Joshua Jelly-Schapiro returns to Montpelier to read from his debut book Island People and to have a conversation with Kerrin McCadden, Vermont Book Award winner and his former high school English teacher.
A masterwork of travel literature and of history, ISLAND PEOPLE blends reportage and criticism to freshly illuminate this vast and diverse region, its place in history, and how its people and diaspora have shaped the modern world. Jelly-Schapiro, a geographer, scholar, and writer, pays close attention to each island’s history, religion, politics, cuisine, and music as he voyages from Cuba to Jamaica, Puerto Rico to Trinidad, Haiti to Barbados, and islands in between, offering a kaleidoscopic portrait of each society. He examines the Caribbean’s most influential figures—from Fidel Castro to Jamaica Kincaid, from Marcus Garvey to Bob Marley—and explores how these islands common heritage has come to have such a fierce grip on the world’s imagination.
“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, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings and winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize
“Joshua Jelly-Schapiro reports carefully, researches exhaustively, cares deeply, and writes beautifully.”
—Dave Eggers, author of What is the What and Zeitoun
“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. Even as Jelly-Schapiro combines reportage, cultural analysis, and history to superb effect, this important book filled with many truths defines and gives new meaning to that lovely phrase,sui generis.”
—Hilton Als, author of White Girls
“This is a fascinating look at a culture that continues to draw travelers and send out messengers of island culture.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is 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, author of Men
“Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s 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 traveling to the Caribbean—or dreaming of doing so. Accessible and well-informed, Island People is the best book about the Caribbean since V.S. Naipaul’s The Middle Passage—and in significant ways, it is a better book.”
—Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
“Jelly-Schapiro investigates the Caribbean in this sweeping cultural study…[he] writes joyfully about music and literature and how these arts reflect the Caribbean’s hybrid and evolving culture.”
“A geographer's exuberant travel narrative about the nations and people of the Caribbean. Jelly-Schapiro (co-editor: Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, 2016) begins with the premise that the Caribbean, a place often overlooked by both the academic and cultural mainstream, "has been anything but ‘marginal' to the making of our modern world." He examines this idea by offering an ambitious depiction of almost all the islands in that region in a narrative that merges historical, political, and geographical accounts of the Caribbean with the author's abundant experiences as a traveler with an abiding fondness for the islands in all their eccentric, sometimes-bizarre complexity….an eminently well-informed narrative.”
About the Author
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.
About the Moderator
Kerrin McCadden is the author of Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, winner of the 2015 Vermont Book Award, and the 2013 New Issues Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award. She teaches at Montpelier High School and lives in Montpelier, Vermont.