The best and most recent fiction by Jamaican women writers

Who am I?

As a Jamaican migrant, I often read Jamaican fiction to feel recognized, but I struggle with the word “best,” so consider this an exceedingly tentative ranking. I read each of these texts to learn about what it means to be a part of the Jamaican diaspora and to write a Jamaican novel, and each one elicited in me something that I often did not know about myself. Their attention to gender, to migration, to family, and more are as enlightening as they are captivating. And if that is not enough, then come for the plots, all of which are gripping, and the prose, all of which delights.


I wrote...

All the Water I've Seen Is Running

By Elias Rodriques,

Book cover of All the Water I've Seen Is Running

What is my book about?

Along the Intracoastal waterways of North Florida, Daniel and Aubrey navigated adolescence with the electric intensity that radiates from young people defined by otherness: Aubrey, a self-identified "Southern cracker" and Daniel, the mixed-race son of Jamaican immigrants. When the news of Aubrey’s death reaches Daniel in New York, years after they’d lost contact, he is left to grapple with the legacy of his precious and imperfect love for her. 

Buoyed by his teenage track-team buddies―Twig, a long-distance runner; Desmond, a sprinter; Egypt, Des’s girlfriend; and Jess, a chef―Daniel begins a frantic search for meaning in Aubrey’s death. Sensitive to the complexities of class, race, and sexuality both in the American South and in Jamaica, All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running is a novel of uncommon tenderness, grief, and joy.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of These Ghosts Are Family

Elias Rodriques Why did I love this book?

Maisy Card’s These Ghosts Are Family revolves around one of the great plots that are all too common in real life, a secret family. The central patriarch has faked his death, stole an identity, and abandoned his kin to migrate to the United States, where he has made another family. Card’s portrait of migration, kinship, and history is as thought-provoking as it is nuanced, and the prose is a joy to read. And I don’t want to spoil anything, but the farthest back historical chapter will stick with you for some time.

By Maisy Card,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked These Ghosts Are Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

A "rich, ambitious debut novel" (The New York Times Book Review) that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

*An Entertainment Weekly, Millions, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2020 Pick and Buzz Magazine's Top New Book of the New Decade*

Stanford Solomon's shocking, thirty-year-old secret is about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford has done something no one could ever imagine. He is a man who faked his own death and stole…


Book cover of How to Love a Jamaican: Stories

Elias Rodriques Why did I love this book?

Beyond the complicated portraits of loss and love, of diaspora and belonging, and of pain and joy, what keeps me coming back to How to Love a Jamaican is its prose. The book is so recognizably Jamaican in its humor and its honesty about plots that feel so identifiable that, at times, I could not help but wonder if Arthurs was writing about relatives or friends of mine.

By Alexia Arthurs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Love a Jamaican as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'In this thrilling debut collection Alexia Arthurs is all too easy to love.' - Zadie Smith

Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret - these are the tensions at the heart of Alexia Arthurs' debut book about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Some stories ask big questions about the things that define a person, others explode small moments of deep significance and lasting effect. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City, How to Love a Jamaican offers a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.

Vibrant, lyrical…


Book cover of The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim

Elias Rodriques Why did I love this book?

Douglass is the kind of writer many of us are jealous of. Her skill with a pen is a marvel. Reading her sentences, I often wonder how she chose these words, how she came to think in this way, and how I could write less like myself and more like her. All of her books are worth reading, but this one’s tale of reincarnation and of life on the margins helped me see that the world is so much more magical than I often take it to be.

By Marcia Douglas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Marvellous Equations of the Dread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Is me-Bob. Bob Marley." Reincarnated as homeless Fall-down man, Bob Marley sleeps in a clock tower built on the site of a lynching in Half Way Tree, Kingston. The ghosts of Marcus Garvey and King Edward VII are there too, drinking whiskey and playing solitaire. No one sees that Fall-down is Bob Marley, no one but his long-ago love, the deaf woman, Leenah, and, in the way of this otherworldly book, when Bob steps into the street each day, five years have passed. Jah ways are mysterious ways, from Kingston's ghettoes to London, from Haile Selaisse's Ethiopian palace and back…


Book cover of Patsy

Elias Rodriques Why did I love this book?

If you have not yet read Patsy, just read it. I won’t regale you with tales of its critical and commercial success, as you may already have heard about it. What I will say is that this is a book that will stick with you. Its portrait of longing, of love, of motherhood, and of childhood is so attentive to the thought of its central two characters—a mother and child—that they will feel so real to you that you will think of them when you encounter their facsimiles in your own life. 

By Nicole Dennis-Benn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Patsy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Heralded for writing "deeply memorable . . . women" (Jennifer Senior, New York Times), Nicole Dennis-Benn introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine for our times: the eponymous Patsy, who leaves her young daughter behind in Jamaica to follow Cicely, her oldest friend, to New York. Beating with the pulse of a long-withheld confession and peppered with lilting patois, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to love whomever she chooses, bravely putting herself first. But to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a nanny, while back in Jamaica her…


Book cover of Queenie

Elias Rodriques Why did I love this book?

On top of all the other great things about this book, Queenie is a truly tremendous portrait of life in one’s mid-twenties. All of the rawness, the humor, the difficulty, and the triumphs of a time when the stakes of everything seem so big and so small come across here. And like all those great novels named after their protagonist, the central character deserves every bit of attention that the narrator and other characters give her, and the book deserves all the praise critics have given it.

By Candice Carty-Williams,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Queenie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF TIME’S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
ONE OF NPR’S BEST BOOKS OF 2019

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019 BY WOMAN’S DAY, NEWSDAY, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, BUSTLE, AND BOOK RIOT!

“[B]rilliant, timely, funny, heartbreaking.” —Jojo Moyes, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

For fans ofLusterandI May Destroy You,a disarmingly honest,unapologetically black, and undeniably witty debut novel that will speak to those who have gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.

Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting…


You might also like...

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.

Lucy…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in undocumented immigrants, presidential biography, and Jamaica?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about undocumented immigrants, presidential biography, and Jamaica.

Undocumented Immigrants Explore 24 books about undocumented immigrants
Presidential Biography Explore 18 books about presidential biography
Jamaica Explore 51 books about Jamaica