Tag Archives: Earl Lovelace

Two of My Faves

Cleaning out some files just now, I came across a release I neglected to share when it was still news (read it here: OESnews18-PresAward_6-2-2018). It concerns two Caribbean literary giants – Earl Lovelace of Trinidad and Tobago, and America-based Edwidge Dandicat of Haiti – being awarded by the St. Martin’s Book Fair. From the release: “The Presidents Award is presented to individuals and institutions whose work is noted
for its excellence and for combining literary, cultural, and liberation components in the service of progress, of their people or nation, and of humanity,” said Lasana M. Sekou, projects director at House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). I saw the accompanying photo and wanted to share it along with a note on each of these writers, two of my faves and writers you should know if you don’t already.

nerissa golden pic of danticat_lovelace_BF18_6-2-18.jpg

Their books (the ones I’ve read)

Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) – This was an Oprah’s Book Club pick (1998) right around the time a book club I was then a part of introduced me to it. Oprah being the literary king and queen maker at the time, it launched her in to the stratosphere not only as a major modern Caribbean voice but as a major author. It was uncomfortable and moving, dealing as it does with home, the mother-daughter dynamic, and purity tests for girls;  definitely a must-read.

The Farming of Bones (1998) – I credit the book club I was a part of at the time for introducing me to this one and unearthing, for me, a part of Caribbean history I knew  nothing about –  the massacre at the border between the two countries of Haitians by Dominicans at the behest of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1937. It rocked me in so many ways, thinking about how Haiti has inspired (as the singular example of Black people freeing themselves from bondage) and suffered (paying for their claiming of their ownership of themselves and their country) to this day; thinking of how so many Dominicans have, since the 1980s and continuing, made Antigua their home by that point, of earlier migration, decades before my birth of eastern Caribbean people to the Dominican Republic and other parts of Latin America, of Caribbean people moving for all sorts of reasons, economic and otherwise, of Black people, darker Black people especially, too often being treated as a stain upon the world, undesirables, of how to reconcile all of this ugliness, especially when from slavery to economic recolonization, we won’t even face it. What I liked about this book was the way it insisted we face it. The tensions between Haiti and the DR persist to this day (and Dandicat has become quite a vocal advocate for the humanity of Haitian people in these battles), Haiti is still treated like the world’s problem and not a self-determining nation that showed us the way, the colourist attitudes and their underpinnings in our enslavement is an issue we’ve barely scratched the surface of, but one of the things I like about fiction is how it mixes these big racial, social, historical, and geo political issues in to an engaging, and all too human, story that we can’t shake, long after we’ve forgotten the details. This is a masterpiece and easily one of my favourite books, period.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (2010) – a collection of essays that while they spoke to the challenges of writing about Haiti, spoke to me as a writer trying to write truthfully, the bravery that that requires, and the fear that I may not be up to the task. I love this book for the insights it gives to Dandicat’s journeying but also for the ways it challenges me on my own.

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti (2010) – this gripping children’s book of a child trapped in the days after the major Haiti quake of that same year. I believe it was a fundraiser as the country struggled (struggles still) to find its footing; it was also a favourite of the Cushion Club Reading Club for Kids with which I volunteer (… or have).

Dandicat’s short fiction – of her loose short fiction, my favourite of the ones I’ve read is Ghosts which was published in the New Yorker.

Still on my to read list – Behind the Mountains (2002), The Dew Breaker (2004) , Anacaona: Golden Flower (2005),  Brother, I’m Dying (2007), Claire of the Sea Light (2013) – I’ve actually read excerpts of this one but not the whole book though the excerpts I’ve read make me want to read it in full, and Untwine (2015). Actually I could probably add all the books by her that I haven’t read yet to this list but I’m sticking with the ones already on my TBR.

I’ve read less of Lovelace (less even than I realized) and yet he looms just as large in my literary imagination – in part because he is always part of everyone’s conversation as a pure Caribbean artist who has influenced the way we tell our stories to the world, and is many people’s favourites. The one I remember reading, again with my book club back in the late 90s/early aughts, I believe, is The Wine of Astonishment (1982) – with that iconic cover and its use of Trinidad traditional stick fighting culture (an extension of Africa in the lives of these displaced Africans). The details are fuzzy but the Bolo character is one of the things/people/entities that imprinted on me from this book (and from many Caribbean books I’ve read); I love a great character. I’m now realizing as I write this that I may have only thought I read The Dragon Can’t Dance; it is one of those Caribbean classics you grow up with until it feels like you’ve read it because you know it so well…only, maybe not (this was me and Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea for the longest while). I can’t say for sure which probably means I need to re/read it. So I’m going to put The Dragon Can’t Dance back on the TBR alongside the ones already there – Is Just a Movie and Salt.

Their impact

Lovelace is “celebrated for his descriptive, dramatic fiction about West Indian culture. Using Trinidadian speech patterns and standard English, he probes the paradoxes often inherent in social change as well as the clash between rural and urban cultures.” (Britannica)

“Earl Lovelace is well known for his groundbreaking novels about carnival and
religion in Trinidad and Tobago, The Dragon Can’t Dance and The Wine of
Astonishment. His more recent award-winning novels, Salt and Is Just a Movie have
advanced his regional and international standing as a noted Caribbean author.” (from the press release re the St . Martin Book Fair 2018)

I remember we did an informal poll on the now (unfortunately) defunct Caribbean Literary Salon re favourite Caribbean writer and Lovelace won easily.

His awards include a 1980 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1986 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the 1997 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best book (Salt), being shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1998, a 2002 Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the West Indies, the 2011 Grand Prize for Caribbean Literature (Is Just a Movie), and the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize, fiction category and overall winner (Is Just a Movie) among others.

“Edwidge Danticat, (born January 19, 1969, Port-au-Prince, Haiti), Haitian American author whose works focus on the lives of women and their relationships. She also addresse(s) issues of power, injustice, and poverty.” (Britannica)

“Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/USA), a much in-demand writer around the world, is the
author of Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!; The
Farming of Bones; and Claire of the Sea Light. She is the editor of The Butterfly’s Way:
Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States. A MacArthur fellow, Danticat
has written six books for children and young adults. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, is a
USA National Book Critics Circle Award winner.” (from the press release re the St . Martin Book Fair 2018)

When this blog posted on Caribbean Favourites in 2010, four Dandicat books were listed with fans of the book crediting The Farming of Bones for “unflinchingly and vividly rendering (a brutal chapter in Haitian-Dominican Republic history)”, Breath, Eyes, Memory’s “simply beautiful writing”, Krik? Krak? as a book that “weaves love, heartbreak, pride, pain, and raw human emotion” in to its storytelling (this fan also described Dandicat as “truly gifted in her story telling”), and The Dew Breaker as an example of “truly amazing writing” and “a powerful exploration of the effect of political violence on individuals and communities”.

Dandicat was named by Harper’s Bazaar as ‘1 of 20 people in their twenties who will make a difference’, featured in The New York Times as one of ’30 under 30′ people to watch, and called one of the ’15 Gutsiest Women of the Year’ by Jane magazine. She received fiction awards from Essence and Seventeen magazines. She won a Pushcart for Between the Pool and the Gardenias’, Granta magazine’s Best Young American Novelist prize (1996), the American Book Award for The Farming of Bones (1999), the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for The Dew Breaker (2005), and the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for Create Dangerously (2011), among others. She is a repeat National Book Award nominee (Krik? Krak?, Brother, I’m Dying) and the recipient of honorary degrees from Smith College (2012), Yale (2013), and the University of the West Indies (2017) – possibly more. She is a MacArthur Fellows Program Genius Grant recipient (2009).

“Both authors are also courageous advocates for the advancement of Caribbean
sovereignty and human rights” (from the press release re the St . Martin Book Fair 2018)

Our crossings

I’ve met each of these authors at least once – Lovelace at the International Congress of Caribbean Writers (2013) and Dandicat at the Miami Book Fair (2018). It can be fun to meet your heroes…it can be uneventful; one was one of these and one was the other but both remain as mental keepsakes for a writer (me!) very much inspired by them both.

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. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog http://jhohadli.wordpress.com 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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Reading Room and Gallery 19

I’ve counted as high as I can in Roman numerals (not as high as they go, just as high as I can go using them…because, math). So, I’m using English numbers now (still math but in a language my brain understands) and this is the 19th Reading Room and Gallery. 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 and beauty, 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. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artists by rippling the water together. For earlier iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, go back to XVlll and follow the links for the previous ones from there. 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.

ON PUBLISHING

“The goal of the query letter is not to tell the addressee what you want or need; the goal of the query letter is to convince the addressee why they might want to work with you.” – Jeanne Kisacky with tips for writing an effective query letter

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“There are any number of reasons why a piece may not make the cut. A few of these are…” – Dan Burgess

POETRY

Jesse Williams dropped fire about social justice at the BET Awards June 2016 just as he’d been doing for years before that even while looking pretty on one of TV’s most popular shows. One of the people he inspired is one of the writers who inspires me, Alice Walker. She wrote poetry in response as writers do:

“Try to think bigger than you ever have
or had courage enough to do:
that blackness is not where whiteness
wanders off to die: but that it is
like the dark matter
between stars and galaxies in
the Universe
that ultimately
holds it all
together.” – Read the full poem at Afropunk.com

p.s. the speech keeps getting pulled down as hate speech as fast as people can put it up; so I’ll post this discussion about the speech (because they seem to get that it’s not about hate it’s about love and respect and courage):

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Annotated lyrics for Coming of Age (Da Sequel) by Memphis Bleek and Jay Z from Hard Knock Life (the Jay CD I listen to the most because it’s the only one I bought and have). Jay Z’s Decoded is on my To Read list but until then, there’s this

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“Eventually, one becomes—either as a psychological fail-safe or simple breakdown—numb to the repeated experience of loss.” – Kyle Dargan

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“Britney Spears doesn’t have to prove to us that she is not a robot.” – Megan Levad on “Auto Tune”

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“I stand above the angry sea,
above the gulls that circle me.” – The Lighthouse by Damian Balassone in Anansesem

CREATIVES ON CREATING

“If you want to write 140K words from the perspective of a tree, go for it. Write a prologue. Hell, write a prologue for your prologue. Fill your prose with adverbs. Write all your dialogue in italics without dialogue tags. Have your characters speak in emoji. Use profanity in exposition. Describe every square inch of an ordinary dining table. Do whatever it takes to get your story out of your head and on to the page. Do it without doubt or censorship.”  – Jo Eberhardt

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“She said that when a writer is in the midst of drafting a new story, everything that happens in their life in those writing months is filtered through the writer and into the story. Some things pass through and some flow into the fictional realm. I used to think of this process as a writer being a human lint filter. But I like Hoover’s more elegant word.” – Karen Harrington

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“Don DeLillo is a serious reader of American history and JFK’s death impacted his formative years, Vonnegut’s wild writing strategies were informed by existential trauma, Patricia Highsmith was by most accounts a very dark-minded, hedonistic, and guilt-ridden woman, while JK Rowling’s passion is the golden age of children’s literature and, she happened to write her Potter novels while experiencing the trials of single-motherhood.” – David Savilli on writing what you know, among the popular writing tips he unpacks (not debunks) in Five Lies Creative Writing Teachers Tell

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“You’ll notice in the images there is a tiny version of one of Glaser’s book design covers. I kept that image right next to my illustration in Photoshop the entire time so I could constantly check and see if my work was Glaser enough. It was really helpful, especially when it came to creating the pattern on the dress. I used the colour picker to pull colours from the cover design.” – Bryanna Chapeskie

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“In some cases, my setting would surely fall short of reader expectations. What’s a writer to do?” – Adria J. Cimino on creating settings when reader expectations are high

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“As part of our approach to the revision process, my students and I developed a sort of checklist, expanding on one in Writing Fiction, that may help some people with rewrites. These are the questions we finally decided on as being the most useful…” – Cary Groner on Revision.

INTERVIEWS

“I didn’t think about being Antiguan, what that meant, how that made me special until I went off to college.” – Cray Francis

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“I tried to show the Guyana that I know without being critical or without being worshipful.” – Imam Baksh, Burt Award winning author of Children of the Spider, interviewed by Petamber Persaud

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“2. Some anthologies are tied together by a genre, and others by a theme. I love that this one—“Stories of Love and the Great War”—is both. Was there ever any concern that some of the contributions would be too similar to one another? Was there anything you did to be sure each writer was focused on distinctly different characters or themes?

I knew this might be an issue early on, so I sent all the co-authors the main pitch and set a deadline. Once they submitted their individual story pitches, I put them together and forwarded them to the group so we could ensure there wasn’t a lot of overlap. We did a little tweaking—there were two nurses at first—but surprisingly, each of our pitches was quite unique. The only other overlap is the Armistice Day theme, as intended, and also we included some sort of visual of poppies to tie in the title.” – Writer’s Digest editor, Jessica Strawser interviewing Heather Webb on How a Fiction Anthology is Made

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“Everything I write is autobiographical, but none of it is true in the sense of a court of law—you know, a lie is just a lie. The truth, on the other hand, is complicated.” – Jamaica Kincaid

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“There is a new crop of writers based in and writing from the Caribbean that is starting to gain notice beyond the region. How can publishers support these new writers and develop literature in the region?

Karen Lord: Before they can support, they must listen and learn. Don’t overlook our excellence because you can’t recognise what it looks like. Gain exposure and training in the region’s existing literary tradition and do not expect carbon copies of Western works. Let go of stereotypes – there are many different stories being told by our writers, and not everything takes place in the village, on the beach or at carnival. Understand the flexibility of West Indian standard English and its various dialects and respect their validity in dialogue and narrative. Develop in-house expertise that connects to our literary communities, festivals and conferences. We have a rich source of story and many talented writers who would be an asset to any publishing house. We are not a charity project.” Read More.

MISCELLANEOUS

“I decided to come to Canada to become a writer. You can’t be a writer in Jamaica. You can’t live as a writer in Jamaica. … Everybody used to ask me: ‘Why are you still here?'” – Garfield Ellis as quoted in Annie Paul’s column in the Jamaica Gleaner, on the plight of the Caribbean writer. Read more.

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“From an early stage, he took his inspiration from film and animated media to produce unorthodox story-driven visual novels.” – Arts Antigua writes about local artist and animator Nuffield Burnette whose work you can see in some of your favourite animated films out of Hollywood.

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“As people from the Caribbean, we inhabit a spectrum of language, and you actually hear it when you go into the cultures,” Philp says. “You can hear somebody code-switching. You might start off saying something in Standard English and midway switch into the dialect or the vernacular.” – Pidgin, patois, slang, dialect, creole — English has more forms than you might expect on The World in Words, produced by Nina Porzuchi

image2

Paule Marshall.

I wasn’t sure where to put this but I wanted to shout out Paule Marshall, the Barbados-descended American writer who received a lifetime achievement award at the BIM Lit Fest. She wasn’t there but her son accepted on her behalf (as you can see in my Festival blog here) – and this is her when it was finally presented to her in the US. But I also wanted to take the opportunity to re-introduce you to an author you probably already know and if you don’t you should. I was introduced to her work in university through Praisesong for the Widow and have since read Browngirl Brownstones, Daughters, and her powerful essay ‘From the Poets in the Kitchen’ in which she wrote “The group of women around the table long ago. They taught me my first lessons in the narrative art. They trained my ear. They set a standard of excellence. This is why the best of my work must be attributed to them; it stands as a testimony to the rich legacy of language and culture they so freely passed on to me in the wordshop of the kitchen.” Read more about Paule Marshall.

FICTION

“You had to place what was placed on your back for you to tote.” – Zora Neale Hurston’s The Conscience of the Court

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Feeling depressed about your latest rejection letter, consider this, all the greats have been turned down at some time or other. I wanted to share this story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of the American classic, The Great Gatsby, in part because (as explained here) it was rejected by the New Yorker back in 1936 finally earning a spot in the venerable publication in July 2012. The name of the story is Thank You for the Light. And I quite liked it.

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‘The hall was flooded with people every evenin now. But it wasn’t meetings no more. It was battle royales. The hall was an accusation chamber, a kangaroo court. People screeching out names like crazy, convince that they know who is the ones that bringing the rain.

Grampa get to decide on the first name: Dr. Rahamut. Dr. Rahamut had a room set aside in his house, that Grampa call the Slipslide Office—where the doc could pull out babies from wombs. “It have a metal clamp he like to use!” Grampa proclaim. “When he have to remove the baby, he pull it limb by limb! And he use the clamp to crush the skull! Then he would piece together the baby on a table, like it is a broken doll, like it is a jigsaw puzzle! Tell me what kinda sick village would allow a man like that to practice his business here?”

The next night, somebody damn near torch Dr. Rahamut’s practice to the ground. Grampa never tell anyone to do that, but you coulda depend on somebody doin it, anyway. We rush out of their house to look at the tendrils of fire fastenin to the house, even as the rain pelt down on it. Thing is, the rain didn’t stop. So the people needed another name.’ – Midnight in Raintown by Kevin Jared Hosein

BLOGS

“My passion, my joy, my enthusiasm about the books I bring into my classroom sends a message to the readers who join me there.” – Mindy Rench: Third Grade Teacher and former junior high literacy coach

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“He offers no panaceas for the messy present and pasts of the Trinidad he represents in his fiction: his eye is as clear as that of his famous contemporary, Naipaul, but his vision is far less bleak and punishing.” – a blog posting on Earl Lovelace

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“…his world-building skills are and always will be second to none. He makes Middle-Earth seem so real, as if the stories are chapters from its history.”  – Tolkien Talk at Pages Unbound by Sara Letourneau

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, Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). 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 lll

The stacks were overflowing at the original Reading Room and Gallery and Reading Room and Gallery ll; I decided to expand. Read on at Reading Room and Gallery IV.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), check Wadadli Pen through the years. You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesemwhich has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.

POEMS

Claude McKay is a Jamaican born writer though my favourite book of his Home to Harlem is actually set in the U.S. where he was a pivotal part of the Harlem renaissance. Another of his novels from that period was recently discovered. And while this poem isn’t a new discovery, it’s definitely one of my favourites. If you’ve heard of Claude McKay’s If We Must Die.

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Exile by Geoffrey Philp …and another one by the esteemed Jamaican-American poet; you can feel the anguish in this one, Oshun.

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Lorna Goodison is a mistress of the pen, no two ways about it. Here’s another one I recently came across: Some of my worst wounds

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Sharing Kimolisa Mings’ She Wanted a Love Poem…because I like it …and because sometimes a girl kinda does.

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This is priceless …Langston speaks… and the negro speaks of rivers

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The Preachers Eat Out by Camille T. Dungy and the same, audio-visual version. Speaking of audio, the first link takes you to the poem’s posting at From the Fishouse, a free online audio poetry archive featuring emerging poets (cool idea) and co-founded by Dungy.

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Still sharp, Wadadli Pen alum posted this Untitled poem to her blog and I just had to share it (it’s sort of an un-love poem):

I cannot not love you, yet,
I cannot explain it anymore than I can explain my existence
or the state of the universe before God spoke it into being”

SHORT STORIES

This Helen Klonaris story, Addie’s House is sensual, seductive …and sad.

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From the forthcoming (at this writing) Womenspeak collection out of the Bahamas comes The Serpent and I, ariveting revision of the Creation story told, by Keisha Lynne Ellis, from the female (the Eve) perspective as she becomes self aware and discovers her world. Interesting twist on the Serpent as well, a decidedly more interesting character than the male (the Adam of the tale).  Here’s an excerpt from her painful first sexual encounter between ‘Eve’ and ‘Adam’: “My muscles contracted and with each of his movements a deep, throaty cry moved up my stomach and escaped from my mouth.” Read more.

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Some of the wonderful short stories I discovered at the Callaloo Writers workshop (2012) are Edward P. Jones’ The First Day – of course we didn’t have the benefit of the author reading it as he does here, Sherman Alexie’s What You Pawn I will Redeem – we read two of his; this was my favourite, and Junot Diaz’s How to date a Brown Girl – which weirdly I preferred reading for my self over listening to this audio 🙂

NON FICTION

Not sure this is the best spot for this but not sure where else to put it. Still, it spoke to me today because as any freelance writer knows, as the pendulum swings, you sometimes doubt yourself and your choices especially on the days when you just feel burnt out, tapped out, just plain out of energy, motivation, and ideas.

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I can relate to Andre Bagoo’s post at Exit Strata about notebooks, to the desire to keep journalistic and other ‘work’ writing separate from my creative writing, and to the reality that they sometimes overlap. I can’t say, like he does, that “I find I have rejected the separation” I still feel a bit like George Costanza on Seinfeld – my worlds are colliding, my worlds are colliding! But I guess I’ve begun to realize that that’s not always a bad thing.

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Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Ninth Ward, writes about the angst and ecstacy…The Rhythms of a Writing Life. One of my favourite lines: “Writing a novel is an impossible dream. Like Don Quixote, we tilt after windmills.”

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Permission to write (from yourself and others) – Anton Nimblett gets personal on this topic, here.

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Andrew Blackman’s posts from the BIM Literary Festival on Earl Lovelace, Derek Walcott, and Austin Clarke; also check out his reviews of the poetry readings which formed part of the festival while there.

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Discussing the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel starring a who’s who of British geriatric thespians and Dev Patel with an associate recently, the question of stereotypes came up. We both agreed that the film was charming but where he was over the moon about its portrayal of India, I shared with him that some with first hand experience of India expressed displeasure at the the outsider perspective (let’s call it the Western gaze) and the way the film stereotypes India. He dismissed these concerns and you’ll have to judge and see for yourself. I think you’ll find it both charming and at the same time stereotypical. But then most stereotypes kind of start from a bit of truth or a solid impression that loses authenticity and nuance in repetition and overuse, don’t they; stereotypes are lazy and overly simplistic and where they appear in art often under-serve the group or culture they hope to illustrate. So, while black athletes dominate the NBA, it’s stereotypical to assume that all black boys are good at or have a natural affinity or inclination for basketball. Tennis or golf, as it happens, may be their sport; or they may not be into sports at all. I googled common Caribbean stereotypes and in this article and other places came across things like hard working and (paradoxically) laid back, religious and (perhaps connected to this) homophobic, love to party and yet loves/values education; plus there’s some stuff about voodoo… and do you know anybody that actually says “Hey, Mon”? Now there might be a bit of truth here and there in some of these assumptions but it would be silly to think that this is reflective or even representative of Caribbean society. If you’re Caribbean and you don’t talk like a walking stereotype you might even be asked if you’re actually from the Caribbean or have maybe lived somewhere else. So, why am I saying all of this. Because it strikes me that that adherence to stereotype about African culture, certainly as presented in literature/art, is at the heart of this biting commentary by Binyavanga Wainaina. By now you’ve seen Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story and Wainaina’s Granta article, in a much more sarcastic (much much much more sarcastic) way makes a similar point; challenging people engaging with (and yes writing about) a culture to abandon the stereotypes – the starving African, the loyal servant, the resplendent African sunset – for a richer experience. Check it out.

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“‘Til Shiloh was a decisive turning point in the artist’s stellar career.  It marked his transition from dancehall DJ to roots reggae Rastafari icon,” writes Dr. Carolyn Cooper in her blog posting Happy Birthday all the same, Buju. I agree wtih her about Til Shiloh – one of my favourite albums by my favourite dancehall artiste; an artiste whose musical insights evolved as he matured, evolved beyond the single song that has hung over and, in the minds of some, defined that career. Looking forward to more great music…someday. Read the rest of Dr. Cooper’s thoughts re Buju his music and his incarceration, here.

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“There is a Haitian saying which might upset the aesthetic images of most women. Nou led, Nou la, it says. We are ugly, but we are here. Like the modesty that is somewhat common in Haitian culture, this saying makes a deeper claim for poor Haitian women than maintaining beauty, be it skin deep or otherwise. For most of us, what is worth celebrating is the fact that we are here, that we against all the odds exist. To the women who might greet each other with this saying when they meet along the countryside, the very essence of life lies in survival. It is always worth reminding our sisters that we have lived yet another day to answer the roll call of an often painful and very difficult life. It is in this spirit that to this day a woman remembers to name her child Anacaona, a name which resonates both the splendor and agony of a past that haunts so many women.

When they were enslaved, our foremothers believed that when they died their spirits would return to Africa, most specifically to a peaceful land we call Guinin, where gods and goddesses live. The women who came before me were women who spoke half of one language and half another. They spoke the French and Spanish of their captors mixed in with their own African language. These women seemed to be speaking in tongue when they prayed to their old gods, the ancient African spirits. Even though they were afraid that their old deities would no longer understand them, they invented a new language our Creole patois with which to describe their new surroundings, a language from which colorful phrases blossomed to fit the desperate circumstances. When these women greeted each other, they found themselves speaking in codes.<!–

How are we today, Sister?
-I am ugly, but I am here.”

Read more of this Edwidge Danidicat article.

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Interesting Toni Morrison interview. But then when is Toni Morrison not interesting, right?

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As writers, we sometimes feel stumped or blocked. Walter Mosely urges us in this NY Times article (For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Everyday) to write anyway: “You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning. Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse.”

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This is from a 1979 interview with James Baldwin. What I think as I read this is we’re living in the future he speaks of. How do we measure up to his optimism in spite of all?

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“Hah,” he burst out, clearly tickled. “Yeah, sure, I don’t mind being considered a badjohn myself!” This is an excerpt from a report on a discussion in NY with Trinidadian writer Earl Lovelace. Read the full report here.

INTERVIEWS

The PhD in Creative Writing site is essentially a series of interviews with writers about why and how they write. Interesting reading. Yours truly was one of their September interviews.

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In this interview African American writer Ashley Bryan, whose parents are from Antigua, talks about making picture books in kindergarten and how this set him on track to become an award winning children’s story book writer and illustrator. Go check it out…and whatever their talent, dream, or potential, encourage a child you know every chance you get.

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Do you think that part of the role of the writer is to remember or collect history?

I have a very clear understanding that I write about what interests me. I write about whatever happens to be my focus, obsession, and preoccupation. I write for no one, not even myself. I allow the story, or essay to “arrive,” and recognise that I am an instrument for allowing the piece to take shape, rather than contriving a topic or focus that is not interesting to me. My freedom to focus on whatever is of interest to me supersedes any role that might be attributed to writers from outside of their creative vision. Read the rest of this interesting 2011 interview with Antiguan-Barbudan-Canadian author Althea Prince.

VISUAL ART

Gossip sweet bad, ent? Think so? Check out this innovative art project by Bajan Sheena Rose with Adrian Richards, Natalie McGuire, and Yasmin Espert. Sweet Gossip where visual art meets street theatre meets performance art meets the internet.

…AND HERE’S SOME OF MY STUFF

Excerpt from Oh Gad! (my new book released in 2012) and me reading from the book.

Friday Night Fish Fry (fiction) @ Sea Breeze – http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/joanne_c_hillhouse.html

After Glow (fiction) @ Tongues of the Ocean – http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/after-glow

How to Make Cassava Bread and Other Musings on Culture (non fiction) @ Antigua Stories – http://antiguastories.wordpress.com/food-2/food

At Calabash (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/at-calabash

Defining Moments (non fiction) @ Geoffrey Philp’s blog – http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/2010/12/defining-momentsjoanne-c-hillhouse.html

Off the Map (non fiction) @ Signifying Guyana –

http://signifyinguyana.typepad.com/signifyin_guyana/2010/12/guest-post-writing-off-the-map-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html  and again at Blurb is a Verb

What Calypso Taught Me About Writing (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-calypso-taught-me-about

At Sea (fiction) @ Munyori – http://www.munyori.com/joannehillhouse.html

Pushing Water Up Hill (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/pushing-water-up-hill-one

Wadadli Pen – Nurturing Another Generation of Antiguan and Barbudan Writers (non fiction) @ Summer Edward’s blog – http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/08/guest-post-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html

Cold Paradise (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_ColdParadise.htm

Somebody! (fiction) @ St. Somewhere – http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com

Reflections on Jamaca (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/reflections-on-jamaica

Portent (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_Portent.htm

Philly Ramblings 8 (poetry) @ Ma Comère – http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00004/36j

Ghosts Laments (poetry) @ Small Axe – http://smallaxe.net/wordpress3/prose/2011/06/30/poem-by-joanne-hillhouse

Benediction before the Essence (poetry) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/hillhouse_poetry.html

Prospero’s Education, The Arrival, Da’s Calypso (3 poems) @ Calabash – http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2

Interview @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/interview-with-joanne-c

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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