Can’t Wait Wednesday (Reading Natasha Lightfoot)

This book blog meme (CWW or Can’t Wait Wednesday) popped up in my feed via Curious Corners of a Writer’s Cluttered Mind just now and after, what, it’s Wednesday?, this writer’s brain thought, sure, I’ll play. After all, the book I’ve been most thinking of this week is right up this blog’s alley. Wadadli Pen, if you’re new here, is the online platform of a project, now a non-profit, meant to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda.

That book – Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation by Natasha Lightfoot

I’m almost ashamed that I haven’t read this yet – almost, because I am one person and only have so much time in a world of too many books I’d love to read but this has been one of those books (I always thought I’d get to it sooner than this) since I attended the launch at the Public Library years ago now.

#history #nonfiction #Caribbean #Black

Blurb –  In 1834 Antigua became the only British colony in the Caribbean to move directly from slavery to full emancipation. Immediate freedom, however, did not live up to its promise, as it did not guarantee any level of stability or autonomy, and the implementation of new forms of coercion and control made it, in many ways, indistinguishable from slavery. In Troubling Freedom, Natasha Lightfoot tells the story of how Antigua’s newly freed black working people struggled to realize freedom in their everyday lives, prior to and in the decades following emancipation. She presents freedpeople’s efforts to form an efficient workforce, acquire property, secure housing, worship, and build independent communities in response to elite prescriptions for acceptable behavior and oppression. Despite its continued efforts, Antigua’s black population failed to convince whites that its members were worthy of full economic and political inclusion. By highlighting the diverse ways freedpeople defined and created freedom through quotidian acts of survival and occasional uprisings, Lightfoot complicates conceptions of freedom and the general narrative that landlessness was the primary constraint for newly emancipated slaves in the Caribbean.

I don’t read a ton a ton of non-fiction but when I read Natasha, who is an associate professor at Columbia University, it always does to me what good fiction does which is transport me wholly in to the world of the story, with rich characters, strong narratives throughines, pacing on point, with a real and grounded sense of the stakes, and the reason why Troubling Freedom is on my mind is because I had the opportunity recently to read a chapter from her book in progress (after telling her that I missed her James McCune Smith Annual Lecture at the University of Glasgow). Such a privilege! The talk she gave was based on the same topic. I can’t share either but when I tell you I was riveted – as in this could be a Hollywood film, and please can I write it, riveted. And now I can’t wait for this book; I want to believe that the previous article of hers that I read about Eliza Moore, an enslaved woman who bid for her freedom based on the Emancipation Act in the territory of her birth though not the territory in which she was resident, is part of this book – I can see a throughline, and I can’t wait.

Reading these shorter pieces has me as eager to dive in to Troubling Freedom as I was at its launch – I just need to get my hands on a copy and get through at least four of the books that I’m currently reading (one is an edit job, one I’ve been asked to blurb, one I’m trying to finish for a book club discussion, and one was the most advanced of my previous reads in progress). It’s a lot but that book is on my mind and hopefully will soon be in my hands. Check it out if you haven’t already.

As with all content on, 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. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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