He was born in Kingston Jamaica, and now teaches literature and creative writing at Macalester College.
His new novel "The Book of Night Women" is the story of Lilith, a young slave living on a brutal Jamaican plantation in the year 1800. His writing has been compared with Zadie Smith, Edwidge Dandicat and Junot Diaz, who have all written of the legacy of colonialism around the Caribbean.
James says "The Book of Night Women" started as another story, set 30 years later, after the end of slavery in Jamaica. He told Minnesota Public Radio's Euan Kerr he was writing about a woman accused of murder, when, as James puts it, the story got hijacked.