Clustered together in azure-blue waters are a collection of little islands whose culture, history and people have touched every corner of the world. From the moment Columbus gazed out at what he mistook for India, and wrote in his journal of 'the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen,' the Caribbean has been the subject of fantasies, myths and daydreams. It was claimed, and its societies were built to enrich old Europe, and much later its beaches were splashed across billboards advertising fizzy drinks, its towns and people pictured in holiday brochures. But these islands are so much more than gloss, white sand and palm trees, they form a region rich in colour, beauty and strength. Home of the Rastafarian faith, Che Guevara's stomping ground and birthplace of reggae, the Caribbean has produced some of the world's most famous artists, activists, writers, musicians and sportsmen - from Usain Bolt to Bob Marley and from Harry Belafonte to V. S. Naipaul. In the pages of Island People we hear the voices of the Caribbean people, explore their home and learn what it means to them, and to the world.
In this fascinating and absorbing book, the product of almost a decade of travel and intense study, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro strips away the fantasy and myth to expose the real islands, and the real people, that make up the Caribbean.
This book illuminates, like no other I've read, the startling history and the complex present of the nations of the Caribbean. Written with passion and joyful music in the prose, Island People will become an indispensable companion for anybody travelling to the Caribbean - or dreaming of doing so -- SUKETU MEHTA Many have tried this before - to get hold of, in its entirety, the volatile, beautiful, relentlessly shifting Caribbean. Nobody has succeeded as dazzlingly as Joshua Jelly-Schapiro -- MARLON JAMES One of those rare writers who bridges worlds - between deep scholarship and lively and accessible writing, between islands and mainlands, between big ideas and precise details, between history and possibility -- REBECCA SOLNIT Joshua Jelly-Schapiro possesses both a humanist's irrepressible empathy and a journalist's necessary skepticism. He reports carefully, researches exhaustively, cares deeply, and writes beautifully -- DAVE EGGERS Joshua Jelly-Schapiro's grand book on the Caribbean is so striking in form and vision that it amounts to something new - a constant surprise ... An important book filled with many truths -- HILTON ALS A marvel of a book ... Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is a superb young writer who brings to this sea of dreams a scholar's authority, a novelist's way with character, and a top reporter's talent for stumbling into exactly that tale, however improbable and fantastic, that most needs telling -- MARK DANNER Sensitive to the power of place to anchor or disturb identity, Josh Jelly-Schapiro maps the Caribbean through its myth and its music, its history and its intellectual tradition. Erudite, reflective and savvy, Island People is as much a pleasure to read as it is an education -- GAIUTRA BAHADUR
Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is a geographer and writer whose work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, New York, Harper's, the Believer, Artforum, and the Nation, among many other publications. Educated at Yale and Berkeley, he is the co-editor, with Rebecca Solnit, of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, and a visiting scholar at New York University's Institute for Public Knowledge. This is his first book.