By Tiphanie Yanique
240 pages; Graywolf
To wrap your mind around life on an island, you need to understand insularity, restlessness, the way it feels to have a fluid sense of identity. All this and more is what you get from Tiphanie Yanique's haunting and vibrant debut fiction collection, How to Escape from a Leper Colony. Set in the Caribbean—in places with lilting names like Dominica, Tortola, Gasparee—the stories and novella are told in disparate voices: There's the young girl beset by leprosy and desire; the coffin merchant who has made a disappearing act of his past; the man with "canoe sickness," an eerie quietude that becalms the soul. Swirling through all these tales are vestiges of colonialism—smoldering resentment and a kind of chronic disappointment that makes people uneasy in their own skins. As one young woman puts it, "Flesh is a kind of costume. It is also a thing...to move you and to be moved by. It is a thing to encircle a pain."