Tag Archives: Akilah Jardine

Antiguan and Barbudan literary works reviewed

As I come across reviews or dig through archived reviews, I’ll add them – first to last, and not necessarily in the order they were written. Been finding so many, I had to tie off this list and continue here (so read here then go read there, okay?)

Tameka Jarvis-George’s film, Dinner, based on her poem of the same name and directed by Christopher Hodge of Cinque Productions premiered in 2011 at the Reggae Film Festival in Jamaica, where it received the following review:

“Featuring an attractive pair of lovebirds, Dinner is a sweetly poetic and vivid 12-minute verse-to-screen clip from an Antiguan writer/director with an appealing, if slightly provocative, voice. It’s a small film with a big heart that explores intimate love, employing a slyly clever approach – cloaked in the guise of meal preparation. While getting dinner ready a radiant young lady (played by Jervis-George, who also provides a lyrical voice-over) is surprised by the early arrival home of her virile Rastafarian man, and before you can say ‘Come and get it’ a dining of a totally different variety plays out on-screen. Shot in vibrant hues by a surprisingly steady camera, Dinner is romp that ends all too quickly, but it was tastefully delightful while it lasted. B”

***

The Devil’s Bridge is an evocative work that will establish itself as another classic of the Caribbean and particularly Antiguan writing. It walks confidently, making its own path somewhere between Jamaica Kincaid and Wilson Harris. Because of its powerful visionary and ego-transcending achievements, this work will be compared to Harris’s Palace of the Peacock and Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John.”

Professor Paget Henry,
Sociology & Africana Studies
Brown University

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Just came across this mention of my Boy from Willow Bend at Behind the Marog Kingdom listing it alongside Flying with Icarus by Curdella Forbes and the Legend of St. Ann’s Flood by Debbie Jacob as “useful stories for discussion” in getting Caribben boys to deal with their feelings. That’s kinda cool. It’s also listed as recommended books for boys here.

***

“The beauty, economy and precision of Kincaid’s prose transports even the most curmudgeonly and aloof reader into the abject state of gushy fandom.” – Saidiya Hartman, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia university, introducing Jamaica Kincaid for a reading.

***

Re Unburnable

“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.” – from this blog.

“UNBURNABLE is good, if not great. It is a magnificent attempt on a very large theme: recognizing and releasing the sins of the fathers (in this case, mothers, in a matriarchal society) to embrace one’s own destiny.” – from this blog.

“Marie-Elena John graciously takes you inside the history and lives of the people in Dominica. You will visist the island’s original Carib people, who discovered Columbus when he arrived in 1493. Yes, be careful because you may actually learn something by reading this novel. Don’t worry. Marie-Elena weaves a wonderful tale that will also feed some of your thirst for sex and action, while simultaneously increasing your knowledge of Africa and the Caribbean.” – from this blog.

“The diversity of the African diaspora is often overlooked in modern African American literature, and this page-turner fills in some gaps.” – from Booklist, found here.

“Strong writing and interesting supporting characters should keep readers occupied through the end.” – from Publishers Weekly, found here.

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Re Considering Venus

“An interesting thing about Considering Venus is that Lesley’s sexuality is never defined. It’s just love between two women–with no barriers.

Isaac has written a lovely book, with just the right fusion of prose and poetry make it a joy to read.” – this from Sistahs on the Shelf in 2008.

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Encouraging review (September 2011) of unFRAMED, a play by Antiguan born, American based Iyaba Ibo Mandingo:

“Artist and performer Iyaba Ibo Mandingo is undeniably talented. Though he describes himself “as a painter and
a poet,” in unFRAMED, Mandingo also demonstrates his abilities as a singer, dancer, performance artist, standup
comedian and storyteller…Visually, unFRAMED is a treat. Mandingo’s painting is colorful and expressive, and lighting designer Nicholas Houfek does an excellent job enhancing the various emotions that Mandingo conveys throughout his story. UnFRAMED is also very funny at times, especially in a sequence in which Mandingo makes light of his own name. Best of all, unFRAMED is worthwhile because it shares a different perspective on America, one that stands in stark contrast to most people’s naïve notion of a land of equality and opportunity.”

***

Life as Josephine comments on Dancing Nude in the Moonlight:

“There is no way an Antiguan or an individual who lives on the island cannot relate to this story. The island is too small and the story too concise to be shortsighted. As a returning national, I found it answered many questions as to the cultural dynamics of present day Antigua.”

***

Amos Morrill’s children’s book Augusta and Elliott received some positive feedback from readers and reviewers, such as:

“…there is much on the page to delight the eye, both in color and in content. The
text is simple but the message to children (and their parents) is clear: help
save our oceans.” – Charlotte Vale-Allen @ Amazon.com

“This simple storybook is filled with colorful drawings to tell the tale. Without harping on negativity, the fish throw a party to drum up support and start implementing change…This would be a great gift for anyone with kids. Amos would love to know that future generations will be more conscious of the fragile nature of our ecosystems and our need to minimize human impact.” – Kimberley Jordan-Allen

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“…it’s often thought that there  was next to no literature produced in the Caribbean until the mid-20th century.  It makes Frieda Cassin one of the region’s first recorded woman writers, and it makes her novel the first such book to be published in Antigua. But much more interesting than these historical details is the novel itself,  a distinctly dark and disturbing look at West Indian society…

There is much that is bad about this book. The dialogue is at times excruciating,  and the familiar clichés of Caribbean life rather trying. But, as an insight into some of the phobias surrounding small-island society a century  or so ago, it is fascinating. And what makes it all the more bizarre is that  this dark indictment of a racist and neurotic world was written by a respectable  lady who was probably a pillar of that very society.” – Caribbean Beat review, in its November-December 2003 issue, of Freida Cassin’s With Silent Thread.

***

A mixed review of Althea Prince’s Loving this Man from January magazine begins:

“Toronto author Althea Prince writes with such sensuality and grace that it creates a heady spell, drawing the reader into the center of the story. If only this were all a novelist needed to do, Loving This Man would have been a triumph. The fact that the novel does not come together as a satisfying read is connected to technical things like structure and voice, and even deeper underpinnings such as intent.”

Do you agree? Read the book, read the rest of the revew here and decide for yourself.

***

From my own review in Volume 3 Number 1 Summer 2010 edition of The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, of Althea Prince’s body of work:

“By writing not only plentiful but plenty-plenty of who we are beyond skin and bones and the condition that landed us here, by rebelling with polite but persistent resolve against the hegemony that would box us in, by writing with heart and hardiness, with poetry and compassion, by nudging writers like myself to trust what we intuit, Prince continues to be an example to Antiguan writers yet becoming.”

Full review Althea Prince Writing What She Intuits by Joanne C. Hillhouse.

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Just found this fleeting but delightful reference by Jamaican Helen Williams to Ashley Bryan’s Beautiful Blackbird, referencing a reading of the book to a grade four class:

“This delightful story, with its rhythmic prose and adequate repetition, is adapted from a tale from ‘The Ila-speaking peoples from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)’ by Edwin Smith and Andrew Dale, (1920). The bold illustrations could be seen by the children at the back of the class. (Thanks to Pam Witte for sending me this book.) Several children asked me to read the story again…”

***

Referencing the writings of Althea Romeo-Mark:

“The gusting, twisting, reaching complexity of Romeo-Mark’s poetry and narrative matches the twisting, gusting complexity of her thought. And yet, the poems and narratives are not insistently complex. The rhythm and the ideas are both simple and matter of fact. Romeo-Mark’s wit is neatly carried by a direct cadence and where enjambment occurs; she states her case plausibly, clearly developing a seamless organization without falling into monotony.” – Review of If Only the Dust would Settle, P. 341 – 342, The Caribbean Writer Volume 25, 2011

“The voice of African-American writing” –  Poetry@Suite101, 2011

“This book is also interesting…for the insight it offers to the immigrant experience.” – Daily Observer, 2010

“Romeo-Mark’s knack for connecting the inner and outer world, shifting easily between moods, and making connections across time and space, coupled with vivid imagery, make this a thoroughly engaging read.” – customer review, Amazon.com, 2010

and this review of her earlier work:

“The relationship between Romeo-Mark and the persona in her poems is complex. The poet seems to maintain a psychic distance from her persona. The voice in her poetry describes the ironies of the human experience in the Caribbean, North America, and West Africa.” – Vincent O. Cooper, JSTOR, 1994

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Cris on Facebook on Considering Venus:

“If D. Gisele Isaac wrote “jiggy poo poo” on a piece of paper, I’d want to read it. She
has one of those writing styles that just draws you in and wraps you up in the
flow of her words. I felt like the characters in the book were real people that I could actually
bump into if I went down to the road in the supermarket. Now lemme tell you
bout the book: Considering Venus explores the lives of a heterosexual widow, who finds herself
falling in love, and teetering into a relationship with an old school friend
who just happens to be a lesbian female. The pair undergo the typical battles of a new “same sex” relationship
as the story unfolds. Now I have two BIG problems with this book. Number one: the book actually had
an ending, I wanted to stay in Cass and Lesley’ lives forever (no homo lol) and
number two: WHEY THE SEQUEL SO LANG WOMAN!”

***

Cris also said about Floree Williams’ Through the Window, also on Facebook:

“I really enjoyed this book. What I loved most about it was the author’sability to get you to ‘see’ the characters, and the places the
characters in the book went.”

***

Finally, her reader-review of my book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (yep, on Facebook) said, among other things:

“What stood out to me the most was that Joanne managed to “flesh out” such real characters and spin such a realistic story line into such a small book.”  Thanks, Cris.

***

See a short write-up on Tameka Jarvis-George’s Unexpected at 365Antigua.com. Excerpt:

“‘Unexpected’ is a poignant, true-to-life tale that reflects a Caribbean-inspired ‘voice’ but is easily transferable and relatable to other cultures.”

***

Came across this old(ish) write up of young writer (and Wadadli Pen alumna) Rilys Adams’ first spoken word CD, Laid Bare. Excerpt:

“Her poetry is timely and captures the urgency to preserve the culture that is  left, to uplift the nation, and savour memories with loved ones.”

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Search Antigua has been making its pick of essential Summer reads. On its non fiction list, you’ll find Keithlyn Smith’s To Shoot Hard Labour (“a book every Antiguan should read”) and Symbol of Courage, and Monica Matthews’ Journeycakes. On its fiction list, you’ll find Marie Elena John’s Unburnable (“a suspense novel with many twists, turns and secrets”), my (i.e. Joanne C. Hillhouse’s) Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (“a nice, light, summer read for the romantics”), and Tameka Jarvis-George’s Unexpected (which “will have you curled up on the couch for a while”). Teen picks include my Boy from Willow Bend, Akilah Jardine’s Living Life the Way I Love It and Marisha’s Drama, Marcel Marshall’s All that Glitters, and Floree Williams’ Through the Window (“a great read for older teens and young adults”); while on the kids’ list are A Day at the Beach (“beautiful illustrations and the charming story of two children’s day at the
beach”) by writer Calesia Thibou and illustrator Gail M. Nelson, Floree Williams’ Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses, and Rachel Collis’ Emerald Isle of Adventure.

***

What did the late critic Tim Hector think of Dorbrene O’Marde?… Just came across this review of the latter’s last play (to date) This World Spin One Way…and it’s full of high praise indeed:

“Dobrene O’Marde is a valuable asset in a community with few valuable
assets. That is why this article was extended beyond the limits of a mere
review, proving that without the artistic integrity of the likes of Dobrene
O’Marde all dialogue is silenced, and we have only the tiresome monologue of
rulers.”

“…Let me say at once, that “This World Spins One Way” is Dobrene’s best written play, and probably the best play written by an Antiguan.”

***

A great resource for reviews of Antiguan and Barbudan books is The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books edited by Brown University Professor Dr. Paget Henry. The 2011 issue includes reviews of the late Dr. Charles Ephraim’s The Pathology of Eurocentrism (“a major work of Africana existensial philosophy andBlack existentialism” – Lewis R. Gordon); Emily Spencer Knight’s Growing up in All Saints Village, Antigua: The 1940s – the late 1960s (“history written in a personal style” – Bernadette Farquhar); Leon H. Matthias’ The Boy from Popeshead, Theodore Archibald’s The Winding Path to America, Hewlester A. Samuel Sr.’s The Birth of the Village of Liberta, Antigua, and Joy Lawrence’s Bethesda and Christian Hill: Our History and Culture (collectively described as “…a goldmine for those who want to learn about the culture and cultural practices of each period” – Susan Lowes); and Paget Henry’s Shouldering Antigua and Barbuda: The Life of V. C. Bird (“an enlightening narrative of the leadership style and philosophy of Bird…” – George K. Danns). I’m delighted that it also includes a review of my own Boy from Willow Bend by the esteemed Columbia University Assistant Professor and daughter of the Antiguan and Barbudan soil, Natasha Lightfoot:

“For its thoughtful rendering of complex issues such as
gender, class, migration and death, for the swiftness of Hillhouse’s prose, and
especially for the captivating personality with which she endows the title
character, readers will be instantly drawn to this narrative.

“Hillhouse has crafted a story that adult and young readers
alike can enjoy, that truly captures the spirit of Antigua’s recent past.”

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Online review of  Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (“an honest depiction of attitudes toward cultural mixing and interracial dating”)…love the name of this blog, btw: lifeasjosephine.

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U.S. (specifically Rawsistaz’s) review of The Boy from Willow Bend reposted by 365Antigua.com: three out of five stars, the reviewer had some struggles with the language but liked the descriptions (“I could picture myself walking down the dirt roads looking at the willow trees or listening to the street musicians as I walked down the street”).

***

Jamaican children’s author Diane Brown’s review of Antiguan S. E. James’ Tragedy on Emerald Island

“The descriptions of the eruptions beginning, the ash, the fright of not knowing
at first what it is, what was actually happening, and then once reality dawned,
the fear of what would happen next, grabbed me. I was sitting ‘scrunched up’ in
my bed (which is where I read) with fright.”

and other books for older readers.

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Reader comments on Floree Williams’ Through the Window can be found at the book’s Facebook page including:

“beautiful novel ” (Eric Jerome Dickey, author)

“The storyline was good, albeit one that …is not uncommon, however the characters and the way they unfolded during the telling of the story was indeed interesting.” (Marcella Andre, media personality)

***

Unburnable, Marie Elena John’s book attracted wide acclaim and a Hurston Wright nomination. Follow this link and this to see what other critics have to say about the Antiguan authors debut novel. Here’s a teaser:

“wondrously intelligent” (Chimamanda Adichie)

“electrifying” (Essence)

“compelling” (Booklist)

***

“Vibrant and powerful” are two of the words that have been used to describe Women of Antigua’s When a Woman Moans first staged in 2010 as a successor to its stagings of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. It was co-scripted and directed by Zahra Airall and Linisa George of August Rush Productions w/input from Marcella Andre, Carel Hodge, Floree Williams, Greschen Edwards, Melissa Elliott, and me (your Wadadli Pen blogger/coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse) in 2010 with the addition in 2011 of pieces by Tameka Jarvis-George, Salma Crump, Brenda Lee Browne, and Elaine Spires. Here’s what they had to say about the 2010 production over at 365 Antigua and see what audience members said at the When A Woman Moans group page on Facebook.

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 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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ABILF – Flashback

So, word is, there’s no Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival this year (2011). That’s really too bad considering the event’s potential, but perhaps not too surprising given its financial struggles since its debut in 2006. This post flashes back to the promise of that first year.

From left Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Althea Prince, Nalo Hopkinson, and Marie Elena John.

 

Althea Prince, Elizabeth Nunez, Verna Wilkins, Nalo Hopkinson, Marie Elena John, and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse)

 

Antiguan writers (standing) S E James, Marie Elena John, Rosalyn Simon, and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse); (seated) Althea Prince, Akilah Jardine, and Jamaica Kincaid.

Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of what was then the Caribbean International Literary Festival.

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At Calabash

In 2007, a group of Antiguan writers

Here we are (from left S.E. James, me, Brenda Lee Browne, Akilah Jardine, Marie Elena John) with Kittitian writer Caryl Phillips, author of Commonwealth best book winner A Distant Shore

, with assistance from the Commonwealth Foundation made its way to the Commonwealth Foundation. It was an amazing experience. One blogged about here by Sharon James. And here’s what I wrote back then:

By jhohadli

 

In one of our conversations, Brenda Lee and I marvel at their sureness, at the tender age of teen-something. 

 We’re talking about a young writer we know – me through Wadadli Pen [a youth writing competition I coordinated between 2004 and 2006 coordinate] and Brenda through the various writing workshops she conducts. This young writer would shortly head to Washington for participation in a prestigious writing workshop.

 We’re, also, talking about Akilah, another young Antiguan writer standing a few paces away on this breezy day in this coastal fishing village-cum-literary Mecca. Just two nights earlier, she’d launched her latest book; and before the day is out she’ll face the many expectant faces gathered under the Calabash tent from the podium beneath the thatched stage, her back to the sea, her words hitching a ride on the brisk wind.

I’ll take a turn at mic – Open Mic – as well, reading from my first book The Boy from Willow Bend. It would be a shame, I’d decided, to travel all this way and not leave my footprints in the brown-sugar-brown sand at Treasure Beach. But it is narrower footprints that occupy my mind at this writing, on this night – still, except for the rushing surf and my stirred up thoughts. The prints of one bold enough to step before the same sizable crowd that had South African Writer, Commonwealth Writers-prize-best-first-fiction nominee for All We Have Left Unsaid Maxine Case, remarking, rather nervously, that this was the largest crowd she’d ever read to.

 There she stands, the youngest of our group; gaze unclouded, shoulders square.

Young hearts, run free. Who sang that? Candi Staton? Well, there it is; and it’s a beautiful thing. Like music.

Perhaps this is the definitive sign that we’ve come a long way; back in real time, in Antigua. Sure, we still don’t have a home for our public library – haven’t in my lifetime. Sure, we still have no cultural policy; nor it seems the will to dig one from amidst the talent and dreams and quest for identity, the collective floundering for a hold as waves of change blow unrelentingly in. Sure, the arts still enjoy stepchild status; doesn’t pay. Not really, not as bountifully as the professions I still shy away from as if from a life of certain bondage.

 But these girls – these Antiguan writers not yet out of their teens – are a far cry from the girl with a dream in her heart that she hardly dared believe in. Practicality, security, were the lyrics woven into the music of her world; there, even when the tune had no words. The confidence to dance to her own strange beat, without apology, took time; and she still sometimes loses step.

Perhaps – even with the things still missing; library, cultural policy, nurturing environment for the arts, arts financing – their bold steps are a sign that strides are being made. In some measure, the much more populous field has something to do with it; that once vast field where once a lone warrior stood pen poised before her like a sword cutting through the detritus. But it’s something else, too, something innate.

Of course, we muse – Brenda and I, we’re far from that proverbial There. How many children are still taught that art is trivial, incidental to life not its very heartbeat? How many with this singular talent, to writetodrawtosingtodance, never truly emerge, are never taught how to use God’s gift, how to multiply this talent? How dismissive are we still of the arts? It doesn’t have the currency of politics or sports, or currency? Aren’t we still forced to hedge our bets (yes, even these daring kids that dare give voice to dreams that we, at their age, wrapped in cotton wool)?

But it is progress, of a sort, to have stretched for the high branches, plucked and sucked, like a particularly sweet mango, the various opportunities that have leaked from this pen. To be here at Calabash – the Caribbean’s premier literary festival started in Jamaica by Waiting in Vain author Colin Channer, poet Kwame Dawes, and producer Justine Henzell back in 2001. It is progress that five of us – all literary arts activists and writers – looked at each other and said, “Let’s do this”; and raised the funding (thanks to the Commonwealth Foundation, thanks to Caribbean Airlines) and did.

Marie Elena remarks as we amble back to the Cacona guest house on our last day at Treasure Beach (which I like to think of as Treasure Island) that it feels like we’ve stepped out of time. I must admit – and did – that I was not ready to step back in.

Only an hour earlier, we’d shook hands and posed for a keepsake with Channer, and joked with internationally-renowned Kittitian scribe, Caryl Phillips poolside in the magical glow of twilight.

 Hours earlier, we’d sat with a savvy New York editor as she schooled us on the industry, a lesson tailored to fit Caribbean writers.

Hours earlier we’d allowed Cindy Breakspeare (former Ms. World and, yes, Damien Marley’s mommy) and others to lead us through Ganesh’s tragicomic world with their relay-style reading of V. S. Naipaul’s Mystic Masseur.

For hours upon hours, we’d listened, delightedly, to reading after reading (wondering if an Antiguan crowd would ever give itself over to hours of just this), the listening itself lesson after lesson on shaping character, plotting, creating atmosphere, pacing. Caryl (“I love fiction because I can hide”) Phillips shares his memoirs. American poet Linda Susan (“grab those notes like you own them”) Jackson conjures Etta and Billie in What Yellow Sounds Like. Aussie Andrew O’Connor, a Commonwealth best first fiction nominee effortlessly tickles us with his readings from Tuvalu.

Beautiful. Like music. The wind blows strong and the tent flaps excitedly – its own applause, as the bodies sway forward as though at a Tanya Stephens concert. And we buzz excitedly many a morning after, with ideas on how we could bring even a fraction of this experience home. We hope to find a way to do so, before real life, real time, overrides best intentions. We want to bring the salt of the sea breeze, the music of the words, the vibes that grabbed hold, shaking loose the constraints of life back in real time. We want to bring this flow, this letting go and letting one’s art live, this urge to create and serve the art that was gifted to us. We want to bring the desire to reach for the high notes and to understand (and use well) the tools we use.

The experience clings like fresh dew, and we are refreshed. And that’s the best reason to go to these things after all. To hear Maryse Condé, yes. To meet writers from far flung areas – as far as New Zealand, yes. To learn, to network, to grow, yes. But mostly to stand still and soak it up, feel it infuse and energize. Like music.

It’s a reminder that the journey is the thing. Lloyd Jones, announced at Calabash as best book winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, shared with one of our group that it took him 12 drafts to complete the Dickensian inspired Mr. Pip. And in that there is hope that our own daily struggles with the page and with finding our way to the page, aren’t so bleak.

One conversation, with Sharon and Brenda, is about the challenges of being a writer in Antigua; the writing you have to do in order to do the writing you want to do, how little of you it leaves to give to the writing you need to do. You debate about whose grass is greener, whose lawn better manicured.

In the end, you all agree that events like Calabash are like manna in a desert. You want to stretch this moment. Let your muse out to play, at will. Listen – to the surf, to the words. Watch as a young Antiguan literally half your age (and how scary is that; tick tock) steps to the mic. Believe in your thrumming heart that, not only is your rhythm not discordant, it is music to the ears.

This article references the trip of the first ever Antiguan delegation to the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica. That delegation consisted of Marie Elena John, author of Unburnable, Sharon James, author of a series of children’s books that begins with Tragedy on Emerald Island, Akilah Jardine, author of a duo of teen books that begins with Living Life the Way I Love It, writer and literary activist Brenda Lee Browne, and Joanne C. Hillhouse, author of The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight. It’s been previously published in the Daily Observer newspaper, Antigua – June 1st 2007, on my blog at www.myspace.com/jhohadli, and in the U.S. publication, the Coup.

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