mysterious phone calls about butterflies and someone named Mr. Smith, and the secret police have started terrorizing her family for their suspected opposition to the country’s dictator. While Anita deals with a frightening series of events, she also struggles with her adolescence and her own personal fight to be free.


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The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon


Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.


Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.


The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?


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Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by

Maika Moulite , Maritza Moulit


When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…


You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?


Actually, a lot.


Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I'm spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a "spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.


All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.


You know, typical drama. But it's nothing I can't handle.


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Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo


Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…


In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.


Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.


And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.


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Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass


Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago, the Plumeria. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden – her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything – left the island to pursue his music dreams. Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.


And that's when Aiden comes roaring back into her life – as a VIP guest at the resort.


Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal – the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…


Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, Where the Rhythm Takes You is a romantic, mesmerizing novel of first love and second chances.


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Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield


Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.


When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.


In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane.


Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.


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Adult Fiction

Sweethand (Island Bites #1) by N.G. Peltier

After a public meltdown over her breakup from her cheating musician boyfriend, Cherisse swore off guys in the music industry, and dating in general for a while, preferring to focus on growing her pastry chef business.


When Cherisse’s younger sister reveals she’s getting married in a few months, Cherisse hopes that will distract her mother enough to quit harassing her about finding a guy, settling down and having kids. But her mother’s matchmaking keeps intensifying.


Cherisse tries to humour her mother, hoping if she feigns interest in the eligible bachelors she keeps tossing her way, she’ll be off the hook, but things don’t quite go as planned. Turns out for the first time in ages, she and Keiran King, the most annoying man ever, are on the island at the same time. Avoiding him is impossible, especially when Keiran’s close friend is the one marrying her sister, and he’s the best man to her maid of honour.


Keiran doesn’t know what to make of Cherisse now. They’ve always butted heads. To him she’s always been a stuck-up brat who seeks attention, even while he secretly harbored a crush on her. Now with Cherisse’s sister marrying one of his good friends he can’t escape her as the wedding activities keep throwing them together.


When things turn heated after a rainy night of bedroom fun, they both have to figure out if they can survive the countdown to wedding day, without this turning into a recipe for disaster.


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A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera

Paris, 1889


The Exposition Universelle is underway, drawing merchants from every corner of the globe. Luz Alana Heith-Benzan set sail from Santo Domingo armed with three hundred casks of rum, her two best friends and one simple rule: under no circumstances is she to fall in love.


The City of Light is where Luz Alana will expand Caña Brava, the rum business her family built over three generations. It’s a mission that’s taken on new urgency after her father’s untimely death and the news that her trust fund won’t be released until she marries. But buyers and shippers alike are rude and dismissive; they can’t imagine doing business with a woman…never mind a woman of color.


From her first tempestuous meeting with James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, Luz Alana is conflicted. Why is this man—this titled Scottish man—so determined to help her? And why, honestly, is he so infuriatingly charming?


All Evan Sinclair ever wanted was to find a purpose away from his father’s dirty money and dirtier politics. Ignoring his title, he’s built a whiskey brand that’s his biggest—and only—passion. That is, until he’s confronted with a Spanish-speaking force of nature who turns his life upside down.


Evan quickly suspects he’ll want Luz Alana with him forever. Every day with her makes the earl wish for more than her magnificent kisses or the marriage of convenience that might save them both. But Luz Alana sailed for Paris with her eyes on liquor, money and new beginnings. She wasn't prepared for love to find her.


Las Léonas Book 1: A Caribbean Heiress in Paris


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Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia


In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.


From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia's Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals—personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others—that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.


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Island Queen by Vanessa Riley


Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.


Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.


From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.


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Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson


We can't choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?


In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett's death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage, and themselves.


Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor's true history, and fulfill her final request to "share the black cake when the time is right"? Will their mother's revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?


Charmaine Wilkerson's debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.


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Monster in the Middle by Tiphanie Yanique


When Fly and Stela meet in 21st Century New York City, it seems like fate. He's a Black American musician from a mixed-religious background who knows all about heartbreak. She's a Catholic science teacher from the Caribbean, looking for lasting love. But are they meant to be? The answer goes back decades--all the way to their parents' earliest loves.


Vibrant and emotionally riveting, Monster in the Middle moves across decades, from the U.S. to the Virgin Islands to Ghana and back again, to show how one couple's romance is intrinsically influenced by the family lore and love stories that preceded their own pairing. What challenges and traumas must this new couple inherit, what hopes and ambitions will keep them moving forward? Exploring desire and identity, religion and class, passion and obligation, the novel posits that in order to answer the question "who are we meant to be with?" we must first understand who we are and how we came to be.


Place a hold here!


 

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