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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

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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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