Tag Archives: Read Caribbean

When You’re a Caribbean Gyal in a Big Book World

This is an article I started shopping a little too late, a little over a month ago (hoping it would find fertile ground with June being Caribbean American Heritage Month). Give thanks for blogging. Sharing here with minor edits to the original draft. Share your thoughts.

If you were on #bookstagram or book twitter during the month of June, Caribbean American Heritage Month in the US, you might have happened upon a little hashtag catching fire, #readCaribbean. It’s the brainchild of Cindy, BookofCinz on instagram, Caribbean Girl Reading the World on twitter; also in June, June 9th to 18th in 2020, on booktube and bookstagram, is the Caribathon, run by Jamaica-born ComfyCozyUp and RunWright Reads.

Why all this Caribbean book love, you may ask.

“I love sharing my culture as well as other cultures in the Caribbean,” ComfyCozyUp said in the 2021 Caribathon announcement on YouTube.

Cindy has given her purpose as creating awareness about Caribbean literature, Caribbean authors, Caribbean heritage, and showcasing the Caribbean voice while maintaining how unique each island is. Of course, the challenge is to find Caribbean books, read them, chat about them, hashtag them, but Cindy also directs the reading with challenges within the challenge to #readCaribbean that include instructions to read Caribbean poetry, queer lit, folklore, women, indies, and various islands (my response to Cindy’s challenge here).

I wanted to write, as a Caribbean reader and writer, why these initiatives not only matter but why they excite me so much.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island, a dot on the map, we may joke, even while our national ethos is “we bigger dan dem” because, while not small in our own minds, we are keenly aware of our place in the global scheme of things.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island which bigger-better-known Caribbean islands may unironically call “small island”. Our most famous writer (daughter of Ovals and one of my favourites) is named for one of those bigger islands Jamaica and wrote a really thought provoking book about home called A Small Place.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island who five times out of 10 when I’m outside the region and say I’m from Antigua gets, in response, “Jamaica?”, “Montego Bay?”, or depending on how far I’ve travelled, a blank stare, that has me fishing around for some connective thread between their world and mine. Viv Richards usually works because most of the world, or at least the former British empire, which is to say Britain and her stolen common wealth (on which the sun never set), plays cricket and Sir Isaac Alexander Vivian Richards is the winningest captain of the West Indies Cricket Team and was named one of Wisden’s top 5 cricketers of the 20th century. He is from Ovals, Antigua.

It is primarily because I am a Caribbean reader and writer from a 108 square mile island I described, in my well-travelled piece on Writing off the Map, as being “far from the world where books are made and dreaming impossible dreams is encouraged” in describing my journey to becoming a published writer in a world where, with some very few exceptions, Caribbean writers don’t even have prominence in Caribbean bookstores, nor gallingly those bookstores in Caribbean airports.

I am a self-described #gyalfromOttosAntigua. Growing up in Antigua and Barbuda, which became politically independent from Britain in 1981 when I would have been eight years old, two years or so before cable TV saw us swarmed with content out of America, another type of colonization, most of the entertainment we all consumed, with the exception of two weeks of Carnival in the summer, was from, as we say, “overseas”. How pervasive was this? Well, I just wrote that Carnival was in the summer and I live in “the tropics” where it’s summer all year round. How many books, TV shows, movies, songs, advertisements do you think it took for a little girl from an island in the Caribbean to internalize the idea of seasons. I mean, we had seasons in the Caribbean – Carnival season, mango season, hurricane season etc., but the spring, summer, fall/autumn, winter thing is wholly imported. So, more recently, are concepts like Halloween and Black Friday which have become quite popular here as well, even as people of my generation bemoan that they’ve usurped Guy Fawkes, which I remember fondly because we lit starlights and fireworks, what we called “bombs”. Guy Fawkes was, of course, another imported observance, this one of a failed gunpowder plot in Britain back in the 1600s. As a child, I knew as much about that as about why we sang London Bridge or Ring-a-round a Rosey in schoolyard playgrounds.

We, in the Caribbean, like to think of ourselves as a pepperpot, creole, a mix up mix up of influences though primarily of African origin. African origin, British and more recently American cultural and institutional dominance (I would say American cultural dominance, especially in the age of streaming and social media, and British institutional dominance certainly in the structure and mindset of our public sector), and a mélange of other people and influences. My mother is from the English speaking French and English Creole island of Dominica and a lot of the Caribbean – Dominica, Jamaica, Indo-Guyana – meet in Antigua, where a sizable percentage of our population is from the Dominican Republic, and also Europe, the Middle East, and increasingly China. Variations of the same all across the Caribbean, the mixes and seasonings varying based on political and economic influence and the movement of people.

What does all of this have to do with the #Caribathon and #readCaribbean? Well, to a greater degree than we like to admit much of what we consumed – so many of the books we consumed in school and for leisure – were not written by Caribbean authors. We were an Enid Blyton, Archie comic, Judy Bloom, Trixie Belden, Mills and Boon, Wakefield Twins reading people, and the discovery of our own voices, and we are still discovering them, speaking for myself, had to be a deliberate act because the other stuff was so comparatively easily accessible. My dad used to bring home books and magazines left behind by tourists (which by default meant white people) at the resort – most Antiguans and Barbudans worked in resort tourism after the death of the sugar trade, before my time. The West Indian/Caribbean canon did exist but the image of those books in a glass cabinet locked with a key at the library, at the time a room above a storefront on the main road through St. John’s City, because, yes, even islands have distinctions between city/town and country, crosses my mind as an apt metaphor for our relationship to those books. You had to work to get to them, unlock something. For many in the Caribbean, the introduction to Caribbean literature was a school thing – the story of Millicent by Merle Hodge, later Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipauls’ A House for Mr. Biswas for which I wasn’t ready (a struggle). Shakespeare, too, but I had the opportunity to re-meet the Bard under more receptive circumstances in my college years. And then, of course, he was all across popular culture – Hollywood loves a Shakespeare adaptation almost as much as a Jane Austen, whom I also studied in college. So I was primed. For many a Caribbean child, though, I’d venture, our school-based introduction to Caribbean texts as texts, defined a relationship akin to healthy eating with these books.

Two of my books, The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth have been and are on schools reading lists in the Caribbean. Of course, like any author, I hope the students who are introduced to them embrace them, and not just endure them.



The beauty of initiatives like #readCaribbean and Caribathon is the opportunity to discover the joy in the Caribbean canon, the reading of Caribbean books widely and plentifully, as Antiguan-Barbudan calypsonian Singing Althea once sang, just for fun. Because Caribbean reading is not just healthy eating, though it can be. It is bananas – tasty and rich, mangoes – too rich but so good, soursop – good and thick, gynep – it has layers, man; it is all the things you can eat – the things that give you running belly to the things that make you hopped up on endorphins. It is a varied and tasty buffet of bookish goodness, and as with a buffet, you’re sure to find something to sate your literary palette.

Little known fact, from erotica to romance to historical dramas to scholarly tomes, the Caribbean’s got you covered; and the discovery of that canon is the point of these hashtags.


That both initiatives got going in 2020. Actually #readCaribbean was coined in 2019, but 2020 was a year in which the Black Lives Matter social movements, among other shifts in thought and action, propelled people to consume content formerly at the margins, the Black story. Sure, they ran full pelt toward The Help, initially, but hopefully social media driven nudges toward #ownvoices content that include #readCaribbean and Caribathon, because our stories too are part of this conversation, will open up the reading experience of eyes that usually default to more mainstream material. All these euphemisms. White people, the white experience, the white gaze, western stories (not the old west, the western hemisphere); that’s the default, and as I’ve shown, not just in America, but in America, yes.

When I posted about #readCaribbean on my blog at the start of June 2021, a couple of positively encouraging responses (from white women, judging by their avatars though I can’t say which country) suggested that while they hadn’t thought (or thought much) about it before they were now. “I’ve read a couple of these authors, but that’s it. I really need to branch out in my reading, so thanks for the recs.” – one wrote. Another – “I didn’t know June was #ReadCaribbeanMonth! I’m bookmarking this post to see which of these books I can find at my local library.” The most interesting comment for me though was the one who said that while they’d read and found interesting two of the books I’d listed, two modern Caribbean classics by the way, they were hard to follow because of “all the stuff with the mongoose … and all the dreamy, surreal sequences.” I appreciated the candor. But I have to admit I ruminated over this comment quite a bit before responding, wondering if it was just a matter of taste or limited exposure, because surrealism, symbolism, and magical realism is such a normal part of Caribbean literature beginning with the Anansi tales and Jumbie stories so many children of my generation, children of the 70s and 80s, grew up on that not only weren’t these wrinkles in my reading of the named books, they were part of the beauty and poetry of them. I said as much. But this continued to turn over in my mind. (Allowing for personal preference, of course) Was it possible to be so used to story told a particular type of way that other ways felt off? Well, of course, that is part of the problem with a reading diet – not speaking to this individual commenter, who as a book blogger I suspect reads more widely than most, but to reading habits generally – largely limited to a single food group. It’s bland and a little pepper makes it taste over-seasoned; when that’s just flavour, baby.

Last year, in an online book group, I saw enthusiastic readers posting stacks of books as part of their mission to read Black for Black History Month. The stacks included The Help, again, and To Kill a Mockingbird which, while a personal favourite from secondary school, are not #ownvoices Black books – a la Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage, an Oprah’s Book Club pick which also deals with wrongful prosecution of a Black man (read my review).

It reminded me of how important it is to be as conscious in pushing books, as Oprah has to a degree (boosting authors like Toni Morrison and Edwidge Dandicat) written by Black and Caribbean writers, as I and others have had to be about deliberately seeking out and reading Black and Caribbean books. Even and ironically especially when we come from a predominantly Black country. Because, per the fine print, we are also former colonies of European countries and endured hundreds of years of being trafficked into the dehumanization of chattel slavery and post-slavery inequities that the labour movement of the 1930s, through the Independence and pan-African movements of the 1960s through 1980s, even to the reparations movement that gathered focus 20 or so years ago are still in the process of dismantling. We’re working through some ish. The #readCaribbean and Caribathon initiatives are as necessary for us, discovering and rediscovering and affirming ourselves, as for those who have been denied variety by a publishing and book industry that too often plays it safe by not publishing diversely nor properly promoting the diverse books that are published.


So, that’s why I was excited as a reader and as a writer, but most especially as a Caribbean person about initiatives like #readCaribbean and Caribathon.

Post-script: And this was my first #booktube reading wrap up (which is not exclusively #Caribathon and #readCaribbean related but does reference it).

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery

Reading Room and Gallery 40

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

BLOGS

June was Caribbean American Heritage Month, prompting the return of the #readCaribbean and #CaribAthon hashtags around social media. Over on my other blog Jhohadli, I participated with some recommendations.

REPORTS

“Like any journalism, film criticism often displeases those being written about. And, like any journalists, film critics must have the support of their publications when that displeasure, usually coming from people far more powerful than any journalist, is made known — especially when that publication claims to report on the industry those powerful people inhabit,” the statement reads. “It is appalling that, in this instance, Variety chose to side with that power rather than supporting its writer.” – a report on the criticism of the response to criticism of criticism in The Wrap.

***

“James uses vibrant colors and draws on Ethiopian Christian iconography in her work, an influence evident in the wide, almond-shaped eyes of the people she depicts.” – Antigua-descended, Bronx-artist Laura James work discussed in Fordham News’ Behind the Cover: Together We Rise by Laura James

“In an effort to fight conoravirus fears, Antigua-rooted artist Laura James posted a painting powered message of hope on Facebook …” – read more about it in the NY Daily News.

***

“I knew I wanted magic and I knew I wanted magical realism.” – Leone Ross discusses her new book Popisho/This One Sky Day with Alicia O’Keeffe in The Bookseller. Read in full.

STORIES/SHORT FICTION

“He remembered a time before, when his mother’s breath smelled of almonds and her neck smelled of roses and cinnamon. She used to hold him in her arms and he used to breathe her in. A long time ago.” – from Cam and the Maskless by Lisa Allen-Agostini in About Place Journal Vol. II Issue II Pandemic Blues

***

How to Marry an African President by Erica Sugo Anyadike – Wasafiri Magazine

“Your husband is no longer the authoritarian figure he was, tall, forbidding, back ramrod straight. His shoulders droop now, he falls asleep at the dinner table. Still he is respected and revered. What he says counts and he has crowned you his political heir.” – How to Marry an African President by Erica Sugo Anyadike

***

“Carnival is much more than a show.” – Mario Picayo’s It Takes a Village read by Chef Julius Jackson

***

“When she wakes up, she is alone on the back of a float, pieces of her costume missing and other pieces askew, and the mas yard is all but abandoned.”

This is an audio recording of my (Joanne C. Hillhouse) story Carnival Hangover as prepared for posting on the intersectantigua.com platform. It is read by Nneka Nicholas. Pay attention to the trigger warning.

INTERVIEWS/CONVERSATIONS

“I can’t think of any one favorite poem now. At present, I love the poetry of Dionne Brand, who is in many ways different from me politically. You know, she is an activist, LGBT, and we get on well, we talk well, I love her work. Somebody would want to know, how come I, kind of a conservative Christian, and this activist LGBT connect but we admire each other’s work. Our connection is the literature and writers we look to. I admire the vision and movements of her poetry.” – John Robert Lee in conversation with Andy Caul

***

“I like to think of myself as a superhero.” – Ibtihaj Muhammad in conversation with Jewell Parker Rhodes (and vice versa)

***

“I remember just really resenting how much my little body was policed as a child.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the birth of her feminism in this conversation on Bookshelfie.

***

“I’m proud of this. I’m proud that I keep getting asked about the food… the challenge was to find different ways to make food beautiful, accessible, interesting, magical, multilayered.” – Leone Ross of Jamaica and Britain in conversation with American author Amber Sparks about her book Popisho/This One Sky Day.

***

“I wasn’t able to kind of bring out those nuances enough but I hint at them. The idea that the urban gay person has access to a culture and support network that the rural Indian boy…does not have. …and it really does seem to spin on socio economic factors.” – Trinidad born author Ingrid Persaud in conversation with Grenada born author and editor Jacob Ross about her book Love After Love.

***

“We have a governor who is attempting to sell the magic and again, they push it away; again, society says we will not have it.” – Jamaican writers Leone Ross and Marlon James in conversation about Ross’ new book – Popisho in the US; This One Sky Day in the UK.

***

“My journey is my own and once I’m learning from it and growing from it, then it’s a success.” – Cherie Jones, Barbadian, author of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, during the US Embassy celebrates World Book and Copyright Day with a Writers Book Chat featuring Cherie Jones ‘Inspiring Eastern Caribbean Female Writers’

***

“The beautiful thing about the creative arts, isn’t it, if you’re doing the thing you’ve always done, then you’re not really creating. For me, as challenging as these new endeavours are, because I always like to experiment, you’re always trying to discover the boundaries not only of your talent, of the ideas that are in your mind, of your potential, of your ability to imagine the world…. as a writer, you don’t get to see the side work as much, but I feel that we do that as well…it’s always about challenging yourself, push your boundaries technically but also express, …for me the things that I’m trying to understand, or the things that I’m trying to explore.” – me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) in conversation for World Book and Copyright Day with artist and award winning poet Danielle Boodoo Fortune, of Trinidad and Tobago, who has illustrated my books Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and The Jungle Outside. We discuss the process of creating together.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on AmazonWordPress, 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Workshop

Reading from Musical Youth

From the St. Lucia Tourism Authority’s Caribbean Author Series #CaribCation.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, Wadadli Pen News

CARIB Plus Lit News (late June 2020)

Interviews

Your opportunity to interview me via my youtube channel, AntiguanWriter. I’ve promised to do a live AMA if I reach a certain number of subscribers. Check the channel’s discussion tab for the details.

Reading Recommendations 

pleasure Big up to Antiguan and Barbudan writing juggernaut Kimolisa Mings’ latest book, her 21st by my count, is a bestseller. Having climbed as high as 11th in the top 100 Amazon rankings, which is based on sales and updated hourly, The Pleasure is Mine (currently kindle only though I believe a print edition is pending) is, at this writing, 24th on the Amazon African American Erotica Bestsellers Books list and 28th on the Amazon African American Erotical Bestsellers Kindle list. The Pleasure is Mine is subtitled as A Caribbean BWWM Romance (Sapodilla Resort & Spa Romance Book 1). See the Antigua and Barbudan Writings and Fiction lists for Mings’ complete bibliography; she’s also listed in our data base of professional services.

I want to say thanks to the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority’s CaribCation Caribbean Author Series for tapping me for a spot in June 2020. You can view it on CaribCation’s social media and I’ve also uploaded it to my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel

I’m reading from Musical Youth, a Burt Award winning teen/young adult novel. I also encourage you to check out other authors featured in the series. I have been and I have added Dr. Tanya Destang Beaubrun’s Of Bubbles, Bhudda, and Butterflies to my TBR after listening to her reading.

New Daughters of Africa, published by UK’s Myriad press and by Harper Collins in the US NEW_DAUGHTERS_HIGH-RES-670x1024was recommended by Olivia Adams writing in Marie Claire about Books to Educate Yourself and Your Children about Racism: “Showcasing the work of more than 200 women writers of African descent, this major international collection celebrates their contributions to literature and international culture.”

At my author blog, where I blog on books among other things, my most recent recs are not really recs as I haven’t yet read the books (in full) but I recently listened to an audio abridged version of one Booker prize winner, watched a stage adaptation of an Orange prize winner, and read excerpts from a print edition of a book that includes Antigua and Barbuda, and specifically the Hillhouse family. If you want to see which books I’m talking about, go here.

Interviewing the Caribbean

We previously shared news of the publication of Volume 5 Issues 1 and 2 of the Opal Palmer Adisa and Juleus Ghunta edited ‘Interviewing the Caribbean’, an annual literary magazine. We wanted to update to let you know that both issues are available as ebooks through BookFusion. The UWI Press is also working to place the books – and these literary magazines are at least as thick as a short novel – with regional bookstores.  If you’re a bookseller looking to acquire the books, reach out to UWI Press. Issue 1 includes articles/art by and/or interviews with Polly Pattullo, Geoffrey Philp, Phillis Gershator, Oonya Kempadoo, Esther Phillips, Yolanda T. Marshall, Merle Hodge, Paul Keens Douglas, Diane Browne, Diana McCaulay, Tricia Allen, and from Antigua and Barbuda and Wadadli Pen specifically 2018 finalist Rosie Pickering and me (Joanne C. Hillhouse) – I’d been asked to rec some Caribbean books for the youth market, so I did. Pickering’s poem ‘Damarae’ is actually the same poem that earned her honourable mention in 2018 and, per the magazine’s format, she’s also interviewed about the poem. Issue 2 has as its cover image (above) the cover image of my book With Grace, art by Cherise Harris, used with permission of Little Bell Caribbean. It includes articles/art by and/or interviews with Summer Edward, Kei Miller, Tanya Batson-Savage, A-dZiko Simba Gegele, Tanya Shirley, Olive Senior, Pamela Mordecai, Linda M. Deane, Marsha Gomes-McKie, Carol Ottley-Mitchell, Yvonne Weekes, and from Antigua and Barbuda, and Wadadli Pen, Barbara Arrindell (Create Stories that Remind us of What We went Through) and me, again (an interview headlined Caribbean Children need as Many Stories as there are Tastes)

Paperwork

The Caribbean Development Bank’s Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund is crowd sourcing for information towards building a “compendium of cultural policies, practices,, resources, and trends in the Caribbean.” Why? “To best support Creative and Cultural Industries across the region, we need the right data to make the right decisions. As such, CIIF is developing a series of Country Profiles that showcase data and information about the cultural landscape in each of our Borrowing Member Countries, in order to help cultural practitioners and policy-makers make data-driven choices.” The process will take 15 to 30 minutes; here’s the link.

Awards and Accolades

The winner of the inaugural Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry, awarded to a full length book of poetry published in 2019, will be announced in July 2020. The 13-person shortlist, announced in May, includes Jamaica Kei Miller (In Nearby Bushes) and Trinidadian Roger Robinson (A Portable Paradise) – the latter collection having already won several major prizes. The prize includes a $1,000 cash award, along with a reading at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, the publication of a limited-edition broadside by Arrowsmith Press, and a week-long residency at Derek Walcott’s home in either St. Lucia or in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Read more here.

Antigua and Barbuda’s acting culture director is also an award winning pan composer/arranger with Hell’s Gate and noted soloist in his own right. He proves his proficiency with his performance in Pan Ramajay, an international pan soloist competition started by Exodus Steel Orchestra since 1989, this year held virtually.104288255_1819636641493573_2262030051999680067_n

As you can see, he’s  the leading contender going in to the finals after the preliminary and semi-final rounds. The finals are Saturday 27th June 2020. If he wins, he’ll pocket $2000 (not sure which currency). ETA (290620): He did not win but he did place second overall.

The Wadadli Pen Challenge Awards is the flagship of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, a project launched in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and the reason this site, launched in 2010, exists. This year was a challenging year for Wadadli Pen as it has been and continues to be for all the world, due primarily to the global COVID-19 pandemic which literally shut down the world. We had to rethink how to do the awards – going in the end with a live announcement and efforts to connect the winners with the patrons directly so that they could make arrangements to collect their prizes. The latter has proved to be a drawn out process and I have had to find a way to make peace with not being able to really control any of it though I did my best to make the connections and follow up. One upside is that weeks out images like this one continues to trickle in – this is a picture from the mother of 7 to 12 honourable mention Sienna Harney-Barnes (A New World) who is shown collecting the contribution from the Cultural Development Division, a contribution volunteered during our live awards announcement by the director Khan Cordice who is shown delivering the prize to our young writer.

Two of our other writers, Cheyanne Darroux (Tom, the Ninja Crab), winner 7 to 12 and tied winner overall, and D’Chaiya Emmanuel (Two Worlds Collide), winner 13 to 17, made appearances to share their stories on ZDK radio – and we have video.


Caribbean Literary Heritage

June is Caribbean Heritage Month in the US. Online, this has sparked campaigns like the #CaribAThon on #booktube (youtube for bibliophiles) and #readCaribbean on #bookstagram (instagram for bookies). I’ve been happy to see some of my books (The Boy from Willow Bend, Musical Youth, and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight) show up in both challenges, and I jumped in as well, really to share (finally) my contribution to the #MyCaribbeanLibrary campaign that Bocas announced some time ago. But it all intersects.

The Caribbean literary love will continue if St. Martin’s House of Nehesi publishers, co-organizers of the St. Martin’s Book Fair, has its way. HNP used the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the Fair – largely virtual this year due to COVID-19 – to call for July 12th to be Caribbean Literature Day. “We envision this day as the first pan-Caribbean literature day, celebrating the roots, range, and excellence of writings and books across the language zones of our region. Celebrate the day by reading the works of your favorite Caribbean authors; buying Caribbean books, published in the Caribbean and beyond, and by Caribbean authors; and presenting Caribbean books as gifts. Celebrate the day with books, recitals, and with discussions about books, of poetry, fiction, drama, art, music, and all the other genres by Caribbean writers.” The date was chosen because it is the day in 1562 when the writings of the indigenous people were destroyed by their colonizers. (Full release here)

Goodbyes

Antigua and Barbuda said goodbye to two time Calypso monarch and one time road march winner (as lead singer of the Vision Band) Tyrone ‘Edimelo’ Thomas. He was laid to rest June 19th 2020 at St. John’s Cathedral. “Antigua and Barbuda has lost one of its brightest lights, and we are all the poorer for it. But his wonderful life and legacy lives on; none of it will be interred with his bones. Whenever we hear DON’T STOP THIS PARTY (a remix with the Mighty Swallow) or IN DE PAN YARD (an encomium to the joys of pan music), we will remember Edimelo,” said the June 20th Daily Observer newspaper editorial. We daresay, Carnival and party lovers will most remember him for the way the music made them “dress back” (the Road March winning tune) while Calypso lovers will surely pour out one every time they intone “the more things change/the more they remain the same” from arguably his best known calypso.

Caribbean Creatives Creating

I hope you’ve been keeping up with my CREATIVE SPACE series covering local art and culture. It continues to run in the Daily Observer newspaper every other Wednesday with an extended version on my site. Latest spotlights have included singer Arianne Whyte talking about her career and her Sip ‘n Stream online series and Chavel Thomas and his conceptual art which is about challenging and redefining gender, race, maybe even reality. It’s the first time the series has gotten the front cover since it switched platforms to the Daily Observer in 2020 – issue 9.

Cover Chav

In case you missed any of the previous installments in the series, including  on previous platforms, they are archived on the Jhohadli website.

Trinidadian Kamella Anthony’s Krea8ive Kids Show was spotlighted in T&T Newsday all the way back in the strictest part of COVID-19 curfew in the region. In it, the former librarian cum storyteller is quoted as saying, “Ultimately, I want to have creative centres locally, regionally and internationally. I have travelled and seen several types of centres and it’s been awesome. I like to see children learning and having fun. Not just from a book, but from nature, from people.” Here’s the link to her YouTube Channel.

This content is curated by Joanne C. Hillhouse. Additions may be made between now and the end of June 2020.  If used, please credit or link back.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business, Wadadli Pen 2018, Wadadli Pen 2020, Wadadli Pen News

Children’s Books for Your Christmas Lists #WeNeedDiverseBooks

These lists, highlighting books by people of colour or otherwise outside of the mainstream will remain necessary as long as books by people of colour or otherwise outside of the mainstream (e.g. Caribbean books even in the Caribbean) remain in the margins. And I’ll keep sharing them even as I hope to see my books on those lists, as more people with the power to put them in the conversation become aware of them.

 

 

 

 

 

If those images and the title of this post haven’t given it away, this post is about children’s books specifically (i.e. the people not yet in double digits, give or take a pre-teen or two). And we return for that list to the greatest resource I’ve found online for Black books, the African American Literary Book Club which polled industry professionals for its 150 Recommended African American Children’s Books. I’m not sharing the full list, you can view that here, but I thought I’d pull out the Caribbean creatives I found on the list (apologies if  I missed anyone).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boonoonoonous Hair and Anna Carries Water by Canada-based Jamaican writer Olive Senior collaborating with Laura James, a US illustrator with Antiguan-Barbudan roots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am Loved for which he illustrated the words of Nikki Giovanni and his own written and illustrated Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan who is also American of Antiguan descent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am Mixed by Garcelle Beauvais, former star of the Jamie Foxx show, born in Haiti; Jamaica’s Cedella Marley, daughter of late reggae icon Bob Marley, doing a book inspired by his song One Love; US based Canadian born Zetta Elliott who has Kittitian roots and her book Bird; and Jamaican Kellie Magnus’ independent juggernaut Little Lion goes to School.

I want to also do some picks (a personal list) spotlighting Caribbean and Antiguan-Barbudan children’s books. For the Caribbean, I’ll mention 7 (3 I heard excerpted when I shared a panel with the authors from the Miami Book Fair last year, 3 read and liked previously, and 1 extra because I liked the cover and the author is always generously boosting other writers on her blog as I’m trying to do here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And six from Antigua and Barbuda that I’ve read and liked or in the case of Jamaica Kincaid’s want to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, the last one is Kittitian and Trinidadian not Antiguan but she does have Antigua connections.

 

 

 

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business

Back from Miami Book Fair

I wanted to post on my visit to the Miami Book Fair (held at the Miami Dade College).

Highlights included the writers I got to connect with, however, briefly. Writers like Katia D. Ulysse (author of Mouths Don’t Speak and other books), whom I first met when we were both on a late night food run and subsequently kept bumping into each other, which is not a given at a festival as large and populated as this one. Writers like Vermont based cartoonist Rachel Lindsay with whom I had one of those discussions that can only ever really happen over breakfast in one of these spaces where writers gather and intimacy is accelerated. Writers like M. J. Fievre, who, as Caribbean Reads programmer and a real one, was partly responsible for me being there; she is a Haitian-American writer with whom I’ve interacted so much over social media and via email, in addition to interacting with her work (one of which I used in one of my workshops), that I kinda felt like I sorta maybe knew her, only I didn’t, not really. Writers like other writers who easily fit in to that category of writers I felt like I knew already only I didn’t, not really, like this man right here JAmerican writer Geoffrey Philp;  with Geoffrey Philp I’ll remember Geoffrey always as one of the authors/bloggers who showed me grace when he didn’t know me from Eve and didn’t have to. Writers like Loretta Collins Klobah of the US and Puerto Rico whose poetry I’ve shared so much here on the blog and who has shared my work with her students – we were both looking forward to meeting each other and we did though it was all a bit of a whirlwind. Writers like her co-panelist USVI writer Tiphanie Yanique, whom I’ve gotten to know at other events where our paths have crossed and through our works over the years . Writers like, and this is a big one for me, if you know my fangirling ways when it comes to this writer, Edwidge Dandicat who, yes, I finally also got to meet and considering how much her writing means to me, which I told her, hopefully without embarrassing myself too much. She was on the panel with Tiphanie and Loretta, a panel about women writing hurricanes, such an essential discussion for these perilous times in which the vulnerability of each one of our island-nations has been exposed. Loretta’s reflections about how the Puerto Rico hurricane affected not just her life but challenged her to find spaces to continue her work was particularly poignant, and Tiphanie’s revelations re writer-editor Alscess Lewis-Brown ‘s hurriku (you know, like haiku) and other creative pathways to help people give voice to their trauma was particularly inspiring. Not writers but part of the scene, publisher Johnny Temple of Akashic, who co-facilitated an editing workshop I participated in a few years ago, and US literary publicist, Linda Duggins, whom I ran in to for the first time since meeting her right here at the literary festival in Antigua – because, yes, once upon a time we had a literary festival in Antigua and Barbuda that attracted top tier people in the business. Writers like, Donna Aza Weir-Soley, a US based Jamaican talent, our first time connecting in real time since my first writing workshop, also in Florida, back in the 1990s. Writers like  Bernice McFadden, an acclaimed and award winning African American writer I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since we jointly facilitated a workshop at the BIM Lit Fest in 2016 and whose books I’ve read and blogged (seeing her was oddly like seeing an old friend – something to do with seeing a friendly face in a crowd to be sure but also something to do with her spirit).

read Jamaica

I also hung out at the Read Jamaica tent where my publisher Carol Mitchell (Caribbean Reads Publishing) shared space with two of Jamaica’s hardworking independent publishers Tanya Batson-Savage (Blue Banyan Books) and Kellie Magnus (Jackmandora).

reading at the Miami Book Fair

My event was Read Caribbean presents Adventures for Kids and I was delighted to share the stage and do a signing afterwards with co-presenters Marjaun Canady, who was a tough act to follow, Paula-Anne Porter Jones, whom I remember actually, as I reminded her, from my UWI years, and Francie Latour. That’s Francie reading in the image below.

my panel at the Miami Book Fair

My only complaint really about my visit to the Miami Book Fair is there was so much to do, who could do it all…all I could do in the end was be in the moment (after all the prep and over-prep this is the most important thing – as I said to another writer who asked me for advice as it was her first experience of this type – be present and remind yourself that you have a right to be there i.e. your work got you there – I have to say I took my own advice this time and had a lot more fun than I normally do with all the stress of public speaking, as a result). My reading aside, my goal was to enjoy as much of it as I could, from the live reggae on The Porch to the many tempting book stalls of books and books and books and books, getting some much needed exercise with all the running about in the process, and somehow managing to split my time at one point between two panels I was eager to attend, and wandering into another panel that wasn’t even on my radar (fantasy young adult adventure fiction) but which I was reluctant to leave when the time came, because whatever you fancy from comics to serious politics to mysticism to fiction of all stripes, it was all covered. And though my trip was short, there was just time enough for music, nibbles, good conversation, and book themed drinks on one  of the many Miami waterfronts.

(The Spanish language edition of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure made its debut at the MBF. If you’re in the Miami area, signed copies of both editions are available at Books & Books)
signing books 2

Apart from being a part of my journeying as a writer, whenever I find myself in spaces like this, I am mindful not just of being a writer, but a writer from Antigua, a #gyalfromOttosAntigua, stepping in to spaces where we are otherwise absent (or at best our numbers are small) and adding our voice/s to the conversation.

In such times, I am at least as nervous about the interactions/the socializing as I am the actual presentation – life of an introverted (oftentimes read as aloof), awkward, Caribbean girl-cum-woman –but I challenge myself every time to step up because I will not stand in my own way. You never know how it will go. Writers and writing spaces can (like any other space where people congregate) be as cliquey as a high school cafeteria in a John Hughes film, there are associations and hierarchies,  even at times when the space should feel familiar because you all bathed in the Caribbean Sea. One of the ways I calmed my fears was to remind myself not of the negative encounters (and there’ve been a few) but of the ones of generous laughter and communication and real bonding. I have to say the Miami Book Fair fell in to the latter category, not nearly enough time for real bonding but little in the way of posturing and offputtingness, and lots of joy in connecting for the first time or again with writers and others I’ve met along the way; in part, I have no doubt because I chose to stay open and in the moment, and quiet the negative self-talk. Let it be as the Beatles one time sang, and it was.

my books at the Fair

And so with thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to be there including my friends and family, and publisher and all the readers

reading
(publisher Carol Mitchell with a reader)

and all the little ones who through the years gave this shy author lots of practice reading to little ones to prepare her for moments like this, and the MBF and anyone who’s ever shown me a little bit of grace.

The travels will hopefully continue (for a window to some past stops, see Appearances on my author blog).

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. You’re also invited to follow me on my author blog http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

Leave a comment

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Links We Love, Literary Gallery, The Business