Caribbean Readers' Awards 2020 fiction shortlist

In Jamaica, Rebel Women Lit Launches the Caribbean Readers’ Awards

In News by Hannah Johnson

Book club and literary community Rebel Women Lit aims to ‘showcase the amazing range’ of Caribbean literature with the newly launched Caribbean Readers’ Awards.

Caribbean Readers' Awards 2020 fiction shortlist

Shortlisted titles for the 2020 edition of the newly launched Caribbean Readers’ Awards. Image: Rebel Women Lit

By Hannah Johnson | @hannahsjohnson

‘2020 Was a Big Year for Caribbean Authors’
Voting is now open for the debut cycle of the Caribbean Readers’ Awards, a new initiative from the Jamaica-based book club and literary community Rebel Women Lit, founded in 2017 by Jherane Patmore.

“Caribbean literature is so much more diverse than our scholastic reading lists would suggest,” says Patmore in a prepared statement on the launch of the awards. “Rebel Women Lit decided to create these awards so that we can showcase the amazing range that Caribbean lit has to offer.”

Putting readers and fans at the heart of the awards is crucial for Patmore.

“I think many existing literary spaces focus on creating celebrities out of writers because they’re not sure how else to connect with readers,” Patmore tells Publishing Perspectives. “We want the Readers’ Awards to focus on what readers are genuinely excited about, partly because a lot of international literary spaces haven’t been accessible to us, but also because we’re our own authority on the books we like.”

Readers were invited to nominate their favorite works for the award, and will choose the winners from shortlisted titles in seven categories: debut novel, poetry, nonfiction, fiction, young adult/teen, children’s/tween, and a special category for Rebel Women Lit Book Club selections.

“Unlike many other awards,” Patmore says, “we accepted nominations from the public and sifted through the books to ensure they met our criteria of being Caribbean books published in a particular period.”

Voting is open through December 31, and the winners will be announced on January 3. The awards are open to “books written by authors who are of Caribbean citizenship, were born in the Caribbean, or are of Caribbean heritage, and have significant portions of the book set in the Caribbean,” according to the organizers.

Another critical motivation for Patmore and the team at Rebel Women Lit to launch these awards is to bring more international attention to Caribbean writers.

“2020 was a big year for Caribbean authors,” Patmore says, “and we think they’re as equally deserving of the spotlight as many of the global book industry award winners. And while there are some platforms that highlight Caribbean authors, they remain limited, especially since COVID-19 has resulted in so many events being cancelled.

“Being able to host these awards online, and to make them solely based on reader input, means we can shine a light on the Caribbean books that people are reading.”

Speaking to Publishing Perspectives about the launch of the awards, Jamaican publisher and industry consultant Latoya West-Blackwood says, “This is an exciting and important development for the region. We’re home to some of the world’s best writers but still not treated as a viable market by foreign publishers.”

About Rebel Women Lit

Having started as a book club for Caribbean literature, Rebel Women Lit (RWL) has expanded into online retail, events, and book lending. The program offers subscriptions to book club picks, reading lists, and robust discussions on Caribbean literature.

“This year we started a bookstore, a podcast (aptly named Like A Real Book Club), hosted scores of literary events, commissioned new work from literary and visual artists, and grew exponentially,” Patmore says.

RWL is particularly interested in encouraging Millennial and Gen Z readers to “engage with literary arts from women, black, and queer people across the Caribbean and in the diaspora.”

Caribbean Readers’ Awards 2020 Shortlists

Best Novel (Adult)

  • A Million Aunties by Alecia McKenzie
  • Birthday Shot by Rilzy Adams
  • Black Rain Falling by Jacob Ross
  • Book of The Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma
  • Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay
  • Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
  • Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo
  • Tea by the Sea by Donna Hemans
  • The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
  • These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card

Best Young Adult Novel

  • Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Facing The Sun by Janice Lynn Mather
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
  • Off Track By Tamika Gibson

Best Middle Grade/Tween Novel

  • Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar
  • The Madre de Aguas of Cuba (The Unicorn Rescue Society #5) by Adam Gidwitz and Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Hatem Aly
  • When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten

Translated Works

  • The Belle Créole by Maryse Condé, translated by Nicole Simek
  • The Black Cathedral by Marcia Gala, translated by Anna Kushner
  • The Sea Needs No Ornament / El Mar No Necesita Ornamento edited by Loretta Collins Klobah & Maria Grau Perejoan
  • The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox


  • Feels Like Home by Natalya Muncuff
  • Guabancex by Celia Sorhaindo
  • New Voices: Selected by Lorna Goodison, Poet Laureate of Jamaica, 2017-2020
  • Running with Daffodils by Samantha R.S.
  • The Dyzgraphxst by Canisia Lubrin
  • The Sea Needs No Ornament / El Mar No Necesita Ornamento edited by Loretta Collins Klobah & Maria Grau Perejoan

Best Non-Fiction (Book)

  • An Autobiography of the Autobiography of Reading by Dionne Brand
  • Beyond Homophobia: Centring LGBTQ Experiences in the Anglophone Caribbean edited by Moji Anderson and Erin C. MacLeod
  • Carnival Is Woman: Feminism and Performance in Caribbean Mas edited by Frances Henry and Dwaine Plaza
  • Musings, Mazes, Muses, Margins, by Gordon Rohlehr
  • Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire by Annette Joseph-Gabriel
  • The Undiscovered Country by Andre Bagoo
  • The Millennial Mind by Daniel Francis
  • Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World by Jessica Marie Johnson

Non-Fiction (Individual Pieces)

Short Story (Collection)

  • Dominoes at the Crossroads by Kaie Kellough
  • Stick No Bills by Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw

Short Story (Individual Pieces)

New Content Creators (sharing a lot of Caribbean Lit on social media)

In the video below from the PublishHer #Unmasked series, author Latoya West-Blackwood speaks with Hannah Johnson.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more on women in publishing is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.