Tag Archives: musical youth

Reviews and Endorsements – Musical Youth

Musical Youth is, indeed, a beautifully crafted story with elements as rich and varied as the music motif. I particularly enjoyed the authenticity of the language and the cultural values and practices that were crocheted into the work. Keep writing.” – Desryn Collins, Education Officer – Language Arts (Ag.), Antigua & Barbuda

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Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed XIV

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.

“Joanne C. Hillhouse has written an expansive page-turner that is a lush, tropical delight with its twists and turns and insider look at island politics. …Through the nuanced use of dialect and Caribbean proverbs we are given a window into how the characters navigate a number of weighty topics, including family construct, mental health, and class structure. Hillhouse has a uniquely elegant way of helping us track several subjects without making us feel hit over the head with any particular writing device. Oh Gad! is a superb example of how one shouldn’t judge a book by its actual cover , or title. It is a well-written gem that depicts finely-drawn complex characters. The book does a stellar job of revealing gender dynamics and the roots of female-headed households in the Caribbean. It is a character-driven novel that is Nikki’s story, yet strengthened by the introduction of fascinating secondary characters, who are as believable and riveting as the protagonist at the heart of it.” – Tua Nefer review on ACalabash of Oh Gad! by Joanne C. Hillhouse


‘”Amelia at Devil’s Bridge” by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Antigua & Barbuda): The spirit of a dead girl screams in desperation in a story that will make you shiver.’ – The Opinionated Reader on Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean


“The masterful use of sensory details and cultural references throughout Joanne C. Hillhouse’s picture book The Jungle Outside, as well as the colorful illustrations by Danielle Boodoo Fortuné, transports readers and listeners to the Caribbean Island of Antigua. Hillhouse’s loving depiction of inter-generational bonds, her layering of life lessons, and the vibrant characters makes this story one that will be read over and over again.” – ACALABASH, May 19 2022


Discussion of HaMaFilms’ The Sweetest Mango on the Karukerament podcast. “Cinema and television entertain this superficial vision of the Caribbean man…but with Richard in The Sweetest Mango it’s the other way around. …in most romantic comedies you don’t even know why the lead woman likes the lead man…so when you look at things closely, The Sweetest Mango was really in the Black pop culture trend because it was a romantic comedy, but it was also avante garde because it showed a healthy relationship between two Black characters.” – February 2021


“But I also really love Joanne Hillhouse’s YA novel Musical Youth which focuses on the experience of children learning about colourism and how colourism is manifested in their communities. And one of the things that we all loved talking about in the book club was how this author chose to show male friendship and it was just wonderful. It was a wonderful read because of so many things….I think I would probably push you more toward Joanne Hillhouse’s Musical Youth because this is not such a well known author and maybe she could stand to use a little bit more recognition.” – Booktuber RunWrightReads of RunWrightReads book club on Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse – December 2021


“Caribbean YA just slaps differently, and this book is great reminder of this.

Why did I wait so long to read this beautiful book?!!! In Musical Youth we meet Zahara, she is a bit of a loner, lives with the grandmother because her mother died and she doesn’t have a clue who her father is. She just know he left a guitar for her and she’s been attached to it ever since. Zahara’s first love is music. She spends significant time learning how to play her guitar. That’s until she meets Shaka, a lover of music like herself. She pulled her out of her shell but there are consequences….

The author really knew what she was doing writing this book. It felt real and truly such a great look into the lives of young adults living in Antigua. I did not want the book to end. Zahara is such a likeable character, so too is Shaka and their love story is too cute.

Seriously, this is the YA you are looking for, thank me later.” – Book of Cinz, founder of the #readCaribbean social media meme campaign on goodreads’ and the Book of Cinz book club, review of Musical Youth in 2021

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Antigua and Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed XII

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.

“fascinating story” – on Man of Her Dreams in In the Black: New African Canadian Literature reviewed in Canada’s Herald Arts and Life


“Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse imbues her Mondays are Murder yarn with domesticity-not the fuzzy, familial kind, but the ominous underbelly of fraught marital disharmony.” – Sunday Arts, Trinidad, re The Cat has Claws short story from Akashic’s Mondays are Murder series


Round up of some Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean which includes ‘Amelia at Devil’s Bridge’ by Joanne C. Hillhouse of Antigua and Barbuda: “…wonderful anthology of fresh voices from the Caribbean . . . includes writers from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago” (Booklist) … “Strong contributions from Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados make the collection a regionally consistent showing in nascent talent…” (Caribbean Beat) … “This story felt so light and read so smoothly. Hillhouse captured nuance in such a beautiful way. … It’s a layered, mysterious tale that explores Amelia’s family life.” (African Book Addict) … “At their best, the writers use their imagery not only to illuminate the experiences of their characters but also to share specific details about their worlds. So, for example, we read in Ivory Kelly’s ‘This Thing We Call Love’ of conversations that ‘were like boil-up, with plantains and cassava and other kinds of ground food and salted meat thrown into a pot of water, in no particular order, and boiled until the pot is a steaming, bubbling, savoury cuisine’, or in Joanne C. Hillhouse’s own ‘Amelia at Devil’s Bridge’ about rocks that ‘are sharper than a coconut vendor’s cutlass’.” (A Year of Reading the World) … “Readers will enjoy the characters’ interesting awareness of dialect and ways the writers use their Antillean setting.  …One character [Amelia in Amelia at Devil’s Bridge] laments how completely a father can disappear on a small island.” (La Bloga) … “I also liked Amelia at Devil’s Bridge and The Monkey Trap.” (andrewhideo.com) … “A few of my favorites are REVERSAL OF FORTUNES” by Kevin Baldeosingh (Trinidad & Tobago) …ALL THE SECRET THINGS NO-ONE EVER KNOWS” by Sharon Leach (Jamaica) …AMELIA” by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Antigua & Barbuda) …FATHER, FATHER” by Garfield Ellis (Jamaica) …Pepperpot is an eclectic mix of adventure, humor, the spirit world, family relationships, and other subject matters …I recommend this collection of short stories to readers who enjoy a mixture of subject matter in a single sitting.” (Ski-wee’s Book Corner)


Describing this book as a post-colonial, feminist novel examining the immigrant experience in North America – a valid description! – might easily make the novel sound both heavy and off-putting. Instead, it is a beautifully constructed, intensely readable account of an girl on the brink of adulthood interrogating her assumptions about the world and, importantly, the assumptions of those around her. – Imogen Gladman, UK editor, on Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy.


Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is a story of love between cultures. It goes in depth into the hardships and tensions of immigrant life in Antigua…The writer of this novel, Joanne C. Hillhouse, clearly wrote this novel for readers of romance. Not only that, but she seeks to evoke the themes of racism and love in this novel. Love is slowly nurtured between a single mother and an aimless ‘has been’ Antiguan cricketer who turns out to have an unexpected talent for sports commentary… When the Antiguan Michael meets Selena it is love at first sight for him, but Selena has been too deeply hurt by misplaced love in the past and Michael must take his time to ‘woo’ her with much understanding.” – Convent High School, Dominica, 2009 


“Upon reading the first page of Hillhouse’s second novel, I rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell to the back of my head like dice. I continued, though, because someone I respect had read the book and had good things to say about it. What I discovered was an honest tale about Selena and Michael, two imperfect people who try to love each other as best as they can, while battling all kinds of odds…The novel shows that self-knowledge and self-love need to be alive and well in two people before they decide to build a life together. What happens in the moonlight may not survive the heat of the noonday sun. These are hard lessons for the characters but they’re worth learning because of the stakes involved. In this regard, the question in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight isn’t ‘Can love win?’ Instead, it’s more like ‘How can love win against great odds?’ Hillhouse’s answer satisfied me.” – @ Love in the Time of Cricket by Nadine Tomlinson, 2018


“I am usually not a big fan of romance novels, but Joanne Hillhouse’s novels also engage the reader in the island’s socio-political history. As a result, we come away with knowledge that is reflective of the larger Caribbean story. I have lived away from the Caribbean for many decades and reading her novels take me home. I learn a little more about who I am. This novel, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, though fiction, touches on our realities and personal histories. It is the story of broken relationships seeking a path to healing. It is the story of people trying to make themselves whole again. We should bare our souls in order to reveal who we are. We should ‘dance more often in the moonlight.’” – Althea Romeo-Mark, author of The Nakedness of New


“It was refreshing…the characters were genuine and easy to identify with.” – Daily Observer, 2004, re Dancing Nude in the Moonlight


Dancing Nude in the Moonlight creates so much depth for its characters that all subplots work together, producing a fantastic fusion of lives that are indeed real. At no time do we get the feeling that ‘this can’t possibly happen’. We can relate to the situations as either clips of our lives, or the lives of people we’ve known or have seen. Turning the last page is almost like saying a final farewell to friends who you won’t see again, but will miss terribly. The emotions of the characters, their ups, their downs, their responses to their situations are so real, you read on because you’re genuinely concerned, you want to know what will happen…For me, personally, it falls into the league of Zee Edgell, Merle Hodge, V. S. Reid, Samuel Selvon and the like, whose novels have found a place on the West Indian category of the English B (Literature) CXC syllabus.” – Antigua Sun, 2008


“…a snapshot of what social interaction is/was like in Antigua and Barbuda during a specific period of time. Through the pages of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight future generations will find not just a love story, but a love story that represents one aspect of the nation’s evolution into a multicultural society.” – Antigua Sun, 2008


“Likewise, Joanne C. Hillhouse’s 2003 Dancing Nude in the Moonlight and Jamaica Kincaid’s 1997 My Brother leave me awestruck on every re-read by evidence of the crucial role postcolonial literary producers play in setting the agenda for the still fledgling fields of Caribbean gender and sexuality theory. Hillhouse’s and Kincaid’s deconstruction of Antiguan patriarchy not only destabilizes past bad-minded scholarship on family and gender relations in the region. They also offer caution to future scholarship on Caribbean gender and sexuality. The texts assert the necessity of grounding Afro-Antiguan/Caribbean masculinities within the appropriate historical and social sites/matrices. This, they suggest, will produce non-bad-minded accounts of Antiguan and Caribbean expressions of masculinity. Moreover, Kincaid’s My Brother conducts an important probing of the compulsory heterosexuality underpinning Antiguan patriarchy. It also intervenes into the silence around HIV-AIDS and the experiences of men/those living with the disease in the region.” – from Discretely Antiguan and Distinctly Caribbean by Dr. Hazra Medica, in the Tongues of the Ocean Antigua and Barbuda issue


In 2020, Kirkus Reviews gave Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Musical Youth a starred review and named it to its top 100 Indie books of the year, and to its lists of top Indie romances. and top Indie teen/young adult novels. As such, it is featured in the year end issue of the critical magazine.

“A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.”

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Antigua & Barbuda Literary Works Reviewed XI

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.

Dancing Nude in the Moonlight also explores themes of racial and ethnic intolerance, however, the spirit of this narrative is more in the nature of a true love story. Hillhouse cleverly crafts the tale through the eyes of Selena and Michael, alternating each chapter between these two characters…This style provides the reader with both a male and female perspective highlighting how the genders can perceive the same situation so differently…Michael is presented as a determined but sensitive man struggling with the vulnerabilities life has dealt him. This is a rare opportunity for the reader to be exposed to raw Caribbean emotions and feelings…Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is lyrical, sensual and gentle…(it) provide(s) a valuable glimpse of the Caribbean female.” – The Caribbean Writer, 2005


“(Jamaica) Kincaid is a lucid writer who uses precise, economical prose to present a sharp and moving perspective on adolescence and British colonialism. I’m so glad this project brought Lucy into my life and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kincaid’s writing.” – Bookmarked


‘Here are poems that reward several concentrated readings to mine their full, harrowing flavour: in this world, men fly through the air on the demolished doors of their houses, like a nightmarish scene from a game no one wants to play in reality. Children ask questions of adults who ask the same things of the dispassionate heavens. Answers are slow, and hard to read when so much is crumbling or has been swept into the sea. Instructions for survival often read more like stolen bits of catechism, monuments to prayer: “Find your bearings in the darkness / by the light in the channel. / The light in the channel is a warship . . . Use anything you can to collect the rain. / Cup your hands to your ears if you must. / They must clear the mounds of coral from the road first. / The coral are not bones. / They are bright flowers.”’ – Epiphaneia by Richard Georges (Richard is a BVI author with Trinidad roots who also has roots in Antigua and Barbuda). This review is by Shivanee Ramlochan in Caribbean Beat.


MUSICAL_YOUTH_Cover_FRONT_Final“From the first pages, we get to witness the mental havoc that colorism creates. Colorism feeds on the perception we have of ourselves. It feeds on our perception of other people and on the perception other people have of us. Joanne Hillhouse is subtle in the way she approaches this theme with several points of view by highlighting different elements about the character involved. … Zahara finds confidence in herself and in her music. The apparent confidence Shaka showed at the beginning becomes real as he defines his identity as an artist. There’s nothing they can do about colorism, but they hold themselves accountable for their own prejudices before trying to let go of them. They knowingly choose each other. … What resonated with me was the discourse on what being Black is, on what being a young Caribbean girl/boy is in the 21st century. …I want it to become a Caribbean classic for the upcoming generations. And why not even get a film and/or TV adaptation to turn it into a time capsule and immortalize our era?” – Karukerament re Musical Youth


“Gus Edwards is a new playwright to reckon with.” – The Hollywood Reporter


“A new departure for drama by a black playwright.” –  NY Magazine


“For a first play it is remarkable. ” – NY Times


“The coming of age story is well crafted, lively and absolutely believable.” – Mickel Brann, on The Boy from Willow Bend in Daily Observer, 2003


“…amazingly true characters…weaves a tapestry of village life in the Caribbean…captures the importance of women in social hierarchy of Caribbean households and the everyday issues that these same women have to deal with. She explores their sexuality, their love, their hate and their desperation to escape a life that seemingly goes nowhere – a dead end. Hillhouse also exhibits an incredible understanding of social issues in the Caribbean – child abandonment, abuse, promiscuity. She touches the problems of classism and the gulf that separates the ‘privileged’ and ‘not-so-privileged’…Quick, tight and thought provoking writing holds the reader in its grip…A lovely and engaging book that, in my opinion, is destined for the classrooms of Antigua, if not the entire Caribbean. This is a great and insightful look at Caribbean life and the future of our children.” – Karen Walwyn writing about The Boy from Willow Bend in the Expand Your World, Daily Observer, 2003


“The book stands out as an example of self-redemption, self-motivation, and self-preservation…” – D. Gisele Isaac writing on The Boy from Willow Bend in She Caribbean, 2004


“In the tradition of the best YA stories, Hillhouse’s characters are convincing because they’re unfailingly realistic in their interactions, interests, and struggles. Her players sound like actual people, and specifically like Antiguan teens. Through their personal journeys, readers learn about issues that affect young people in Antigua and across the globe, including internalized racism, colorism, economic inequality, generational trauma, and old-fashioned teenage angst. This is not to say that the book is heavy or maudlin in tone; on the contrary, Hillhouse’s writing is overwhelmingly joyful 3and explicitly invested in the power of Black joy, Black excellence, and Black self-love….A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.” –
Musical Youth reviewed by Kirkus Reviews

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CARIB Lit Plus (Mid to Late July 2020)


A couple of Caribbean writers have been named among the Hurston Wright Award nominees for 2020. I spot among the Fiction nominees Jamaican writers Nicole Dennis-Benn (Patsy) and Curdella Forbes (A Tall History of Sugar). Read the full list here.

Book News

Not book news but screenplays are the books of the film world and the last CREATIVE SPACE focused on Antiguan and Barbudan films available online. The series runs every other Wednesday in the Daily Observer and on my blog.

Caribbean Literary Heritage used the inaugural Caribbean Literature Day as an opportunity to kick off its Caribbean A – Z of lesser known books series. A is for Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie, Gwen, Lilly, Pam, and Tulip (1983) is presented by Keja Valens @kvalens, who writes, “Kincaid’s story narrates a moment of first contact between Caribbean natives and conquistadors, from the point of view of the Caribbean natives who are also constituted by the history that will result from that meeting. It features the stylistics, themes, and even characters for which Kincaid is well known: a deceptive simplicity, a deep concern with the colonial and post-colonial experience of Caribbean girls and women, and Annie and Gwen.” They’ll be doing the whole alphabet – including an F entry by me, so check them out by clicking on the page name above.


Myriad Publishing in the UK has lots of news re the global anthology New Daughters of Africa, featuring more than 200 Black women writers from around the world, and edited by Margaret Busby. First, the recipient of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa award, made possible because all participating authors waived their fee, went to Iza Luhumyo of Mombasa. Additionally, 500 copies of New Daughters have been donated to schools in the United Kingdom via The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise that campaigns for black British histories to be taught from reception through to A Levels. Myriad’s publishing director Candida Lacey said, “It feels more urgent now than ever to improve the way we educate our children and young adults and to share with them the richness, range and diversity of African women’s voices and across a wealth of genres.” The paperback edition of New Daughters will be out in September.

Caribbean Reads Publishing has announced that it is actively seeking #ownvoices manuscripts for middle grade readers, roughly 8 to 13 years, with a Caribbean setting. There’s no published cut off date but don’t sleep on it. Go here for submission details. Caribbean Reads has also recently released a reading guide for its Burt Award winning title Musical Youth. Download it for free here.

A reminder that Caribbean Reads publishing is accepting middle grade manuscripts. “What’s a middle-grade novel? These are books for readers in the last years of primary school and early years of high school. These readers are beyond picture books and early chapter books but not ready for the themes in YA novels. Age range of readers: 8-13 years. This is a large range and will include simpler, shorter books for the 8-10 range and slightly longer, more involved ones for the 11-13 year olds. Length: 15,000 – 50,000 words. This is a guide. There are longer middle-grade books. Character ages: 10-14 years old. Generally children like to read up, so the protagonists should be slightly older than the children in your target age range. They can’t be too old or the concerns that are most realistic for your characters will be too advanced for your readers. General features: The story must have a compelling plot line and at least one sub-plot (this is one of the features that distinguishes the middle-grade novel from the earlier books).
Adults should have minor roles. They should never step in to solve the children’s problem. The book should show a clear understanding of the protagonist’s point-of-view and concerns as a child. The books may be one of a variety of sub-genres: realistic, fantasy, historical, humorous, etc.” For more, go here.

The Voice of the People’s reading of Keithlyn and Fernando Smith’s To Shoot Hard Labour continues all July (July 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st). Don’t forget the youth tie-ins.

And the live trivia, prizes for which include copies of books by local authors

ETA: I’ve uploaded week 1 of the reading club discussion to my AntiguanWriter youtube channel


What’s there to say? Carnival is cancelled. Or is it? As we settle in to this new normal the news that Carnival has been cancelled has morphed in to some aspects of Carnival is going online. There will be a t-shirt mas via zoom and a party monarch with a $15,000 purse. Registration is ongoing at this writing. I’m going to link the Antigua Carnival page though I was not able to find, with a little digging around, info on these announced events – it is a (too) busy page though so I maybe missed it; either that or it’s not updated yet which would be confounding considering it’s already been in the news. But here’s the page– otherwise, google.

Black Lives Matter

Yes, here in the Caribbean too. A recent addition to the conversation – the part of it having to do with the dismantling of racist iconography – is an op-ed by writer-publisher Mario Picayo, who resides in the VI and in the US.


Mario Picayo’s Little Bell Caribbean published my book With Grace, which centres a dark-skinned Black girl in her own faerie tale.

Entitled Healing the Present by Owning the Past, it was published in the St. Thomas Source and took shots at things in public spaces named for slaver-pirate Francis Drake, colonialist ruler King Christian IX of Denmark, and other things European (and American).

‘Francis Drake was a pirate for the English Crown, and an early slave trader. Together with merchant John Hawkins, a relative, Drake made several trips to Africa between 1561 and 1567 and participated in the triangular trade. During their first trip they reported capturing “at the least” 300 Africans in Sierra Leone through a campaign of destruction and violence. As late as the 1580’s Drake enslaved people during his trips through the Caribbean. In one instance he took “300 Indians from Cartagena, mostly women” as well as “200 negroes.” In Marin County, California, Drake’s statue will be removed and the name Francis Drake Boulevard will be changed.’

Antigua and Barbuda actually has some experience with this – the changeover of European names to one of more local significance, more generally, but the changeover of things named for Drake and Hawkins specifically as well. When I was a child there were streets named for them. Post-Independence, King Obstinate did a song, ‘Sons of the Soil/True Heroes’ that as a child and still I believe changed attitudes and policy regarding some of the things named for European colonists and enslavers. There are still many things named for them, of course, but gone were Drake and Hawkins streets, and two other parallel streets in St. John’s City, and in their place were streets named for legendary cricketers Sirs Vivian Richards and Andy Roberts, and future national heroes King Court and Nellie Robinson. Still no Short Shirt Village nor Swallow Town though.

Read Mario’s full article here.


Dame Edris Bird (born 1929), former resident tutor of the University of the West Indies Open Campus (Antigua and Barbuda)/University Centre, has died. She has been offered an official funeral “in celebration of (her) selfless contribution to nation building”. In an obit I recommend reading in full, the Daily Observer newspaper speaks of her considerable (and little known to those of us who came after) arts advocacy (for example for the details of the time she stood up to then Prime Minister and Father of the Nation and her brother in law Papa Bird in defense of free expression on the nation’s station).  “The University of the West Indies under her leadership was a mecca for education, the arts, cultural expression, and exploration of self-awareness and self-fulfillment. She encouraged theatrical performances (see RULER IN HIROONA and CEREMONIES IN DARK OLD MEN), and nurtured great playwrights and actors like Dorbrene O’Marde, Edson Buntin, Eugene ‘Rats’ Edwards, Irving Lee, Dr. Glen Edwards, and the cast of Harambee Open Air Theatre. Pan blossomed and flourished, as did African drumming and creative and contemporary dancing. Public speaking and debating thrived; poetry and prose performances all found room for expression at the University Centre. It is without fear of contradiction that we declare that the University Centre under Dame Edris Bird was the cultural and educational hub in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Lit Events

ETA The read2Me_TT bedtime readings are ongoing. Happy to have been included  sure to check out their channel.

Intersect is a Caribbean gender justice advocacy group out of Antigua and Barbuda which recently invited me to participate in a discussion on colourism and more in my Burt award winning teen/young adult novel Musical Youth. Here’s the full instagram live video.

ETA: Weekes is part of the faculty of the new Faculty of Culture, Creative and Performing Arts on the UWI Cave Hill campus. It launches online August 1st 2020 at 6 p.m. our time with performances and speaches. Here’s a link.


ETA – this event has come and gone; here’s a report. ETA: And here now is the uploaded video of day one of the event – subscribe to the page for notifications re day 2 and more going forward. View my reading during the event on my page AntiguanWriter which you are invited to subscribe to as well

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, 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/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, 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 and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Wadadli Pen 2020: Post-Awards (A Virtual Gallery)

We weren’t able to have actual live awards this year (the awards announcement was done via facebook live and our release was sent out to the media– thanks to the Daily Observer, 268today, Antiguanewsroom, and anyone else who ran it). We do have pictures, though, ‘thanks’ to our drawn out post-awards season of trying to connect winners with their prizes. An unexpected side-benefit of having to do so much communication virtually is the patrons, parents, and participants who’ve stopped to look back and share their thoughts and pictures. We appreciate it and are delighted to share with you…

This picture from long time patron Frank B. Armstrong’s rep, presenting main prize winner (tied) Andre J. P. Warner (author of A Bright Future for Tomorrow) with his $500 cheque from the company, while both modelling good mask etiquette (in light of the global pandemic that forced a change in our usual award protocols as it has in facial wear, personal space, and hygiene all over the country and the world – remember to keep #socialdistancing and #besafe).

This picture of Andre who tied with 11 year old Cheyanne Darroux (author of Tom, the Ninja Crab) for the main prize – their names will be on the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge Plaque (pictured) and also won the 18 to 35 and Imagine an Future/Climate Change prize was sent to us by the Best of Books, our usual awards host, plaque sponsor, and longtime patron, which contributed a selection of books to each 2020 finalist. Andre’s book haul also includes local authors‘ Brenda Lee Browne’s London Rocks and Just Write journal and Joanne C. Hillhouse’s Musical Youth (hard cover edition), and US$250 worth of books sponsored by Sean Lyons (a NYC-based recent tourist who contributed US$500 worth of books which was divided between the two main prize winners). Winners’ choice.

This image of 13 to 17 winner D’Chaiya Emmanuel (author of Two Worlds Collide) is also from Best of Books, where she picked up her books contributed by the bookstore, her gifts from Juneth Webson (who contributed gift packages which were shared among several winners and the $500 which went toward Andre’s climate change prize), cash from Lawrence Jardine (who contributed $500 which was divided among the 13 to 17s), $200 from D. Gisele Isaac, a free eye exam from Paradise Vision Center, and an external hard drive from the Cushion Club (which also sent us an image of their gift wrapped prize).

Zaniah Pigott (author of A Mermaid), who was 3rd 7 to 12 and received books from Best of Books, Cindy’s Bookstore (as did all winners 7 to 12), and copies of Musical Youth and With Grace (both paperback) from Joanne C. Hillhouse.

Congrats to them all. You can read their stories and all winning stories through the years, here. Thanks to the ones who dropped us a line. Such as…

Aria-Rose Browne (author of The Fabled Truth, and 3rd placed 13 to 17, who won Musical Youth, cash from Lawrence Jardine, the books from the Best of Books, and the gift from Juneth Webson): “I would like to thank you all so much for both the opportunity and rewards. I am so thankful to have made it as a Short Lister much less third place, especially as this is my first writing competition. I really appreciate, and thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will be sure to keep writing.”

Andre J. P. Warner: “…excellent job for organizing Wadadli pen for another year once again.”

Dyna, mom of Sienna Harney-Barnes (author of A New World, honourable mention 7 to 12, who won books from Cindy’s Bookstore and Best of Books in addition to The Wonderful World of Yohan and Antigua My Antigua, contributed by the authors Floree Williams Whyte and Barbara Arrindell, respectively): “Thank you so much. Sienna was tickled pink to be acknowledged. She truly enjoyed the experience.”

Zaniah: “Hello Joanne, Thank you so much for the experience you and Wadadli Pen have provided. It was such a fun time and I’m very thankful for all the help you have given to allow me to advance so far. I have read some of the other stories and they are all interesting and fun. I will still strive to write better stories and hope to enter with my brother next year.”

Her mother wrote as well: “Thank you so much for these books for my avid reader Zaniah. Zaniah and I are very grateful for this opportunity for her to showcase her story telling.”

You know what I appreciate most about these notes, that hint that each writer feels encouraged to continue writing – that’s the goal. Finally, I encourage you to join these dope people whose feedback I found here and on social media, and leave a comment beneath the winning stories.

“I read both winning entries (A Bright Future for Tomorrow and Tom, the Ninja Crab) and thoroughly enjoyed both but I especially loved the one that was written by the young lady (Tom, the Ninja Crab) because I got to share it with my granddaughter and great niece.”

“Great poem, I hope he continues to keep up the poetry writing even with the demands of medicine. Excellent and evocative.” (this refers to Oh, Beach that I once Loved by Sethson Burton, 3rd place 18 to 35, winner of books from Best of Books and a copy of Musical Youth, 2nd edition paperback)

Those are the major ones; there were some awesomes and wonderfuls thrown in there. Add yours, or constructive criticism, that’s okay too, just don’t be …unconstructive.

Thanks again to all of you who have supported the 2020 Wadadli Pen Challenge Season, to patrons the Cultural Development Division, the Best of Books bookstore, Photogenesis, Cindy’s Bookstore, the Friends of Antigua Public Library-NY, Barbara Arrindell, Joanne C. Hillhouse, Floree Williams Whyte, Lawrence Jardine, D. Gisele Isaac, Paradise Vision Center, Juneth Webson, the Cushion Club, Brenda Lee Browne, Hermitage Bay Antigua, Dr. Hazra Medica, Caribbean Reads Publishing, Sean Lyons, Jane Seagull, and Frank B. Armstrong/Seven Seas.


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, its Spanish language edition Perdida! , and Oh Gad! ). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page Jhohadli or like me on Facebook. Help me 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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Revised between May 9th 2020 (the day the winners were announced) and May 11th 2020

The Wadadli Pen Challenge is the flagship project of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize which launched as a project to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda in 2004. It invites young Antiguans and Barbudans to tell their stories and rewards them for their efforts thanks to the philanthropy of individuals and the corporate community.  We couldn’t do this with out these patrons which change from year to year, though some have been consistently with us through the years. In 2020, we acknowledge and thank the following (plus unnamed patrons) for prizes contributed to the 2020 Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge:

Barbara Arrindell

bestThe Best of Books Bookstore 


Brenda Lee Browne







Caribbean Reads



Cindys Cindy’s Bookstore


logo The Cultural Development Division – Antigua and Barbuda

The Cushion Club


D. Gisele Isaac

Dr. Hazra Medica

Floree Williams Whyte
Yohan book


Seven SeasFrank B. Armstrong




Friends of Antigua Public Library – NY Inc.

HermitageHermitage Bay Antigua

Jane Seagull

Joanne C. Hillhouse
MUSICAL_YOUTH_Cover_FRONT_Final with-grace-cover Musical Youth

Juneth Webson

Webson gift

Lawrence Jardine

Paradise Vision Center Paradise Vision Center



Sean Lyons

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, 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/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, 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 and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


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


“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


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)


“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 


“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


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)


“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


“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


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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Carib Plus Lit News (Early September 2019)

UWI’s fourth landed campus opens in Antigua and Barbuda

UWI 1.jpg

“The establishment of the Five Islands campus in Antigua and Barbuda impacts the growth and development of this country in the same way that the establishment of campuses in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago impacted development of those countries. Moreover, it holds the prospect of making a similar contribution to the countries of the OECS.” – Professor Stafford Griffith. The re-purposing of the building where the campus is being housed was controversial because it had been built initially as a secondary school to provide relief to overpopulation in especially urban secondary schools. With a change of administration came a change of agenda, and though there was some opposition objection (and even an article guest posted here on the Wadadli Pen blog by a former finalist explaining why he felt the campus should be used for its original purpose), the UWI fourth landed campus in Antigua and Barbuda is now reality. The campus began operations on August 25th and is registering students for programmes across the schools of Health and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities and Education, and Management, Sciences, and Technology.

Musical Youth Second Edition

This is one of my books, the second edition of which launched in early August. I wanted to share the release from Caribbean Reads Publishing:

(original cover art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Glenroy Aaron)

Basseterre, St. Kitts, August 8, 2019. CaribbeanReads Publishing, a small press based in St. Kitts-Nevis, announced today the release of the second edition of Musical Youth, the award-winning title by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne C. Hillhouse. Over four thousand copies of the first edition of the book, which won second place in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, have been distributed to young people throughout the Caribbean and the world. Musical Youth has been well-received by critics, reviewers, and most importantly by teens and is currently included on the book lists at schools in Antigua and in Trinidad and Tobago. While the text remains basically unchanged, the second edition sports a new cover and the kindle version contains links to a candid discussion about Hillhouse’s writing process, her vision of the characters, and more.

“This is such an important milestone,” commented Carol Mitchell of CaribbeanReads. “Caribbean books are finding their place in the global literature scene one book at a time. We are excited that thousands of Caribbean children have read this book, but we are also thrilled when we receive orders from Australia and Italy as it speaks to the human appeal of the story.”

Musical Youth is a coming-of-age story set in Antigua and, by chronicling one summer in the lives of a few teens, touches on a number of issues that our Caribbean youth face such as class differences, colourism, and relationships-romantic, familial, and platonic. The publishers credit the book’s success to the high quality of Hillhouse’s storytelling, the global appeal of the teen story, and the tremendous support they received from the NGO CODE, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Antiguan (and Barbudan) Ministry of Education, bookstores like Best of Books in Antigua and Paperbased in Trinidad, and book reviewers.

In the Acknowledgements of the new edition, Hillhouse thanks “readers everywhere—tout monde sam and baggai, as we say in Antigua and Barbuda—who bought and/or took the time to recommend the book; and specifically, Caribbean readers and young people who have told me how much they love Zahara, and how Zahara and Shaka are #relationshipgoals.”

Ms. Hillhouse has made several contributions to the literary scene in the Caribbean. In addition to the award winning Musical Youth, she is the author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, the children’s book, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and the mass market title Oh Gad! She has been recognized at book festivals in the Caribbean and the US, and featured in Essence magazine.



Hurricane season 2019 hit its first major target, the Bahamas. Specifically it (reportedly) took seven lives (though the numbers may rise at this writing) and inflicted (reported) billions in physical damage in the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. It’s been heartbreaking and in some ways re-traumatizing for those for whom the 2017 season that wreaked havoc across the Caribbean region (via Irma and Maria) is still all too fresh. I don’t know what to add to the conversation except #climatechangeisreal and real action is required; help the Bahamas if you can; and pray that the season doesn’t do any more damage – we can’t take it (though we will if we have to…pray we don’t have to). Amidst all of the posts I saw, one that feels especially relevant to us here on this arts platform is this public social media post by Bahamaian professor and publisher/editor of the Tongues of the Ocean online literary journal Nicolette Bethel, director of the Shakespeare in Paradise festival, mere hours after the storm:  “We are rehearsing for Shakespeare in Paradise tonight. You may think us insensitive but we know how important theatre and the arts are in the healing process. It is also important for people to focus on other things, on inhabiting other skins, for a moment. One of our actors has been working tirelessly with the rescue efforts. She has been the conduit for texts from people waiting to be rescued and she has been linking them up with the rescue teams. She has been working for the past two days. She has come to rehearsal tonight because she needs the distraction. She had to take a moment to decompress but she is right now giving a rehearsal that is just about performance ready. I am so proud of her!!!” That’s a beautiful reminder of just how powerful the arts are in our lives.


Who is Toni Morrison?

I’ve covered the deaths of Toni Morrison and Paule Marshall in the last and second to last editions of this Carib Plus Lit series but when two such important literary lights go out of the world, there will be and there has been multiple conversations as we process. This round of my processing is prompted by a particular conversation.

Someone asked me the sub-headed question when I told them Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison had died – ‘who is Toni Morrison?’ And once I got over being outraged, I reminded myself that we all have our areas of interest and if someone had told me about the death of some Nobel winning physicist, I might have had a similar ‘who is that?’ moment. I tried to explain who Morrison was but they were distracted and uninterested, and I was legit hurt by that because of how much she means not just to me as a writer but to the world. The same person, once  they caught the unavoidable coverage of Morrison’s death returned to ask me, ‘did you hear about the death of this author woman?’ And, after I banged my head against a metaphorical wall, I got it…I got it. I mean, I’m not perfect, I did have a moment of ‘are you kidding me, I tried to tell you about this?’ But I get it, we all have our areas of interest and only so much space in our heads. In fact, when it comes to Nobel prizes I pay attention to literature and peace; so I’m guilty of focusing on what interests me too. I’m prompted though by these conversations to share my favourite Morrison books (mostly focused on her fiction), the must-read Morrisons I haven’t yet read, the ones I’m not sure/don’t remember reading, and the ones still/definitely on my to-read list (for the ones I haven’t read yet but really want to); I’m going to do the same for Paule Marshall, because she too is a literary giant we lost recently, one with Caribbean roots (while Morrison is African-American). I promise to be honest if you promise not to be judge-y.


Song of Solomon – this may have been my first Morrison, an assigned read for one of my lit classes at the University of the West Indies, and one that it was an absolute joy to excavate – there were so many layers to it. The story of a family in early 20th century America and the inexorable connections to the past. I remember it cracking open pathways in my mind, in my soul, and my own history.

The Bluest Eye – I remember being powerfully moved by this story of a girl who wanted to be white and blue eyed when I first read it during my university days, in part because I think on some level every little Black girl (speaking very broadly, of course) can relate to how much of a journey it is to self-love (unfortunately).

Sula – I remember this book about, among other things, the bond between two girls-cum-women being a joy to read despite its dark turns.

Jazz – this one, with a love triangle at its core, was so much like jazz (with its complex and improvisational qualities) that it took me a few attempts to get in to it but once I did, I loved it; her technique especially with voice (and especially near the end) and the way it interacted with itself and with the story it was telling and, to some degree, with the reader was a mindblowing lesson.

Must-reads I haven’t yet read

Beloved – this story of a woman who escaped slavery only to be haunted by the ghost of the daughter she aborted is, from all accounts, a classic – its status not dimmed by the Oprah film which I remember not being very well received. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet nor feel a great urge to read it – maybe it’s been in that zone of classics everyone insists you absolutely have to read for a little too long. Some times you just have to let go of those have-tos. I may read it someday still; it’s definitely not off the table. I mean, it’s Toni Morrison.

Paradise – like Jazz I’ve started this a few times and I pressed on because I came to love Jazz despite our bumpy start and because Oprah assured during her O’s Book Club discussion that it was a rough start but once you got 30 or so pages in, you wouldn’t be able to put it down. Well, I’ve put it down and taken it back up, and started over and put it down, and picked it up a few times; and it’s been down for a long time. I still hope to finish it some day especially as, as it’s not uninteresting – not with his opening:”They shoot the white girl first. With the others they can take their time.”.

God Bless the Child


Not sure/don’t remember reading

Tar Baby

Love – I think I may have read this one sometime in the late nineties, early 2000s with my book club but I’m not sure it counts if I don’t remember.

Still/Definitely on my to-read list

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination – the title has always intrigued me.

A Mercy

The Origin of Others

The rest, I think, are children’s books, anthologies edited by her, and books of non-fiction so I’ll stop by saying, I highly recommend you pick a Morrison and read one. My individual struggle with any book of hers does not change the fact that she is a master craftsman whose characters and settings are solidly and deeply drawn, whose premises are never conventional, whose execution is always assured, who for all her layers and distinctiveness as a writer never let the writing get in the way of the story. Barbadian-American writer Paule Marshall meanwhile is not as well known as Morrison but there’s no denying that she, too, made her mark.


Praisesong for the Widow – your first is always your favourite right? This story of a well-to-do widow kind of deconstructing while on a Caribbean vacation and making some ancestral connections that move it beyond the personal is my first Paule Marshall read and a favourite from my uni days – iconic even, with certain images from it permanently marked on my mind and soul.

Browngirl, Brownstones – this coming of age story about a Caribbean family making new life in America was a solid read if not my absolute favourite; and it is a classic. Literally, it was first published in the 1950s and then revived on rediscovery in the 1980s (kind of reminds me of the rediscovery of Zora Neale Hurston by Alice Walker chronicled in In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens).

Daughters – a fairly epic tale of family and politics between the US and the Caribbean.

Must-reads I haven’t read

Soul Clap Hands and Sing

Reena and Other Stories – one of my favourite writings by Marshall is ‘To Dah-duh, in Memoriam’, a great generational, cultural, past and future divide story set in Barbados, which was originally published in 1967 and re-published in Reena and Other Stories in 1983.

Merle: a Novella and Other Stories

Triangular Road: a Memoir

Not sure/don’t remember reading

The Chosen Place, the Timeless People – I’m about 50 percent sure I haven’t read this story of an island in transition and a clueless American woman linked to the island (I think), and yet the synopsis seems familiar..

Still/Definitely on my to-read list

Conversations with Paule Marshall – I love to read writers talking about their process like when Marshall in a piece I read (not sure it’s included here) talked about the kitchen table talk that helped her develop her voice as a writer.

The Fisher King


Antiguan Hip Hop-er LogiQ Benefits from US Cultural Exchange

LogiQ at the US Embassy in Barbados prior to departure for the US. (Photo courtesy the US Embassy)

This one came in via press release from the US Embassy. Antiguan rapper Vincent Aldin Pryce, commonly known as LogiQ, has traveled to the America to participate in US government sponsored Partners of the Americas’ Education and Culture Exchange Program. His specific destination was announced as the PATH Hip Hop summer Academy of Music and Art. “The exchange is a part of Partners of the Américas’ Education and Culture program, which provides exchanges and small grants for communities across the Americas. The Education and Culture Program is funded by the United Sates Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and connects people and institutions to promote service in the community, enhance cross-cultural understanding and cooperation between the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and build professional development of participants and the communities they visit.” The two-week programme in Miami was expected to yield several benefits. “Mr. Pryce will contribute to and benefit from projects aligned with Partners of the Americas and PATH Inc.’s shared objectives and programs while developing creative leadership skills through professional development workshops and strengthening the social impact of his creative work. He will also develop and exhibit a professional series of creative work in collaboration with local artists, and connect with professional counterparts in the creative and community development sectors.”


New Caribbean Book of Local Writings 

About the series Local Writings: The series Local Writings is composed of monographic books that compile essays, chronicles, manuscripts, testimonies and various writings of curators, theorists, cultural critics, thinkers and artists of the region. This series seeks to make accessible a selection of several of the most important discourses and critical positions that have shaped critical paradigms in Central America and the Caribbean. This book is added to the two previous ones of this same series, dedicated to the critical work of Raúl Quintanilla Armijo (Nicaragua), Rosina Cazali (Guatemala), Adrienne Samos (Panama), Tamara Díaz-Bringas (Cuba / Costa Rica). The next titles in this series include the critical work of Virginia Pérez Ratton (Costa Rica), Michy Marxuach (Puerto Rico) and Rolando Castellón (Nicaragua / Costa Rica). Read more.

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Musical Youth Reflection after Release of the Second Edition

The thing they don’t tell you about your book coming out is how busy you’ll be, too busy sometimes to take it in – and depending on what else is going on in your life not necessarily anything close to the high the moment demands. It’s not ingratitude that has you thinking, when another person says “congrats”, “what for?” – you’re just too tired, maybe even too stressed to remember that there’s even something to celebrate. And there is, there is. This book, your first or your 15th, is the culmination of so many hours of dreaming and working, is the fulfillment of so much possibility and improbability, it’s ingratitude not to be grateful for it. And that feeling can add to the stress as well. But hang in there, a time will come, maybe on a random Wednesday afternoon about a week or so late too late when the feeling will hit you. Feel it. You did that.

And with that, I’m here to say that I’m about a week late on posting here about the release of the 2nd edition of Musical Youth.

(cover art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Glenroy Aaron)

Let me tell you about this book. It’s about creative teens doing creative ish like me and my pals did in our teens, all the while learning and growing. You know already (maybe) that I wrote it in a fortnight and took a shot at submitting this very rough thing (unedited and beta read only by my teenage niece which made sense to me at the time since she was the target audience) to the CODE Burt Award inaugural competition for teen/young adult literature with a little gentle prodding from my sister and the guy at the first book binding place I tried. Yes, I had to get it printed, bound and Fed Ex’d to Trinidad – talk about investing in yourself.  I was checking my email about 3 a m or so one morning months later when I received the news that I had made the short list and immediately called Alstyne (the person who always made sure I stopped to celebrate but who has since passed over but) who was still very much alive then and joined me in screaming and can you believing over the phone. I travelled to Trinidad and came home to no fan fair (which a friend of mine still gripes about) though, honestly it didn’t occur to me then to expect anything. It seemed to me that I had won more than I had dared hope when I submitted the manuscript. Did part of me wish I had won? Of course but the winning book AdZiko  Gegele’s All Over Again is delightful and I am happy to be in company with it and Colleen Smith-Dennis’ Inner City Girl as the first in a series of award winning Caribbean books targeted at contemporary teen readers in the region, with appeal for lovers of good literature everywhere. This book has taken me places (and through CODE, Burt, and Bocas – the entities funding and/or administering the prize – I’ve had opportunities to judge, organize and run a workshop, mentor, and more) and these characters are among my favourites that I’ve written – so much so that I’m working on a sequel (I have been pretty much since the beginning but this past week have legit done some work on it).

Writing hasn’t made me rich in a way that the world recognizes (the opposite probably) but I love being able to write and tell stories that reach people in some way, and I love that one of those books has seamlessly rolled in to a second edition. Yes, I have had second editions of my books before (notably The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight) but usually it’s more bumpy (involving a book underperforming and/or going out of print, the legalities of reclaiming rights, the challenges of finding a new publisher); the publisher reaching out to say that the book has performed well enough for them to justify investing more in it, is a different corner turned in the winding road I’ve taken as a writer, journeying. The closest comparison is, again, The Boy from Willow Bend which has had longevity as my first book.

It is a week or so after Caribbean Reads, an independent press with roots in St. Kitts, announced that they have released a second edition of Musical Youth, and I am grateful (whatever else is going on in my life now, and there is a lot that’s not perfect, but I am grateful, this #gyalfromOttosAntigua is grateful).  Shout out to the friend who made me stop to toast the moment. As for my journey with Caribbean Reads (one of four publishers with which I have books currently contracted – the others being Hansib -The Boy from Willow Bend, Insomniac – Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Little Bell Caribbean – With Grace), when faced in 2014 for the first time really with the opportunity to choose from among several regional publishers interested in publishing the Burt winning titles, I was uncertain which way to go – which was positioned to do the most for the book, which would be most invested in working with me like I wasn’t an afterthought (which can happen with big publishers), which would be fairest; so many uncertainties in my mind as I narrowed my options to the three or so I was giving serious condition.  I honestly don’t remember  what tipped it in Caribbean Reads’ favour (and, no, it wasn’t just that of all the options it was, as an imprint with Eastern Caribbean roots, closer to home) but I haven’t regretted it yet – and, in fact, I was able to sell them on  a re-issue of another book I had reclaimed from a publisher I felt wasn’t doing anything for it (those uncertainties I spoke about) and re-issue that book as Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which now has a Spanish language edition with an activity book pending.

I believe in Musical Youth and I am delighted that readers both at home and abroad continue to discover and embrace it, and I hope for much much more (and bigger and bigger sales – let’s keep it real) as the book moves in to its second life. Thank you to everyone who has been there in whatever way you have been there. I am grateful.

Here is Caribbean Reads announcement re the re-issue (excerpt):

“Musical Youth is the first of two Burt Award winners published by CaribbeanReads, the second being The Protectors’ Pledge by Danielle Y. C. McClean. The success of these titles speaks to the fact that we need Caribbean books and, more generally, #weneeddiversebooks.”

And here is a gallery of Musical Youth moments so far – captions in order pictured (Musical Youth on the bookstagram, Musical Youth part of a middle school chef competition in NYC, gifting Musical Youth to my alma mater after serving as narrator at the annual carol service, my niece and beta reader taking a book selfie, me taking a book selfie on holding the book for the first time, me with co-panelists at the Brooklyn Book Fair after presenting Musical Youth, me with co-presenters and education officials during a schools tour in St. Croix where I was presenting Musical Youth during the USVI Lit Fest, me presenting copies of Musical Youth to the Public Library during the launch at the Best of Books, me accepting the Burt award from the late founder Canadian philanthropist William Burt, and me presenting Musical Youth to students in St. Maarten as part of a schools’ tour during the St. Martin lit fest):

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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