Calypso Jews

Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination

Sarah Phillips Casteel

Columbia University Press

Calypso Jews

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Pub Date: January 2016

ISBN: 9780231174404

352 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£50.00

Pub Date: January 2016

ISBN: 9780231540575

352 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£50.00

Calypso Jews

Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination

Sarah Phillips Casteel

Columbia University Press

In original and insightful ways, Caribbean writers have turned to Jewish experiences of exodus and reinvention, from the Sephardim expelled from Iberia in the 1490s to the "Calypso Jews" who fled Europe for Trinidad in the 1930s. Examining these historical migrations through the lens of postwar Caribbean fiction and poetry, Sarah Phillips Casteel presents the first major study of representations of Jewishness in Caribbean literature. Bridging the gap between postcolonial and Jewish studies, Calypso Jews enriches cross-cultural investigations of Caribbean creolization.

Caribbean writers invoke both the 1492 expulsion and the Holocaust as part of their literary archaeology of slavery and its legacies. Despite the unequal and sometimes fraught relations between Blacks and Jews in the Caribbean before and after emancipation, Black-Jewish literary encounters reflect sympathy and identification more than antagonism and competition. Providing an alternative to U.S.-based critical narratives of Black-Jewish relations, Casteel reads Derek Walcott, Maryse Condé, Michelle Cliff, Jamaica Kincaid, Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen, and Paul Gilroy, among others, to reveal a distinctive interdiasporic literature.

A rich, consequential, powerful work that will make a difference in Jewish and postcolonial studies alike.

Jonathan Freedman, author of Klezmer America: Jewishness, Ethnicity, Modernity

What Sarah Phillips Casteel offers in Calypso Jews is nothing short of a radical new way of looking at inter-diasporic Jewish and Black relations in the Caribbean. While her main objects are the literary productions of writers as varied as Caryl Philips, Derek Walcott, Michelle Cliff, and others, the fact that she situates the literary representation of Jews in the Caribbean within the two contexts of 1492 and the Holocaust means she invokes different resonances that play across the cultural imaginary of the two communities. A highly engaging contribution to literary and diaspora studies.

Ato Quayson, author of Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice, or Process?

Calypso Jews is the first comprehensive account of the multilayered relationship between diasporic Jews and the Caribbean. It is lucidly written and has a historical reach from 1492 to the Holocaust. Always open to the nuances of modern and contemporary Caribbean poetics, Calypso Jews is highly informative and helps rethink many topics ranging from Black-Jewish relations to creolization theory, from slave narratives to Holocaust diaries.

Bryan Cheyette, author of Diasporas of the Mind: Jewish and Postcolonial Writing and the Nightmare of History

Calypso Jews reveals how a generation of postwar Caribbean novelists transformed literary genres and created an underappreciated archive of transcultural memory. Lucidly written and argued with nuance, this doubly necessary study is a must read for students of both the Black and Jewish Atlantic.

Michael Rothberg, author of Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

An engaging and rather unusual study of diaspora Jewry in the West Indies.... [that shines a] bright, exalting light... on the Caribbean and its many different peoples.

Ian Thomson, Times Literary Supplement

Throughout Calypso Jews, Casteel makes a case for how hidden Sephardism has captured the imagination of culturally diverse authors post-slavery. The fullness and novelty of her research opens a fascinating dialogue on the intersections of black and Jewish relationships as revealed through Caribbean literature.

Sharon Elswit, Jewish Book Council

A path-breaking study.... By bringing a fresh approach to a much-neglected area of scholarship, Casteel has made a major contribution to our understanding of the Caribbean writer's commitment to bearing witness to the traumas of modernity.

Patrick Taylor, H-Caribbean
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part 1: 1492
1. Sephardism in Caribbean Literature: Derek Walcott's Pissarro
2. Marranism and Creolization: Myriam Chancy and Michelle Cliff
3. Port Jews in Slavery Fiction: Maryse Condé and David Dabydeen
4. Plantation Jews in Slavery Fiction: Cynthia McLeod's Jodensavanne
Part 2: Holocausts
5. Calypso Jews: John Hearne and Jamaica Kincaid
6. Between Camps: M. NourbeSe Philip and Michèle Maillet
7. Writing Under the Sign of Anne Frank: Michelle Cliff and Caryl Phillips
Conclusion
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Read the introduction:

Winner of the 2016 Canadian Jewish Literary Award in the Scholarship Category

About the Author

Sarah Phillips Casteel is associate professor of English at Carleton University, where she holds a cross-appointment with the Institute of African Studies. She is the author of Second Arrivals: Landscape and Belonging in Contemporary Writing of the Americas and coeditor, with Winfried Siemerling, of Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations.