A CONTINENT OF ISLANDS: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny by Mark Kurlansky

A CONTINENT OF ISLANDS: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A penetrating analysis of the social, political, sexual, and cultural worlds that exist behind the four-color Caribbean travel posters. Kurlansky, who reports on the Caribbean for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, etc., has wide-ranging interests. Here, he discusses such diverse (and unexpected) aspects of his subject as the politics of hurricanes--how island leaders and their rivals take advantage of natural disasters to further their aims; the effects of AIDS on sexual practices throughout the region--the sections on Castro's handling of the AIDS emergency are particularly engrossing; and the impact of American Fundamentalist proselytizing on traditional West Indian religious groups. The author leavens his material by alternating these in-depth discussions with amusing vignettes of some of his own experiences below the Tropic of Cancer. His description of the arrival of the first McDonald's outlet on Barbados, for example, is hilarious: The Bajans, originally excited at the prospect of Big Macs, considered the burgers disappointing ""little bitty thing[s]"" when they finally appeared. One of Kurlansky's major themes is the danger inherent in a tourism-based island economy--which he believes could lead to the corruption of West Indian culture. He speaks eloquently about the cultural roots of the Caribbean peoples--though he seems not fully aware of the discrepancies that lurk there--pointing out, for example, that ""There are those Caribbeans, usually lighter-skinned, who argue that Caribbeans...use their history as an excuse...to avoid accepting responsibility....Even this is part of the conditioning of their history....To fight this mentality is to fight the legacies of history."" Should be read by every West Indies traveler and even by old Caribbean hands, who will find here page after page of highly original insights.

Pub Date: Feb. 6th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley