Tag Archives: Alexander Chee

Reading Room and Gallery 30

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Share by excerpting and linking, so to read the full story or see all the images, or other content, you will need to go to the source. No copyright infringement is intended. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 30th one which means there are 29 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one.JCH

POETRY

“The tiny footprints you made on the home we shared, I could never erase them, and you had me wrapped around your finger while his fingers were wrapped around my neck.” – Catalayah by Wendy Hara

***

“How many tied cotton bags of crystallized sugar were you and your father’s other bastards given to suckle? So you could, years later, find yourself” – Poems by Jacqueline Bishop

THE BUSINESS

“You need an agent because you’ll be so eager to publish that you’ll pay them” – Tayari Jones

BLOG

‘More forgiveness and understanding.  I talk quite unexpectedly to Ronald Bickram.  (There’s no such thing as an innocent introduction.)  He was an entrant in the non-fiction category for the Bocas Prize.  He admits his work needed more vigorous editing.  “I went back and found a mistake on every page!”  We have a frank talk about the need for work to be in the best place possible before being released to the world, and for judges and entrants to have conversations similar to ours.  “For writers like me to know what to do—how to make the work better,” he says.  We shake on this, and he tells me he has a relative in Black Rock, St Michael, not far from where my mother grew up in Barbados.  She has a Chinese restaurant with local flare, Wing Kwong.  “Tell Rene you met me!”’ – NGC Bocas Lit Fest 2018—Day by Day by Robert Edison Sandiford

CREATIVES ON CREATING

‘Lovers Rock is also about what she goes through in the industry: “I walk into a room and I’ve had my own label for the past five to seven years and the energy is still like, ‘Who do you think you are?'” she says. “I finally was like, ‘No, no, no, you’re not gonna keep disrespecting me.’ The response to the question, ‘Who do I think I am?’ is always, ‘I know who I am, a queen. Who do you think you are?'” – British soul-pop singer Estelle talking to NPR about her new West Indian inspired lovers rock album.

FICTION

“In the autumn of Maria’s eighteenth year, the year that her beloved father—amateur coin collector, retired autoworker, lapsed Catholic—died silently of liver cancer three weeks after his diagnosis…” – Mary When You Follow Her by Carmen Maria Machado, Illustrations by Sergio García Sánchez

***

“People assume all kinds of things about you when you’re silent. That you’re stupid. That you’re smart. That you can’t hear. That you can’t communicate. That it’s a religious thing. That it’s an attention-seeking thing. Over the years, Ghillie heard them all. The religious thing was closest to the mark, although truth be told, his motives were far from holy. He made a vow to speak only when he had something worth saying, but he persisted with it because of how crazy it made people. Social workers, teachers, policemen, doorsteppers, they couldn’t bear his silence. Sympathy turned to rage in a surprisingly short space of time, particularly if he didn’t meet their eyes. It gave him a perverse sense of pleasure, saying nothing as they wheedled and cajoled, pleaded and threatened.” – Lynda Clark’s ‘Ghillie’s Mum’

***

“Laura had passed her entire life in a world of dreams. She dreamed of being beautiful, but was decidedly plain. She dreamed of living in a big house, but lived in a shack. She dreamed of having a large family, but had only her elderly parents.” – an Excerpt from Chechen Writer Zalpa Bersanova’s Novella ‘The Price of Happiness’

NON-FICTION

“The Great Emu War officially commenced in October 1932 with just three members of the Royal Australian Artillery — Major GPW Meredith, Sergeant S McMurray and Gunner J O’Hallora — heading into the Wheatbelt with two Lewis guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Game on.” – The Great Emu War: When Australia’s Wildlife Fought Back by Tom Smith

***

‘We would make up games to entertain ourselves. There were always so many kids, babies, and toddlers around that you had to kind of invent an activity that would be good for all ages. I excelled at this (probably my need to entertain, or just my inherent geekiness). There was the game “questions in a hat,” where we’d rip up small pieces of paper and write anonymous, naughty questions for each of us to pull out of a hat and answer (I’ve since turned it into a drinking game with my friends). We made up dances to show off in the club. We’d play characters and perform skits for one another. We were all the entertainment we had and it was glorious.’ – Issa Rae

***

“Cap’n Tim Meaher, he tookee thirty-two of us. Cap’n Burns Meaher he tookee ten couples. Some dey sell up de river. Cap’n Bill Foster he tookee de eight couples and Cap’n Jim Meaher he gittee de rest. We very sorry to be parted from one ’nother. We seventy days cross de water from de Affica soil, and now dey part us from one ’nother. Derefore we cry. Our grief so heavy look lak we cain stand it. I think maybe I die in my sleep when I dream about my mama.” – Zora Neale Hurston ‘Barracoon’ excerpt

***

“I was reluctant to ask him where he was going, what he was doing these days.  Part of me was always reluctant to ask this of my friends from primary school, absurdly afraid to embarrass them.  At 14, I had been awarded a partial bursary to a private boarding school in the city, which got its prestige from selling itself as an international school, thus attracting children of ministers, ambassadors and the wealthiest in the country.  My single mother was a primary school teacher, with a permanent government job, so in primary school I had been considered fairly well-off.  As a boarder, I was one of the school’s poorest students, often called to the principal’s office because my mother had missed paying her share of my tuition.  The fact that I attended this school, taking French and Drama lessons, around students who spoke English all the time and talked back to their teachers, meant that the trajectory of my life had taken a sharp turn from my primary school friends.  Whenever I saw them, I worked hard to reassure them that I had not changed, that I was still the same person who had gathered with them over the soft sorghum porridge we ate at break time.” – Good Manners by Gothataone Moeng

INTERVIEW

“I think it’s important for us to be honest; to say, yeah, we’ve overcome but also talk about the ugly side of it. Because I’ve found in my experience sometimes you wonder if it’s you alone going through this. If, you know, why isn’t it coming as easy as this particular person. And you’re not hearing the ugly part of it: the I can’t feed myself part of it, the I don’t know where the school fee is coming part of it, the my God I wonder if I can be like one of those women that, you know, sell their bodies to make a dollar part of it, the ugly part of it, the whole you know what I need some new underwear but I’m going to wear the old tear up ones because school fee need to be paid ugly part of it. I just think it would be better if people shared that because we overcome it and it helps us to feel less alone.” – Zahra Airall in Candid Conversation with Alicia Ward

***

“I’m also aware that of the 400 or so writers featured on the BBC’s ‘Caribbean Voices’ programme over 15 years, only 71 were women and that’s only 1/5th of the voices featured. It was  bit of a ‘boys club’, as Alison Donnell says in her essay ‘Heard but Not Seen’ [in The Caribbean Short Story Evans, L., McWatt, M. and Smith, E. (eds.) (Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, 2011), 29-43]. Many of the female Caribbean writers of that time have evaporated into thin air. There are over 200 private collections of papers in the West Indiana Collection at UWI in Trinidad. I was the first West Indian woman to add my papers, four years ago, in 2014. I was shocked to find this out.” – Monique Roffey

***

“I’ve been immersed in 19th century newspapers and memoirs, mostly from Trinidad. They are fascinating and, because of the blatant blind spots and racism, disturbing.” – Rosamund King

***

“SE (Summer Edward): Seven Stories, the UK’s National Centre for Children’s Books, recently acquired the archives of UK-based award-winning Guyanese children’s authors, John Agard and Grace Nichols. I find it unsettling that institutions in the UK are more concerned about preserving Caribbean children’s literature as cultural heritage than we here in the English-speaking Caribbean are. What do you see as some of the advantages of creating our own repositories to collect archival material related to the Caribbean children’s literature?

JRL (John Robert Lee): The advantages are that we are better placed to understand the roots and sources of our literature, to identify the authentic stories and storytellers, to make connections between the stories, our histories and our community lives, and to see how the older stories can provide a continuity into the present and future, and even generate new stories that have an authentic foundation in the traditional experiences and values of the past. Our own repositories provide national archives of what we recognise as important records of our literature and history.” – Read the full interview in Anansesem

***

“PS: When did you decide to pursue your art and writing full time?

Danielle: There was one very clear moment in 2011 when I just could not ignore the pull toward a creative life anymore. It felt like drowning very slowly, little by little each day. I had no idea how I would make it work financially, but I had to leap anyway and have faith. Before this I was an English teacher, and although I loved, and still love, working with children, my heart was pulling me toward something else. Not one day goes by where I am not thankful for the chance to live and work in my purpose.” – Danielle Boodoo Fortune interview

***

“When I actively started thinking about what I wanted to publish, Una Marson’s Pocomania was on the list. I had been coming across the name of that play as a quintessential Jamaican work since I was doing my BA. I then learned that it was housed in the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ)  and I thought, that needs to change. If that play was so important, why don’t more contemporary people have access to it? One of the key things to know is that without the printing press, we would probably have forgotten Shakespeare by now. We need to give more of our playwrights similar access. Publishing the works of our playwrights is a part of how we acknowledge, celebrate and keep good work from disappearing into the ether. I, therefore, made my first proposal to publish the works more than a few years ago and the timing wasn’t right. But finally, last year it came to be, and the more I learned about Una Marson, the happier I was that we had managed to publish this.” – Tanya Batson-Savage

***

“Many of the older writers are still important: Walcott, Brathwaite, Naipaul, Harris, Rhys, Lamming, Hearne among others. Lorna Goodison, Mervyn Morris, Earl Lovelace, Ian McDonald, the late Victor Questel, Dionne Brand and those who follow that first ‘Golden Age’ generation. Many new voices have arrived, many of whose works are rewarded by big prizes: Kwame Dawes, Claudia Rankine, Marlon James, Vahni Capildeo, Kei Miller, Vladimir Lucien, Tiphanie Yanique, Ishion Hutchinson, Shivanee Ramlochan, Ann-Margaret Lim, Richard Georges, Jennifer Rahim among others. These and their many other colleagues are important. Time will tell, of course, how truly important and significant they are. Then there are many Caribbean writers who have grown up in the diaspora: Caryl Phillips, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy and others. Peepal Tree Press, Carcanet and Papillotte Press are doing a great job in publishing the works of the older and newer writers. And we have not even touched writers from the other language areas of the Caribbean.”    – St. Lucian poet and archivist John Robert Lee interview with Caribbean Literary Heritage

***

“In Ghana, I had worked in theater and for Ghana Television. In Barbados, I wanted to carry on theater directing. Since the theater companies were self-segregated, I (being white and nervous about intruding across evident racial lines) went to the one known for white or near-white members and a lot of European plays. They asked me if I had a play to suggest. Death and the King’s Horseman was an ambitious project to do outside Nigeria, requiring a lot of solid grounding in Soyinka’s cultural contexts. It was also ambitious as to the casting, in Barbados. It is a powerful story about English colonial intrusion on an ancient culture, told, as Soyinka carefully explains in his introduction to the play, from within Yoruba social space, focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the title character. He and his society are the core of the play, and so most of the main parts require actors of African descent. To find those actors, I needed to upset the self-segregation common in Barbados theater at the time, and I approached a group of black actors and writers. Earl Warner, later very well known as a major theatrical figure in the region, agreed to play the main role, Elesin. The white actors for the colonial parts came from the company producing the play. The production involved about fifty people, a fairly large budget, and a lot of work.” – Elaine Savory interviewed by Kelly Baker Josephs

***

“Our societies are not just diverse but complex, convoluted, so the poetry has to stretch itself formally to cope.” – Pamela Mordecai interviewed by Kelly Baker Josephs

***

“What I find myself most drawn to and excited by (both in my own reading and in programming the festival) are voices and perspectives which are not what anyone would expect. I think that many of us, even here at home in the region –  we should know better – we sometimes have very narrow ideas of what the Caribbean is, or should be. What is a Caribbean subject or voice, or topic or question or anxiety, and I’m not keen on that. I think we are far more various than we give ourselves credit for.” – Nicholas Laughlin interview for Caribbean Literary Heritage

***

“It took coming here to see that my voice was a voice that needed to be heard.” – Brenda Lee Browne, Real Talk with Janice Sutherland at Phenomenal Woman  And read more Antiguan and Barbudan artists discussing their art and more here on the site.

***

“The irony of the Internet, which was supposed to rob us of our attention span and be the death of journalism, is that it has actually promoted a new passion for longform nonfiction. It’s also given us more opportunities to find and discover poets, who are a big part of the movement towards essays as well, since they are doing work that is increasingly hybrid. In general, the best thing I can say about social media and the Internet is that it has allowed a lot of people to bypass the gatekeepers, such that I don’t know if there’s a real gate any more.” – Alexander Chee

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, Oh Gad!, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, Musical Youth and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, 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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Reading Room and Gallery XVll

This page is for sharing links to things of interest around the internet. It’ll be sporadically updated; so, come back from time to time. For the previous reading rooms (1, 11, 111, 1v, v, v1 , v11, v111, 1x, x, x1, x11, x111, x1v, xv, xvi), click the links or use the search feature to the right, to the right.

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“But the story could not be just about the pursuance of futility or the exploration of unfulfilled dreams. It also had to be about the possibility of recognizing those critical life-changing moments, and in recognizing those moments, having the courage to make the decisions that would perhaps minimize the deathbed regrets.” – Garfield Ellis

***

“The stories about Africans somehow miraculously have a Western protagonist and I was like wow do we not merit our ability to tell our own stories. So I started to write plays.” – Danai Gurira on her play Eclipsed (yep, Michonne is also a writer #blackgirlsrock #blackgirlmagic #TWD)

 

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

“Two of the main things you have to figure out before launching a crowdfunding campaign are:
◾What will your contributors receive (perks)?
◾What is your funding goal?”- Liz Hennessy on crowdfunding her book

***

“Is it wise to publish the rough draft of a novel online, either serialized on my own blog or posted to a public critique forum or writing community? Will this deter agents and editors from accepting the manuscript, even if it’s appearing online only as a rough draft that will be rewritten? I have received answers on both ends of the spectrum—mostly from self-published writers—and would like an answer from an agent.” – Agent Barbara Poelle answers.

***

“In the meantime, you’re writing and preparing your own book for publication, but you’re also working towards building up a sizable group of reading friends who may very well wish to read what you have written. So, when your book is released, there are people curious enough to take a chance and read it. But, more importantly, you’ve developed a fan base that, if it isn’t disappointed in your book, will become your cheerleaders who then tell their friends, thereby increasing the size of your fan base.” – Susan M. Toy on Looking for Readers in the Right Places…

MISC.

“I am not familiar with Antigua’s capital, St. John’s. How will I find the hotel at night?  The taxi driver soon stops and says I have to get out here.  He parks and helps me with my bags. I breathe lightly as he walks beside me, pulls my bag along in alleys crammed with revelers dancing to blaring calypso.  We finally reach the hotel. I tip him well, grateful that he did not abandon me.  Checked into my room, the boom-boom-boom from bands, shake the room.  I wonder how I will sleep, but at 12:00 midnight the music stops abruptly as if someone had cast a magic wand.” – Althea Romeo Mark, an Antiguan born writer resident in Switzerland, reflecting on her visit home in prose and poetry.

***

“The internet isn’t just cat pictures, it’s the nervous system of the world” – caller on this fascinating site, Call Me Ishmael, which challenges readers to share how a book transformed their lives or why a book matters to them in the duration of a phone message

***

“I had a very difficult relationship with my mother, I think most daughter do” – House on Mango Street author Sandra Cisneros reading the visual, evocative, and poignant Have You Seen Marie and speaking at the National Book Festival

FICTION

“The angel was no less standoffish with him than with the other mortals, but he tolerated the most ingenious infamies with the patience of a dog who had no illusions.” – A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

POETRY

“He lights his pipe as they gather round,
Children with hopeful, eager faces
Longing for the old man’s tales
Of myths and legends from forgotten places…” – Song for the Mermen by Geeta Boodansingh

***

“Mexican”

is not

a noun

or an

adjective

“Mexican”

is a life

long

low-paying

job  – from “Mexican” is not a Noun written to forty-six UC Santa Cruz students and seven faculty arrested in Watsonville for showing solidarity with two thousand striking cannery workers who were mostly Mexican women, October 27, 1985 – by Francisco X. Alarcón

***

“And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
Christmases
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy” – from Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

NON FICTION

‘I know from experience that this “symbolic annihilation” can have devastating consequences. I attended majority-white schools in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and never once had a Black-authored book assigned for class, nor did I have a Black educator until my last semester of my last year of university. Like Orville Douglas, I had tastes in clothes, music, and literature that some deemed “white” or at least not “Black enough.” I also struggled to build my self-esteem and rarely saw positive images of Black women on Canadian television. I wanted to become a writer but saw no young Black women publishing novels in Canada; at 19 I discovered the work of Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid but couldn’t find Canadian equivalents.’ – interesting; Zetta Elliott presents a rarely seen perspective. Read Part l here and Part ll here.

***

“Of course we had slaves! You can’t run a plantation without slaves. Everybody found that out at Emancipation. I was 43 when the apprenticeship time started and that was the beginning of the end for us. By then I had nine children, some lighter and some darker, and Mary Ann and me had married. I had a lot of mouths to feed in my family and the freed slaves would not work, no matter how much we paid them. I tell you the truth, I hated them. They belonged in the fields.” – David in 1848 – from Conversations with My Ancestors by Diana McCaulay, part of Annalise Davis’ White Creole Conversations

***

“There is also (and it remains the dominant impulse) a deeply embedded tradition of patient survival, of building from the ground up and a tradition of Creole inventiveness that transforms the world from whatever scraps are available.”  – Peepal Tree

BLOG

“I start the long process of giving up control to the road.
…The idea of train time as found time resonates with me all day. If I were at home, I’d be at work. And then I’d be home after work, doing more work on freelance projects. The dog would need walking, errands would need running, and I’d desperately want to get out and see my friends. My brain would not have any energy for words.” – Marianne Kirby on her residency by train

***

“Case in point. The performances of Maria Callas, the great soprano, sometimes ended with angry operagoers throwing rotten vegetables onto the stage. As legend tells it, the great Callas, with diva-like composure, simply picked them up and threw them back.” – Irene Allison blogging about pushing through self-doubt born of criticism of one’s artistic output

***

“So far there’ve been no murders on board, or mysterious disappearances, which is a tad disappointing. No missing Rembrandt Letters to recover, or Agents of Her Majesty’s Secret Service cleaning compartments of various super villains. I’m beginning to suspect our films haven’t accurately depicted the romance and adventure of train travel. I’m ready to solve though, so maybe soon.” – Bill Willingham blogs his residency by train

VISUAL

Danielle Boodoo Fortune’s Mango Morning

***

antiguan artist Frank Walter Ingleby Gallery“Startlingly clever, infinitely curious, and often somewhat eccentric, Walter is one of the most captivating, and yet largely unknown artists to come out of the Caribbean.” True confessions, I was not familiar with this artist and then I turned up not only that but this and this.

INTERVIEWS

“Fortunately, every time I am about to lose faith in men, God puts a good man in my path to show me that to every negative there is a positive.” – Tameka Jarvis-George talking about her life and art and where they intersect.

***

“…we were shelling down the place with Antiguan music and we were having so much fun. We realize that we have to make sure that we dominate as Antiguans and Barbudans. Because arwe small, arwe small but arwe tallawah, but we can only do it together.” – 9 time Antiguan and Barbudan soca diva Claudette Peters p.s. watching this interview, her discussion re the lack of money and management underscores that if you’re an artiste in Antigua, perhaps true across the Caribbean, you’re essentially an independent artiste – no big record deals, no big advances, no industry intelligence, financing your own recordings etc. etc. stumbling along – driven by passion and not much else.

***

But the only thing, in the end, that protects you is that you did the book the way you wanted to, because then if it succeeds or fails, at least you have that satisfaction. At least you didn’t compromise and then fail. If you compromise and then you succeed, that’s another kind of feeling. But if you compromise and fail, it’s two failures at least. – Alexander Chee on the 15 year gap between the release of his first and second book

***

‘But it’s still Me Before You that draws overwhelming volumes of reader mail. And Moyes—now 46 and living on a farm in Essex with her husband, a writer for The Guardian, and their three children, ages 10, 14 and 17—still personally answers every letter. “Sometimes people are sending you a page of very emotional stuff about their lives, and you can’t just say, ‘Oh, thanks for reading the book!’ You have to answer them properly,” she tells WD. “And I suppose because I was a fairly unsuccessful author for so long, I also feel an obligation because, you know, there’s always a part of me thinking, Thank you for buying my book!”’ – outtakes from Jojo Moyes’ Writer’s Digest interview

 

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