Myriam Chancy, Scripps College – Caribbean Women in Literature

On Scripps College Week: Fiction can bring truth to the fore.

Myriam Chancy, Guggenheim Fellow and Hartley Burr Chair in the Humanities, looks into the history of Caribbean women.

Myriam J.A. Chancy, Ph.D. (Iowa) is a Guggenheim Fellow, and Hartley Burr Alexander Chair of the Humanities Chair at Scripps College. Chancy is the author of the award-winning book, What Storm, What Thunder (Harper Collins Canada/Tin House USA 2021), which was named a Best Book of Fall 2021 by Time, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, The Chicago Tribune, Vulture, Good Housekeeping, LitHuband Harper’s Bazaar and was awarded the American Book Award by the Before Columbus Foundation. WS, WT was also shortlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize, Caliba Golden Poppy Award, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize & Joyce Carol Oates Prize. She is the author of a new book of critical essays on the post-earthquake situation, Harvesting Haiti: Reflections on Unnatural Disasters (UTexas Press, 2024), and the 20th anniversary edition of her first novel, Spirit of Haiti, a finalist for the Canada/Caribbean region Commonwealth Prize 2004 appears fall 2024 with SUNY Press. Other academic publications include:Autochthonomies: Transnationalism, Testimony, and Transmission in the African Diaspora (U of IL Press, 2020), From Sugar to Revolution: Women’s Visions from Haiti, Cuba & The Dominican Republic (WUP 2012), Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women (Rutgers 1997), and Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile (Temple 1997), which won a Choice OAB Award. Her past novels include: The Loneliness of Angels (winner of the Guyana Prize 2011), The Scorpion’s Claw; and Spirit of Haiti. Her novel, Village Weavers, will be published by Tin House Books in 2024. Her recent writings have appeared in Journal, Electric Literature, and Guernica. She is a frequently invited guest speaker, delivering talks and creative readings on the subject of Caribbean, Haitian and social justice issues.

Caribbean Women in Literature

As a scholar of Caribbean women’s literature and as a Haitian fiction writer, I seek to create a space in the archives for Caribbean women. My earliest work showed how Afro-Caribbean women writers re-worked the idea of exile, explored by a previous generation of male writers, as a condition of their gender. Through the inter-twined oppressions occasioned by race, sexuality, class and nationality, these writers articulated Caribbean identity from the standpoint of those left behind. We can now define tradition of Haitian women’s literature from the period of the US Occupation, to the mid 1990s, when the first books by Haitian-American women began to appear.

Critical works alone cannot fully answer the question of what it means to be “of the Caribbean”, however. For this reason, fiction, including my own, expresses what I call the “excess” of critical thinking: my novels explore discrete moments in Haitian history from the cultural hope of the 1940s Port-au-Prince International Expo, to the fall of the Duvalier regime, the military coup of 1991, and the impact of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Critical authors have gone on to track the singular relationship between Haitian, Dominican and Cuban women writers. We also argue for a novel approach to the reading of works by African descended cultural producers for reconsidering what can be learned from failed earthquake aid efforts.

My body of work resides in an increasingly rich archive of writings by Caribbean scholars and writers, speaking from our communities in an effort to make our realities discernible, and accessible, to readers who wish to have a better understanding of the complex space of the Caribbean in a global context.

Read More:


Harvesting Haiti: Unnatural Disasters (Essays) – Essays on post-earthquake Haiti 2011-2022, Forthcoming Fall 2023, University of Texas Press.

What Storm, What Thunder – A novel on post-earthquake Haiti, HarperCollins Canada/Tin House USA, Fall 2021; Paperback published by Tin House, August 23/22.

  • 2022 American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation
  • Starred Reviews: Library Journal, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly
  • Shortlisted for the Caliba Golden Poppy Award, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and longlisted for Brooklyn Public Library Prize & the OCM Bocas Prize.
  • Named a “Best Book of 2021” by NPR, Kirkus, the Chicago Public Library, New York Public Library, Library Journal, Boston Globe, Amazon Books & Canada’s Globe & Mail
  • Named one of 10 Noteworthy Southern California Authors for 2021 by Southern California News Group (SCNG), January 30, 2021.
  • People Magazine Best Book of the Week, October 18, 2021
  • NPR Book of the Day, October 11, 2021
  • Book of the Month Club Add-on Pick for October 2021
  • Indie Next Pick for October 2021
  • An Amazon Books Top 10 Pick for October 2021
  • Named a “most anticipated” book of Fall 2021 by AARP, TIME, Vulture, Good Housekeeping, Library Journal, She Reads, Hey Alma,, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, Thrillist, LitHub, The Chicago Tribune & Dandelion Chandelier
  • Harvard Bookstore, Book Passage & Odyssey Bookstore First Editions Club Selection, Fall 2021

Autochthonomies: Transnationalism, Testimony and Transmission in the African Diaspora. (Guggenheim supported project). University Press of Illinois: March 2020.

From Sugar to Revolution: Women’s Visions of Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic (Academic) Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2012.

The Loneliness of Angels (A Novel) Leeds, England: Peepal Tree Press, 2010.

The Scorpion’s Claw (A Novel) Leeds, England: Peepal Tree Press, 2005.

Spirit of Haiti. (A Novel) London, England: Mango Press, 2003.

Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997.

Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997.


Englenes Ensomhed. (Translation of Loneliness of Angels) Tr. Iben H. Philipsen. Copenhagen, Denmark: Rebel With A Cause Press, March 2019.

Edited Volumes

Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism [Indiana UP & Smith College], Vol. 3, no. 2, 2003; Vol. 4, no. 1 & 2, 2004; Vol. 5, no. 1, 2005 [Acquisitions, Vol. 5, no. 2, 2005]