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Secrets We Kept: Writing the Indian Caribbean

04/05 Thursday | 6pm

Since the birth of a self-consciously “Caribbean literature” in the mid-twentieth century, an apt preponderance of Caribbean writers—novelists and historians and poets alike—have focused on the historical experience and legacies of the millions of Africans brought to the Caribbean as slaves, in colonial days, to grow sugar for Europeans. Far less visible have been the descendants of the people the British brought to the region after slavery’s end, to replace their slaves in the fields. The experience of those indentured South Asian workers, with a few notable exceptions, has been mostly absent from dominant narratives of the Caribbean. But now a new generation of writers has begun to fill that gap—by illuminating the occluded lives, and stories, of Indo-Caribbean women. NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and the New York: Caribbean City initiative invite you to join Gaiutra Bahadur, author of the seminal Coolie Woman, and Krystal A. Sital, whose acclaimed family memoir Secrets We Kept has just been published, for a reading and discussion of these themes with Joshua Jelly-Schapiro.

Books will be available for purchase following the conversation.

Krystal A. Sital is the author of Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad. A PEN award finalist and Hertog Fellow, her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Salon, Catapult, LitHub, Asian American Writers Workshop, and elsewhere. A mother to three tiny geniuses, she practices magic with them and her partner in the suburbs of New Jersey.

Gaiutra Bahadur is the author of Coolie Woman, a personal history of indenture in the Caribbean shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, the British literary award for artful political writing. Her debut fiction, the short story “The Stained Veil,” appears in the Feminist Press collection Go Home! She is a visiting scholar at the A/P/A Institute at NYU, and her essays and journalism have appeared in The New York Times Book ReviewLapham’s Quarterly, VQRDissentThe Nation and Ms. Magazine, as well as in the edited volumes Nonstop Metropolis and Living on the Edge of the World.

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro is the author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World, and the co-editor of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Artforum, The Nation, and The Believer. He is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, where he also teaches journalism.

NEW YORK: CARIBBEAN CITY is a new initiative at NYU which recognizes that we live in a city of islands where fully one in four people – some two million New Yorkers – can claim roots in the Caribbean. Conceived as an event-series, a space for reflection, and a meeting-point for scholars and exponents of the Antilles from across campus and across New York, NEW YORK: CARIBBEAN CITY positions the city as a Caribbean capital. It will exemplify the myriad ways that seeing New York as an island metropolis—as a place whose ‘modernity’ has been born of cultural mixing and histories of migration also long key to the Caribbean—can enrich our understanding of the city, the region, and the globe.

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