Tag Archives: Montserrat

Sample Saturday: Away From Home

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

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

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

Verdict: Definitely check it out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Mailbox – 2015 Alliouagana Festival of the Word

It’s been 20 years since the start of volcanic activity and this year’s programme will explore various aspects of the theme Volcanic Ash: Journeys and Connections.

The first event is the 3rd Distinguished Lecture in the Alphonsus ‘Arrow’ Cassell Memorial Lecture Series.  This will be presented by Dr. Aldrin Sweeney who has chosen as his topic Thinking Beyond the Ash: Using Our Volcanic Resources.  The Lecture will be held in the Conference Room at the Cultural Centre on Thursday November 12, 2015 at 7.30 pm.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, the Patron for the Festival for 2015, will be talking about her own journeys at the Opening Ceremony which starts at 8.15 pm on Friday November 13.  Other highlights for the evening include an Africana Fashion Show and the launch of new books by Edgar Nkosi White and David Lea.

The rest of the weekend will be devoted to events, many of which are now regular fixtures on the Festival Calendar.  These include exciting workshops with exceptional authors both local and visiting, readings and signings, the MVO creative writing competition award ceremony on Saturday and the Book Lovers’ Parade on Sunday.  The Parade is coordinated this year by Miss Montserrat / Miss Jaycees Caribbean Queen, Sharissa Ryan, with assistance continuing from our partners, the Coral Cay Team.

Coretta Ryan (Sharissa’s sister) is behind a new event for the 2015 literary festival.  Word Up will be held away from the Cultural Centre and Spoken Word artists, calypsonians and poets are invited to showcase their work at 8 pm on Saturday November 14 at the Lyme in Brades (home of Nanny’s Café).Word Up Flyer V2 compressed

Thanks to the Government of Montserrat, major sponsor for this year, a special fare of EC$200 round-trip is being offered for anyone travelling by ferry out of Antigua for the Festival.

Full programme: AFW_E-Programme_2015_Final

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Growing up Barefoot in Montserrat: a Review

With apologies to the author who gave me this book for review a lifetime ago, especially since, as a writer I know waiting for the review can be a slow kind of torture.

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

David R. Bradshaw’s Growing up Barefoot Under Montserrat’s Sleeping Volcano: Memories from a Colonial Childhood in a British Caribbean Island 1952 – 1961 has an entirely too long title. It is a sign of things to come though in a self-published book in which not even minor details are swept into the corner. Perhaps because Bradshaw is not just telling a story, he’s investigating a mystery and laying out the sometimes sparse evidence before the reader. Think ‘Who do you think you are?’ (TV show).

It is, in a superficial sense, also in the spirit of narratives like To Shoot Hard Labour and Journeycakes (both by Antiguan authors) except it doesn’t quite, as they do, elevate the personal to broader social import. There are common touch stones; for instance, the role of the extended family, in particular Bradshaw’s Grandma Joanna, in childrearing, often in the absence of parents who have either died or migrated. That story (and the grandmother/tanty at the heart of it) is a familiar chapter in the story of the Caribbean in the 20th century, a feature of my own fictional work The Boy from Willow Bend.  And Bradshaw in an interesting and insightful note, speculates that at some point, she who has carried many – maybe too many –children on her broad shoulders “may not have had any reserves left” for the kind of affection a child needs; that child being him (and all the children of that generation), of course.

So there are broader insights to be gleaned if you’re looking for it. But telling the social history of Montserrat is, on the surface of it, incidental to Bradshaw’s purpose. He’s looking for himself. The book – though readable and at points quite vivid and poignant – in the end feels less a public product; more a private journal-slash-scrap book of memories and mysteries (with blurry, faded memorabilia such as ticket stubs and passport pages to complement).

But inasmuch as it provides some insight to the process of pulling the scattered pieces of a life together – part memory, part deduction, interviews, following the paper trail, invention at times;

Some snapshots of life in the Caribbean-then from the hen pecked black dog in the backyard to the pits of the school yard to the complications (if not the personal cost) of travel and migration;

And periodic access to moments of genuine drama and emotion – the uncomfortable chapter on the abuse he suffered at the hands of an old white neighbor, and the image of this man, the author, struggling with this confession, comes to mind …

It does rise above the self-indulgent “everybody has a story in them” mantra that opens the book.

I use the word self-indulgent with reservation because while it could be argued that everyone has a story in them but not everyone will be interested in that story, in the Caribbean, among afro-Caribbean people, who have seen so little of themselves in literary canon, there is precedent and meaning behind the desire to tell their story too. In the spirit of the slave narratives that gave voice to the voiceless, these latter day memoirs are about underscoring their humanity. There is value in that as well, and invaluable social history is being captured in these personal stories as much as their cousins, reflections on village life like Joy Lawrence’s Bethesda and Christian Hill. And the compulsion to re-capture that time, re-capture that self, doesn’t change simply because you’ve gone on to become a lawyer in London as Bradshaw has; in fact, that distance from home probably makes it even more urgent, the questioning like a nagging ache who am I? who am I?

“Out I popped, head first I presume, on the eighteenth day of September 1952.”

So it begins, a reflective and humorous undertone, a balance of detail and speculation, a jump-right-into-it there-ness.

“My birth certificate states that I, David Reinford Bradshaw, was born at Ryner’s Village on the island, to my father James Alfred Bradshaw, ‘labourer’ of the said village, and my mother Margaret Ann.”

The author questions:  “Why did my mother leave me to be brought up by a non-parent during my late infancy/early boyhood?” And then he goes digging, lining up the evidence as he finds it, then interprets that evidence. That pattern is repeated throughout, and the investigation detailed – whom he approached about what and why, what information they were able to supply, what he was able to make of it, and so on. It’s interesting, the connections this allows him to make, but gets a bit tedious at times (and at times leaves the reader reeling; the mathematics involved in figuring Joanna’s actual age for instance). As noted earlier, though, it can read as a handbook for this kind of personal research and an at times touching tale of a man’s discovery of his personal history – a history with which Montserratians and Eastern Caribbeaners of a certain time can surely identify.

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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Ya Ya Surfeit launches in Antigua

Former Culture Director and celebrated artist and costume designer, Heather Doram, receives her signed copy from Cumberbatch at the Antigua launch of his book. (Photo by Marcella Andre)

Here’s what I wrote after travelling to Montserrat for the launch of Chadd Cumberbatch’s Ya Ya Surfeit: “Even so, his book, with its balance of humour and pathos, layers upon layers of meaning; its insight to and balanced presentation of the male and female psyche, its uniquely Caribbean (and especially Montserratian) perspective on things, and searing honesty will be a revelation. The words feel alive on the page. Imagine then how much more exciting it was to see them leap to life”.

A trimmer but no less enjoyable presentation of the work took place Saturday August 21st at the Best of Books at Royal Palm.

If you haven’t already pick up a copy of this book today. You won’t regret it.

Now you may be wondering why feature a Montserratian writer on an Antiguan site, but quite apart from the fact that Antigua and Montserrat are kissing cousins, there’s the fact that Chadd has made his mark on the Antiguan artistic scene.

Have you seen his performance in the Antiguan film, No Seed?

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