Questions and Topics for Discussion
A major debut from an award-winning writer—an epic family saga set against the magic and the rhythms of the Virgin Islands.ABOUT TIPHANIE YANIQUE
In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.
Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s, Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers
and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.
Tiphanie Yanique is from Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. The author of the story collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony, she is a 2010 Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award winner and was named by the National Book Awards as one of 2011’s “5 Under 35.” She teaches at the New School and lives in Brooklyn and Saint Thomas.DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
- Land of Love and Drowning opens in 1917 on the cusp of St. Thomas’s transfer from Danish rule to American. Why do you think Tiphanie Yanique has chosen to open her novel with this event? What is the significance of the transfer of power? What does “Americanness” mean to the characters? How does it change who they are? Does it also change how they relate to one another or how they relate to the Virgin Islands in general?
- Think about the meaning of land and property in Land of Love and Drowning. Who owns land? Who owns property? What does ownership mean to the different characters? Does the idea of ownership change over the course of the book?
- Anette and Eeona Bradshaw present two different ways of being a woman. Where Anette gives in to her desires, Eeona represses hers. Is there a reason they are so different in this way? How do you see these differences affecting the course of their lives?
- While in the Army, Jacob Esau McKenzie has a jarring encounter with institutionalized racism, something that is somewhat unfamiliar to him. How is the awareness of race connected with the idea of becoming American? Are there other lines of demarcation on St. Thomas besides race? A form of prejudice that Jacob would have found more familiar? Which of these perceived divisions are imposed by outsiders and which come from the Virgin Islanders themselves?
- Think of the other islands mentioned in Land of Love and Drowning. How are they different places from St. Thomas? What is the importance of St. John and Anegada in the novel?
- Beaches and access to them figures prominently throughout Land of Love and Drowning. Think of the scenes that are set on the beach. What does the beach represent in these moments? The action of the last third of the focuses on public access to beaches. Why is the privatization of the beaches so important? What is lost when beaches are no longer accessible to everyone?
- Imagine you are going to visit the Virgin Islands as a tourist. Would reading Land of Love and Drowning influence your opinion of the resorts there?
- How is magic employed throughout Land of Love and Drowning? Who has access to magic and who doesn’t? How do the characters use it? Is there a changing relationship with magic over time? What does it mean to be a witch? Does the term mean something different in the culture of these islands than it does in the United States or Europe? Who is considered a witch in the book?
- The Bradshaw family curse is passed down through the generations. What do you think Tiphanie Yanique intends to suggest in Land of Love and Drowning with this curse? How does it relate to the secrets that these family members keep from one another? From the Virgin Islands as a whole?