The Purloined Islands offers the first book-length exploration of literary and cultural exchanges between the United States and the Caribbean during the roughly eighty-year period of their greatest interaction, from the close of the Spanish-American War to the Cuban Revolution. The interconnected histories of colonization, migration, slavery, and political struggle thrust writers from both regions into a vibrant literary conversation across national borders. Jeff Karem charts this dialogue and its patterns of influence through an analysis of key literary and cultural sources in English, French, and Spanish, including a large body of rare archival evidence.

What the author identifies in this wide-ranging exchange is the Caribbean’s vital contribution not only to the literatures of the American hemisphere but also to the literary and intellectual culture of the United States itself. Specifically, he shows how such movements as pan-Africanism, the New Negro Renaissance, and pan-American modernism have significant Caribbean roots, although the United States has often failed to recognize them, effectively "purloining" those resources without acknowledgment. As his title’s allusion to Poe’s "The Purloined Letter" suggests, Karem argues that the contributions of the Caribbean have been borrowed, appropriated, and nationalized by U.S. culture but are hidden in plain sight.

Both its multilingual character and its emphasis on the reciprocity in cultural cross-currents will make the book of interest to readers not only in Caribbean and American cultural and literary studies but also in pan-American or border studies, Black Atlantic studies, and African American studies.

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