Tag Archives: Stephanie Tolan

Reading Room and Gallery

UPDATE! The Gallery is now closed. Continue reading at Reading Room and Gallery II, Reading Room and Gallery III, and Reading Room and Gallery IV.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), click on ‘Categories’ and go to the respective year for ‘2004 Winners’, ‘2005 Winners’, ‘2006 Winners’, ‘2010 Winners’, 2011 winners… You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesem which has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.

POEMS

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2011/02/over-hawkins-hill/ – hard to believe this writer is only 13; some interesting insights and beautifully rendered language here.

http://afrobeatjournal.org/en/Issue_2_Spring_2011/1/129/Debris-Poetry-Jamaica-Marcia-Douglas.htm – From Afro Beat Journal, Debris by Marcia Douglas, a British born, Jamaican writer, who reportedly teaches in the US. We are a migratory people, aren’t we; kind of like the juice bag she writes about that still floats somewhere in the sea.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2011/08/the-magic-mirror-tempts-lilys-white-daughter-1951 – a literary mash-up of Snow White and racial politics. Very interesting.

http://www.anansesem.com/2011/10/earths-water.html – imagery, personification…nature comes alive in this one by Summer Edward.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol5no1/0501042.pdf – literary shout outs aplenty suffuse this lively poem (When I Die by Ann-Margaret Lim).

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/179809 – A little hip action: Hip-Hop Ghazal by Patricia Smith.

http://www.online-literature.com/frost/748 – Nothing Gold Can Stay; love love this poem…and can relate to/understand it better now as a 30 something than I did when I first heard Pony Boy say it in one of my fav movies a a kid The Outsiders …years later I actually visited Frost Farm (Aside: visited Little Women  author Louisa May Alcott house that summer, too :-)) – Summer ’08, walked a good road that summer, which calls to mind another Frost favourite, The Road Not Taken.

http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/7126-William-Shakespeare-Sonnet-116—Let-me-not-to-the-marriage-of-true-minds— a favourite from the English bard, Shakespeare.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqOqo50LSZ0&feature=related – Maya. Enough said.

http://www.bartleby.com/126/52.html – ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ by another personal favourite John Keats.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2010/12/sugarcane-dance.html – I just love how this feels. Summer Edward’s Sugar Cane Dance at Anansesem, a site for Caribbean children’s literature.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2/0402115.pdf – Mervyn Morris (my writing mentor during my UWI days) says so much with such few words in this endearing piece.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/04/liberian-curfew/ – This poem set in war torn Liberia and written by Antiguan, Althea Romeo-Mark has been described as “powerful”, “touching”, and “strong”.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/12/chameleon-thoughts – Danielle Boodoo Fortune is a relatively new discovery (first heard her read in 2008) who’s quickly become an old favourite. Here’s an example of why. Here’s another example: Evening in the Room Built from Words.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/03/the-joy-of-planting-banana-suckers-in-your-own-land – The Joy of Planting Suckers in Your Own Land; of the compulsion to grow things (a plantain, a child, a nation, an idea…)

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/1-o-clock-mass  – ‘1 o’clock mass’ – the line that jumps out at me from this “do nations unite or do they divide”.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/08/sip-an-talk – a related piece (borders, immigration and themes of that nature) by Angelique Nixon.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/what-you-cryin-for -The causes and symptoms of crime take centre stage in this piece ‘What you Crying for?’ by Anku Sa Ra, well complemented by the Stevie Burrows image entitled, appropriately, ‘Crime’. Tongues of the Ocean is a multi-media site and this is one of the postings that have, in addition to the written, an aural presentation of the work.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/wheelbarrow-woman – Readers describe this Lynn Sweeting poem which challenges readers to “love up your own self fearlessly” as “refreshing and candid”.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2/0402128.pdf – Delores Gauntlett’s Pocomania appeared in Volume 4 Number 2 in the Spring 2007 issue of Calabash.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/03/marassa-jumeaux/ – Geoffery Philp’s perspective on Haiti had an interesting “angle” on things. And for those who think Anansi is always up to no good for no good reason, check out his ‘Anancy Song’ here

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/current/ – This leads to Xan-Xi Bethel’s ‘Sister, Love’, a poignant piece on Haiti, complemented by Lindsay Braynan’s touching image ‘Help a Sistah Out, Man’.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/07/walcott-in-nassau – Walcott in Nassau; very effective analogy.

http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_if.htm – If.

http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/show/119806-Edna-St–Vincent-Millay-To-A-Friend-Estranged-From-Me – Actually discovered this as a teen in my much-dog-eared (translation: much loved) copy of Stephanie Tolan’s The Last of Eden. Love the imagery in the first verse, especially and the sense of loss and longing it evokes.

http://imani.wordpress.com/2007/05/13/for-my-mother-may-i-inherit-half-her-strength/ & http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/corporate/projectsandschemes/artmusicdesign/poems/poem.asp?ID=161 – two faves by Jamaica’s Lorna Goodison

http://sheeralmshouse.blogspot.com/2010/07/no-more-smalling-up-of-me.html – ‘No More Smalling up of Me’ by Jean Wilson

SHORT STORIES

If you’ve been to the Blogger on Books recently, you may remember my mini-review of American writer Will Allison’s What You Have Left. Here’s an excerpt from that very book. ALSO, you’ll remember me raving about Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck; I just came across one of my favourite stories from the book. So, read.

http://www.munyori.com/novioletbulawayo.html – a story by Zimbabwe-American writer Noviolet Bulawayo.

http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00009/19j – Pamela Mordecai’s Cold Comfort is all kinds of funny.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2011/05/sun-moon-darkness-rain-and-heart.html – A Caribbean folk tale from Anansesem.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2010/12/beaumont-and-moonflower.html – A children’s story; perhaps a bit of inspiration given Wadadli Pen’s 2011 theme.

http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com/ – The St. Somewhere Journal features new writings from across the Caribbean. Among your blogger’s faves in the Autumn 2010 issue are Kittian writer Carol Mitchell’s ‘Kept Promises’ on Page 4 and Trinidadian Shakira Bourne’s ‘Crossing Over’ on Page 6. While you’re there, check out my story ‘Somebody!’ on Page 30 and my essay ‘On Writing’ on Page 37.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/10/the-rain/ – This “delightful but dark” Christi Cartwright story was hailed by readers for its “vivid imagery”.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/03/landscape-without-horizon/ – “Brilliant”, “vivid”, “beautiful” are a few of the words that have been used to describe this short story by Bahamaian, Sonia Farmer.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/05/when-coffee-time-come/ – Randall Baker’s ‘When Coffee Time Comes’ was credited for its “great characterization”.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2010/12/yohan.html – Check out this imaginative children’s piece by Antiguan author Floree Williams.

http://www.munyori.com/miriamshumba.html – Straight out of Africa and yet familiar to all.

NON FICTION

This Jamaican children’s author asks ‘who are we writing for?’

I remember watching a group of kids at the national Youth Rally recently (Nov. 2011) chat and walk about during the Antigua and Barbuda National Anthem remembering how we couldn’t even twitch to scratch our nose singing the anthem every morning on the grounds of Holy Family School. How times have changed. It’s for this reason that I found the article ‘Tales out of School: Singing the National Anthem Word Perfect’ by Mary Quinn   to be at once sobering and amusing.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have my reservations about self-published material; while I appreciate the frustrations of the traditional route, and the desire to bypass them (been there, done that), there’s a part of me that believes the hurdles help ensure that what’s turned out is the best it can be – in terms of physical quality of the product and the quality of the content (stumbling over basic grammatical errors, plot gaps, character inconsistencies or other things that should have been caught and refined in editing takes away from the reading experience). That said, I’ve read poor material from the traditional route and really good self-published works (usually where the writer exercises the patience and good sense to invest in editing). So, with self-publishing more accessible than ever, as you consider the best route for your literary baby, I’m happy to share this article balancing both arguments while ultimately making a pro self-publishing case (in specific instances). Incidentally, the site is the online home of Bahamian writer Nicolette Bethel where there are other interesting postings on a range of topics.

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This is just one of the interesting points made in Susan Lowes’ article on Social Relations in Antigua in the 1940s: “In fact, it was by traversing this terrain that young people often came to know their “class.” Thus a young man would suddenly find that he was not allowed inside the gate of a close school friend, and realize that he was socially unacceptable to his friend’s parents. Or men who were good friends nevertheless did not visit each other inside their houses; those who reported that they were “very close” often got no further than the veranda. Women, as keepers of the indoors, controlled the most intimate types of socialization, ranging from house visits to marriage. Men, in contrast, socialized outdoors, on the streets and playing fields, in rum shops and clubs, arenas where they were less constrained by indoor standards of respectability. It was by and large the women who policed the distinctions of social class: who knew, and cared about, the genealogies, who determined who their children could socialize with inside the house and who had to remain an “outdoors” friend, and so on.”

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http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html – This is not a written piece but rather a piece on the power of writing and the danger of a single story. It’s one of the more circulated TED talks on the net, featuring Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and The Thing Around her Neck – which I read and reviewed in the Blogger on Books. On the strength of the latter book and the TED talk – which I can relate to so much as a girl from the Caribbean – she’s a new favourite of mine.

http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/what-editors-want-must-read-writers-submitti – Submitting to literary journals? Read this first.

http://accordingtohoyt.com/2011/08/30/you-say-editing-i-say-proofreading – The importance of editing.

http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blogs/the-criticism-that-changed-my – It may not feel like it at the time but constructive criticism helps us grow as writers.

http://ananseseminfo.blogspot.com/2011/05/writing-up-storm.html – tips for unlocking the literary imagination among students.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/7+Things+Ive+Learned+So+Far+By+Danica+Davidson.aspx – What aspiring writers need to know.

http://www.365antigua.com/cms/content/news-community-marcella-andre-commentary-haiti-march-27-2011 – I can FEEL Haiti in this piece.

http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/06/caribbean-picture-books-importance-of.html – Interesting piece on illustrations for Caribbean children’s literature; perhaps particularly interesting to me given that it ties in with our effort in 2011 to generate art to support the Caribbean children’s literature themed word entries for Wadadli Pen.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2007/03/poetry-terrors/ – On the writer and the blank page (by Kwame Dawes)

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/02/me-writing/ – On writing (by Trinidadian Paul Hadden).

http://www.candw.ag/~jardinea/ffhtm/ff971219.htm – The late Tim Hector putting into perspective the writing and life of (one of my favourites) the late Martin Carter.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/waves-and-murmurs/senior-lecture/ – Olive Senior, former winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, was actually my workshop leader when I attended the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami back in 1995. Here she speaks at the Bahamas Writers Summer Institute in 2010 on ‘Writing and the Politics of Imagination in Small Spaces’. It’s a lengthy but interesting read.

INTERVIEWS

An interview with the always outspoken Dr. Carolyn Cooper, whom I personally remember as one of my favourite professors at the University of the West Indies.

“I find that in order to write your characters well, you have to be a little bit in love with them, even the ones that aren’t lovable at all.” – from Nalo Hopkinson’s 5 Minute Interview on Date with a Book.

“There was an idea I wouldn’t have been able to conceive of [the narrator] Precious’s life unless I had lived it,” said Push writer Sapphire. Push, some of you may know is the book that birthed the academy award winning film, Precious. Read her full comments on fact/fiction and assumptions/labelling here. This struck me because I’ve actually gotten a lot of the same assumptions (or questions) about my books – The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – that the stories were biographical when they are in fact fiction (and no more biographical than any other work of fiction, in fact less so I’d say). Never thought of it as racism though since most of the questioning came from my own community. Hm.

The Farming of Bones remains my favourite book by Edwidge Dandicat, one of my favourite contemporary writers. In this interview, she talks about the book (good reading).

This interview with Tiphanie Yanique is quite engaging and revealing, plus how many of us can say Maya Angelou read a poem of ours while we were still in high school.

http://maudnewton.com/blog/?p=9295 – as I post this, I haven’t yet read Marlon James’ books (though they’ve been recommended to me time and again, especially Book of Night Women) but I found this interview quite interesting. My favourite line comes in the section where he talks of his struggles writing a love scene: Someone once scared me by saying that love isn’t saying “I love you” but calling to say “did you eat?” (And then proceeded to ask me this for the next 6 months).    All that and he’s a Buffy fan; I think I’m going to have to book mark his blog (http://marlon-james.blogspot.com/index.html) and get to reading those books.

http://antiguaspeaks.com/news/?p=204 – Linisa George’s Brown Girl in the Ring – inspired by the children’s nursery rhyme and her experiences as a dark skinned sister growing up in a shade conscious society – is a staple of not only her When A Woman Moans productions but the local (i.e. Antiguan and Barbudan) performance poetry scene. In this article, she discusses the piece with her sister-friend and collaborator, ZIA.

http://sheroxlox.tumblr.com/post/1640248532/she-rox-tameka-jarvis-george– “Write from your heart. Write about your experiences good or bad. Everything in your life happens for a reason, so let those moments big or small be your inspiration to teach or help other people.” – excerpt from interview with Antiguan author of 2010 release Unexpected. Follow the link to read the rest.

http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol5no1/0501104.pdf – One of the interesting aspects of this Opal Palmer Adisa interview featured in Calabash was her insights on the Caribbean aesthetic.

VISUAL ART

http://afrolicious.com/2011/08/16/the-missing-peace-is-beautiful – This is a short film, The Missing Peace, by Rachel Benjamin; it’s based on a story by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dandicat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymvk3HsocqQ – Motion in motion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-DWLzbPmcQ – She Rox Lox – Zahra Airall’s rendering of locked women who are just beautiful.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/crime – This Steven Burrows piece calls to mind for me the Bob Marley song ‘Johnny Was’: “woman hold her head and cry, ’cause her son has been shot down in the street and die”…a commentary on the unsettling state of affairs on our streets and in our homes.

http://wn.com/UNICEF_oneminutesjr__Dear_Dad – This is a winning piece in a UNICEF competition by Antiguan Carlon Knight; it’s entitled ‘Dear Dad’ and is quite touching.

http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2010/06/help-a-sistah-out-man – This was posted on Tongues of the Ocean, the Bahamian-Caribbean multi-media arts journal. The artist is Lindsay Braynen.

…AND HERE’S SOME OF MY STUFF

Excerpt from Oh Gad! (my new book due in 2012)

Friday Night Fish Fry (fiction) @ Sea Breeze – http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/joanne_c_hillhouse.html

After Glow (fiction) @ Tongues of the Ocean – http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/after-glow

How to Make Cassava Bread and Other Musings on Culture (non fiction) @ Antigua Stories – http://antiguastories.wordpress.com/food-2/food

At Calabash (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/at-calabash

Defining Moments (non fiction) @ Geoffrey Philp’s blog – http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/2010/12/defining-momentsjoanne-c-hillhouse.html

Off the Map (non fiction) @ Signifying Guyana –

http://signifyinguyana.typepad.com/signifyin_guyana/2010/12/guest-post-writing-off-the-map-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html  

What Calypso Taught Me About Writing (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-calypso-taught-me-about

At Sea (fiction) @ Munyori – http://www.munyori.com/joannehillhouse.html

Pushing Water Up Hill (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/pushing-water-up-hill-one

Wadadli Pen – Nurturing Another Generation of Antiguan and Barbudan Writers (non fiction) @ Summer Edward’s blog – http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/08/guest-post-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html

Cold Paradise (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_ColdParadise.htm

Somebody! (fiction) @ St. Somewhere – http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com

Reflections on Jamaca (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/reflections-on-jamaica

Portent (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_Portent.htm

Philly Ramblings 8 (poetry) @ Ma Comère – http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00004/36j

Ghosts Laments (poetry) @ Small Axe – http://smallaxe.net/wordpress3/prose/2011/06/30/poem-by-joanne-hillhouse

Benediction before the Essence (poetry) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/hillhouse_poetry.html

Prospero’s Education, The Arrival, Da’s Calypso (3 poems) @ Calabash – http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2

Interview @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/interview-with-joanne-c

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Reflections on Jamaica

by Joanne C. Hillhouse

“Is Jamaica Kincaid from here?”

Jamaica Kincaid (smiling, right) greeting her fans following her reading at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda in 2005

An acquaintance asked innocently enough. It can be a loaded question in the Antiguan author’s home country. If her critical and critically-acclaimed book, A Small Place, wasn’t enough, Kincaid’s caustic comments about a controversial investor and co-honouree* following Antigua’s 2006 Independence awards certainly underscored that the author hadn’t mellowed with time. Suddenly, even those who’d never read a single word of her writing had an opinion about her perceived island bashing.

Up to and since meeting her for the first time in 2005, when I was invited to introduce her ahead of a political and artistic conference in Antigua, I’m often cast as lawyer for the defense in the not uncommon debates about Jamaica. No unthinking sheep, I have and do disagree with some opinions espoused by the creator of one of my admitted literary heroines Annie John.

But for the young dreamer I once was, the trail blazed by Jamaica Kincaid was among the ripples in a quiet river of hope.

It said, in ways I maybe didn’t even understand then, that it was not crazy to think that the stories I wanted to tell would someday be worthy of their own readers; readers who like me sat in a corner in some corner of the world and floated for hours across borders, centuries, life spans.

It said that it was not impractical or living with my head in the clouds, not even for a little girl of humble means from Ottos, Antigua. After all, Jamaica Kincaid née Elaine Potter Richardson of St. John’s, Antigua had. She was born right here, in 1949. The world she wrote in early work, Annie John, was one I recognized; even the Dominican bits. I’m not talking exclusively about the physical world, but also, the title character’s emotional landscape. I was a teenager at the time, and these words rang true:  

“In the year I turned fifteen, I felt more unhappy than I had ever imagined anyone could be. It wasn’t the unhappiness of wanting a new dress, or the unhappiness of wanting to go to cinema on Sunday afternoon and not being allowed to do so, or the unhappiness of being unable to solve some mystery in geometry, or the unhappiness at causing my dearest friend Gwen some pain. My unhappiness was something deep inside of me, and when I closed my eyes I could even see it”. (Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John, P. 85)

I’d read coming of age books, of course, including favourites like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Judy Blume’s Are You there God?  It’s me Margaret, and Stephanie Tolan’s Last of Eden. I’d been entertained and affected by each of these and so many others; all of which in some way tapped into the angst that comes of transitioning from girl to woman – but perhaps none so intimately, for the Antiguan girl transitioning to Antiguan woman, as Annie John.

Also given my own literary ambitions, Annie John carved out a special place, that in time I came to understand fully. It helped remove bars on my world that were as much my own construction as society’s.

Now, I don’t wish to suggest that this was the only significant ripple on my way to becoming a published writer or that it hit me all at once. But, as I prepared my introduction for Jamaica Kincaid’s reading at the aforementioned conference, a rare and remarkable happening at the time, the surreality and nervousness pressing in, it did come home to me in a way. That is the beautiful reality of role models, among which I count literary mothers, aunties and sisters like Zora, Alice, Toni, Edwidge, and fellow Antiguan scribes Althea Prince and D. Gisele Isaac, to name a few. Not that we put them on pedestals; they are, after all, human. But that they show us some spark of what our own talent, hard work, and the right opportunity can create.

Those that go before us, on whose shoulders we stand, remind us that others may not always understand our dream, but then they don’t need to. But we must hold on against all that would deem it the stuff of fairytales.

Of course, Annie John, also resonated because I recognized it; the places, the faces, the scenes, the sentiments.

One of the Annie John scenes that has always lingered with me, I think because of my own sensibility, was from the chapter ‘Columbus in Chains.’ Specifically, Annie’s likening Columbus’ state of being in chains after having fallen from glory as the ‘discoverer’ of this ‘new world’ we inhabit to her mother’s comments about Pa Chess – her mother’s father. “So the great man can no longer just get up and go.” (Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John, P. 78)

 It is within a coming of age story that has general appeal, a statement of particular relevance to us as once conquered people watching the conqueror get his comeuppance.

The unresolved and ugly issues lying beneath the Caribbean of white smiles and blue seas was being written into existence; our pain and anger represented and acknowledged. Annie John critiqued our society and its historical and educational legacy, even as it crafted a tale of a girl’s increasing isolation first from the mother and in time from the mother country, Antigua.

Annie John, a Caribbean literary classic, was not the only successful to me flowing from the pen of this most prolific – and certainly most internationally-renowned – of our authors. The list includes Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, My Brother, and Mr. Potter.

Among these, another standout for me has been My Brother. It is one of the two Kincaid books done by the book club of which I am was a part, Sisters with Books. Its raw vision of AIDS in Caribbean life, groundbreaking, I think, at the time, was highly intimate and uncompromisingly frank. Though ostensibly centered on her brother, the gaping divide between mother and daughter, was there, as ever. Throughout her writing life, Kincaid has, relentlessly, mined the terrain of this mother-daughter conflict in exploring female bonding and female isolation, while undoubtedly dealing with her own ghosts.

A Small Place, a stinging non-fiction indictment of colonialism’s effect on Antigua and of Antigua itself, is another book not easily forgotten. As noted, it stirred up bitter feelings between home and the author, in ways Annie John had not – though there are certainly those who’ve taken issue, as well, with Annie John’s portrayal of island life.

I’ve encountered a number of Antiguans who plainly denounce Jamaica – who question her motives, even the truth of her experiences – and others who are conflicted – wondering why she can’t just let go of the past. 

For my part, while I don’t always agree with every word, syllable and sentiment, or the propensity of some to ingest indiscriminately everything written as literal gospel, I am not offended the way some others are. And I do take it as a measure of our Independence that when she read at the 2005 conference, Jamaica felt the freedom to read from this same A Small Place, this thorn in so many sides.

Kincaid reads at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda (2005)

I take it as a measure of our Independence that after that same reading we could stand around speaking of how beautifully she uses words, even as conflict stirred still about the uneasiness evoked by her expressed sentiments. I take it as a measure of our Independence that, after everything, the artiste can be celebrated for her accomplishments on the international literary scene in spite of whatever bitterness the art may have evoked. I take it as a measure of our Independence that we can acknowledge that we are free to disagree.

I think there are as many stories as there are people. And I have argued as well that our artistes cannot and must not simply express the stuff of tourist brochures. Some will paint the pretty pictures and some will paint the darkness they see beneath it; and both have a right to exist.

Jamaica was once quoted as saying, “For me, writing isn’t a way of being public or private; it’s just a way of being. The process is always full of pain, but I like that. It’s a reality, and I just accept it as something not to be avoided. This is the life I have. This is the life I write about.” (Interview with Marilyn Snell in Mother Jones magazine, September/October 1997)

All else aside, I cannot argue with the truth of this. For me the process of writing fiction is a relationship with characters that, as I write them into existence, trust me to be true to their voice and experience – its dark and light places. Even amid the noise of others’ expectations and the challenges of writing home from home.

 *The co-honouree here is, at this writing, facing charges in America and has been stripped of the national honour referenced.

This version of the article was published in the Daily Observer in 2006. An earlier version appeared in St. Lucia’s Island Where magazine. Please do not re-post without the author’s permission. To contact the author, email wadadlipen@yahoo.com or visit http://www.jhohadli.com

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