August 24, 2021
Barbadian/American writer debuts speculative fiction novel

Afro-Barbadian American writer Rachelle J. Gray’s novel Kingstown Burning is a marijuana-fiction told through the lens of a contemporary cast of Caribbean characters of Rastafari faith, who brave the choppy realities that the cannabis economy brings into their world.

 Loyalty, community, and current social and political issues related to the legalization and gentrification of marijuana are explosive companions in Kingstown Burning – the debut novel of Afro-Barbadian American writer Rachelle J. Gray. Kingstown Burning, which is set in the southern Caribbean between the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Barbados, manages in a relatively compact story to explore religion, politics, folklore, friendship, romance, perseverance, and revenge.

 “The criminalization of marijuana has always been a point of contention within the Caribbean. Before this recent wave of new measures to establish a cannabis industry, marijuana was and still is very much an underground economy. For many, it is how families and communities sustain themselves in the face of limited opportunities to do so otherwise. While the story told in Kingstown Burning is fictitious and sets the reader on an adventure, the subject matter is a serious one,” Gray explained.

 In Kingstown Burning, three women inadvertently find themselves caught in the crossfire of a regional ganja war. Someone is keeping a secret. Another is about to unearth a truth. To get their lives back, they seek the help of an obeah Man and embark upon a quest that moves along a mystical timeline in a tropical paradise. Both Rastafari livity and obeah are considered taboo in the Caribbean, yet Kingstown Burning taps the two Afro-Caribbean spiritualities to spin a never-before-told tale. 

 “I wanted to look at Caribbean life from a perspective driven by self-determination and autonomy. Rastafari embodies that. What does it sound like to tell a story told from the lion’s perspective, where Rastafari is more than a one-dimensional character or side note in someone’s book, and the mysticism of obeah is elevated to the realm of high science? Kingstown Burning chronicles an intermingling of Caribbean cultures that have yet to be explored in this manner. Most notably because the protagonist is from these “taboo” cultures, readers experience how that impacts both the telling and reception of the story.” 

 Rachelle J. Gray is an Afro-Barbadian American communications specialist, creative consultant, writer, and founder of LadyGray Publishing.

Living and working between Florida, Barbados, and Senegal, Kingstown, Burning is her debut novel.

 Members of the news media requesting more information about Kingstown Burning or the author are asked to contact Isa Gray-Blackman: