September 15

The University of Puget Sound
Tacoma, Washington

October 7

Pen Faulkner Gala, Washington, DC

How to Escape from a Leper Colony

How to Escape from a Leper Colony
“I can’t remember a debut that was quite so assured. . . . stories full of violence and sexuality. Plus it’s funny, too. Are you listening, Oprah?” THE BOSTON GLOBE, “16 up-and-comers who might make it big in 2010” AVAILABLE MARCH 2, 2010 Click on the book cover to buy the book.

Tiphanie Yanique on Magic Realism, Love and Loss, and the Desire for Place

How to Escape from a Leper Colony is set in Africa, America and all over the Caribbean. The characters are all races and ages. That seems very Caribbean to me! I think this idea of racial mash, cultural upheaval and willed or unwilling escape is vital to all the stories. All the characters find themselves to be strangers in a land they thought was their own. I’m very interested in political realities, and many of these stories likely have a political air about them. I’m also very interested in romantic love, which I explore in the stories. I think falling in love is a hugely brave, totally stupid, and absolutely necessary thing for the humanity in the human being. I think falling in love can be a historical and political action.

I am interested in stories that invoke the magical, mysterious, and the religious. I see real life, the lives you and I are living, as a metaphoric and allegorical journey. I want my stories to highlight this aspect of humanity in particular. So a young man carries a cross on his back to martyr himself in defiance of racism and to his willingness for love. A young runner can develop a disease that keeps him from being able to move but allows to him understand himself and his family. An island man moving to Texas can be haunted by a chapel in the middle of a busy city. A coffin shop can take on the beauty and intensity of an art gallery. I believe the fantastic is present in very ordinary moments.

The Virgin Islands isn't generally perceived as a place that creates literature and intellectualism, and so many Virgin Islands writers choose to self-publish instead of seeking support from a publisher. In the tourist shops and on the cruise ships they carry Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival, which is set on a spoof version of St. Thomas. But it's not that easy to find fiction by actual Virgin Islanders. I wrote this book very aware of Caribbean people. I wanted a teenager, like the one I was, to find these stories. I wrote the book for thuggy guys, pageant girls, church women, wives, men who leave and miss their homes. Each character seemed like a version of the audience I hoped would be moved by the story.