Island People

The Caribbean and the World

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Islands are potent places, and for five hundred years this exemplary sea of islands in the imagination has proved irresistible to adventurers and poets and protestors and hedonists alike
Island People by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro (Hardback ISBN 9781782115588) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook

An exploration of the Caribbean Islands, and the people who have, throughout history, made them their home, from expert in Caribbean history, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Clustered together in azure-blue waters are a collection of little islands whose culture, history and people have touched every corner of the world. From the moment Columbus gazed out at what he mistook for India, and wrote in his journal of ‘the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen,’ the Caribbean has been the subject of fantasies, myths and daydreams. It was claimed, and its societies were built to enrich old Europe, and much later its beaches were splashed across billboards advertising fizzy drinks, its towns and people pictured in holiday brochures.

But these islands are so much more than gloss, white sand and palm trees, they form a region rich in colour, beauty and strength. Home of the Rastafarian faith, Che Guevara’s stomping ground and birthplace of reggae, the Caribbean has produced some of the world’s most famous artists, activists, writers, musicians and sportsmen - from Usain Bolt to Bob Marley and from Harry Belafonte to V. S. Naipaul. In the pages of Island People we hear the voices of the Caribbean people, explore their home and learn what it means to them, and to the world.

In this fascinating and absorbing book, the product of almost a decade of travel and intense study, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro strips away the fantasy and myth to expose the real islands, and the real people, that make up the Caribbean.

“This book illuminates, like no other I’ve read, the startling history and the complex present of the nations of the Caribbean. Written with passion and joyful music in the prose, Island People will become an indispensable companion for anybody travelling to the Caribbean - or dreaming of doing so”
Suketu Mehta

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“A heartfelt Caribbean journey … through the places, literature and music of the region to beautifully illuminate the histories of people and continents … Terrific”
Anita Sethi

“Many have tried this before - to get hold of, in its entirety, the volatile, beautiful, relentlessly shifting Caribbean. Nobody has succeeded as dazzlingly as Joshua Jelly-Schapiro”
Marlon James

“An elegant travel book channels Naipaul and Trollope as it delves into the brutal history and unique allure of the Caribbean … Island People, written by a careful and compassionate author, is a worthy travel and history book, a fresh study”

“A travelogue of love and scholarship … does the region splendid justice”
new York Times

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is a geographer and writer whose work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, New York, Harper’s, the Believer, Artforum, and the Nation, among many other publications. Educated at Yale and Berkeley, he is the co-editor, with Rebecca Solnit, of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, and a visiting scholar at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge. This is his first book.

Watch Josh Jelly-Schapiro introduce Island People from Cuba