Review – Erotic Islands

Cover of Erotic Islands. Image of Black person seen from back, with decorative hat, bare upper body, rainbow scarf draped over arms and billowing long red skirt

February is LGBTQ+History Month in the UK, and as part of our recognition of that we asked members of the Library Student Team at Manchester University to share their thoughts on some of the relevant books in our library. This is the sixth of the series of reviews.

Erotic Islands -Art and Activism in the Queer Caribbean Lyndon K Gill (GE.2.03/GIL)

Reviewed by Zeenat: “Hi my name’s Zeenat and I’m a second-year Psychology student. I enjoy learning new things and being pushed out of my comfort zone.”

“Caribbean sexualities are built on a complex interweaving of historical, cultural, and political events, as well as everyday experiences of pleasure, intimacy, and desire.” (from Chapter 3) 

Lyndon K. Gill’s “Erotic Islands” is a thought-provoking exploration of Caribbean culture and the role of eroticism within it. Gill, a scholar specialising in Queer Theory and African American Studies, invites the reader to delve deeper into the often-stigmatised aspects of black community members by providing a more modernised understanding of the culture. Gill notes that “Erotic Islands” centres on the experiences of queer Caribbean people and their lived realities to show a modernised understanding of how we understand issues of gender, culture, and eroticism. He also acknowledges the significance of the book in shedding light on the often-shamed aspects of black community members. Upon completing the book, the reader has been taken on an enlightening journey through Caribbean culture.  

One of the book’s strengths is its incorporation of Caribbean language and culture. For instance, Gill discusses the ways in which black Caribbean people use “badness” to describe acts of erotic experimentation and how this term has been reclaimed to challenge the negative connotations often associated with such acts.  

Changing perspectives from the historical background of homosexuality in the Caribbean to the modern day and beyond, Gill comments on events such as the HIV crisis and colonialism, which arguably had a significant impact on the reputation of the LGBT community. In this manner, “Erotic Islands” is an intellectually grounded piece of literature exploring Caribbean queer ideology and its place in society. It does so by acknowledging the universal feelings that members of the black community are often shamed for, especially in cultures where the community is of utmost importance such as the Caribbean.  

Through Gill’s research at Harvard University, he has created an extensive portfolio of works dedicated to both areas with contributions such as “Queer Times, Black Futures” (2019) and “Experiments in Freedom: Explorations of Identity in New Black Queer Literature and Film” (2018). These works also examine ways in which black queerness should be celebrated. 

I highly recommend this book to those who wish to expand their knowledge of other cultures and to students who will benefit greatly from Gill’s dedication to the field.