Tag Archives: Vermont

Sample Saturday: Away From Home

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

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

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

Verdict: Definitely check it out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dreaming of Havana

The Havana Book Fair is coming up in February. I’d actually like to attend (scratch that, really like to attend). In part because I have a book coming out in 2012 and a little advance publicity never hurt but mostly because I’m a lover of books and I’ve found events of this nature to be a joy, even with the inevitable hiccups; events like Breadloaf in Vermont to which I applied for and won an international fellowship in 2008 (and don’t ask me how much I’d like love to do the 2012 Breadloaf in Sicily…and not just for the opportunity to return to lovely Italy), Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (which I’ve been active in since it started in 2006) and the Calabash International Literary Festival (2007). Mostly because they allow for (in fact, encourage) total literary immersion. You lose yourself in books and engagements with writers, you open yourself to learning,you slow down and feel the world again, and you have so much fun (that’s right, writers know how to party too). The fact that I’ve never been to Cuba and would absolutely love to go would be a possible bonus of the experience. The challenge is always money and sometimes information and access. In fact, funding (to cover airfare, accomodation and other expenses) and for the writer hoping to get mileage out of the experience (visibility) are often stumbling blocks even with festivals closer to home (Dominica, Montserrat, Trinidad). With Calabash, in Jamaica, we (in Antigua) put a group of writers together and applied for donor funding from the Commonwealth in order to attend. It was a remarkable experience (huge understatement).

With the 2012 conference of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars, to be held in Suriname, much as I did with the BIM Conference on Caribbean Women Writers in 2008, I submitted my credentials (such as they are…something along the lines of pick me! pick me!) and was happy to be invited as a featured writer from the English Speaking Caribbean (more on that no doubt as it draws closer…including the inevitable panic). I’m looking forward to a return to Suriname, the country is always part of the experience, but I’m also looking forward to being in the company of people who write and people who love to read and write.

And so I’d like to figure out a way to make Cuba happen, not just for me but for other writers. But, of course, February’s just around the corner… I had the idea once I heard about the conference to reach out for information and maybe assistance in making this happen; I’ve tried but so far that has been a disappointing (at times, frustrating) dead end. It’s time like these I do think an Arts Council which could, among other things, access and provide funding (a la an endowment for the arts) would, as I’ve been discussing with fellow artists and writers lately, be a Godsend…too many missed opportunities, too much little tangible support for the arts on our piece of the rock.

So, all I can say at this moment, if not this year, then next or the next or next… (independently, if necessary). I always like to have something to shoot for, and a tour of all of these literary festivals (and more around the world) is definitely on my to do list. It should be on yours too if you’re a book lover and/or writer (and if you have the resources). The opportunity to step out of the world of distractions into the world of the Word is ah-may-zing. And there are the stolen moments too…getting up early to walk the beach in St. Elizabeth, sitting on a rock by the river in Vermont…at each one, you make your own. And, I’ve found, you wake up every day, writing.

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