Books That Caught Our Eye — Mailbox Monday

At Mailbox Monday we encourage participants to not only share the books they received, but to check out the books others have received. Each week will share a few Books That Caught Our Eye from that weeks’ Mailbox Monday. We encourage you to share the books that caught your eye in the comments. VELVET: Fault […]

Books That Caught Our Eye — Mailbox Monday

I’m breaking the rules here by not talking about books received but seeing this Mailbox Monday/Books That Caught Our Eye post reminded me of a conversation today with participants in the Jhohadli Writing Project workshop for writers longlisted in the 2021 Wadadli Pen Challenge. Today was a writing session (such interesting, quirky, fun, poignant writing emerging from their pens) but we also just chatted for a while and when I gave them leave to ask me anything, in addition to questions about inspiration and choices vis-a-vis writing and the things I’ve written (Musical Youth specifically), one asked me about books and/or writers who make my faves list (specifically Caribbean writers). I thought I’d mention some of what I said. I never pick absolute faves but the first names to come to mind were…

Edwidge Dandicat. I name checked Breath Eyes Memory, but especially Create Dangerously and The Farming of Bones, discussing some of the brutal history (between Dominicans and Haitians) that informed the latter, and in the case of the former how writing can be that thing we use to process life, including the trauma of it all.

Jamaica Kincaid. Speaking most extensively of A Small Place and her disruptive presence in the narrative of who we are and who we want to be seen as, her uncompromising insistence on saying just what she has to say. We discussed her being persona non grata for a time in Antigua-Barbuda because of that book and reading from this self-same book when years later she was invited to read in Antigua-Barbuda. We discussed her being an inspiration to me for a number of reasons.

Jean Rhys. Whom I mentioned specifically wrote back to Empire by reclaiming the narrative of the woman in the attic in Jane Eyre by crafting her own classic novel Wide Sargasso Sea which gave that woman a history rooted in Caribbean otherness.

I also mentioned Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo which, though it’s been a while since I read it, I recalled as being bold in the way it explored the ways that innocence is stripped away – as relates to sex and politics and the way the world turns – compared to many an other coming of age tale.

I mentioned, I think, Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and his insistence on a creole narrative in a world that wanted to iron out our natural tongue and how discovering his unending winding rhythmic lines was music to my ears. Maybe I mentioned that in a podcast interview I did earlier in the day and it’s blending with the conversation with the young women (there were three of them), I’m not sure. On no sleep and going from thing to thing, things merge. But Selvon is worth mentioning here as well, so that’s okay.

Musical Youth came up in that podcast conversation, too. That won’t run, I’m told, until February next year but I will say that in both cases my choices in addressing the issue of colourism came up – the choice to celebrate Black as beautiful and empowered, and the choices to make this character dark-skinned and that character “butter-skinned” …which was interesting because it really made me think about those choices, about how in original drafting I let the characters reveal themselves as they were, and on revision and review, I wanted to add depth and nuance, I didn’t want to do the obvious, I wanted to show the complexities within the dynamics of shade, texture, gender, class, and the individual, and (this was more internal) hopefully not falling in to the same traps I was trying to expose; it was good to feel challenged.

And both the podcast and workshop were good for that reason.

The workshop we did in a lush valley at the Botanical Gardens, thank G the weather cooperated.

Speaking of, I hope the weather in the Caribbean in the US (New Orleans) similarly cooperates and blows past with no trouble. Stay safe out there.

Now, you. What are you reading?

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2 responses to “Books That Caught Our Eye — Mailbox Monday

  1. Well I finished the Haitian trilogy Love Anger Madness by Marie Vieux-Chauvet with an introduction by Edwidge Danticat, which was a book I hadn’t heard about, that itself has an interesting history (having been suppressed for many years post publication) and now ironically I’m reading Maryse Condé’s latest Waiting for the Water to Rise which is going to take me back to Haiti I believe.

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