#WCW Althea Prince

Wadadli Pen doesn’t typically participate in the #WomanCrushWednesday hashtag, especially on a Wednesday that has been so taken up with getting my every other Wednesday CREATIVE SPACE column (an oddly laborious task this particular Wednesday) posted. Especially-especially with Wednesday about to end. But I wanted to draw your eye up to the most recent/current of our rotating banners and an author you should be reading, Althea Prince (pictured here with then PM Baldwin Spencer as the first recipient of an award offered by our then literary festival – both the award and the festival are no more). At this writing, the books featured in the banner were all written and/or edited by the Canada-based, Antigua-born writer, who is a member of the superfluously talented Prince family that includes writers Ralph and John, sculptor Arnold, and musician Roland. Let’s go through them left to right and potentially add them to your library.

Ladies of the Night – suggestive of both a sweetly pungent (at night) local flower and ladies that work the streets at night, it is the story of women (not exclusively working working women) but women from all walks of life, negotiating their womanhood in the relationships with the men in their lives and the very specifically Antiguan society -with one exception as I remember it – that they occupy. As I flick through my memories of this book I remember the tray lady and the scroops scroops of washing the underwear of an unfaithful man and the girl who got into trouble for singing the benna about “how you panty get wet?” and the woman who on being told that her husband was cheating was only relieved that she would have some relief from having to give him wife (as I mentioned in my accent tag video, wife is sex in Antiguan)

The Politics of Black Women’s Hair – I remember this book came out around the same time, give or take, as Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary and covers similar ground but from a more personal and sociological standpoint. I remember too having to explain to someone who scoffed at the very idea of hair being political what the author meant and after they read the book for themselves, they got it. Politics is not limited to ballot boxes and partisanship but is about the discourses that inform how we live – our history, our reality, the systems that shape us, the institutions that socialize us, how we come to be, and who we are. For Black women for whom wearing their own hair had to become a whole natural hair movement for us to reclaim our roots, and for whom said natural hair is still considered unprofessional and dirty in some spaces, hair is very much political. Julianne Okot Bitek, writing at Straight.com, is quoted in Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed II as saying The Politics of Black Women’s Hair “will remain an important contribution to the conversation about the social and political pressure that black women continue to face in public.”

Let’s take a music break.

In the Black – Althea’s contribution to literary arts in Antigua-Barbuda and Canada is singular and significant. She has edited several collections that have amplified voices from both these spaces and at their intersection. These have included the first of its kind collection of Antiguan and Barbudan literature So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End and this one, subtitled New African Canadian Literature, that looks mostly to the great North. As noted in my reporting when this book came out in 2012, I was invited to be a part of this collection (though not being Canadian or Canada-based) because, it has been my experience, that encouraging and putting on lesser known writers and giving them a bigger platform is a big part of what she’s about. She’s about community and that’s another way beyond her pen game, that she’s an inspiration.

This image is from the launch of In the Black, at A Different Booklist in Canada, and it pictures a number of writers (including Wendy ‘Motion’ Brathwaite and Gayle Gonsalves, left and second from left respectively whose recent achievements you would have read about recently in our Carib Lit Plus series – click their names)

Being Black – It’s not the style of this site to get tangled up in letters, but Dr. Prince is an accomplished academic in addition to being a superlative creative writer and this one is an exemplary example of that. So, I’ll say it, if you’re looking for a college text to add to your dis/course on race and the insidious nature and impact of racism, you can’t go wrong with this essay collection.

Black Notes – This is, to the best of my knowledge, her most recent collection bringing together various voices from Antigua-Barbuda and Canada. I actually haven’t read this one so I can’t really say anything about it. So I’ll let another reader have a say. From goodreads: “Some of the entries are rather basic but a number of them are small shiny gems that provide access to, and acknowledgement of, the experiences of black women (and girls). Not a long book but certainly an interesting and thoughtfully collected anthology..” & “These stories and poems come from black women from a wide variety of backgrounds. They deal with issues like misogyny, patriarchy, dysfunctional relationships (familial and personal), grief, mental health, and colourism within the black and brown community.” This second reader listed as favourites ‘Oya’ by d’bi.young anitafrika, ‘A Life…A Spirit…A Name’ by Barbara A. Arrindell, ‘Dear Daddy’ by Gayle Gonsalves, and ‘If I Were a Black Girl in Love with Myself’ by Jemeni. One other goodreads reader said, “liked the poems”.

Loving this Man – I think this may have been the first Althea Prince book that I read after her children’s book (a favourite) How the East Pond got Its Flowers. Yeah, pretty sure I read it even before Ladies of the Night which predates it. This multi-character, decades spanning novel is womanist in its underpinnings and informative, moving, and entertaining in its effect. Reviews are mixed, for this more than any other book of hers I’ve seen, with the first half (the Antigua chapters) getting more praise than the second (set largely in Canada within the politics of the Black power movement). But the Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed II cites one reviewer who credits her “lyrical command of language… (and handling of the) interiority of the experiences of Black women as colonial subjects and immigrants.”

Althea Prince, left, in a photo call during the first literary festival in Antigua in 2006, that also pictures, from left, Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Nalo Hopkinson, Marie Elena John, and me.

She is prolific and she is profound and five minutes out from Thursday, she is Wadadli Pen’s first ever (and probably last) Woman Crush Wednesday.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, 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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