Carib Plus Lit News (Early September 2019)

UWI’s fourth landed campus opens in Antigua and Barbuda

UWI 1.jpg

“The establishment of the Five Islands campus in Antigua and Barbuda impacts the growth and development of this country in the same way that the establishment of campuses in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago impacted development of those countries. Moreover, it holds the prospect of making a similar contribution to the countries of the OECS.” – Professor Stafford Griffith. The re-purposing of the building where the campus is being housed was controversial because it had been built initially as a secondary school to provide relief to overpopulation in especially urban secondary schools. With a change of administration came a change of agenda, and though there was some opposition objection (and even an article guest posted here on the Wadadli Pen blog by a former finalist explaining why he felt the campus should be used for its original purpose), the UWI fourth landed campus in Antigua and Barbuda is now reality. The campus began operations on August 25th and is registering students for programmes across the schools of Health and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities and Education, and Management, Sciences, and Technology.

Musical Youth Second Edition

This is one of my books, the second edition of which launched in early August. I wanted to share the release from Caribbean Reads Publishing:

(original cover art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Glenroy Aaron)

Basseterre, St. Kitts, August 8, 2019. CaribbeanReads Publishing, a small press based in St. Kitts-Nevis, announced today the release of the second edition of Musical Youth, the award-winning title by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse. Over four thousand copies of the first edition of the book, which won second place in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, have been distributed to young people throughout the Caribbean and the world. Musical Youth has been well-received by critics, reviewers, and most importantly by teens and is currently included on the book lists at schools in Antigua and in Trinidad and Tobago. While the text remains basically unchanged, the second edition sports a new cover and the kindle version contains links to a candid discussion about Hillhouse’s writing process, her vision of the characters, and more.

“This is such an important milestone,” commented Carol Mitchell of CaribbeanReads. “Caribbean books are finding their place in the global literature scene one book at a time. We are excited that thousands of Caribbean children have read this book, but we are also thrilled when we receive orders from Australia and Italy as it speaks to the human appeal of the story.”

Musical Youth is a coming-of-age story set in Antigua and, by chronicling one summer in the lives of a few teens, touches on a number of issues that our Caribbean youth face such as class differences, colourism, and relationships-romantic, familial, and platonic. The publishers credit the book’s success to the high quality of Hillhouse’s storytelling, the global appeal of the teen story, and the tremendous support they received from the NGO CODE, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Antiguan (and Barbudan) Ministry of Education, bookstores like Best of Books in Antigua and Paperbased in Trinidad, and book reviewers.

In the Acknowledgements of the new edition, Hillhouse thanks “readers everywhere—tout monde sam and baggai, as we say in Antigua and Barbuda—who bought and/or took the time to recommend the book; and specifically, Caribbean readers and young people who have told me how much they love Zahara, and how Zahara and Shaka are #relationshipgoals.”

Ms. Hillhouse has made several contributions to the literary scene in the Caribbean. In addition to the award winning Musical Youth, she is the author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, the children’s book, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and the mass market title Oh Gad! She has been recognized at book festivals in the Caribbean and the US, and featured in Essence magazine.



Hurricane season 2019 hit its first major target, the Bahamas. Specifically it (reportedly) took seven lives (though the numbers may rise at this writing) and inflicted (reported) billions in physical damage in the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. It’s been heartbreaking and in some ways re-traumatizing for those for whom the 2017 season that wreaked havoc across the Caribbean region (via Irma and Maria) is still all too fresh. I don’t know what to add to the conversation except #climatechangeisreal and real action is required; help the Bahamas if you can; and pray that the season doesn’t do any more damage – we can’t take it (though we will if we have to…pray we don’t have to). Amidst all of the posts I saw, one that feels especially relevant to us here on this arts platform is this public social media post by Bahamaian professor and publisher/editor of the Tongues of the Ocean online literary journal Nicolette Bethel, director of the Shakespeare in Paradise festival, mere hours after the storm:  “We are rehearsing for Shakespeare in Paradise tonight. You may think us insensitive but we know how important theatre and the arts are in the healing process. It is also important for people to focus on other things, on inhabiting other skins, for a moment. One of our actors has been working tirelessly with the rescue efforts. She has been the conduit for texts from people waiting to be rescued and she has been linking them up with the rescue teams. She has been working for the past two days. She has come to rehearsal tonight because she needs the distraction. She had to take a moment to decompress but she is right now giving a rehearsal that is just about performance ready. I am so proud of her!!!” That’s a beautiful reminder of just how powerful the arts are in our lives.


Who is Toni Morrison?

I’ve covered the deaths of Toni Morrison and Paule Marshall in the last and second to last editions of this Carib Plus Lit series but when two such important literary lights go out of the world, there will be and there has been multiple conversations as we process. This round of my processing is prompted by a particular conversation.

Someone asked me the sub-headed question when I told them Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison had died – ‘who is Toni Morrison?’ And once I got over being outraged, I reminded myself that we all have our areas of interest and if someone had told me about the death of some Nobel winning physicist, I might have had a similar ‘who is that?’ moment. I tried to explain who Morrison was but they were distracted and uninterested, and I was legit hurt by that because of how much she means not just to me as a writer but to the world. The same person, once  they caught the unavoidable coverage of Morrison’s death returned to ask me, ‘did you hear about the death of this author woman?’ And, after I banged my head against a metaphorical wall, I got it…I got it. I mean, I’m not perfect, I did have a moment of ‘are you kidding me, I tried to tell you about this?’ But I get it, we all have our areas of interest and only so much space in our heads. In fact, when it comes to Nobel prizes I pay attention to literature and peace; so I’m guilty of focusing on what interests me too. I’m prompted though by these conversations to share my favourite Morrison books (mostly focused on her fiction), the must-read Morrisons I haven’t yet read, the ones I’m not sure/don’t remember reading, and the ones still/definitely on my to-read list (for the ones I haven’t read yet but really want to); I’m going to do the same for Paule Marshall, because she too is a literary giant we lost recently, one with Caribbean roots (while Morrison is African-American). I promise to be honest if you promise not to be judge-y.


Song of Solomon – this may have been my first Morrison, an assigned read for one of my lit classes at the University of the West Indies, and one that it was an absolute joy to excavate – there were so many layers to it. The story of a family in early 20th century America and the inexorable connections to the past. I remember it cracking open pathways in my mind, in my soul, and my own history.

The Bluest Eye – I remember being powerfully moved by this story of a girl who wanted to be white and blue eyed when I first read it during my university days, in part because I think on some level every little Black girl (speaking very broadly, of course) can relate to how much of a journey it is to self-love (unfortunately).

Sula – I remember this book about, among other things, the bond between two girls-cum-women being a joy to read despite its dark turns.

Jazz – this one, with a love triangle at its core, was so much like jazz (with its complex and improvisational qualities) that it took me a few attempts to get in to it but once I did, I loved it; her technique especially with voice (and especially near the end) and the way it interacted with itself and with the story it was telling and, to some degree, with the reader was a mindblowing lesson.

Must-reads I haven’t yet read

Beloved – this story of a woman who escaped slavery only to be haunted by the ghost of the daughter she aborted is, from all accounts, a classic – its status not dimmed by the Oprah film which I remember not being very well received. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet nor feel a great urge to read it – maybe it’s been in that zone of classics everyone insists you absolutely have to read for a little too long. Some times you just have to let go of those have-tos. I may read it someday still; it’s definitely not off the table. I mean, it’s Toni Morrison.

Paradise – like Jazz I’ve started this a few times and I pressed on because I came to love Jazz despite our bumpy start and because Oprah assured during her O’s Book Club discussion that it was a rough start but once you got 30 or so pages in, you wouldn’t be able to put it down. Well, I’ve put it down and taken it back up, and started over and put it down, and picked it up a few times; and it’s been down for a long time. I still hope to finish it some day especially as, as it’s not uninteresting – not with his opening:”They shoot the white girl first. With the others they can take their time.”.

God Bless the Child


Not sure/don’t remember reading

Tar Baby

Love – I think I may have read this one sometime in the late nineties, early 2000s with my book club but I’m not sure it counts if I don’t remember.

Still/Definitely on my to-read list

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination – the title has always intrigued me.

A Mercy

The Origin of Others

The rest, I think, are children’s books, anthologies edited by her, and books of non-fiction so I’ll stop by saying, I highly recommend you pick a Morrison and read one. My individual struggle with any book of hers does not change the fact that she is a master craftsman whose characters and settings are solidly and deeply drawn, whose premises are never conventional, whose execution is always assured, who for all her layers and distinctiveness as a writer never let the writing get in the way of the story. Barbadian-American writer Paule Marshall meanwhile is not as well known as Morrison but there’s no denying that she, too, made her mark.


Praisesong for the Widow – your first is always your favourite right? This story of a well-to-do widow kind of deconstructing while on a Caribbean vacation and making some ancestral connections that move it beyond the personal is my first Paule Marshall read and a favourite from my uni days – iconic even, with certain images from it permanently marked on my mind and soul.

Browngirl, Brownstones – this coming of age story about a Caribbean family making new life in America was a solid read if not my absolute favourite; and it is a classic. Literally, it was first published in the 1950s and then revived on rediscovery in the 1980s (kind of reminds me of the rediscovery of Zora Neale Hurston by Alice Walker chronicled in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens).

Daughters – a fairly epic tale of family and politics between the US and the Caribbean.

Must-reads I haven’t read

Soul Clap Hands and Sing

Reena and Other Stories – one of my favourite writings by Marshall is ‘To Dah-duh, in Memoriam’, a great generational, cultural, past and future divide story set in Barbados, which was originally published in 1967 and re-published in Reena and Other Stories in 1983.

Merle: a Novella and Other Stories

Triangular Road: a Memoir

Not sure/don’t remember reading

The Chosen Place, the Timeless People – I’m about 50 percent sure I haven’t read this story of an island in transition and a clueless American woman linked to the island (I think), and yet the synopsis seems familiar..

Still/Definitely on my to-read list

Conversations with Paule Marshall – I love to read writers talking about their process like when Marshall in a piece I read (not sure it’s included here) talked about the kitchen table talk that helped her develop her voice as a writer.

The Fisher King


Antiguan Hip Hop-er LogiQ Benefits from US Cultural Exchange

LogiQ at the US Embassy in Barbados prior to departure for the US. (Photo courtesy the US Embassy)

This one came in via press release from the US Embassy. Antiguan rapper Vincent Aldin Pryce, commonly known as LogiQ, has traveled to the America to participate in US government sponsored Partners of the Americas’ Education and Culture Exchange Program. His specific destination was announced as the PATH Hip Hop summer Academy of Music and Art. “The exchange is a part of Partners of the Américas’ Education and Culture program, which provides exchanges and small grants for communities across the Americas. The Education and Culture Program is funded by the United Sates Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and connects people and institutions to promote service in the community, enhance cross-cultural understanding and cooperation between the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and build professional development of participants and the communities they visit.” The two-week programme in Miami was expected to yield several benefits. “Mr. Pryce will contribute to and benefit from projects aligned with Partners of the Americas and PATH Inc.’s shared objectives and programs while developing creative leadership skills through professional development workshops and strengthening the social impact of his creative work. He will also develop and exhibit a professional series of creative work in collaboration with local artists, and connect with professional counterparts in the creative and community development sectors.”


New Caribbean Book of Local Writings 

About the series Local Writings: The series Local Writings is composed of monographic books that compile essays, chronicles, manuscripts, testimonies and various writings of curators, theorists, cultural critics, thinkers and artists of the region. This series seeks to make accessible a selection of several of the most important discourses and critical positions that have shaped critical paradigms in Central America and the Caribbean. This book is added to the two previous ones of this same series, dedicated to the critical work of Raúl Quintanilla Armijo (Nicaragua), Rosina Cazali (Guatemala), Adrienne Samos (Panama), Tamara Díaz-Bringas (Cuba / Costa Rica). The next titles in this series include the critical work of Virginia Pérez Ratton (Costa Rica), Michy Marxuach (Puerto Rico) and Rolando Castellón (Nicaragua / Costa Rica). Read more.

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