Oonya Kempadoo’s “All Decent Animals” Makes Oprah’s 2013 Summer Reading List

“How am I only now finding out about this writer?” writes Karen Russell for Oprah’s Summer Reading List in O, The Oprah Magazine. “It’s as if she’s inventing her own language, which is incantatory, dense, and lush. The authority and blood pulse of it seduced me. The novel is set in Trinidad, amid the circus-like world of Carnival. You’re a hostage in that island world — there’s nowhere to go, but you’re happy about it.” The influential list is part of Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

Oonya Kempadoo (Photo: Greg Bal)

Oonya was guest speaker during my Spice Isle Writing & Yoga Retreat in Grenada just weeks before the publication of All Decent Animals. (Read my earlier interview with Oonya.) Her warm manner, candidness about her writing journey, and readings from an earlier novel and a work-in-progress made a lasting impression on the group, particularly her encouragement to “write from the defining moments” of our lives. We’re thrilled for her that her book is garnering positive reviews.

Oonya was also recently awarded a grant under the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence program to teach at two community colleges in Connecticut beginning in September.

Goodreads has this to say about her latest book:

“Oonya Kempadoo’s moving third novel, All Decent Animals, looks at the personal and aesthetic choices of a multifaceted cast of characters on the Caribbean island of Trinidad — a country still developing economically but rich culturally, aiming at “world-class” status amid its poor island cousins. It is a novel about relationships, examined through the distinct rhythms of the city of Port of Spain.

“Loyalties, love, conflicting cultures, and creativity come into play as Ata, a young woman working in carnival design but curious about writing, and her European boyfriend, Pierre, negotiate the care of their friend Fraser, a closeted gay man dying from AIDS. The contradictory Trinidadian setting becomes a parallel character to Fraser’s Cambridge-derived artistic sensibility and an antagonist to Ata’s creative journey.

“All Decent Animals is a forthright inquiry into the complexity of character, social issues, and island society, with all the island’s humor, mysticism, and tragedy.”

Read “Taste and See,” an excerpt from All Decent Animals, in Caribbean Beat (Issue 121, May/June 2013).

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  1. Coral Jewell says:

    Hi Allyson, Oh what a treat to read. So delicious (pun intended). Totally resonated with me. We called that fruit custard apple.

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