Haunted Houses and Ghostly Homes:Kacen Callender’s Hurricane Child as a Re-Writing of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie_John


  • Giselle Anatol University of Kansas


Caribbean, Gothic, haunting, young adult, LGBTQ


This essay responds to the dearth of analysis of young adult (YA) literature in postcolonial scholarship by placing Kacen Callender’s LGBTQ+ middle-grade novel, Hurricane Child (2018) adjacent to Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John (1987), a foundational text of contemporary Caribbean literature. I employ Homi Bhabha’s reformulation of Freud’s unheimlich, or “un-home-ly,” to interrogate how both writers complicate ideas of literal home and island home as places of fun, comfort, and safety. Just as the nostalgic image of the adoring mother discombobulates Kincaid’s Annie, the figure of the physically-absent mother plagues Callender’s Caroline. Both characters can therefore be said to live in symbolically “haunted” houses. Additionally, shame lurks in the corners of Caroline’s psyche as she comes to recognize her budding same-sex desires, which put her at risk of being “ghosted,” or erased, as a valued member of her community. Extending the psychic trauma from the narrators to the histories of their islands, and relying on critical work on the Gothic by Avery Gordon, Maisha Wester, and others, politically charged depictions of landscapes are excavated for signs of literal spirits and evidence of haunting by slavery, colonialism, and the neocolonial systems of the late twentieth / early twenty-first century.

Author Biography

Giselle Anatol, University of Kansas

Giselle Liza Anatol is a Professor of English at the University of Kansas, and the current director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. She specializes in literature of the African diaspora (Caribbean women’s writing and speculative fiction in particular), and images of race, ethnicity, and gender in works for children and young adults. Her books include edited volumes on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, and a monograph entitled The Things That Fly in the Night: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circum-Caribbean and African Diaspora (Rutgers UP, 2015).