Tag Archives: Judy Blume

Reading Room and Gallery 48

Things I read or view or listen to that you might like too. Things will be added – up to about 20 or so – before this installment in the Reading Room and Gallery series is archived. For previous and future installments in this series, use the search feature to the right. Possible warning for adult language and themes.


“You’re wearing your yard slippers

Likewise, I say nothing

Think of the breaking of the shell

we call

self” – “The Last Time” by Jason Allen-Paisant


‘“Keep ahead of those dogs,” Rose said. “They’re all hers. All mean just like her.”’ – “Last Stop on Route Nine” by Tananarive Due in Nightmare magazine

Video/Visual Art

Images from Art Week in Antigua and Barbuda in CREATIVE SPACE #9 OF 2023: MY BARBUDA ART HOP


Virtual tour and other visuals from the 2022 Bermuda Biennial. The art is great but I love that it includes literary arts – they get it.


“…it was only towards the end of his life that he became accepted.” (re Édouard Manet)


Documentary film by Dr. James Knight – The Making of the Monarch –


“Judy taught a lot of people that they’ll never know everything. That your body will change, and so will your heart, so it’s OK to change your mind.” – Judy Blume doesn’t miss Writing. She’s not afraid of dying Either by Selome Hailu


“He once said his goal was to create and produce plays which would be as popular in Dominica as the American films that packed in people by the hundreds every weekend.” – The Remarkable Alwyn Bully by Honor Ford-Smith in Stabroek News


“In May we launched a vote to curate a list of ten essential books for men, written by women. Our campaign aimed to encourage more men to read novels by women born out of statistical research in Mary Ann Sieghart’s bestselling book The Authority Gap. Mary Ann’s research demonstrated that whilst women read novels by men and women almost equally, fiction written by women is rarely read by men.” – 10 Essential Reads for Men, by Women 


‘“women were at the forefront of the protest” and have always been sparks in political action, notwithstanding their shamefully deficient numbers in elected office.’ – CREATIVE SPACE #7 OF 2023 – ANTIGUAN AND BARBUDAN WOMEN AND POLITICAL ACTION


“Though she thought in an utterly non-nationalistic, pan-Caribbean way, Jennifer’s writing was always deeply immersed in the Trinidadian landscape. In Songster, the final piece reflects on what it means to stay and live in the land of her birth. Her Trinidad is ‘not a world in my head like a fantasy’, but the island that ‘lives and moves in the bloodstream’. Her reflections on the nature of small island life is as fierce and perceptive as Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, but it comes from and arrives at a quite opposite place. What she found in her island was a certain existential insouciance and the capacity of its people, whatever their material circumstance, to commit to life in the knowledge of its bitter-sweetness. In her most recent published collection of poems, Sanctuaries of Invention, much of which was written under the curfew of Covid-19, there’s a brilliant sequence of poems, (“mapping home”) that chart journeys (made in the head) from Valencia, through Salybia, Balandra, Rampanalgas, Cumana, Toco and L’Anse Noir – places that these poems bring to sensuous geographic, human and historical life. You sense that this was her Trinidad, her places of resilience and hope.” – “A Season of Sorrow: Jennifer Rahim (1963-2023)” on Peepal Tree Press’ Wha’ppen blog by Jeremy Poynting


‘It’s important to point out that because I’m a shameless self-promoter who’s also fairly friendly that sometimes many people that I don’t know reach out to me because they like my work and offer to assist me with random things. (That’s tip number four — network, network, network) That’s also how I got funding for my very first audiobook, The Secrets of Catspraddle Village, an anthology of award-winning short stories. A Bookstafriend sent me a link about a seminar for an audiobook class which the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) was hosting. I signed up because I thought “eh, why not?”. What I thought would just be an informative seminar turned out to be an even bigger blessing. Every single person who attended was given studio time to help them record their audiobooks. (Shout out to the NCF for supporting Bajan culture, btw!) BUT please note that (a) I already had material written which was deemed good enough for my application to the writing retreat (b) Catspraddle Village was already compiled since I had planned to release the anthology this year. I say that to say this: (tip five) you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready. In both of those instances, I was (unknowingly) prepared.’ – Callie Browning guest post: Callie Browning has “done everything wrong” and That’s All Right: The Bajan Author on the Secrets to Her Success


“There’s a story behind every image in the segregation series, each doing its part to answer the question: What does it look like when Black women are othered and yet refuse to allow that othering to destroy them? The series became a rejection of the status quo, a denial to be deemed less than.” – ‘Through Gordon Parks’ Photographs, I Found My Beauty Outside the White Gaze‘ by Khalisa Rae in Jezebel


“I wasn’t trying to write to be funny; I wanted to just write normally in my own voice about things but to use the creole and I think I successfully did that.” – Woman’s HerStory Month 2022 Brown Girl Reads facebook live discussion with Lisa Allen-Agostini, discussing her Women’s Prize short listed book The Bread the Devil Knead


“I was in a daze, I think, when I was in Yale.” – ZZ Packer (Drinking Coffee Elsewhere) on Ursa Short Fiction podcast with authors Deesha Philyaw (The Secret Lives of Church Ladies) and Dawnie Walton (The Final Revival of Opal & Nev)


“I wrote what felt true to the character and the world of the story.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse

One correction: On the second page where it says “where the lick”, it should say “were the lick” (from the Antiguan-Barbudan vernacular). Pointed out as the error changes the meaning of the sentence.


“Again there is a theme, it’s like people seeing some potential in me and me going ‘okay’…and also you have to do a bit yourself; luck is hard work meets opportunity” – Jacob Anderson, Black British actor and singer with Caribbean roots (currently appearing as Louis on Interview with the Vampire)


“I will never forget my dad holding my face, looking me in my eyes, and letting me know how beautiful I am,” Tasheka said. “He told me my skin, the power that is in my melanin; he told me about my hair, how beautiful my hair is; and then he went on to speak about my African culture and specifically how powerful my ancestors were…he allowed this spark to light up within me.” – Tasheka Lavann in CREATIVE SPACE – BACK TO AFRICA


“I’m happier writing about women’s lives, particulary their inner lives. Women’s outer lives are so much more owned by others. They have a great deal of responsibility for making sure the world runs for the maximum benefit for the maximum number yet often have little agency or power. How they manage responsibility and relative outward powerlessness makes for rich, complex inner lives.” – Barbara Jenkins in conversation with Jacqueline Bishop for her #InConversation series in the Bookends section of the Jamaica Observer.

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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, To be a Cheetah, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my blog, including my CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column, which is refresthed every other Wednesday, 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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Let The Children Read

I read anything I could get my hands on growing up. I think for my generation, parents had a “reading = good” mindset, so maybe didn’t pay as much attention to what we were reading. So I read some things that would have as my parents would put it (if they knew) opened my mind too early. On the other side of it (as a writer, an aunt, a volunteer reader, someone who runs youth programmes), I still say, let the children read. I mean with censorship on the rise, we’re policing books but letting them loose on the wild wild west that is social media and the internet generally? Make it make sense. They play video games and spend unsupervised hours on tik tok and it’s cool cause they’re quiet when chances are the content they’re engaging with their is less age-appropriate and more harmful (e.g. the toxic ideas of the manosphere). As one of my nephews recently retorted, they don’t even have to go looking for it. I’m not for demonizing any of the conduits to content but I do encourage engagement (i.e. engage with them about what they’re playing, reading, or watching…and do other things with them; touch grass, as the kids would say).

These musings prompted by a quote from Judy Blume, author of one of my favourite childhood books Are You, There God? It’s Me, Margaret, in a recent LitHub email.

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”

Bottom line.

For children’s books from Antigua and Barbuda, see our list, here. I’ll pull out some of the ones I’ve read or written to get you started:

Jumbled (placing a Caribbean folk character in a classroom in Britain) and Turtle Beach (the Barbara Arrindell environmental-themed book about turtle watching and birthdays) were illustrated by Zavian Archibald who, also, illustrated the original edition (Fish Outta Water) of the book by me that became Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (this latter edition illustrated by Trinbagonian artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune). Teaser: Zavian and I teamed up on a project dropping this year, peep it on my Books page.

Speaking of Arrindell, add her history-inspired The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories, and the activity and colouring book that is good for a parent-younger child or do-it-alone activity, Antigua My Antigua, beautifully rendered with art by Edison Liburd.

Like Turtle and my own The Jungle Outside, Desryn Collins’ How to be a Calypsonian is tailor-made for Caribbean kids as part of Harper Collins series of #ownvoices children’s books.

The Little Rude Boys is written by local children and deals with childhood interaction and at least one really heavy issue – I’m not thrilled with the race swapped re-marketing (you can google the new cover to see what I mean) but the story itself is a reminder that children can write their reality.

All the Ashley Bryan books – they have amassed arm fulls of awards for text and illustration – can’t go wrong. The ones I’ve read (or remember reading) are The Sun is So Quiet, Beautiful Blackbird (I’ve even used this one in my teaching workshops and think this book could inspire craft activity among younger children), and The Dancing Granny (an Anansi tale ripe for adaptation; just ask the teens in my Musical Youth).

Shadows on the Moon by Jolyon Byerly was a Cushion Club read and I seem to remember Althea Prince’s How the East Pond got its Flowers being a book club favourite – it’s certainly a favourite of mine and such a good way of introducing the hard topic of slavery to children.

Rachel Collis’ Emerald Isle of Adventure is set in Montserrat (which is where S E James’ similarly boy-centric series begins with Tragedy on Emerald Island before moving to Antigua with A Narrow Escape and Kidnapped at the Beach – she has another book set deep in the bush or maybe another dimension in Dominica, Forest Fever). As with Carol Faye George’s Mari Warner, which is basically an environmental pamphlet in book form, and the first of Omari Jeremiah’s Paperboy, about the self-made superhero in the NY public school system, these were review copies.

I also books that I saw in earlier drafts as an editor, like Fashanu Henry-Giddings’ Reading is Fun & Andre and the Bully, and Margaret Irish’s A is for Arawak. and Dance on the Moon and The Wonderful World of Yohan both by Floree Williams Whyte.

As for my books, in addition to the ones mentioned there’s my Caribbean faerie tale With Grace and I’ve also listed Breaking with Tradition, a Caribbean-Christmas-themed anthology which includes a child-centered story of mine, but which I also remmeber including things like recipies you could probably do with your child – some of that engagement I was talking about.

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!Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Rosa Guy R.I.P.

Rosa Guy – Another literary elder who’s passed from this world to the next but left a wealth of fine reading in her wake. In a sense, with her handling of coming of age issues, I think of the Trinidad born scribe as our Judy Blume . Some may disagree but Judy Blume is fresh on my mind after seeing her live in New York (and reflecting on the boldness of books like Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret) and as this coincides roughly with learning of Guy’s death and the inevitable reflections on books like Ruby, with their bold handling of sometimes taboo coming of age-to-young adult issues, I can’t help thinking there’s something to it.

In any case, Guy even all these years after her first publication, has a unique spot in the Caribbean literary canon.

R.I. P. Rosa Guy.

Read all about her over at Novel Spaces and in this New York Times obit.

Better yet, go read her books.

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Judy Blume wrote of puberty in Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, a favourite of mine going way back. Tayari Jones’ blogging here at shewrites.com and later a facebook ‘friendship’ had landed her acclaimed Silver Sparrow, a tale from the perspectives of two daughters of a bigamist, on my to-read list. I just happened to be here this week for the NY launch of my book Oh Gad! (June 23rd 4 p.m. at Antigua and Barbuda House 12 West 122nd Street, Harlem, NY), and in the midst of mixing promotion with playing tourist (hitting everywhere from Tribeca to Central Park, MOMA to the MET), I found my way to the Barnes and Noble where these two literary ladies would be dialoguing. Lucky me and the 150 or so others ‘eavesdropping’ on their enlightening engagement. A few things that stuck with me… READ MORE

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Reflections on Jamaica

by Joanne C. Hillhouse

“Is Jamaica Kincaid from here?”

Jamaica Kincaid (smiling, right) greeting her fans following her reading at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in 2005

An acquaintance asked innocently enough. It can be a loaded question in the Antiguan author’s home country. If her critical and critically-acclaimed book, A Small Place, wasn’t enough, Kincaid’s caustic comments about a controversial investor and co-honouree* following Antigua’s 2006 Independence awards certainly underscored that the author hadn’t mellowed with time. Suddenly, even those who’d never read a single word of her writing had an opinion about her perceived island bashing.

Up to and since meeting her for the first time in 2005, when I was invited to introduce her ahead of a political and artistic conference in Antigua, I’m often cast as lawyer for the defense in the not uncommon debates about Jamaica. No unthinking sheep, I have and do disagree with some opinions espoused by the creator of one of my admitted literary heroines Annie John.

But for the young dreamer I once was, the trail blazed by Jamaica Kincaid was among the ripples in a quiet river of hope.

It said, in ways I maybe didn’t even understand then, that it was not crazy to think that the stories I wanted to tell would someday be worthy of their own readers; readers who like me sat in a corner in some corner of the world and floated for hours across borders, centuries, life spans.

It said that it was not impractical or living with my head in the clouds, not even for a little girl of humble means from Ottos, Antigua. After all, Jamaica Kincaid née Elaine Potter Richardson of St. John’s, Antigua had. She was born right here, in 1949. The world she wrote in early work, Annie John, was one I recognized; even the Dominican bits. I’m not talking exclusively about the physical world, but also, the title character’s emotional landscape. I was a teenager at the time, and these words rang true:

“In the year I turned fifteen, I felt more unhappy than I had ever imagined anyone could be. It wasn’t the unhappiness of wanting a new dress, or the unhappiness of wanting to go to cinema on Sunday afternoon and not being allowed to do so, or the unhappiness of being unable to solve some mystery in geometry, or the unhappiness at causing my dearest friend Gwen some pain. My unhappiness was something deep inside of me, and when I closed my eyes I could even see it”. (Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John, P. 85)

I’d read coming of age books, of course, including favourites like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Judy Blume’s Are You there God?  It’s me Margaret, and Stephanie Tolan’s Last of Eden. I’d been entertained and affected by each of these and so many others; all of which in some way tapped into the angst that comes of transitioning from girl to woman – but perhaps none so intimately, for the Antiguan girl transitioning to Antiguan woman, as Annie John.

Also given my own literary ambitions, Annie John carved out a special place, that in time I came to understand fully. It helped remove bars on my world that were as much my own construction as society’s.

Now, I don’t wish to suggest that this was the only significant ripple on my way to becoming a published writer or that it hit me all at once. But, as I prepared my introduction for Jamaica Kincaid’s reading at the aforementioned conference, a rare and remarkable happening at the time, the surreality and nervousness pressing in, it did come home to me in a way. That is the beautiful reality of role models, among which I count literary mothers, aunties and sisters like Zora, Alice, Toni, Edwidge, and fellow Antiguan scribes Althea Prince and D. Gisele Isaac, to name a few. Not that we put them on pedestals; they are, after all, human. But that they show us some spark of what our own talent, hard work, and the right opportunity can create.

Those that go before us, on whose shoulders we stand, remind us that others may not always understand our dream, but then they don’t need to. But we must hold on against all that would deem it the stuff of fairytales.

Of course, Annie John, also resonated because I recognized it; the places, the faces, the scenes, the sentiments.

One of the Annie John scenes that has always lingered with me, I think because of my own sensibility, was from the chapter ‘Columbus in Chains.’ Specifically, Annie’s likening Columbus’ state of being in chains after having fallen from glory as the ‘discoverer’ of this ‘new world’ we inhabit to her mother’s comments about Pa Chess – her mother’s father. “So the great man can no longer just get up and go.” (Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John, P. 78)

It is within a coming of age story that has general appeal, a statement of particular relevance to us as once conquered people watching the conqueror get his comeuppance.

The unresolved and ugly issues lying beneath the Caribbean of white smiles and blue seas was being written into existence; our pain and anger represented and acknowledged. Annie John critiqued our society and its historical and educational legacy, even as it crafted a tale of a girl’s increasing isolation first from the mother and in time from the mother country, Antigua.

Annie John, a Caribbean literary classic, was not the only successful to me flowing from the pen of this most prolific – and certainly most internationally-renowned – of our authors. The list includes Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, My Brother, and Mr. Potter.

Among these, another standout for me has been My Brother. It is one of the two Kincaid books done by the book club of which I am was a part, Sisters with Books. Its raw vision of AIDS in Caribbean life, groundbreaking, I think, at the time, was highly intimate and uncompromisingly frank. Though ostensibly centered on her brother, the gaping divide between mother and daughter, was there, as ever. Throughout her writing life, Kincaid has, relentlessly, mined the terrain of this mother-daughter conflict in exploring female bonding and female isolation, while undoubtedly dealing with her own ghosts.

A Small Place, a stinging non-fiction indictment of colonialism’s effect on Antigua and of Antigua itself, is another book not easily forgotten. As noted, it stirred up bitter feelings between home and the author, in ways Annie John had not – though there are certainly those who’ve taken issue, as well, with Annie John’s portrayal of island life.

I’ve encountered a number of Antiguans who plainly denounce Jamaica – who question her motives, even the truth of her experiences – and others who are conflicted – wondering why she can’t just let go of the past.

For my part, while I don’t always agree with every word, syllable and sentiment, or the propensity of some to ingest indiscriminately everything written as literal gospel, I am not offended the way some others are. And I do take it as a measure of our Independence that when she read at the 2005 conference, Jamaica felt the freedom to read from this same A Small Place, this thorn in so many sides.

Kincaid reads at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda (2005)

I take it as a measure of our Independence that after that same reading we could stand around speaking of how beautifully she uses words, even as conflict stirred still about the uneasiness evoked by her expressed sentiments. I take it as a measure of our Independence that, after everything, the artiste can be celebrated for her accomplishments on the international literary scene in spite of whatever bitterness the art may have evoked. I take it as a measure of our Independence that we can acknowledge that we are free to disagree.

I think there are as many stories as there are people. And I have argued as well that our artistes cannot and must not simply express the stuff of tourist brochures. Some will paint the pretty pictures and some will paint the darkness they see beneath it; and both have a right to exist.

Jamaica was once quoted as saying, “For me, writing isn’t a way of being public or private; it’s just a way of being. The process is always full of pain, but I like that. It’s a reality, and I just accept it as something not to be avoided. This is the life I have. This is the life I write about.” (Interview with Marilyn Snell in Mother Jones magazine, September/October 1997)

All else aside, I cannot argue with the truth of this. For me the process of writing fiction is a relationship with characters that, as I write them into existence, trust me to be true to their voice and experience – its dark and light places. Even amid the noise of others’ expectations and the challenges of writing home from home.

 *The co-honouree here is, at this writing, facing charges in America and has been stripped of the national honour referenced.

This version of the article was published in the Daily Observer in 2006. An earlier version appeared in St. Lucia’s Island Where magazine. Please do not re-post without the author’s permission. To contact the author, email wadadlipen@yahoo.com or visit http://www.jhohadli.com ETA: email wadadlipen@gmail.com or visit http://jhohadli.wordpress.com


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