I recently returned from seven glorious, warm, and relaxing days in Curaçao, a little Dutch island north of Venezuela. To be honest, I had never heard of Curaçao until it popped up on Skyscanner as an inexpensive place to fly for a winter getaway. It is absolutely adorable! Pastel homes dot the countryside and equally colorful buildings line the harbor entrance. Author Theodore Taylor described Willemstad, Curaçao’s largest city, in his novel, The Cay, as looking like “a little part of Holland, except that all the houses are painted in soft colors, pinks and greens and blues….” There is a volcanic mountain to climb for views of the entire island and cliffs from which to jump into the turquoise sea. And, the magical, floating pontoon bridge with its color-changing arches is a delight to be on when it swings open to let boats pass.
With all this wonder on one little island, I was surprised to discover that there are relatively few English language books set in Curaçao. I searched the internet and Goodreads in vain, finding really only one novel, The Cay. While I was in Curaçao, I dove deeper into the interwebs and found The House of Six Doors. But, then, to my great fortune and delight, we found the library in Willemstad and a super helpful librarian, Mirella! She helped me find a number of English language books set in Curaçao. In fact, the library conveniently marks Curaçao on the spines of the books set in Curaçao or written by local authors.
7 Books Set in Curaçao
The Novel Tourist contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site active. Thanks for reading!
1. The Cay, by Theodore Taylor
Category: Juvenile Fiction
For fans of Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins comes Theodore Taylor’s classic bestseller and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award winner, The Cay.
Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.
“Mr. Taylor has provided an exciting story…The idea that all humanity would benefit from this special form of color blindness permeates the whole book…The result is a story with a high ethical purpose but no sermon.”—New York Times Book Review
2. The House of Six Doors, by Patricia Selbert
Category: Autobiographical Novel
The House of Six Doors was named the winner in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category of the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Serena, at the age of thirteen, leaves behind her home and her beloved grandmother, Oma, on the colorful Caribbean island of Curaçao when her mother — ambitious, impulsive, and emotionally unstable — takes her and her sister to the United States to pursue the American Dream. They drive from Miami to Hollywood, where their money and luck run out and a 1963 Ford Galaxie becomes their first American home. The narrative moves between seedy Hollywood in the 1970s and tropical Curaçao. The timeless wisdom of her grandmother becomes the compass by which Serena negotiates the complex journey of an immigrant and a young girl’s coming of age.
I wish I had discovered this book set in Curaçao before I arrived because it really gives great insight into the local culture.
3. Overseas Bloodline, by Loekie Morales
Overseas Bloodline was originally published in Dutch, then translated to English and just recently translated and published in Papiamento, the local language in Curaçao and Aruba. The Papiamento version is only available in Aruba. The English version is out of print, but you may be able to find it from second hand sellers
Overseas Bloodline is the real life story of three sisters who found each other again after seventy years. Morales published the book in 2002 in Dutch as ‘Bloedlijn Overzee’. She did what several family members in Holland told her not to do in 1990. She packed her things and travelled to the western edge of Venezuela, a country she only knew from tales to find her roots mainly the brother and sisters of her grandmother, whom her granny had lost in life for 70 years and she ended up with several surprises on her quest for the past.
The story is a powerful passionate tale of the quest to find not only her roots, but join a family separated by poverty in the depression, that drove them apart. The author describes the ups and downs during her search for her grandmother’s family and the moments of hope and fear in her book. Those are interwoven with letters, flash backs, socio cultural stories wherein the Dutch, Venezuelans and Curacao-Caribbean culture are being compared from the people’s point of view. Overseas Bloodline is available at Shipwreck shops and the Sint Maarten Museum in the Speetjens Arcade (Frontstreet) or at Beyond Writing Foundation at 5562735. For the listeners, there is an audio book available as well.
4. The Yard, by Joseph Hart
De Wooncirkel (translated to “The Yard” in English) describes the spiritual development of the protagonist Armani. Despite the horrors of her past, she is capable of forgiveness in a divided community that is still struggling with its past. Armani is mysteriously attracted to the ruins in the yard of Shon Janchi, the residential area where her ancestors were slaves. She fights for its restoration, but encounters fierce opposition, which confronts her with the past. A regression therapist helps her discover that in a previous life in seventeenth-century Africa, she was Dalila of Mandinastam who experienced the gruesome slave crossing to Curaçao and there, despite the humiliations and violence on the plantation, the foundation mother of her successors, Malaika in the 19th-century Otrobanda and Armani in the 21st century.
This book appear to be out of print, but you may be able to find copies at secondhand sellers or a library.
5. Mimina, the Slave Girl, by Luisette Kraal
Category: Historical fiction
Mimina and Miriam, childhood friends on the island of Curacao, were more like close cousins than slave and owner. Together they roamed the woods, played with handmade dolls, and jumped rope. Mimina received all Miriam’s hand-me-downs and learned the ABCs with her. As she grew, the fifth-generation slave girl was protected by her family, who tried to shield her from the unwanted attention of powerful men. They knew from experience the tragic consequences that such encounters could bring.
Life changes dramatically when Mimina becomes a teen. She is made painfully aware that as a slave, she is the property of another person and can be sold, beaten, or mistreated at the whim of her owner, who happens to be her former friend Miriam. Abruptly, Mimina learns what it means to be a slave, and her heart is filled with bitterness. Revenge and freedom become her goals. Her mother and grandmothers beg her to reconsider and trust God to work things out. But Mimina doesn’t want to wait on God any more. She is ready to take matters into her own hands! She wants to be free!
This book appears to be in English, but the only place I can find to purchase it is an online site in Dutch. The title explains the contents, but that’s the only place I can find that does. You may be able to find it in a library or if you are in Curaçao or other Caribbean island, a local book seller may have a copy. We were lucky enough to spend time in Curaçao just after the Christmas holiday and we delighted in seeing how charmingly they decorated Willemstad.
The street lights glittered and there were gigantic Santa’s in several places. Many of the roundabouts on the main roads were filled with lighted displays of the various “12 Days of Christmas” characters. Just across the floating pontoon bridge in Punda we were greeted by jovial looking 10 foot high snowmen and twinkling lights adorned the canopies of various buildings.
All in all it was a winter wonderland that we could enjoy in t-shirts!
7. Election Dance by Joseph Hart
Category: Psychological thriller
Matthew Bartels, a brilliant, idealistic 37-year-old math teacher, is asked to participate as a keynote speaker in a seminar on sustainable growth, a blueprint for a change in politics to achieve better governance after the upcoming elections. This leads to his joining a political party, as the only way to realize his vision. When the pressure mounts on account of his excessive workload and personal attacks in the media, we see him struggling with the demons of his past, which undermine his carefully controlled life. Matthew relives his childhood horrors via his nightmares and the reader learns about his traumatic youth.
Election Dance is a realistic, erotic and psychological novel, depicting real life situations and taboos within the context of Curacao’s social-historical and cultural setting and holds up a mirror to modern society. The language varies with the characters and can be tender and poetic, but also coarse and true to life.
If you are looking for a fantastic island for a winter getaway, Curaçao is fabulous. We were able to get inexpensive airfare from New York, rented a gorgeous AirBnB in Blue Bay Resort and rented a car and spent 7 fantastic days on the island for a total of less than $5,000 for five of us! That included all food, admissions to activities, gas and everything else! Bonus, swimming with sea turtles was free!
I hope you enjoy Curaçao as much as we did! Make sure to pick up a few of these books set in Curaçao before you go!