St. Martin by the Book

How much do you know about St. Martin? Sometimes I feel like I know a lot about the island. Perhaps that’s because there are so many tourists. It is easy to feel like an expert when the person you are talking to doesn’t know the subject at all.

More often, I feel like I don’t know much about St. Martin. I don’t think I’m alone. Working with students or reading comments on Facebook, I find people excited to learn about St. Martin and eager to know more.

It is not unusual to see misinformation about the island. Here there is a local holiday called St. Martin Day. Although it was created in 1959, it is still confused with a saint’s birthday—St. Martin’s Day. This confusion happens everywhere from social media to official government communication. Sadly, this is not just a confusion of facts. The origin, history and meaning of St. Martin Day tell us a lot about local culture, politics and identity.

As useful as it is, the internet is not the solution. At least, it isn’t yet. In Wikipedia, information about St. Martin varies from cursory to questionable to laughably wrong. The information about St. Martin Day is completely false. Many other sites repeat incorrect and outdated information. There is valuable information about the island online, but it takes effort to find it and it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Books are still the best place to learn about St. Martin.

Luckily, we don’t need to wait for the internet to get better. Much of what we want to know about the island is already available. It’s in books. There are books by St. Martiners and books about St. Martin. There are books about local history, politics, language and nature. There are books of fiction and poetry that capture the culture and voice of the island.

There are books that should be in every classroom. There are books that are long out of print and difficult to find. There are books that are outdated but still have something unique to tell us about the island. They may not tell us everything we want to know, but they surely go a long way.

Why not make a list of 100 books about St. Martin? Include literature and nonfiction, essential volumes and ones that simply fill in a few gaps. Together, these books would show us the island and its people from many perspectives. At a book a week, it would only take two years for anyone to develop a deep and nuanced understanding of St. Martin.

What books would you add to this list? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to [email protected].

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