My Grandmother’s Erotic Tales
Robert Antoni, Grove Press, 201 pgs
Our hearts are heavy and saddened by the loss of so many lives in the World Trade Center holocaust last week. As a writer and journalist, my life has been pretty much defined by breaking and heart-breaking news. I decided it was time to allow myself to begin the healing process and looked for a book that would help me find myself again.
My Grandmother’s Erotic Tales is just what the doctor ordered! I found myself laughing out loud in public places, something that seems pretty much out of order these days. These tales are absolutely hilarious, way out and very spicy—Caribbean style.
Senora Domingo is now a widow of some ninety-six years. She has survived the arrival of US and British troops on the tiny island of Corpus Christi during World War II and even rented them rooms in her house. She was a great storyteller who captivated her boarders many evenings over dinner with some of the most outrageous tales ever told. She kept the young soldiers out of trouble and close to home. In her twilight years her young grandson Johnny provides a most willing audience.
Antoni brings the flavor of Caribbean Creole and patois to us through the musing of Senora Domingo, like the time she found out she had been conned out of ten thousand dollars by the man who claimed to be the Kentucky Fried Chicken king, Colonel Sanders:
“And Johnny, when I came to my senses again and I realized that this terrible nightmare was real—that that chupidee Colonel had in fact thrown away my ten thousand Yankee dollars on another worthless old rusty up Dutch oven—I couldn’t help myself from firing a next shot of Pavo Salvaje and a next, and I didn’t slow down until my face was flat on the table in one of those same property of the US Army tin plates, out cold unconscious for the third time today!”
Antoni’s characters are alive and vibrant.…
By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times book critic
When it comes to grandmothers, some people have all the luck.
My sweet but prudish Southern “Mamaw” would judge a book mostly on whether it had “too much dirty” in it. The grandmother in Robert Antoni’s new book (who, to judge from the dedication, is modeled on his own) regales her young grandson with tales of sex-mad American GIs stationed in the Caribbean during World War II, or of island enchantresses whose specialty is carnal havoc.
No Pearl Buck for this kid! Instead, he gets something rowdy, outlandish and “bad.” (“A very good bad story,” as Granny puts it, “that is one of my best.”)
“My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales” is the third book by Trinidadian-Bahamian writer Antoni, and like his earlier work (“Divina Trace,” “Blessed Is the Fruit”) it’s set on the fictional West Indian island of Corpus Christi.
The grandmother of the title, María Rosa de la Plancha Domingo, grew up on a cattle ranch in Venezuela, married handsome Corsican Barto Domingo at 17, moved to Corpus Christi, had 10 children and was widowed at an early age – which is when all her troubles began.
“I tell you,” she explains, “when you are a young widow with a little bit of money and plenty good looks like I had in those days you’ve got to be careful.”
Besieged by the U.S.…
By Melissa Katsoulis, Caribbean Voice
A NINETY-SIX year old Venezualan widow, a Caribbean island torn apart by the exploitation of the west, venus fly-traps, a cheese-eating tiger and lots and lots of sex – My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales, a novel by Robert Antoni (Faber, £6.99; ISBN 0 571 200109; Times Bookshop £5.99) has all the ingredients of the late-20th century Latin-American novel we know so well.
And yet, well as we know it, we also know that it is in crisis. No South American author – not even Màrquez – has experienced the kind of success in Britain that Louis de Bernières acheived by taking the forms and motifs of an ancient narrative tradition and producing something for a popular market. The market forces that destroyed the Macondo of Màrquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude have seen to it that the genre of which he was the first great ambassador, has become too hot to leave in the hands of the native.
Yes, Robert Antoni’s family, as his publicicts’ blurb proclaims, “has a Caribbean history going back hundreds of years”. But it is, and this they keep to themselves, a white family history. Yes, he grew up on a Carribbean island.…
By Nnedimma Okorafor
“My message, if I have one, is to counter the monolithic idea of race, an idea which I believe is institutionally insinuated, especially in the United States. In the Caribbean, there is no such thing as ‘black’ and ‘white’: it is infinitely more complex than that.” – Robert Antoni
“Ayeeyosmio! You want me to give you this nasty story? Well, you best push up close here beside me so I don’t have to talk too long. Even though at 96 years of age I can’t make so much more noise anyway, and worse still since I lost the teeth.” — Robert Antoni, My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales.
My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales (Grove Press) by Robert Antoni is a book worth getting excited about. But don’t be fooled by the title — this isn’t erotica.
“The title is a little bit of a misnomer, a tease for the reader,” Antoni said. “The tales are obviously more bawdy than they are erotic. Though, I confess, there are genuinely erotic moments.”
The full title of this thin but sweet book is My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales with Stories of Adventure and Occasional Orgies in Her Boarding House for American Soldiers During the War, Including Her Confrontations With the Kentucky Colonel, the Tanzanian Devil and the King of Chacachacari.…
The Washington Post
By: Elizabeth Hand
Imagine listening to a bawdy, laughing Scheherezade whose off-color tales lilt to a calypso beat. That’s the voice of Maria Rosa de la Plancha Domingo, narrator of Robert Antoni’s My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales, a collection of linked stories as surprising and luminous as a hidden tropical waterfall.
Antoni’s two novels, Divina Trace (winner of the Commonwealth Writers prize) and Blessed Is the Fruit, showcased his gift for combining a ripe Caribbean patois with an elegantly stylized island mythos. My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales is a sort of West Indian Nights: tales within tales within tales, told to a grandson by the 97-year-old Maria (known as Skippy or Skip) as she recalls her youth on the bustling island of Corpus Christi during World War II. This is when the American troops appeared, seizing the young widow’s cocoa estate and turning it into a naval base: “Let me tell you every whorewoman in Corpus Christi descended straight away on that place . . . because it’s true what they say that the Yankees would pay any amount of money because they don’t have no sex in America, and that is why the Americans only like to fight wars.”
Like Scheherazade, Skip spins her tales to protect the honor of her daughters and young countrywomen: She runs a respectable boarding house, satisfying her Yankee soldiers with cerveza, spicy food and “The Story of General Monagas’ Pearlhandled Pistol and the Tiger that Liked to Eat Cheese” and “The Tail of the Boy Who Was Born a Monkey.”
Like any heroine worth her salt, Grandmother and her beautiful female charges are beset by unwanted suitors.…
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
BY CHAUNCEY MABE, BOOKS EDlTOR
When Robert Antoni’s first novel, Divina Trace, was published in 1991, he was hailed by no less than George Plimpton as the newfound James Joyce of the Caribbean. Most readers will be grateful that the classic authors he most resembles in My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales are the infinitely more readable Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling.
In these interlocking stories, Antoni channels the bawdy voice of an elderly Spanish-Caribbean woman as she relates ribald stories to her 12-year-old grandson. Born a rancher’s daughter in Venezuela, Maria Rosa de la Plancha Domingo accompanies her husband to the fictional island of Corpus Christi, the setting of Antoni’s previous novels (Divina Trace and Blessed Is the Fruit). The focus of these tales is her life as a young widow in the era of World War II, when Corpus Christi is overrun by the U:S. military, which appropriates Maria’s cocoa plantation – a turn of events that leaves her undaunted.
“Because at that time of the war I was already a widow of several years…and I was still a young woman with nine boys and one girl and Yolanda’s daughter too …but I don’t mind because at that time I was a young woman, and strong, and beautiful, you hear?…
By ASHLEY WARLICK
So Robert Antoni gets you with the title-“My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales” – and everything unfolds from there exactly as you might imagine. Maria Rosa de la Plancha Domingo, mother of 10, widow of one, sits ensconced before her 13 year-old grandson, Johnny, (perhaps with one of her favorite brandy cocktails) spinning out her famous stories for his tender ears. Occasionally she sings a phrase of Calypso, stands and shakes her bamshee or her tot-tots, which are just what you think they are and hanging a little low these days, and the stories roll on.
This is the folklore of the West Indies, both invented, embellished and traditional, and Mrs. Domingo’s world is populated with slave girls and kings, Ernest Hemingway and Col. Sanders, anthropomorphic euphemisms for how genitalia came to look the way they do, flatulence, sex potions and burlesque dancers in pink panties. It’s magical stuff, outrageous and scatological, sharpened to a fine, funny point, and an entirely charming read.
On the island of Corpus Christi during World War D, when Mrs. Domingo was “young and beautiful just like you mummy there, with beautiful hair and skin and beautiful tot-tots that didn’t used to fall down,” she ran a boardinghouse for American servicemen.…
This well presented book is a joyous, bubbling stream of short stories speckled with sunny asides and lush Caribbean vitality, personified by the eponymous grandmother. The reader is more of a listener, being entertained as the tales tumble out, although ostensibly she is telling her steamy stories to her young grandson as part of his education. Some stories are rose-tinted memories of the bizarre adventures of a beautiful young widow on a remote Trinidad island swarming with oversexed and under-occupied American soldiers during World War II. Others are traditional Caribbean folktales of magical animals and even stranger people.
Improbable characters pop in and out of the stories, glorying in names like On-the-Eggs, Toy Mishu, the Kentucky Colonel (Sanders) and Inestasia Rosa de los Cagones Domingo. While some of the folktales are more exotic than erotic, The Tale of How Crab-o Lost His Head is a Kipling-esque tease. Later, the intimate and touching tale of How Iguana Got Her Wrinkles is nearly left untold as a thief steals grandmother’s teeth. As more funny are told, the reader is left grinning from ear to ear. Chortle through the story of the Kentucky Colonel who, sick of chicken and chips, sets grandmother up in business as the Queen of Pizzas until a bent policeman takes the profits.…
by Diana Abu-Jaber
Who can resist a title like My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales? This latest offering from Robert Antoni, author of “Divina Trace,” which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and “Blessed Is the Fruit,” is as sly as it is funny and as revealing as it is bold.
The word “erotic” in this case turns out to have an ironic ring. These stories; which might be more accurately described as ribald and freewheeling, are just as often heartbreaking, mysterious and indignant. Maria Rosa de la Plancha Domingo is the name of the spirited 96-year-old grandmother in question, and she tells these sneaky tales to her eager grandson Johnny when his parents aren’t around.
As a young widow, Maria Rosa lived with her 11 children on the island of Corpus Christi, off the coast of Venezuela. She inherited a cocoa estate from her husband, but it is seized and mowed down during World War II to create a U.S. military .base. She’s promised money, but none materializes. This early encounter with bullying and double-crossing sets the tone for a series of con artists who move through Maria’s stories, trying to separate her from her money.
Maria sets up a boardinghouse for G.I’s.…
The words ‘grand-mother’ and erotic, you may think, are as close as you can get to a contradiction in terms. Let’s face it: soft, woolly grannies and hot sex just don’t mix. Add ‘folktales’ to this combo and you’ve got yourself an intriguing Iirile conundrum but surely not the title of a book? That is, until author Robert Antoni went and did just that.
Based in part on the tales told to him by his paternal grandma, Granny Mina – a real life, and by all accounts, utterly unique woman of her day Antoni’s new book, My Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales, is a collection of saucy stories that portray the spicier side of the Caribbean in a truly exciting way.
Widowed at an early age, Granny Mina was left to bring up six sons on her own. To augment her income during World War II she took in US servicemen as boarders in her house, keeping them out of trouble by telling them her unique blend of folktales with a sexual twist.
It is these same stories that Antoni remembers being told by his grandmother on long, sultry, Caribbean evenings.
Growing up in the Bahamas, there was no television, very little radio and no movie theatres.…