Introducing the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club

Jacquie J

Jacquie J, founder of the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club

Meet Jacquie J, the founder of the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club, a group of young people with a collective passion for reading. They have a special interest in books “that explore the life experiences of people of African descent throughout the Diaspora.” The group meets at least once a month in a restaurant in Central London to discus and exchange views about the books they read. At the request of Caribbean Book Blog, Jacquie agreed to an online interview to discus her book club and what drove her and her colleagues to get together for rap sessions about books that catch their interest.

Her feedback is invaluable on two fronts. It gives us some insight into the expectations of Afro-Caribbean and other ethnic readers in the UK. It also gives us an idea of the level of demand in England for books by Caribbean authors. It’s the sort of interview that Caribbean Book Blog looks forward to doing more of in an effort to get closer to the ground and get a sense of the literary needs of the grass roots, especially the youths. Besides, in a world where the TV screen rules supreme, it’s always refreshing to come across a group of young Caribbean brothers and sisters who are happy to bask in the joy of reading. Now over to Jacquie:      

Tell us briefly about yourself and what made you decide to get together with friends and form the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club.

Jacquie: I have always been a reader. When I was young, after lights out you could catch me under the covers with a torch trying to finish a story because I just could not wait till the following day.  I read all sorts, from Agatha Christie to George Orwell. However at a point I came to the realisation that as captivating as these books were, they were not really telling my story.  I started looking for books by Afro-Caribbean authors. They raised so many interesting issues but there was no one to discuss these with.  That is when I first considered the idea of a book club.  I figured there were probably a lot of people out there feeling the same way so I put out an advert and the book club was formed. 

How does one become a member and what do the members do?

Jacquie: To become a member one simply needs to sign up at http://www.meetup.com/afrocaribbeanbookclub/ and RSVP for meetings as and when they appear online.  Members meet once a month to discuss the issues raised in the book for that month.  The discussions take place over dinner normally in a restaurant in central London.  Members take it in turn to facilitate the meetings and the facilitator comes up with a set of questions to give the meeting some order.  Having said this, the meetings are very informal, and quite often we find ourselves drifting off to issues not raised in the book in question. 

What was it like at your first meet up?

Jacquie: The first meet-up was surprisingly very well attended, I was nervous that no one would show up but 15 people came. The discussion was lively and all the people that came to that meeting have attended future meetings though not everyone has been consistent.

Is it easy to find books by Caribbean writers in bookstores in the UK or do the book club members have to resort to getting them online?

Jacquie: It is not at all easy to find books by Caribbean writers either in bookshops or libraries.  Most members purchase their books online.

Will the club consider books by non-Caribbean writers?

Jacquie: We read books by Afro-Caribbean, Afro-American or African authors, or any books that explore the current state of affairs of people of African origin all over the world.

From your experience, do you think Afro-Caribbean readers in the UK would like to have access to more books by writers from the Diaspora?

Jacquie: Definitely!

Do you think there is a demand for books by Caribbean authors among other ethnic groups in the UK?

Jacquie: Whether or not there is a demand, I think these books should be more widely available.  We need to show our young ones that we too can write and that they are not limited to careers in sports and entertainment only. They would also serve as a great introduction to the Caribbean culture for other ethnic groups.  Before the book club I hardly knew any Caribbean authors and I am sure there are a lot of people out there who are just as ignorant as I was. 

Do you have links with other groups and book clubs?

Jacquie: Several members of the Afro-Caribbean book club are also members of the Asian Book Club.  We had a joint meeting with them this summer to review VS Naipual’s ‘Half a Life’.  We plan to have more joint events in the future.  The majority of members are also part of the Black Londoner’s group.

Who are your three favourite authors?

Jacquie: I like so many that I cannot pick three. In my top ten list I would include Jane Austen, Andrea Levy, Zaide Smith, Paulo Coelho, Arundati Roy, and Tony Morrison.

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18 responses to “Introducing the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club

  1. May I recommend a great book, Crying Mountain Crazy Hurricane by Lili Dauphin, a Caribbean and now American author. It’s the first of a series of books about a young girl, Tilou, living in Haiti, who though poor materially, is a millionaire in spirit Join my discussion itgroup at xanga.com about Lili Dauphin (rosepetalgate.)

  2. Jacquie,
    I was delighted to read about your Afro-Caribbean Book-club. My name is Francis Nation. I am a 72-yrs-old Jamaican author of short stories and poems.
    As a Nation, Jamaica has this unique culture of coining analogies and paraphrases, which no other island in the Caribbean can match, hard as they try. These are often referred to as “Jamaicanness,” a birthright…
    However, migration is rapidly denying generations of Jamaicans around the globe of this “Birthright.” I am on a “Crusade” to expound this “Birthright” to third and forth generations of Jamaicans wherever they may be, through my writing.
    Are writer welcome to your Book-Club?

  3. Dear Caribbean Book Club:

    I am an African American eye surgeon and poet. I graduated from Cornell University and Harvard University. I have just published a powerful critically acclaimed anthology of my experiences and thoughts re: Race and Racism in American. The anthology is titled “Nigger For Life ”. It has been reviewed by the likes of Prof. Cornel West of Princeton University and Noted African America Studies Professor, Beth Richie, of the University of Illinois, Chicago.

    I invite you to visit my website to learn more about the book. I look forward to your comments and reviews as well.

    The website address is: http://www.surgeonpoet.com

    Thank you in advance for your time and interest.

    Sincerely

    Neal Hall, M.D., Poet

  4. Hello Joy San, I just discovered your group online and would love your response to my book Black Passenger Yellow Cabs. The book is now available worldwide, including the UK and Im looking forward to your response.

    feel free to check out my website and I look forward to meeting you and your members when i get to london.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Passenger-Yellow-Cabs-Excess/dp/0615268102/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258128080&sr=8-1

  5. I wish you and your book club continued good reading. As a former book club member myself I know what a great experience it can be. I’m no longer active but I still blog on books at my My Space in a series entitled ‘Read Anything Good Lately’ at http://www.myspace.com/jhohadli I hope you’ll stop by. If you’re open to book suggestions, I’d like to introduce you to my books. The Boy from Willow Bend, reissued in 2009 by UK publisher Hansib (It can be purchased through amazon.co.uk) and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight previously published by Macmillan.

  6. This is what Caribbean-American author Lili Dauphin wrote on her Zmazon.com page:

    Why I wrote “I Will Fly Again: The Restavek”
    12:21 AM PDT, April 23, 2010

    I wrote “I Will Fly Again: The Restavek” because it needed to be told. I wrote it because no one else wanted to do it. I wrote it for the restaveks, their children and their grandchildren most of all I wrote it for humanity and for me. Hopefully, the book will make a difference.

  7. Hi Jacqui, my friends and I have been attending a bookclub that we set up 5 years ago. I am now studying for my MA in education and I’m doing an essay on children’s literature for and by black authors. No one seems to have written much about this in the UK. In the USA and Canada, there is plenty of research, but, not here.

    Well done for starting your bookclub. Keep up the good work.

  8. Hi there

    I’m an emerging author and just signed a 3-book publishing contract courtesy Seaburn Publishing Group. SLAVE: Escaping the Chains of Freedom is book 1 of the trilogy and is set in 18th Century New York and follows the fictional life of freed slave, Hezekiah Thomas and his journey to become an owner of slaves.

    I would love you to consider reviewing my book during one of your meetings and wonder what the process would be for this? Happy to send you more info.

    Kindest regards
    Jacqueline Malcolm

  9. A book I only read recently, “The Pink House at Appleton” by Jonathan Braham is one that I would recommend to your book club, Jacqui. The writer is Jamaican-born. The book is intensely erotic, about the love between a little black Jamaican boy of eight and a white English girl of seven (while their parents are having it off too!) at Appleton Estate in Jamaica, full of beautiful descriptions, about adultery and class prejudice, about how middle-class Jamaican men treated their wives in 1950s Jamaica, shocking and memorable. Fantastic writing! Have a read. It’s available on Amazon.

    Regards

    Anthony Samms

  10. First thing is, please change all reference to Afro-Caribbean, it is African-Caribbean, Afro is an hairstyle not a ethnicity or culture.

    • Hi Freedom Flower

      I suggest you communicate this to the London Afro-Caribbean Book Club. This is the official name of the group. It would be presumptuous of me to arbitrarily change it.

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