Carleton University’s Sarah Phillips Casteel, associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, has received the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for her book Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination.
“This award is especially meaningful to me because my book addresses such an untraditional subject, one that lies at the margins of both Jewish and Caribbean studies,” said Casteel.
Eight outstanding books were chosen to receive these important awards in 2016. Sixty works on Jewish themes by Canadian writers were submitted in the categories of fiction, memoir/biography, history, scholarship, Jewish thought and culture, Holocaust literature, as well as Yiddish and children and youth fiction. Casteel won the scholarship category.
“The depth and breadth of the submissions shows the vibrancy of the culture and the appeal of Jewish themes for fiction and non-fiction writers, both Jewish and non-Jewish,” said jury chair Edward Trapunski.
In Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination, Casteel examines an unexplored territory – the not-accidental presence of Jewishness in Caribbean writing. Jews have been living in the Caribbean since their expulsion from Spain in the late fifteenth century and the Caribbean remained a sanctuary for Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Many Jewish influences have been absorbed into island culture and into works of Caribbean fiction, poetry and drama. Casteel’s remarkable work of scholarship has brought this fascinating story of cultural encounter to light.
The Canadian Jewish Literary Awards were founded by a group of prominent writers, editors and scholars to celebrate the vibrancy of Jewish literature and culture in Canada. The awards are hosted and sponsored by the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, with the co-sponsorship of a consortium of other programs, including Western University’s Holocaust Literature Research Institute, the Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies, the journal Parchment in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University, McGill Department of Jewish Studies, and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.