Tag Archives: Dominica

Sample Saturday: Away From Home

This post is inspired by Booker Talk’s Sample Saturday: Around the World Post. I thought I’d do it while waiting for my computer to do things. Flipping it to books written by Antiguans and Barbudans (citizens and/or residents) set Away from Home (i.e. not set in Antigua and Barbuda). Fiction, obviously. I’m sure I can find three. Fingers crossed.

London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne – This is the story of Dante Brookes, a young man growing up in London in the late seventies and early eighties when sound systems ruled the party scene for young, Black British youth of Caribbean heritage. He navigates the loss of friends, police harassment and being a teenage father while forging a career as an MC. Dante stumbles into the acting profession and also becomes a writer. It is through these disparate experiences that he learns that the pen and mic at mightier than the sword.

I do think this is one of those books that should have gotten more notice than it did. I explained why in my review.

Verdict: Definitely check it out.

Considering Venus by D. Gisele Isaac – This explores the almost-unacknowledged issue of lesbianism among Caribbean women and adds to it the complication of a heterosexual perspective.  It asks, “What happens when girlfriends becomes more than friends?”

Though the characters visit Antigua, the book, if I’m remembering correctly, is primarily set in the US (the Northeast US, I believe) where the author was resident at the time.

Verdict: Breaking taboos way ahead of the curve (it came out in the late 1990s); a timely classic. Get it.

Unburnable by Marie Elena John – Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian Baptiste fled Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival—songs about a village on a mountaintop littered with secrets, masquerades that supposedly fly and wreak havoc, and a man who suddenly and mysteriously dropped dead. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to her native island to face the demons of her past.

Of course, there are a fair number of Antiguans who will say Dominica (the French/English Caribbean republic – not the Spanish country that takes up half of Hispaniola) doesn’t count, so intertwined are our families, but it is technically Away.

Verdict: A Hurston Wright Legacy Award nominee and a really good read spanning generations.

That’s my three. I started scrolling through the Antigua and Barbuda Fiction List and hit three books I’d read and liked that were set Away before even getting to Jamaica Kincaid (take your pick, Lucy – NY or See Now Then – Vermont), or having to pull the books with only a few scenes Away (like my own Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – Dominican Republic), or hit the children’s book (Rachel Collis’ Emerald Isle of Adventure says it’s set in Montserrat right there in the title).

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 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on 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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Mailbox – Papillote Publishes Two More Award Winning Titles

Papillote Press is announcing the forthcoming launch of two new Burt Award titles –

“On 31st May we’ll be publishing two award-winning YA novels. Both were winners in the Burt Prize for Young Adult Caribbean Literature (2017).

The overall winner, The Art of White Roses, is a breathtaking first novel, set in Cuba just before the revolution. The author, Viviana Prado-Núñez, is a teenage writer from Puerto Rico.

The bestselling YA novelist Daniel José Older describes the book as: ‘A gorgeously written story, full of nuance, sadness, and the joy of growing up. A terrific debut from an exciting new voice in young people’s literature.’

Home Home by the Trinidadian writer Lisa Allen-Agostini addresses teenage mental health in a novel that also explores the LGBT family.

Patrice Lawrence, author of Orangeboy, is a fan: ‘I loved this book. It vividly creates a world of depression and lost opportunity but also of hope and unconditional love.'”

From the Advance Packages –

About Home Home:

When a depressed Trinidadian teenager is sent by her mother to Canada to live with her lesbian aunt she feels lonely and in exile. But with the help of her aunt, a gorgeous-looking boy, and her Skyping best friend “back home”, she begins to accept her new family and her illness. Then her mother arrives and threatens to take her back to Trinidad. Where then is home?

Home Home

About the Author:

Lisa Allen-Agostini is a widely-published novelist, journalist, and poet from Trinidad & Tobago. Her first YA work, The Chalice Project, was a sci-fi novel set in the Caribbean. She writes primarily about the Caribbean, its people and its culture. She lives in Trinidad with her family.

About The Art of White Roses:

It is 1957, in a quiet Havana suburb. Adela Santiago is 13 and lives in a small blue house with her family. But something is amiss. Students on her street are disappearing, her parents’ marriage seems to be disintegrating and a cousin is caught up in a bombing at a luxury hotel. Welcome to a world where police shoot civilians in the street, where in the
cramped pews of churches, in the creaking wood of front porches, in the floating smoke of Havana alleyways, a revolution is brewing. Welcome to Cuba. What it means to be young when bad things happen and it’s not your fault.

The Art of White Roses.jpg

About the Author:

Viviana Prado-Núñez was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1998 and now lives in the US where she is a student at Columbia University, NYC. Viviana was only 14 when she formed the idea of her protagonist Adela, loosely based on her grandmother who left Cuba after the revolution. The novel was written when the author was still in high school.

***

How cool are those covers?! I look forward to reading both and, with May 31st 2018 release dates, you can read them soon too. This is the third Burt title being published by Papillote, a press started by UK journalist Polly Pattullo, and which previously (I think it’s fair to say previously given its expanding catalogue) specialized in books by Dominican writers. Last year, it published Gone to Drift by Jamaican writer Diana McCaulay, which I wrote about here on the blog, and which has since also landed a US publisher.

The Burt Awards, FYI, is an initiative by Canada-based non-profit CODE in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago to mobilize the writing and publication of teen/young adult Caribbean fiction (and also, separately, teen/young adult African fiction, and Canada First Nations, Inuit, and Métis teen/young adult fiction). One of the project pillars is to ensure the development of the publishing industry in the Caribbean by giving Caribbean publishing houses the opportunity to bring these books in to the marketplace. See previously published Burt Award winning titles below:

Burt-Award-winners-book-covers.jpg

And another announced forthcoming Burt title (from another publisher): the beast of kukuyo

As with all content (words, images, other) 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!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

 

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Personal Highlights from NILF and the Nature Isle

So the question I think I got most at the Nature Island Literary Festival was some version of what do you do? Ironic, considering I was at a literary festival, but understandable when you consider that most of us aren’t able to live by the pen. I ought to know. I’m living it, and way too often, it’s touch and go; other times though, weekends like this, it’s filled with words and laughter and opportunities to connect with other writers from our too far apart islands, to bathe in the language and creative spunk and spark of my people.

Me, with Barbadian poet Adrian Green who much to the delight of the audience performed twice during the festival. (Photo courtesy Celia Sorhaindo)

Highlights

I was able while at the NILF to re-connect with a former professor and mentor from my University of the West Indies days, Mervyn Morris

With former mentor and professor, Mervyn Morris. (Photo by Natalie Clarke)

; to re-connect with a newer friend from the land of publishing, Mario Picayo; to connect for the first time with the supremely talented Bajan brother Adrian Green, one of my festival favourites; to sit and chat with literary elder and engaging storyteller George Lamming (whomI’d seen speak a couple of times and whom I’d met before but never heard read from his work nor got the opportunity or maybe the nerves pre-NILF to sit and chat with).

It was also an opportunity to share my writing.

Photo by Celia Sorhaindo.

I read a new poem, Ode to the Pan Man, an old favourite, Ah Write! and, of course, an excerpt or two from my book Oh Gad!  one of the first readings I’ve done incidentally where nerves weren’t eating out my insides right beforehand – something I can only credit to how distracted I was by the opportunity to hear and listen to such great Caribbean talent, too distracted to wonder what I was doing among them and worry if I was about to fall flat on my face.

Photo by Celia Sorhaindo.

I didn’t, by the way. The reviews to my reading were largely positive and I’m hoping (as I do after every such event) that word of mouth will be positive and it will be reflected in my sales going forward.

But honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about that, then.

Such sentiments were drowned out by the festival energy, out under the tent, flanked by the green mountains of Dominica, on the grounds of the UWI campus, which was filled with music: from the Sisserou singers who opened the festival to the Venezuelan musician and dancers who provided lunch time entertainment to the Rastafarian (Nyabinghi) drummer who spontaneously accompanied some of the poets or just played for pleasure during the breaks so that it never felt like there was nothing happening to the blast of the trumpet during the poetic performances by Reseau Poetique Guadeloupe…

If you missed it, and I hope you won’t again, hint hint, you also missed:

Roger Bonair-Agard: the coolest things about him aren’t even the “duende” he has tattooed into his arm or the Mohawk he sort of seems to be growing out, though those were pretty cool, not when his words of fire are the main attraction;

Lennox Honychurch: the esteemed Dominican historian still has a charmingly boyish enthusiasm for his subject and an ability to make history come alive – as his audience, we were well and truly enraptured as he did a literature review of books mentioning Dominica by visitors, all the way back to Columbus’ time, all the way forward to the near-present (one of the striking things was how people really do see what they want to see, which is not necessarily the same as what’s right in front of their nose);

The Book Fair: though I would have liked to see my book and books by all the participating authors on sale at the event, it was for any bibliophile, a temptation, especially the Papillotte Press and local books section in no small measure because these, well, they are books by local authors and/or books reflecting local culture, and if you’re like me you kind of want to take a piece of wherever you visit with you (case in point the book of french creole sayings that I bought);

The Craft Fair: And how inspired of them to marry a craft fair to the book fair and literary festival, as if they just knew that Creatives (or is it just women?) can’t resist well crafted jewelry (I got three, count ‘em, three pieces – let’s just say that artisans Albert Casimir and Julian James are also persuasive salesmen);

The Workshops: It was nice sitting in a class led by Professor Morris again with whom I was paired in the UWI mentorship programme and who also taught my first fiction writing course, and subsequently recommended to me the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami, which I applied to and was accepted, where I started The Boy from Willow Bend during my first grueling workshop experience, and the rest is history, as they say. What I remember of Professor Morris, apart from the things that he introduced me to (including the Jamaican theatrical scene), was that he was one of the early readers and critics and encouragers of my work (perhaps the most significant since previous mentor Calvin Holder, who taught me English Lit at the Antigua State College). I didn’t think he’d remember me (it was so long ago). But he did and it was nice to see him again and to sit quietly (mostly quietly) while he gently nudged writers to discover the best in their work as he’d done for me all those years earlier. On a morning such as that, even the buzzing cell phones (sorry, this is one of my pet peeves… should you have to tell people to silence their cell phones in certain settings) were a mild nuisance, at worst. I enjoyed the bit of play he brought to the session and indeed, Professor Morris, randomness can be quite logical and illuminating, revealing things that are surprising and true (because, as you said, if you’re only using your conscious mind, you’re only writing about what you think you know);

The opportunities to engage in impromptu discussions around artistic issues and the issues that spring from that – from Dominican artistes lamenting some of the unexpected realities of attempts to collect artiste royalties to book publishing it was illuminating…and a reminder of how far we still have to go as writers in the Caribbean to creating an environment that encourages us along our path;

The organized discussions around issues like the lyrics in the bouyon music (which echoed the controversy surrounding Antigua and Barbuda’s road march winning song, Kick een she back doh and made me wish that just as WCK founders readily stepped to the stage to explore the meaning and the music, our artistes here could be similarly engaged) and the challenges (and contradictions) vis-a-vis press freedom (again, an issue all too familiar to Antiguan and Barbudan people);

The opportunities to reflect – like I’ll be musing over this point from George Lamming’s keynote address, borrowed I believe from Norman Manley: “There is a difference between living in a place and belonging to it”;

The opportunity to be engaged by fiction and poetry with which you feel a real sense of belonging – a connection – because at heart it’s about you, your world whether written by Merle Hodge in Trinidad or Adrian Augier in St. Lucia.

It is that sense of connection that no doubt stirred the audience to laughter and stirred other darker and more heated emotions, leaving us all (or certainly me) feeling filled, fulfilled, and enlightened, if a little wet – this is the nature isle after all.

Kudos to Alwyn Bully and his team, especially my host Natalie Clarke

who, combined with all the above, made this a truly enjoyable experience.

Please note all except one photo used in this post are courtesy Celia Sorhaindo. Other images from the festival can be found here. Please do not use any of her photos without her permission.

Find out more on the festival here.

A reminder that 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, 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.

As for that recurring question about what I do for a living. This might answer the question.

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