Reviews & Press

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All Decent Animals

“How am I only now finding out about this writer? 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.”  writes Karen Russell for Oprah’s Summer Reading List

“Guyanese-British Kempadoo’s third novel (Tide Running, 2003, etc.) again takes on the socioeconomic complexity of the Caribbean, this time in Trinidad as a multiracial group cares for a friend dying of AIDS.” Kirkus Review 

“During Carnival in Port of Spain, with loud Mama look a boo-boo tin pan, rum in everyone, close friends throw answers back and forth to the question: Where does the name “calypso” come from? They discuss its Caribbean, French, Spanish/Venezuelan, and West African origins. There is no easy answer. It is shaped out of cultural congress, it has come together from across diverse sounds and styles into an artistic interpretation that here resonates profoundly with the human experience of these Trinidadians. In this scene from Oonya Kempadoo’s third novel, All Decent Animals, the friends could just as well be talking about the very story world in which they exist because a similar pattern of coming together underpins this book, a weaving of peoples, cultures, and old and new worlds.” Book review by Christopher X. Shade: New Orleans Review

“Over the last 15 years, Kempadoo has established herself as a preeminent writer of Caribbean fiction . . . Kempadoo’s narration alternates between the formal language of international development and a heavily dialectized slang, to create a creolized island English. Together with references to local rhythms like calypso, kaiso, and soca, the effect is of sheer saturation, as seamlessly coupled as night jasmine and passion fruit, with certain scenes nearly synesthetic in their blending of sensory impressions. Yet even a climactic and mysterious encounter between lovers grows dark, wrapped in bitter seaweed and plunged in salt water.”—Diego Báez, Booklist.

“All Decent Animals is Oonya Kempadoo’s third book of fiction. Set amid the distinct rhythms of Port of Spain, Trinidad, Kempadoo’s multifaceted and multicultural cast of characters confront the inevitable while Carnival, in all its music and madness, plays on. Friends gather to protect and cherish one of their own and learn about themselves through all the island’s capacity for humor, complexity and the love of living.” Washington Independent Interview


Tide Running

“Kempadoo is extraordinary . . . Her powerful novel about an ill-starred ménage â trios—set as it is against a backdrop of devastating natural beauty and overwhelming material poverty, and written with an incantatory lyricism—represents one of the finest attempts to come to terms with the emotional fault lines and historical complexities of contemporary Caribbean society. . . Kempadoo breaks old stories, makes them anew.” — Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of This Is How You Lose Her

“As with Buxton Spice, . . . what makes Tide Running really extraordinary is its style. Kempadoo draws her characters and settings with such vivid strokes that her language leaps off the page. …If she expands on the promise shown by Tide Running, it seems likely that Oonya Kempadoo will soon be joining their (Derek Walcott and Jean Rhys. ) ranks.”   — Jerome Boyd Maunsell, The Times (London)

“Oonya Kempadoo is a lyrical poet hiding in a novelist’s form. Tide Running puts most other books to shame with its illustrative details and inventive language. This story is the war of two worlds. The kind of writing you want to tell your friends about. Smart, powerful, and a real pleasure.” —Victor LaValle, author ofThe Devil in Silver

“Oonya Kempadoos Tide Running is effective, beautiful, and haunting . . . and pulses with a distinctive Caribbean rhythm.” — Glenville Lovell, Washington Post

“With a finely tuned ear for the cadences of the Caribbean . . .. Kempadoo succeeds in turning an unsettling tale into an exploration of the global politics of desire.” —The New Yorker

Tide Running is a decided leap forward, a tour-de-force of imagination in its inhabiting of the souls of the islands’ marginalized and dispossessed young men, it shares with its predecessor a fascination with
the permutations of a spoken language.” The Los Angeles Times

“A vividly imagined [tale] by this poetically gifted, politically incisive young Caribbean writer.” — Elle magazine

“Written with poetic economy . . . Tide Running is a stunning book, cutting from the colourful and the comic to the dark and the sensuous with sure-footed grace.” The Scotsman

Buxton Spice

Buxton Spice

“A brilliant achievement, precise, moving, poetic . . . as much a political novel as one about childhood.”
—The Independent (UK)

‘Rich . . . kaleidoscopic . . . superb and superbly written.’  The New York Times Book Review

‘Her sentences are her own, lending a lucid immediacy to activities described with sensuous relish, from eating green mango chow: “tongues hanging out and noses running from blazing pepper, lips purple with vinegar”, to leaping from a tree: “Landing – knees snapping, palms slapping the ground”  The Caribbean’s own Booker winner?‘ – The Guardian (UK)

“Kempadoo is outstanding . . . Her observations true and funny . . . the prose is moist, natural, raucously alive, each sentence fantastically rhythmic and right.”
—Mail on Sunday (UK)

‘Oonya Kempadoo has written a sexy, stirring, richly poetic semi-autobiographical first novel.’  The Wall Street Journal

‘As juicy and ripe as the fruits drooping from the Buxton Spice Mango tree . . . Kempadoo’s Caribbean argot is precise and fluid, enriching this debut with bawdiness, violence and raucous humor.’  Los Angeles Times

“Lushly exotic . . . viewed through the eyes of Lula, a pre-pubescent Lolita growing up in Guyana, the novel draws an impressionistic picture of life in a country on the verge of collapse . . . Passages of descriptive brilliance . . . Swells the sexual lexicon and describes with erotic effect a child’s sexual awakening.”
— The Times (London)

‘An exuberant, thrilling book.” Evening Standard (London)

Kempadoo’s prose is, like Arundhati Roy’s, peppered with the compound words of the vernacular, adding further richness and texture to a narrative already bursting with detail’  Observer (UK)

The Grenada Chocolate Family

Facilitated and Edited by Oonya Kempadoo

As a storyteller, Oonya Kempadoo is quite adept at creating worlds that transport her readers to physical and emotional landscapes that challenge their frames of reference and reward their curiosity. With the collaborative children’s book she spearheaded, she accomplished a fantastic feat of imagination that then she brought to life. Along the way, she imparted lessons on ecology and self-empowerment to young creators who now see themselves as both authors and protagonists.” TEDxFulbright

Grenada Community Library Press Release (May 2017)

The Grenada Chocolate Family wins “BEST IN THE WORLD”

On May 27th the Grenada Community Library’s first publication, The Grenada Chocolate Family, was awarded BEST IN THE WORLD in the Charity & Fundraising category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Yantai, China.

Additionally, on May 28th, The Grenada Chocolate Family also won “Best in the World” (3rd place) in two more categories–Caribbean Cookbook World Cuisine, and Chocolate (tied with Paul A. Young’s UK publication, Sensational Chocolate).

The Grenada Chocolate Family is the only book among the 97 finalists that won in three separate categories.

Representing Grenada amongst 211 competing countries (Olympics have 205 countries), the book had already won four Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for the Caribbean and Grenada: Best Caribbean Cuisine Book, Best Children’s Food Book, Best Chocolate Book and Charity & Fund Raising, and had been nominated in an unprecedented four categories in Gourmand’s “Best in the World” Awards.

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards is considered the “Oscars” of cookbook awards and are inspired by the spirit of the Olympic Games. Its President, Mr. Edouard Cointreau, personally invited the Grenada Community Library to enter The Grenada Chocolate Family into the international cookbook competition, calling the book “very special” and his passion for libraries and diverse publications and goodwill seems to champion this book and cause. The Grenada Chocolate Family, produced in collaboration with the Grenada Chocolate Fest, is edited by the library’s co-founder Oonya Kempadoo and Richardo Keens-Douglas and illustrated by Sara Scoddler in consultation with Grenadian artist, Stacey Byer.

The Grenada Chocolate Family, a children’s colouring story book, was written in the Grenada Community Library’s creative writing program, in a group-writing workshop with over 15 children, ages (6-12), facilitated by Oonya Kempadoo, developing a narrative using discussions on the process of chocolate making, local knowledge and uses of cocoa – in collaboration with the Grenada Chocolate Festival. It is the first children’s book written by children of colour in a cocoa-growing country about chocolate making, and shows how children’s contributions to literature and educational material matters and how their voices can influence an industry and increase fair trade.

The non-profit Grenada Community Library serves a community that is economically challenged by very high levels of unemployment, youth poverty and disenfranchisement, and low levels of functional literacy. All of the Library’s services, which along with the creative writing program include a children’s and general collection, adult literacy classes, numeracy and creativity programs, remain free of charge. It opened its doors in 2013 through the efforts of acclaimed Caribbean and internationally-published author Oonya Kempadoo, a faith-based organization, Mt. Zion Full Gospel Revival, and a social-action collective Groundation Grenada, all of whom recognized the urgent need for a public library with the sentiment “Can you imagine a nation without a public library?” The Grenada National Public library was closed in 2011 since damaged by a past catastrophic hurricane.

The Library keeps its doors open through the support of the Grenadian community, both local and in the diaspora, combined with international supporters, through generous financial and book donations and the dedication of its volunteers. The Library is grateful to corporate and non-profit Partners for Literacy, Friends of the Library, and many wonderful volunteers.

All proceeds from the sale of The Grenada Chocolate Family support the continued operation of the library as a free public service. Free copies for primary school students are made possible by the Jurgen Rausch Kakao Stiftung foundation.