Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed lll

This picks up where the  Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed l and ll leave off. As with those pages, it features reviews about A & B writings that I come across as I dig through my archives or surf the web. You’re welcome to send any credible reviews that you come across as well. They’re not in any particular order, I just add them as I add them; some will be old, some will be new. But as I was recently asked in an interview if there are any writers of note from Antigua beyond Jamaica Kincaid, I feel it important to reinforce that while Kincaid’s well earned stature is indisputable, Antigua and Barbuda does have an emerging literary culture. Dig through the section on Antiguan and Barbudan Writings and its sub-genres for more on that, and scroll through this and the other reviews sections to read what has been written about our writers. Do we have a literary culture. Hell, yes. With very little to encourage and sustain it, it lives.

Read reviews of several Antiguan and Barbudan books – Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then, Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Oh Gad!, Dorbrene O’Marde’s Send Out You Hand, Leslie R. James’ Ebony Grace and Black Consciousness, and Vere Cornwall Bird: When Power Failed to Corrupt – in the 2014 edition of the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books.

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“In this closely observed and carefully crafted story of the Hammer family in nineteenth-century Cornwall, Sue Appleby explores the life of a Cornish tenant farmer, his wives, and offspring. Drawing upon the rich material of her own family history, she investigates the varying fortunes of her great-grandfather, Philip Hammer of Porthpean, near St Austell, and in so doing brings alive the social history of nineteenth-century Cornwall – including the extraordinary Cornish diaspora which scattered Philip’s sons and daughters as far afield as Australia and South Africa. The tale of one family, it is also the story of Cornwall itself. Appleby tells it with passion and penetrating insight – an important addition to our understanding of Cornwall’s fascinating world-wide heritage.” – Professor Philip Payton, Director, Institute of Cornish Studies, University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus)

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“More recently, I read Marie-Elena John’s novel Unburnable on the plane from New York to Copenhagen. I laughed aloud so often reading this wondrously intelligent book about Dominica and the United States and Africa, about gender, class and race, about love and sexuality, that the bespectacled man sitting next to me put his Wall Street Journal down and leaned over to see what the title was. He asked what it was about. I could have told him how it dealt honestly with issues without ever forgetting to keep character and soul as its centre, but instead I told him a tiny anecdote from the book about black women and thongs. And I much enjoyed his blush.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Marie Elena John’s Unburnable

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“Through a simple structure of short chapters collating two tales – that of Lillian Baptiste’s present, and that of her family’s past in Dominica – John expertly weaves history and fiction into an integral narrative that takes the reader on a fascinating journey where instincts, magic, intuition and, above all, love are the real protagonists.

John’s knowledge and usage of Dominican history are instrumental to the development of a tale in which the proud identity of minority factions in a society hostile to multiculturalism helps create alternative world-visions – that of the Carib native, that of the maroon fugitive slaves – which eventually are crushed by the prevailing force of the ruling order.” – more on Unburnable at Memo from La La Land

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“This collection was doubly appealing because I really hadn’t had much/any exposure to Caribbean literature, and I was excited to try reading something different…Below, I’ve mentioned three of my favorites. Waywardness by Ezekel Alan – This was easily my favorite story of the bunch…Mango Summer by Janice Lynn Mather…This story was very poignant, providing a strikingly sharp contrast between the innocence of childhood and the sometimes horrible harshness of reality. All the Secret Things No One Ever Knows by Sharon Leach … written in such an artful, compelling fashion. It was not easy to read, but I am glad that I read it. I also liked Amelia at Devil’s Bridge and The Monkey Trap. If you really enjoy short story collections, or are interested in checkin’ out writing from a new region/area, I don’t think you’d regret perusing these stories. This was a quick read and some of the writing is quite remarkable.” Review of Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean which includes Amelia at Devil’s Bridge by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C.Hillhouse

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“She may have single handedly increased tourism on the island through the writing of this novel. I mean, I want to go to Dominica!” – Morphological Confetti on Marie Elena John’s Unburnable

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“…this is not a “storybook.” Even though Dorbrene’s feelings are present throughout, in a way that is surprisingly understated – to me – knowing how worked-up about issues he can get, this is not a book about “feelings,” either. It is an exhaustively researched piece of work that pulls from commentary; documented facts; personal conversations and persons’ archives; and social, political and religious review, all placed in a national, regional or international context, as applicable. King_Short_Shirt_-_Full_Size

In fact, you could easily say that this is two books in one, since the end-notes and appendices are, themselves, so interesting and educational.” – D. Gisele Isaac on Dorbrene O’Marde’s Nobody Go Run Me

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Kim the Bookworm in her review of What’s Eating Me called Elaine Spires “a hilarious author”, adding “I read the majority of the book with a great big grin on my face. The way she writes is just so funny and entertaining, I could read her books forever!”

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From an Oh Gad! review at Caribbean Vistas:

“Hillhouse’s authorial voice is lyrical and descriptive.  The interactions of this extended and blended family, along with their respective communities in Antigua and the United States provide a range of interesting perspectives that are expressed in characteristic dialogue of their regions. The universe of this novel is not only populated with intergenerational and multi-cultural characters but also with connections to ancestors and newborns.   Compellingly, the complexity and depth of Oh Gad! is well disguised as easy beach reading with the usual soap opera formula of romance, political intrigue, family feuds, and the like.   In this way, Hillhouse masterfully transports us back and forth from our modernity into the mythic yet real seat of Antiguan culture.  What we find there is fascinating.”

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Ashley Bryan (various)

The Schools Library Journal said of Ashley Bryan’s Sing to the Sun, it “captures the beauty of nature along with human emotion and circumstance, and children are sure to enjoy its rhymic descriptive verse” and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books said “the words are simple but they dance”.

Ashley Bryan’s illustrations in What a Morning! earned the following praise from Publisher’s Weekly: “Bryan’s illustrations tie into the African-American theme, showing a black Holy family and multiracial wise men and shepherds. Bold brush strokes line each landscape and every garment; the star of Bethlehem, through the religious prism, reveals colors of rainbow hues. ”

On Turtle Knows My Name, he was both author and illustrator. Publisher’s Weekly said of the children’s picture book: “With the funny names, abundant dialogue and animal noises, Bryan’s lively retelling of this English Antillean story is well-suited to reading out loud. The festive paintings are a visual treat, complementing the text with jewel-like colors and fluid lines.” The Schools Library Journal had this to say: “The art is beautifully patterned, like the text, with vibrant images in the full-page, watercolor paintings. The handsome and loving black grandmother and her grandson inhabit a radiant, tropical world and should bring delight to young children and storytellers, who will recognize their proud and loving spirits, and will enjoy chanting the very long names over and over again.”

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Ann Morgan from A Year of Reading the World described Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy as “a fresh, feisty and at times
alarming perspective on the land of the free and on British colonialism.” It was her Antigua and Barbuda pick. Read the full review here.

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Sharing some reviews of my work…

Everyone seems to be digging the art work for Fish Outta Water (“beautiful”)…and I agree; plus, I’m told the story isn’t bad either. Read more here.

Jamaican poet and Professor emeritus (UWI) Mervyn Morris remarked on Oh Gad!‘s “skilfull descriptions” and “nicely managed dialogue”; the blogger at Conquering Book Mountain said the “the dialect is wonderfully written and rolls off the mental tongue”; V. Bridges Moussaron, Associate Professor @ Université de Charles de Gaulle  credited the “complexity of the characters” and the “layers of language”; Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis wrote in an Observer review that it was “one of the most important fiction books to come out of Antigua & Barbuda”; Brenda Lee Browne blogged that ” it has a plot so real that (I) fell into the book”; David B Dacosta wrote, “Hillhouse expertly reels the reader deeply within the cultural fabric of Antiguan society.” He had some problems with the book though and so did at least one other reviewer who speaks of the “mesmerizing phrasing” but said the author “becomes too comfortable in the simple telling”. Read these and various reader reviews here.

Alexandra Casselle blogged about The Boy from Willow Bend, ““The musicality of the authentic, Antiguan language resonates like wind dipping in and out of multicolored bottle trees…”; Althea Romeo Mark said it was “brilliant”; while Helen Williams catalogued it among other “Useful stories for discussion” on her blog; Dr. Natasha Lightfoot commented on its “thoughtful rendering of complex issues”; while Debbie Jacob wrote that described the plot as “exciting and moves swiftly”, adding “The characters in Hillhouse’s book feel real and, best of all, they feel Caribbean, but the story could have held up in any culture.” Mickel Brann wrote when it first came out in the Observer that it was “well crafted, lively and absolutely believable.” There’s more. Read them all here.

Read Dancing Nude in the Moonlight reviews here and reviews of other works here.

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In 2012, Ashley Bryan released his version of an iconic Christian story, the birth of Christ, with his Who Built the Stable? A Nativity Poem. The School Library Journal described the prose as “beautifully written”  and Bryan’s art work as “resplendent”.  Booklist said it’s “executed in exuberant folk-style art that shines like stained glass, the pictures have a simplicity that will appeal to children.” Publisher’s Weekly called it “a touching take on the classic nativity story.” As for the art work, they wrote, “strong strokes to evoke Bethlehem, (“A rich and verdant land”) with saturated shades of primary and secondary colors, lively expressions on human and animal faces, and sweeping lines to create the impression of movement. Pleasing to the eye and to the ear.” Kirkus Reviews wrote, “Bryan’s Christmas offering combines a poignant poem about a shepherd boy who builds his own stable with exuberant paintings in a masterful melding of rhythmic text and dazzling art.” Shelf Awareness wrote that it was “moving”. See all the reviews here.

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Caribbean Civilization said of Tameka Jarvis-George’s short film inspired by her poem of the same name Dinner (and which she also co-stars with her husband): “the videography is dreamy and her literary talent is well displayed.”

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

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