My mission in life is to nudge reluctant readers and even bibliophiles in the direction of new and interesting books for the pure joy of reading. But today is different. Today’s book choices are not merely for the pleasure of reading. These three important novels, the 2016 winners of the CODE Burt Awards, which are presented annually at the NGC Bocas Literature Festival are your duty to read.
I say this because we are lucky to have an outstanding regional literature festival and a prestigious literary contest that features Caribbean literature. In case you haven’t noticed, international publishers are not exactly rushing to publish Caribbean literature.
Occasionally, we hit the literary jackpot with a novel like A History of Seven Killings by Jamaican writer Marlon James, which won the Booker Prize, but all in all, it is difficult to build a canon of Caribbean literature because foreign publishers don’t want to take a chance on new, Caribbean writers.
The simple truth is that foreign publishers don’t want to take chances our our literature because they say not enough books sell in the Caribbean. The books that foreign publishers often do publish, turn out to be watered down versions of Caribbean culture to meet the needs of a foreign audience with a penchant for viewing the Caribbean as an exotic playground.
The CODE Burt Awards are particularly important because they feature Young Adult (YA) literature for readers 12 to 18. These awards provide teens with books where they can see themselves in their own setting. This literary award keep that love for literature alive in that crucial period between childhood and adulthood. If we lose readers in the YA age group, they are often lost to the world of books forever.
Books help us to determine our place in society and indeed the world. They help us resolve the conflicts in our lives, and they provide a sense of pride in who we are. If we don’t support Caribbean literature and the CODE Burt Awards, then we risk losing our literary voice in this world.
So, today I proudly introduce you to the 2016 CODE’s Burt Award-winning books for Caribbean literature in their winning order:
1. Dreams Beyond the Shore byTamika Gibson (Trinidad and Tobago)
2. Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell (Bermuda)
3. The Protector’s Pledge by Danielle Y C McClean (Trinidad and Tobago)
Over the next three weeks I will present a book review on each one of the winning books, which are now available in book stores. I must confess that am excited about Girlcott because it is historical fiction, which is quite popular with YA readers, and because it had been submitted when I was a CODE Burt Award head judge three years ago. Even back then, I felt Girlcott should have been in the top four finalists.
Also, writers should take note that Dreams Beyond the Shore and Girlcott were unpublished manuscripts when they were submitted to the CODE Burt Awards. They are now published by Blouse and Skirt Books based in Jamaica.
Aspiring writers should go on line and check out the CODE Burt awards. Submissions to the contest are due in October. Winners have the satisfaction of seeing their books distributed in schools throughout the Caribbean because each book is guaranteed sales of at least 2,500 copies.
There is no way to fully explain the importance of the Burt Awards and the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Together, they serve as our lifeline to the world of literature.
Written by Debbie Jacob for her weekly column.