- Connecting Histories: Francophone Caribbean Writers Interrogate their Past by Bonnie Thomas
Bonnie Thomas's study offers a wide-ranging and inclusive analysis of autobiographical and auto-fictional works by various authors from the francophone Caribbean diaspora. Incorporating both male and female writers from the DOM-TOM territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe alongside authors from Haiti, Thomas encompasses islands often viewed as disparate political and cultural entities and avoids perpetuating the gendered divisions present in much existing criticism. Thomas seeks connections, rather than distinctions, between and among these writers, their homelands, their identities, and their subject matter. Relying on the theoretical framework of Édouard Glissant's Relation, as set out in Poétique de la relation (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), she draws together autobiographical works by some of the most canonical contemporary writers from the region—Maryse Condé, Gisèle Pineau, Patrick Chamoiseau, Edwidge Danticat, and Dany Laferrière—placing these in the context of a globalized 'tout-monde'. By viewing these authors and their work through the prisms of relational, rhizomatic, connected identities, Thomas emphasizes the bonds between the peoples, cultures, histories, and memories of the region, producing an 'interrogation of the past through [the] personal narratives' of these writers (p. 22). The Introduction outlines the historical, social, political, cultural, and literary background of the islands and their political contexts, dealing with the fundamental trauma of slavery and its inescapable legacy for the peoples of the region. Yet Thomas explicitly aims to move beyond this traumatic past, just as the authors themselves do, by resituating trauma in a network of Relation, and exploring and engaging with both the History and histories of the region to forge a path towards reconciliation and liberation. She focuses on one writer and three autobiographical texts per chapter, foregrounding works that engage with questions of identity, self-perception, and belonging, and which often also include meta-literary contemplations on the nature of memory itself. After analysing the works individually in each chapter, Thomas brings together the five writers collectively alongside Glissant's theory in the conclusion. This provides a sense of balance between the individual analyses and the overarching theoretical focus of the text, and allows the authors, their literature, and their theory to 'speak' to each other. Moreover, the theoretical framework does not constrain the analysis, as Thomas allows a sense of the individual writers and their positions to develop alongside the theoretical focus of the study. Overall, Thomas brings an extremely insightful and productive apparatus to bear on the fascinating work of these five authors. [End Page 473] This work is a welcome contribution both to the growing body of Glissantian analysis and to the study of Antillean (autobiographical) fiction.