Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From Blizzards to Tropics

Today was the first day I ventured out to work after the blizzard. The first customer I found in the travel aisle was shivering in front of our wide selection of Caribbean guidebooks. I asked if she needed any help. She peered up at me from beneath a wooly hat and pleaded, "I want to go somewhere warm!"

Don't we all? That's why we're celebrating the sunny Caribbean as our Destination of the Month of February. After puzzling over how to get to Cuba for awhile, my customer determined she would go swim with the migrating whales off the coast of Belize. If, like me, your February will be spent trudging between work and home through ice and snow and sludge, our destination shelf is brimming with titles ready to transport you to the blazing heat of a sun-baked beach.

Travel alongside the erudite classic travel writer, Patrick Leigh Fermor, as he wanders among the old colonial capitals of several Caribbean Islands, including Guadeloupe, Martinique, Barbados, Trinidad, and Haiti. Fermor's first published travel narrative, Traveller's Tree, describes the culture and people inhabiting the paradisaical landscape, from steel drum bands to Voodoo practices.

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean is an engaging history book to supplement your knowledge of the Caribbean Islands and the surrounding waters, which, just after the Spanish Inquisition, were often populated with Jewish Pirates. Edward Kritzler describes the adventures of such ships as the Prophet Samuel and Queen Esther and the prospects of their fascinating crews.

Tropic Death is a collection of short stories set in Barbados, Panama, and other Caribbean landscapes that filled the childhood memories of author Eric Walrond. Although fictional, these vivid depictions of life in the tropics transport the reader into the lives of island residents living in the aftermath of colonialism.  If the Dominican Republic is your destination, Junot Diaz's short story collection, Drown, reveals the lives of residents of the villages and barrios of the DR. Both of these short story collections would make a great read for a flight to the Caribbean. And of course, for a sultry romp through Puerto Rico, all you have to do is pick up Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary and you're off to 1950s San Juan.

If you are looking not only to escape the cold, but also the city, pick up Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place, and let her take you to a ten-by-twelve mile island, her home of Anitgua. Watch the changes that came with colonialism and tourism, and learn about the lives lived out in this small place in the Caribbean.


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Winter weather always leaves me Havana daydreamin'. For another great cultural introduction to the Caribbean, I love the memoirs of Ann Vanderhoof, who sails from Toronto to Trini and back again with her husband. Instead of palling around with the sailing crowd, though, they immerse themselves in local culture. It's a great read to keep the cold at bay!

Jodie said...

Thanks for the recommendation! It looks like Vanderhoof's Embarrassments of Mangoes and Spice Necklace are readily available to order. Enough warm reading to get us through til spring!