Tag Archives: Marie Elena John

Antigua & Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed X

This picks up where the previous installments of Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed pages left off (use the search feature to the right to dig them up). As with those earlier pages, it features reviews about A & B writings that I come across as I dig through my archives or surf the web. You’re welcome to send any credible/professional reviews that you come across as well. They’re not in any particular order, I just add them as I add them; some will be old, some will be new. It’s all shared in an effort to underscore, emphasize, and insist on Antigua and Barbuda’s presence in the Caribbean literary canon.

Musical Youth is beautifully written. It is a pride to Caribbean young adult fiction. Though it addresses a strong and very real social issue, the writer skillfully educates you while she takes you back to the innocence of school days in the Caribbean.” – Vanessa Salazar at Poui Publishing and Productions

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“This sweeping and engaging novel addresses a multitude of issues including the social, political, cultural, romantic, religious, economic, and indeed ideological and psychological understandings relating to the villagers of Sea View Farm….Speaking of men and women, Oh Gad! is populated with a brilliant and striking cast of characters.” – ‘Oh Gad! A Pastoral Panorama of Fictional Narratives’ by Mali Olatunji, aesthetician who worked for 21 years as one of three fine arts photographers at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; co-author of The Art of Mali Olatunji: Painterly Photography from Antigua and Barbuda – in the 2014 edition of the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books

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“I give it an A+ for (among other things) capturing in a very interesting way the tentative attraction and growing relationship of boy and girl in the teen years, as well as affirmation of how friends can help one another over some of the uncertainties and humps of those turbulent years.” – children and YA author, Jamaican Hazel Campbell (RIP) re Musical Youth

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“Hillhouse’s authorial voice is lyrical and descriptive. The interactions of this extended and blended family, along with their respective communities in Antigua and the United States provide a range of interesting perspectives that are expressed in characteristic dialogue of their regions. The universe of this novel is not only populated with intergenerational and multi-cultural characters but also with connections to ancestors and newborns. Compellingly, the complexity and depth of Oh Gad! is well disguised as easy beach reading with the usual soap opera formula of romance, political intrigue, family feuds, and the like. In this way, Hillhouse masterfully transports us back and forth from our modernity into the mythic yet real seat of Antiguan culture. What we find there is fascinating.” – Leah Creque-Harris in Caribbean Vistas FULL REVIEW HERE

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“It’s well written, characters well drawn, all the things one would expect. I enjoyed it. Most important, I think the YA readers will enjoy it.” – Diane Browne re Musical Youth

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“I have to admit that I was once weary of reading Caribbean fiction because they tend to get dark quickly and I don’t read books to be depressed. I am pleased to say that Joanne’s Musical Youth was refreshing and uplifting.” – Marsha Gomes-McKie

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“If I had to qualify this story … I would say it’s authentically Caribbean.” –  my insaeng, my vie on Musical Youth

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“The story is fast paced and engaging, a writer doing an excellent job with her tools of trade…”- Petamber Persaud in the Guyana Chronicle on Musical Youth

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The relationship between Shaka and Zahra is fused by music, loss, and a search for personal identity. As a writer, Hillhouse brilliantly manages to weave their story of personal growth so effortlessly that the great energy between the two creates sparks.” – Camille L. Cortes Lopez, University of Puerto Rico in The Caribbean Writer Volume 30, 2016 (on Musical Youth)

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“I applaud her for her commitment to her roots, and while Elizabeth Nunez claims that Hillhouse is “a pretty brave soul” (NPR Books), I regard Hillhouse as the visionary who prepares the soil for Antigua and Barbuda’s future literary scene.” – from a 2017 paper presented at the Antigua Conference by Valerie Knowles Combie 

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“Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Musical Youth is an excellent portrayal of two young people’s coming-of-age in their native Antigua and Barbuda. Narrated through the author’s brilliance as an observer of youth and as a prose stylist, the book describes the collective involvement of cultural pride with commitment and leadership to produce a meaningful life for an island community.…This coming-of-age story is grounded and set in the author’s native Antigua and Barbuda, with its idiosyncracies and cultural activities, which are at the novel’s core.…The unforgettable themes, setting, language, and actions make this coming-of-age story a must read.” – Rite of Passage Enhanced through Community Involvement by Valerie Knowles Combie in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 10 Number 1 Summer 2017

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Reviews of works by Jamaica Kincaid, Althea Prince, Marie Elena John, and Joanne C. Hillhouse en espanol (attempted translations of excerpts below).

“Never in my life have I met a female protagonist like the one in Autobiography of My Mother…I was fascinated.” (re Jamaica Kincaid)

“This author explores being Black and the political and social considerations that this entails. In fact, she edited a very cool book called In the Black: New African Canadian Literature that I have been using to select my authors…she has a book called Ladies of the Night. I really didn’t love it but I find it an interesting book. The stories revolve around women who are in very different social conditions and situations. Some of the stories are set in Antigua and Barbuda and others are located in Canada. Worth reading.” (re Althea Prince)

“When I approached this book, I came across a well done family saga…I really liked the aspects of miscegenation, mysticism…in general very good.” (re Marie Elena John’s Unburnable)

“It is a very cute little book about a seal that has an adventure at sea and it was very nice to find an author who doesn’t underestimate children in a way of approaching the subjects…it was quite refreshing to find in this book a little bit of that search for identity and find a place in this beautiful and vast world. It also talks about self-discovery and respect for differences. They are important issues.” (re Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Lost a Caribbean Sea Adventure)

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“In reality, however, much like “Girl,” Party has layers. It functions as a subtle message about what it means to witness horror to such a degree that we lose our language for it; it is a quiet story about coming of age, suddenly, as a young black girl because of what the world shows us. It is about the many words our silence can hold, the way our absences can ring as loudly and discordantly as the words we do feel able to say.” Party review at Lit Hub

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“Published in 2017, the short story ‘The Other Daughter’ by Joanne C. Hillhouse fits the literary movement we call Postmodernism. Postmodernist works can be recognised through themes, context, and narrative techniques. In ‘The Other Daughter’, we notice that the author explores the theme of feeling like an outcast, isolated from the world one lives in, which is often explored in postmodernist stories.

In terms of postmodernist narrative techniques, ‘The Other Daughter’ plays around with the distinction between fact and fiction by letting the narrator tell two different versions of the same story, but at the same time letting the reader know that one version is fictional. Playing around with the ordinary rules of storytelling like this is very typical for postmodern works.” – this is not a review, it is, however, a summary, analysis, themes and messages, and perspectives of elements of the story and its structure at studienet.dk (related: Denmark has included the story as a question in its national assessment for secondary school); read the original story at Adda

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Joanne C. Hillhouse (author and Wadadli Pen founder, coordinator, and blogger) reviews Asha Frank’s Dreamland Barbuda: in her scripted Blogger on Books series

Excerpt: “Dreamland Barbuda is a quick read (very quick, with roughly 2/3s of it being taken up by the bibliography and appendices), and for this time in the history of Antigua and Barbuda, an essential one.”

And in her new vlog series #BookChat #Unscripted

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Antigua & Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed Vlll

This picks up where the previous installments of Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed pages left off (use the search feature to the right to dig them up).  As with those earlier pages, it features reviews about A & B writings that I come across as I dig through my archives or surf the web. You’re welcome to send any credible/professional reviews that you come across as well. They’re not in any particular order, I just add them as I add them; some will be old, some will be new. It’s all shared in an effort to underscore Antigua and Barbuda’s presence in the Caribbean literary canon.

“Meticulously researched and highly readable.” – Bridget Brereton, Professor Emerita, University of the West Indies on Sue Appleby’s The Cornish in the Caribbean.

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“It is significant to note that in her writing, especially her works for young adults, Hillhouse refrains from “pontificating.”  She creates scenarios for her characters and allows them to be themselves.  Even though the “normal” behaviors or pranks of teenagers with their accompanying confusions, heartbreaks, and poor choices aren’t documented, her youth are portrayed as real children.  They are a group of youth who are typical in their behaviors.  They are music lovers with a passion for the art.  Music lovers will identify and enjoy the genuine references to different types of music and musicians, while non-musicians will accept the youth’s passion for their music and champion their cause for an audience in pursuit of their dreams.” – Valerie Knowles Combie re Joanne C. Hillhouse’s writings in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 11 Number 1 Summer 2018

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Nisbett’s Life as Josephine is a quick read of an authentic story of a determined girl who starts her quest for identity at a very young age and learns to love herself in the process. This is another coming-of-age work by another Antiguan author that should be required reading for all youth.” – Valerie Knowles Combie re Claytine Nisbett’s Life as Josephine in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 11 Number 1 Summer 2018

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“I find the poems refreshing and insightful.” – Lionel Max Hurst re Marilyn Sargent’s Carbon is Yellow  in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 11 Number 1 Sumer 2018

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“This inventive performance of Kincaid’s celebrated 1988 essay has the barbed satire and bold message of the original.” – This inventive performance of Kincaid’s celebrated 1988 essay has the barbed satire and bold message of the original, Guardian review

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“The cinematographer (of the film Skate Kitchen) really captures the rush of skateboarding in an urban setting, on sidewalks, on busy streets, around people, in parking lots…” – that cinematographer is none other than Antigua and Barbuda’s Shabier Kirchner. Watch the full review.

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The Travel Bag site (not a review site but a site of recommendations by travel experts) makes several literary recommendations with regards to Antigua and Barbuda (excerpted below) in 2014:

unburnableautobiography of my motherohgadno-seed-poster-emailskinposter-carl-veronnewmango-poster-email

“Essential Holiday Reading…For a thrilling read, on your next trip to this tropical paradise, pick up the remarkable Unburnable, by Marie-Elena John. This sprawling crime drama/murder mystery is split between the Caribbean and Washington DC, and follows Lillian Baptiste as she is drawn back home by the lure of scandals and secrets from her past. It is a truly storming read, and would suit any avid book fan with a penchant for darker mysteries…

“Notable Antiguan Books…The 1995 novel, The Autobiography of My Mother, by Jamaica Kincaid, is very well known in Antigua. It is also highly regarded, despite being surprisingly controversial amongst western scholars. This book, which follows the tale of Xuela Claudette Richardson, explores themes of motherhood, colonialism, race, love, loss, fear and redemption… If you have any interest in the history of this beautiful island, Kincaid is a more than skilful (sic) guide – take a chance and pick up one of her novels for your next trip.

“Notable Antiguan Authors…If you are looking to dive into something fresh and modern, give the magnificent Joanne C Hillhouse a try …In some ways, Hillhouse is a natural successor to authors like Kincaid – Oh, Gad (Oh Gad!) certainly shares certain narrative characteristics with The Autobiography of My Mother. For a fresh and contemporary read, give this young author a try.”

“Notable Antiguan Films…No Seed, a drama which explores the subtle nuances of Caribbean politics. …also horror flick, The Skin, which follows a young couple as they encounter strange occurrences, in the wake of finding and selling an ancient artefact. In 2001, The Sweetest Mango was released to acclaim on the island – it tells the story of a woman who returns to her island home and becomes involved in a complicated love triangle.”

The named films were written by D. Gisele Isaac (No Seed, The Sweetest Mango) and Howard Allen (The Skin).

Read the full article which also includes recommended music from Antigua and Barbuda here.

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Summer Reading List – Wadadli Edition

I’ve been stumbling over summer reading lists like…like…potholes in Antigua. And I thought, well, if everybody’s doing it!

But first, I wondered, what makes a good summer read. I mean, we have summer pretty much year round in Antigua but I imagine the summer read means something different to people from other places, the ones we see lying out on our beaches during their summer. What are they reading? Is it what’s hot, what’s new, what’s easy …the kind of book you read and discard? My parents worked in hotels when I was growing up, I got some of those left-behind books …but for the life of me I can’t remember a single one. Is that a criterion that it entertain but then go away…like a clown? No that couldn’t be it. I turned to the book blogs for a definition and found one that I decided to let guide me in creating my own Summer Reading List of Antiguan and Barbudan books. This blog broke it down to books that are escapist, interesting, fun to read – not haha fun necessarily but it should have some popular appeal and not be so ponderous it feels like a chore to read. It’s summer time after all and the reading should be easy – but hopefully NOT disposable.

Other things to keep in mind before you curse me about why your favourites – or your book – isn’t on the list: I have to have read the book and I have to be able to back up my pick with one other recommendation (which will err on the side of reader recs because it’s that kind of list); if there is more than one author, the primary author/s must be from Wadadli and/or Wa’omani; Availability – so available you can walk in to a book store or order it online without having to special order it and cross your fingers hoping it’s not out of print; I know e-readers are the lick but my picks must not only be a physical copy but one that can travel easily in your beach bag, in keeping with the whole summer reads theme; quality can be subjective but I’m not reccing anything that feels slapped together and unedited; finally, I’m a novelist – I have books too and I’m going to mention the ones I think fit the criteria (yes, it’s a conflict of interest, but this is a fun summer reading list nothing here is binding and you are free to leave your own picks and recs in the comments).

Here now are my picks for your Summer Reading List – Wadadli Edition

1. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid – Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unravelling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest.
LucyWhy I picked it: Of all Jamaica’s books, the ones I’ve read, this is the best fit for this particular list – though you are encouraged to check out her extensive and extensively important, acclaimed, and awarded catalogue. Jamaica Kincaid is a bona fide literary star – her words have both heft and poetry – but in Lucy, a girl (not unlike characters in shows like Girls) is a young woman trying to figure her life out in New York City (after relocating there from a small island).  If another Kincaid favourite, Annie John is about growing up, Lucy is about finding yourself and coming out of your girlhood into your young-woman-hood. I read it for the first time over a few days during a summer in the city, and not only did the poetic flow of her prose seduce me, because of that time, reading it in the park, on the train, in an apartment in Harlem, I will always identify it with summer in the city…and clearly it travels well.

Back-up rec:  “This is a very simple story which starts off with several conventional plot twists but ends on a poignant, and somewhat surprising, note.” – reader review Amazon

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2. Dancing Nude in the Moonlight by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Young Dominican single mother Selena Cruz is trying to make a new life for herself in Antigua, dealing with prejudice, poverty, and her interfering sister. When she meets handsome cricket coach Michael Lindo, her world is turned upside down. The course of true love is never smooth, and Michael and Selena’s story is no exception as they try to bridge the gap between their two cultures and their personal expectations of love. Romantic and delightful, this novella by Joanne C. Hillhouse looks at immigration and cross-cultural relationships in a warm and very human way. This anniversary edition includes a part two filled with selected poems, stories, and fan fiction.

Dancing

Why I picked it: One word: romance. It was, also, the Best of Books’ summer read pick of 2008, six years before this 10th anniversary edition was published.

Back-up rec: “Engaging account of the complications of Caribbean life and a cross-cultural, inter-racial romance.” – Fiona Raye Clarke, critic, writing in Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and independent arts

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3. Considering Venus by D. Gisele Isaac  – Lesley, an African-American, is straight, recently widowed with three children, and looking for a friend, while Cass is Antiguan, gay and looking for love. They meet again 25 years after high school. What happens when girlfriends becomes more than friends?

ConsideringWhy I picked it: Released back in 1998 it was ahead of its time in its exploration of love between two women – one of whom happens to be Caribbean. What’s boundary pushing is not so much the idea and reality of lesbian love but the now topical fluid love – that sexuality is not fixed, but more about person to person connection. That this book is also about grown woman love not young love is also still sadly boundary pushing.

Back-up rec: “Isaac has written a lovely book, with just the right fusion of prose and poetry make it a joy to read.” – at Sistahs on the Shelf blog where it’s tagged “mature lesbians” and “romance” and given a 4-star review

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4. Time to Talk by Curtly Ambrose with Richard Sydenham – Sir Curtly Ambrose is one of the most famous cricket players of all time. He is also notorious for his silence. Now, for the first time, he tells his story. From his colourful upbringing in Antigua, through to the turbulent politics of both nation and dressing room, the book takes the reader behind the scenes to give a fascinating insight into the career of an iconic sportsman, and his take on the extreme highs and debilitating lows of international cricket.

Time to TalkWhy I picked it: I’ve only just started reading it but I’m liking it, as sport biographies go. I think actual cricket fans will too. I was walking with the book in my hand the other day when a man asked me about it, said he didn’t realize such a book existed AND asked me where he could get it. And that right there tells me it needs to be on this list.

Back-up rec: “a series of insightful opinions” – ESPN cric info

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5. Through the Window by Floree Williams – Anya is a 23 year old, complex and often complicated, woman who has to navigate through a maze of friendships, love, a dysfunctional family and finding love for herself.

Window

Why I picked it: Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses is still my favourite Floree Williams book but this one, all about young love and the drama it brings, is made for easy beach reading.

Back-up rec: “I found this to be a very thoughtfully written book, a very enjoyable read.” – Amazon reader review

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6. Ladies of the Night and Other Stories by Althea Prince – Women’s loves and lives are the focus of these stories, filled with dramatic twists and turns: some humorous, others shocking and disturbing, all leaving a haunting melody behind. The Toronto stories capture the issues women face as they walk the ground of intimate and family relationships in that city. The Antiguan setting of some of the stories are reflective of Prince’s insight into relationships, captured in her novel and essays. The characters reveal their different ways of managing a range of struggle, pain, rage, love and pure unadulterated joy. The humour of some stories complement the plaintive sadness and emotionality of the strings some other stories pluck.

Ladies

Why I picked it: These women’s stories may make you sad, though if you keep digging you’ll see they are fighters, survivors not victims for the most part. Because of the (heavy) subject matter I considered holding this one back but that (matter of fact with a side serving of humor) tone tipped the scale.

Back-up rec: “Enjoyed the prose and dialogue. The story itself though made me sad.” – reader review on goodreads

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7. Gilly Gobinet’s Cool Caribbean series – Books in the series includes the Cookery Book, the Cocktail book, the 20 Place in Antigua book, the book of hot spices-luscious fruit-and-herb all illustrated  in full colour by the artist, using her classic watercolour technique as well a her humorous cartoons. Each is less than 50 pages – making for a quick read that you’ll come back to again and again as you explore the flavours of the Caribbean.

top20Why I picked it: These are actually handy to carry around and beautifully illustrated (in fact one of the books won the Gourmand award for best illustrations) – there’s one for your cocktails, one for your meals, one for your fruit and spices, one for all the places (well 20 of them anyway) you’ll want to see while in Antigua.

Back-up rec: “… classic watercolours interspersed with humorous cartoons… small but functional” – Search Antigua

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8. Unburnable by Marie Elena John – 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—and with the help of Teddy, a man who has loved her for many years, she may yet find a way to heal. Set in both contemporary Washington, D.C., and post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.

unburnable

Why I picked it: I’m of two minds about this one. It’s a really good read and there’s no way I could leave it off any list of essential Antiguan and Barbudan reading (though it is set largely in Dominica) – but that’s not what this list is – so the other mind is reminding me that it’s a thick book that deals with weighty issues – there are traumatic scenes and shifting timelines – a lot to keep track of, a lot to absorb – but a good, page turner of a read; so it will stay.

Back-up rec: “Strong writing and interesting supporting characters should keep readers occupied through the end” – Publisher’s Weekly

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9. To Shoot Hard Labour: the Life and Times of Samuel Smith, an Antiguan Workingman, 1877 – 1982 by Keithlyn and Fernando Smith – Sections cover THE FAMILY: Planting Sucker Follow the Root;  ESTATE LIFE: Planter Kill King and Rule Country; VILLAGE LIFE: It Wasn t Just the Doctoring We Have To Do for Ourself; THE POWERFUL: Massa Was King and King Do No Wrong; LIFE S UPS AND DOWNS : God Was With Me All the Way; HARD TIMES: Nega Even Though Them Right, Them Wrong; FIELD AND FACTORY: It Was Work Like a Bull
ShootWhy I picked it: Well, if we’re going to wade in to heavier territory no reason not to include this (oral/folk) history which really ought to be required reading if you want to understand the nature of the Antiguan and Barbudan. It set the template for folk histories locally, reversing the trend of all histories being written by people elsewhere in a way that held us as objects (acted upon) not subjects in our lives. Coming in its wake have been the writings of by Joy Lawrence and Monica Matthew, notably. And let me just say that though the terrain is pre and post emanciption, a dark time for black/island people…when is it not, right?… but you won’t regret giving up some of your sunshine to this. You’ll feel like you’re talking to Papa Sammy Smith, a man who lived long and told us a lot about ourselves.

Back-up rec: “What a rich read, nicely written with well assisted footnotes.” – Amazon reader review

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10. The Road to Wadi Halfa by Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis – In 1998 London born Roosevelt Mohammed Lion is chairman of a property empire in the UK. While overseeing a hotel project in his father’s native island in the Caribbean, he is kidnapped by Islamic extremists. He learns that Brayton- Harper, a former Cabinet minister in the British Government is using his ordeal to further his own ends in Africa. Roosevelt struggles to survive life in a training camp and to understand the philosophy of his colleagues in the Sudan. He must be seen to cooperate or risk the life of his precious wife Venus, and his devoted twin brother, Washington, both left in London, to mourn his loss. Washington’s marriage is on the brink of collapse, but it is Roosevelt who meets the Sudanese beauty, Allaya, on the road to Wadi Halfa. Will he learn to trust her or is she plotting her own agenda? Will Al Qaada succeed in their mission to avenge western missile attacks by bombing foreigners in Khartoum? Will Roosevelt be in a position to prevent such an atrocity? Lennox Lion sets out to find his father, but will he rot in jail? The Road to Wadi Halfa is the sequel to Tides That Bind and continues the lives of the Lion brothers and their families.

Wadi Halfa

Why I picked it: Another summer staple is the action-spy-thriller, i.e. international intrigue; am I right? You can have a go at the whole Lion series if you wish but this one makes for a good standalone read for the kind of reader who enjoys a cross-continental (spy-ish) drama wrapped in political intrigue.

Back-up rec: “The story draws you into the world of the ‘Lion’ family and examines class, culture and gender while creating romance, suspense and mystery.” – reader review on Amazon

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But what about the children, you say…?

Age 3+ (younger if adults make it for bedtime reading)

Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan – Long ago, Blackbird was voted the most beautiful bird in the forest. The other birds, who were colored red, yellow, blue, and green, were so envious that they begged Blackbird to paint their feathers with a touch of black so they could be beautiful too. Although Black-bird warns them that true beauty comes from within, the other birds persist and soon each is given a ring of black around their neck or a dot of black on their wings — markings that detail birds to this very day. Coretta Scott King Award-winner Ashley Bryan’s adaptation of a tale from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia resonates both with rhythm and the tale’s universal meanings — appreciating one’s heritage and discovering the beauty within. His cut-paper artwork is a joy.

Blackbird

Why I picked it: Good for readalong with little kids and if you can’t read along because you’re deep in your own summer read, there are lots of pretty pictures to keep them distracted…I mean stimulated. The Sun is so Quiet and the Dancing Granny (for slightly older kids) are also great Ashley picks.

Back-up rec: “Bryan’s lilting and magical language is infectious.” – Publisher’s Weekly

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7-ish+

How the East Pond got its Flowers by Althea Trotman – A young girl Tulah, born with a caul, is thought to be destined for great things and learns important lessons from Mother Sillah.

Pond

Why I picked it: A read for the mid-to-upper primary schooler in your life – a young female protagonist, historical without being dated.

Back-up rec: “literature that represent(s) the range of cultural experiences and histories that make up the national and international communities that touch all of us.” – from Frontiers of Language and Teaching (recommending How the East Pond got its Flowers as an example of this type of literature)

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Age 11-ish+

The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories by Barbara Arrindell – a glimpse of Antiguan history through three engaging stories set in three distinct periods of time. See the Kalinago through the eyes of Antigua’s first Governor’s wife. Meet a priest who was almost defrocked after allowing two former enslaved Africans to get married in an Anglican church. Meet the boy who would become a legendary doctor in St. Kitts.

Bat

Why I picked it: History made accessible. Adults will enjoy it too  as they do her colouring and activity book Antigua My Antigua, which also will keep your child engaged and informed. My book, The Boy from Willow Bend is a good fit for this age range as well but I don’t have it listed as a summer pick given that some of them are already reading it in school – for those who aren’t though, have at it. For this age group you might also want to check out S E James’ adventure books especially Tragedy on Emerald Island and Forest Fever – I had a time finding links to them online but I believe there are still physical copies in local bookstores.

Back-up rec: “I love it! Wish the stories were a bit longer though” – reader on Smashwords

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Age 13+

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Zahara is a loner. She’s brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn’t really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka’s life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew. When they all get roles in a summer musical, Zahara, Shaka, and the rest of the Lion Crew use the opportunity to work on a secret project. But the Crew gets much more than they bargained for when they uncover a dark secret linking Shaka and Zahara’s families and they’re forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about class, colour, and relationships on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Musical Youth placed second in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

Musical Youth

Why I picked it: My teen pick is one of mine – there are not a lot of teen-specific books in the Antiguan and Barbudan bibliography – or Caribbean for that matter – one reason why the Burt Award giving it a push by encouraging and rewarding books in this genre is a good thing. Musical Youth was first runner up for the Burt Award in its first year 2014. It’ll appeal to all teens and young adults but especially those with a love affair with music and love.

Back-up rec: “The story is modern; the teens are technology savvy.” – Amazon reader review

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What? No Poetry?

I don’t know…does poetry make for good beach/summer reading? (Don’t all come for me at once…pace yourselves)

If so, of the ones I’ve read, my top (5) picks would probably be Motion in Poetry by Motion, I am that I am by Tameka Jarvis-George, then Tameka’s Thoughts from the Pharcyde and Motion’s 40 Dayz, then She Wanted a Love Poem by Kimolisa Mings – probably in that order, too.

motion-40-dayz-cover poem

I can’t speak to their availability but I will say that I had difficulty even sourcing pictures for some of them. But, true confessions, it’s late, I’m tired, I’ve been at this way too long, and I’m posting.

You’ve read the list and my reasons…you’re up.

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, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on  WordPress and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen, my books and writing, and/or my writing-and-editing services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

 

 

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Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed V

This picks up where the previous Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed pages left off (use the search feature to the right to dig them up).  As with those earlier pages, it features reviews about A & B writings that I come across as I dig through my archives or surf the web. You’re welcome to send any credible/professional reviews that you come across as well. They’re not in any particular order, I just add them as I add them; some will be old, some will be new. It’s all shared in an effort to underscore Antigua and Barbuda’s presence in the Caribbean literary canon.

‘Her work presses all the right buttons in the academic psyche (“postcolonial”, “black”, “gender”, “feminist”, “transcultural”, “postmodern”). But for general readers, her greatest attraction lies in the sheer beauty, the power and intensity, of her writing.’ – from Jamaica Kincaid: Looking Back In Anger in Caribbean Beat Magazine

***

“Walter’s paintings alone comprise eleven categories, including the Alphabet series of small-scale paintings given titles such as A for Ape, Q for Queen, and so on, and which represent ideas and objects from Walter’s world. With its devotion to nature and expressive pictures, this visual lexicon is similar to that of Frederic Bruly Bouabre. Another series, Flora and Fauna, depicts plants, fish, and animals accompanied by their taxonomic names, these reveal his obsession with the mysteries of nature.” – Frank Walter’s work discussed in Raw Vision

***

“The collection’s true beauty is (for me) not necessarily in its images of women / womanhood, but in the lyrical language and in the broader philosophical wisdom it presents.”- Charmaine Valere on Jamaica Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River

***

unburnable“If I had to liken it to another work, Unburnable comes closest to Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, a longtime favourite of mine, and stands upright alongside Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother and Austin Clarke’s The Polished Hoe” – D. Gisele Isaac in Essential, Issue No.5 April/May 2006

***

Considering“An interesting thing about Considering Venus is that Lesley’s sexuality is never defined. It’s just love between two women–with no barriers. Isaac has written a lovely book, with just the right fusion of prose and poetry make it a joy to read.” – Sistahs on the Shelf writing on Considering Venus

***

The_Art_of_Mali_Olatunji_-_Full_Size_RGB_m‘This remarkable book, which elegantly blends commentaries and interpretations of “painterly photographs”, as the authors dub their work, is a feast for the imagination and a fountain of aesthetic thought. The photographs are made and not merely seen. The photographs are not only precise imitations of the real but deep penetrations of it, in search of Truth—the truth of the imitations of imitations.’ – Teodros Kiros at Fusion Magazine writing on The Art of Mali Olatunji: Painterly Photography from Antigua and Barbuda

***

silent-music-1“… it’s also moving to observe Gomez come to other realizations in the process of seeking what are often elusive answers.” – re Melissa Gomez’s Silent Music at straight.com

***

Antigua and Barbuda writers Tammi Browne-Bannister and Joanne C. Hillhouse had their stories from Akashic’s Mondays are Murder online noir series reviewed in the February 28th 2016 edition of Trinidad and Tobago’s Sunday Guardian. Of Barbados-based Browne-Bannister’s portrayal of male rage in Stabs in the Dark, Shivanee Ramlochan writes, “she fully embodies the rage and thwarted virility of the unnamed male narrator, not sparing him from the beast he becomes on the page. The author delivers a portrayal of the murderer in language that is pared down, the better to let the full weight of his brutality weigh in the storytelling.” Of Hillhouse’s The Cat has Claws, she writes, “…Hillhouse keeps the secrecy taut in her storyline, baring just enough suggestion to hold her reader captive…” Read the full reviews here

***

“Connoisseurs will find it delicious, and everyday readers will see it as difficult and always just out of reach.” – at Repeating Islands, re Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then

***

Musical Youth“In this young adult novel from Antiguan Joanne C. Hillhouse, second-place winner of the inaugural CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, music is both the food of love and a furnace for self-expression. Hillhouse speaks directly to young readers, but with concerns of colourism, class clashes, and society’s skewed expectations for boys and girls. There are no missteps in this tender coming-of-age romance, only an enthusiasm for love and life that reverberates triumphantly…” – Caribbean Beat, March/April 2016 re Musical Youth

***

“I would want to say that as political and economic history this book by Paget Henry does have its equal and perhaps its betters, but as analysis of cultural development or underdevelopment, it is unsurpassed by any I know.” – Tim Hector on Peripheral Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Antigua by Paget Henry (article: Antiguan makes Great Contribution to Overcoming Underdevelopment: Paget Henry, originally published in the Outlet in 1985, republished in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015)

***

“This is a profound examination of the human condition, as a child, in an island, colony, an independent colony, not as maudlin tale, but as wonderful lyricism.

a lyrical prose which uniquely and superbly captures the rhythm, the cadences, the magic, the nuances, the tones and shades of Antiguan English speech.” – Tim Hector on Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, reprinted in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015

***

“The Star Side of Bird Hill is worth it for Phaedra alone, and for Jackson’s evocative, lyrical writing — she makes Barbados come to life, and she’s comfortable with both humor and pathos.” – NPR re Naomi Jackson’s The Star Side of Bird Hill

***

Shivanee Ramlochan wrote this about Musical Musical Youth (Joanne C. Hillhouse) on the Paper Based blog:

“Brimful with resonant notes on first-time courtships; adolescent discovery; tightly-knit friendships and the rewards of discipline, Musical Youth deserves multiple encores — this is one young adult pick you’ll want to savour several times over.”

***

Hazra Medica wrote this about Unburnable in the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015:

“Marie Elena John’s debut novel Unburnable is a tremendous surprise, and a welcomed addition to Antiguan literature, Anglophone Caribbean women’s writing, and Anglophone Caribbean writing in general. It is a surprise because its crafting belies the ‘greenness’ of its author. Its surprise is great because as a debut project, its tackling of massive/significant and underexplored themes and experiences in Antiguan/Caribbean literature is, for the most part, well-executed. Moreover, it is a welcomed addition because, among other reasons, it is a belated yet timely intervention into the conventional neglect and/or mistreatment of a number of Caribbean subjectivities and experiences by West Indian literature and literary criticism as well as West Indian and ‘Western’ historical narratives.”

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WHO WON IN 2013?

THE WADADLI PEN CHALLENGE 2013 FINALISTS ARE…

ANTIGUA GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL
ASHA GRAHAM
AVECIA JAMES
CHAMMAIAH AMBROSE
DARYL GEORGE
DENNIKA BASCOM
GARVIN JEFFREY BENJAMIN
JAMIKA NEDD
JAMILA H. K. SALANKEY
MICHAELA HARRIS
ST. JOHN’S CATHOLIC PRIMARY
VEGA ARMSTRONG
ZURI HOLDER

*see all shortlisted writers here.

*re prize split – please note that each shortlisted writer receives a Certificate of Achievement as well as discount cards from the Best of Books; and the overall winner’s name has been emblazoned alongside the name of past winners onto the Challenge plaque – sponsored by the Best of Books.

 

SCHOOLS WITH THE MOST SUBMISSIONS

Primary School – St. John’s Catholic Primary – US$500 worth of books sponsored by Hands Across the Sea

Secondary School – Antigua Girls High School – US$500 worth of books sponsored by Hands Across the Seatop

ASHA GRAHAM

Author of Revelations Tonight and Remembrance
Overall Winner (Revelations Tonight), Winner in the 13 to 17 age category (Revelations Tonight) and Third placed in the 13 to 17 age category (Remembrance)

Total prizes:

Cash

$500 sponsored by Conrad Luke of R. K. Luke and Sons and the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Committee

Literary Opportunities

Sponsored spot – Just Write writers retreat courtesy Brenda Lee Browne

Books

So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End: An Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing by Althea Prince

Oh Gad coverOh Gad! by Joanne C. Hillhouse

LiTTscapes: Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Kris Rampersad

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and other gifts courtesy the Best of Books

Send out you handSend out you Hand by Dorbrene O’Marde

The Caribbean Writer Volume 26 & the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books – women’s edition contributed by Joanne C. Hillhouse

Huracan by Diana McCaulay

Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne

The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories by Barbara Arrindell

And more

Original one of a kind journal created by Jane Seagull

Pen sponsored by Pam Arthurton of Carib World Travel and the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival

Two tickets on board Barbuda Express

Gift bag from Raw Island Products

Gift courtesy Joanne C. Hillhouse  top

DARYL GEORGE

Author of Ceramic Blues and Julie Drops
Second placed Overall (Ceramic Blues), Winner (Ceramic Blues) and Second Placed (Julie Drops) in the 18 to 35 age category

Total prizes:

Cash

$200 (patron prefers to remain anonymous)

Literary Opportunities

Sponsored spot – Just Write writers retreat courtesy Brenda Lee Browne

Books

Unburnable by Marie Elena JohnunburnableHIRESresized

So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End: An Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing by Althea Prince

Dog-Heart by Diana McCaulay

Althea Prince’s In the Black: New African Canadian Literature (contributed by Joanne C. Hillhouse)

Send out you Hand by Dorbrene O’Marde

Tides that Bind and the Road to Wadi Halfa by Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis

Sweet Lady by Elaine Spires

Book gift courtesy Silver Lining supermarket

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

And more

2 tickets on board Barbuda Express

Lunch for two at Keyonna Beach

Lunch for two – Bayhouse Restaurant @ Tradewinds Hotel

Gifts courtesy Joanne C. Hillhouse  top

ZURI HOLDER

Author of The Big Event
Third placed overall and first placed in the 12 and younger age category

Total prizes:

Books

So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End: An Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing by Althea Prince

The Legend of Bat’s Cave and Other Stories by Barbara Arrindell

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

And more

$200 Gift certificate – Stephen B. Shoul

2 tickets on board Barbuda Express

Gift courtesy Joanne C. Hillhouse top

JAMILA H. K. SALANKEY

Author of Her Blackest Sin
Third placed in the 18 to 35 age category

Total prizes:

Books

Send out you Hand by Dorbrene O’Marde

So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End: An Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing

Tides that Bind and the Road to Wadi Halfa by Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis

And More

Gift certificate for Latte, Capuccino or Coffee – Heavenly Java 2 Go.top

MICHAELA HARRIS

Author of Secret of de Mango Tree
Second placed in the 13 to 17 age category

Total prizes:

Books

Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne

Pink Teacups and Blue Dresses by Floree WilliamsFloree Williams bookcover

So the Nailhead Bend So the Story End: An Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing by Althea Prince

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

And More

$50 book gift certificate – Cushion Club top

VEGA ARMSTRONG

Author of Hide and Seek
Second placed in the 12 and younger age category

Total Prizes:

Books

Caribbean Adventure Series – three pack by Carol Mitchell

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books top

CHAMMAIAH AMBROSE

Author of How Tigers Got Stripes
Third placed in the 12 and younger age category

Total prizes:

Books

The Legend of Bat’s Cave and other stories by Barbara Arrindell

Caribbean Adventure Series – three pack by Carol Mitchell

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books top

DENNIKA BASCOM

Winner in the junior section of 2013 Wadadli Pen Art Challenge

Total Prizes:

Seascapes by Carol Mitchell

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

Gift courtesy Jane Seagull

Gifts courtesy Art at the Ridge top

 

AVECIA JAMES

Second placed in the junior section of the 2013 Wadadli Pen Art Challenge

Total Prizes:

Antigua My Antigua by Barbara Arrindell

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

Gifts courtesy Art at the Ridge top

 

JAMIKA NEDD

Third placed in the junior section of the 2013 Wadadli Pen Art Challenge

Total Prizes:

Antigua My Antigua by Barbara Arrindell

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

Gifts courtesy Art at the Ridge top

GARVIN JEFFREY BENJAMIN

MissWinner in the young adult section of the 2013 Wadadli Pen Art Challenge

Total Prizes:

Gifts courtesy the Best of Books

Gift courtesy Art at the Ridge

Cash gift courtesy Koren Norton and anonymous donor

That he may have the opportunity to collaborate with writer Barbara Arrindell on her next children’s picture book is something we can all look forward to top

Special thanks as well to all the 2013 partners: Barbara Arrindell and the Best of Books, Floree Williams, Devra Thomas, Linisa George, and Brenda Lee Browne. Thanks as well to our media partners who help get the word out, especially Antigua Nice and 365 Antigua who for several years and ongoing have hosted pages for Wadadli Pen on their very busy hubs.

joanne26I am Joanne C. Hillhouse. I am first and foremost a writer (author of The Boy from Willlow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad! and contributor to other anthologies and journals) who could’ve benefited from this kind of encouragement back in the day. That’s why I do this. Congratulations to all the winners, and remember this is not just a contest; this is our attempt to nurture and showcase Antiguan and Barbudan literary talent. We’ve taken the time over the years to provide feedback to the winning writers, conduct writing workshops including online workshops right here on this site, visit schools, and other activities (such as this site) designed to help young writers hone their skills. As we showcase your best efforts here on https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com we encourage you to keep writing and to remain open to the opportunities to become a better writer.

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Just Write was “Liberating” – UPDATED

The Just Write Writers Retreat (October 19 to 21) at Mount Tabor Retreat Centre at John Hughes in the green (especially green after the rain we’ve been having) Antiguan countryside was rejuvenating. And the post retreat reflection has been revealing, illuminating…other ‘ings’ I can’t think of now, just a blessing to the soul and spirit and confidence and motivation. Next time I see event organizer Brenda Lee Browne (fair warning Brenda Lee) I might hug her. And I hope you know that you’re in it now; this can’t be a one-off. It will grow. That’s a given.

The retreat was a mix of Caribbean-formal sessions on writing and publishing, exercises to coax the writing out and entice it in new directions, exploration and introspection, and a marathon muddle of liming sessions and sessions on liming (writing and life). The Retreat Centre is Catholic owned and as a born and raised Catholic, I’ll liken it to being in the Confessional…minus the judgment.

I was most nervous, I think, about the one-on-one sessions; that’s where Brenda Lee, Marie Elena and I consulted with individual workshop participants. They’d each been asked to submit samples of their writing and we read these in advance to provide some evaluation and guidance. I’ve been in more of these one-on-ones as a workshop participant than I’ve led and, on either side of it, it’s nerve wracking. On the one side is the writer hoping she isn’t about to hear how much her writing sucks, on the other side is the writer hoping not to be the one who crushes another writers spirit with her candor.  The positive feedback from the participants about the one-on-ones (not to mention almost everything else about the weekend) was another one of those ‘ings’, eye opening.

Here are some excerpts (names withheld to protect the privacy of the participants):

On the location

“Mt. Tabor is green and serene. It felt like we had taken a flight and left Antigua for a bit.”

“I must say I couldn’t imagine a better location; so close to nature, peaceful, relaxing with plenty for the senses to tune into not just for separation from the busy, intrusive world but also to stimulate creativity.”

“The ability to connect with nature, or to have a feeling of an almost all-seeing eye from the balcony for example, was an enlightenment to the whole theme of perspective, and observation and finding the story you want to tell.”

On the sessions

“It felt like we were living the education we were receiving…”

“Of the sessions two of them that I found most challenging were the session that was based on the photo prompt by Brenda Lee Browne and the Session on fictionalizing personal experiences and emotions facilitated by Marie-Elena John-Smith. Both of these sessions took me way outside my comfort zone and asked me to dig further into my writing ability than I thought I could. ”

“…I felt like what I could create, though different, could be just as well appreciated; I did not feel like (it was/I was) any less.”

**UPDATE** “It was comfortable, familiar, easy to blend into and get lost in…Most surprising to me was the ease with which words flowed in response to the various writing exercises…Each writing exercise opened me up, brought out thoughts and feelings and awareness that, prior to, I wasn’t conscious of… and in the awareness I learned more about myself as a writer.”

On the one-on-ones

“…the one-on-one sessions were inspiring, on point and allowed us to see possibilities we haven’t considered.”

“That was very enlightening for me, and from the fact that she referenced things she had seen me do or say and not say throughout the workshop made me feel like I was a speaking to a person who, not only knew her craft, but genuinely cared or was interested about mine.”

“It was very helpful to have both strong points of my pieces and my issues highlighted and be given suggestions on how to make my work better. This session encouraged me to keep working on my craft and to pay special attention to my editing process.”

“The one on one time was welcomed and I appreciated the tenderness yet realness of the critique.”

“I came away recognizing a few of my weak areas; it was what I needed to hear to grow.”

*UPDATE* “Under the capable guidance of the more experienced writers – Joanne, Brenda Lee and Marie Elena – I came to accept the uniqueness of my voice, the significance of stories seen and shared through my eyes. During my one-on-one session with Joanne she said something in her nonchalant way that, for me, was like a big sister shaking sense into the younger. She said ‘you are a writer, you may not be aware of it yet, but you are a writer!‘. …She said many things in that brief meeting that resonated with me, but the most significant was the simple acknowledgement that I AM a writer.”

On favourite moments

“I enjoyed the field trip through the village, the opportunity to make new friends and strengthen the bond with old friends.”

“I enjoyed the exercises that pulled the stories out of us and challenged us to think outside of the box, to channel personal experiences into stories that were not too personal.”

“Mark Brown got me to draw; what can I say? Love him!”

*UPDATE* “…the ridiculously talented visual artist, Mark Brown, who spent less than half hour with us and in that time got us to tap into the Picasso within and bring that bad-boy front and center… on paper (for a person who was kicked out of art in high school you can appreciate how significant that must be).”

“I also would say that the passion that was demonstrated by you (Brenda Lee Browne), and all the ways in which you tried to communicate messages to us about this craft, even through art, was most empowering of all.”

On the overall impact on the participants

“What I experienced the most was an opening of possibilities and seemingly endless opportunities to write and to work out ideas.”

“My mind is still engaged and finding inspiration in different seemingly mundane places!”

“This weekend has truly been inspiring and reinvigorating. I feel urged to revisit old pieces, rewrite some, and create new pieces with the intention of publishing.”

“It freed me – from the self-imposed shackles I normally wear when writing – to Just Write… I learned that the things I struggle with are not peculiar to me; that accomplished and young writers share the same challenges (like doubt) and that was also freeing for me.”

*UPDATE* “…the honest opening to each other; the gentle, knowing smiles, the deep from the belly laughs, and the tears, all added a special touch to the overall experience. The Just Write Writers‘ Retreat woke me up from a long slumber and, now that I’m awake, the one thing left for me to do is Just Write…”

N. B. All images by Brenda Lee Browne.

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, DancingNude 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.

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Antiguan and Barbudan literary works reviewed

As I come across reviews or dig through archived reviews, I’ll add them – first to last, and not necessarily in the order they were written. Been finding so many, I had to tie off this list and continue the series in other posts (use the search feature to find them).

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

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

***

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

Professor Paget Henry,
Sociology & Africana Studies
Brown University

***

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

***

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

***

Re Unburnable

“John expertly weaves history and fiction into an integral narrative that takes the reader on a fascinating journey where instincts, magic, intuition and, above all, love are the real protagonists.” – from this blog.

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

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

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

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

***

Re Considering Venus

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

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

***

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

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

***

Life as Josephine comments on Dancing Nude in the Moonlight:

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

Referencing the writings of Althea Romeo-Mark:

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

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

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

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

and this review of her earlier work:

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

***

Cris on Facebook on Considering Venus:

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

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

and other books for older readers.

***

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

“beautiful novel ” (Eric Jerome Dickey, author)

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

***

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

“wondrously intelligent” (Chimamanda Adichie)

“electrifying” (Essence)

“compelling” (Booklist)

***

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

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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ABILF – Flashback

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Spotlight – Marie Elena John

Antiguan and Barbudan daughter Marie Elena John is the author of the critically acclaimed Unburnable – a must read. Set in Dominica, it’s been described as “compelling” by Booklist, “electrifying” by Essence, and, by its publisher as ” a work of literary fiction that is at once a love story, a murder mystery, a multigenerational epic, and a reinterpretation of Black history (that) defies neat categorization.” The book was nominated for the 2007 Hurston Wright Legacy Award for best first book, and, last we heard, the author has plans to turn it into a film. It would make for good viewing.

Unburnable author Marie Elena John with music star John Legend at her book launch in 2006.

MEJ with students at a workshop she conducted in NY

John with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and other workshop facilitators in Nigeria.

For more on the author,  see her Wiki-page.

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