Site Updates

I’ve added Author to the Blogger on Books page – no review though, though you can read a bit about what’s in it here. A throwback review of the vampire-thology Vegas Bites has also been uploaded to Blogger on Books Vl.

Vegas Bites
This is more of an in case you missed it, Joss Stone continuing collabs with local artistes on her world stops sings with Antiguan and Barbudan songstress Asha Otto, and I made it the latest Creative Space. It’s an opportunity to learn more about Asha’s music and if you love good music you’ll want to. And for Antiguan and Barbudan businesses, this series has become in a very short time one of the all-time most popular series on the blog, so consider this your reminder that you can boost your brand while boosting local art and culture by sponsoring an installment in the series. Contact me to find out how.

Finally, I always like to remind you to check out and follow the Wadadli Pen blog as well – it’s my platform for all things literary in Antigua and Barbuda. The latest addition is a throwback interview I recently dug up. It makes me a little sad actually (makes me sad to report as well as I did recently on the blog that there will be no 2019 season of the Wadadli Pen Challenge) as they’re talking about yet another arts project in Antigua and Barbuda that bit the dust, the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival. But it’s always good to hear from three of our (Caribbean) great literary talents Verna Wilkins, Elizabeth Nunez, and Zee Edgell. Since I’m mentioning these three women I thought it’d be an opportunity to shout out one of their books since this site is about #bookchat as much or more than it’s about anything. My Verna Wilkins pick is not a Verna Wilkins book at all; it’s by Alexis Obi with illustrator Lynne Willey but it is published by Tamarind Books which is an independent UK imprint started by Wilkins (so it is one of her books). This was a favourite of a friend of mine’s son – who recently graduated secondary school so you can tell how long ago that was. My Zee Edgell pick is Beka Lamb, a book well known to Caribbean students (not of my generation but after) as it was on the schools reading lists – maybe still is. My Elizabeth Nunez pick is a book of hers that I’ve read called Prospero’s Daughter and if that isn’t hint enough, yes it is a modern Caribbean retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. So check them out.

Finally, gratitude for the shoutouts my book got on facebook this past week. You remember that 7 covers in 7 days challenge I participated in? Well, it’s still going and three of my covers (that I’ve seen) have popped up. Just a note that Oh Gad! is out of print for now and there is a new edition of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight with a very different cover and a lot more packaged with the main story so just a reminder that it is still very much in print, just with a different look. Musical Youth, meanwhile, continues to find new readers; gratitude for all that. More news soon but you all know, if you’re a regular around here, that with very rare exception, I don’t like to speak things until they are manifest. So, talk soon, hopefully. Meantime, check out my books.

 

 

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Top Ten ‘Fall’

This is the Top Ten Tuesday which, this week, is about your fall TBR. There’s a question mark around the whole thing because my TBR (i.e. books I wish to read) are the books I have been reading…and because I’m in the Caribbean and we don’t have fall here. But I’m doing this anyway; call it stress relief.

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – I’m actually listening to the audio book while I work and do other things so as you can imagine I get distracted and have to go back and that slows the reading; but when I am able to focus on it, it’s quite spooky and interesting.

black rose2. The Black Rose by Tananarive Due – why oh why can’t I finish this book …I mean, I know why, and it’s definitely not the book; it’s me, it’s time.

WithoutSummer-rough-rev-500x7473. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal – this book is in an even worse way – it feels slower than other installments in the series so that’s part of it – but still.

kellerman4. Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman – this has been my most active read of the TBR…so much so I feel like I should be done with it already…but I’m no closer to having a clue whodunit.

agostini5.  Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini – I’ve started it and when I paused it had started to pick up; that’s all I’ve got so far.

6. Beneath the Lion’s Wings by Marie Ohanesian Nardin – This is set in Venice and the imagery – the gondolas, the water taxis, is making me nostalgic to go back.

on a water taxi venice travels throwback photoI have struggled to find time to read this though, part of that might have to do with the fact that the author sent me an electronic copy instead of a physical copy; my work has me on the computer a lot and when I’m taking a break, I don’t want to be looking at the screen. So I’m inching along even more than normal.

7. The Storm limited series written by Eric Jerome Dickey – glad to be finally reading this; though my teenage self wishes she could just put everything down and lose herself in it.

8. Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin – listening to the audio book – might need to start it over (see my problem ‘reading’ audio books in this and every post where they’re mentioned)

9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – someone in my social media timeline mentioned this recently as a personal fave and it stoked my interest; I started listening to it this week.

10. Freedom Song by Amit Chaudhuri – I’m not in to this vivid as the imagery is but I’m not one to give up on a book (shelve for another time sure but give up altogether is rare); we’ll see.

beowulf2Bonus: Author: the Portraits of Beowulf Sheehan got it just before the weekend and almost finished…I mean, it is a picture book of so many authors I love (plus I’m in it) which is what made me so soup to start flipping through it.

There are other things but this is as close to a top 10 as I can get.

Monday Meme (September 10th 2018)

The It’s Monday, What are You Reading? meme is a space to share what you have been, are, and are about to read.

hiddenDidn’t get much reading done this week but did finish and post a review of Hidden Secrets of St. Croix by Clarice C. Clarke, and start listening to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I am still struggling with the audio book format – I miss stuff and have to go back because it doesn’t hold my concentration the way turning the pages does. That said, like the World War Z audio book (my second successful go of an audio book this year or ever after Born a Crime), it is the type of book that lends itself to the format with all of its unsettling atmospheric spookiness. We’ll see how I get through. The only other reading I did this week was the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books. Not finished but the last couple of articles were interesting and there was an article on my books of which I am deeply appreciative. Finally, in bookish news, I didn’t read these books but I did revisit them, my contributions to the 7 days 7 covers facebook challenge.

Also feel free to check out another of my throwback reviews; this one for Vegas Bites.

What am I reading…today, well, Sunday, I did plan to clear my head by reading (it’s a stressful time and I thought it was just what the doctor ordered) but the day didn’t work out that way. So I suppose the only reading I’ve gotten done today was one or two articles on the women’s finals of the US Open – like this one (Of Course, Serena was Fined $17,000. Of Course) at The Root and this one (Billie Jean King: Serena is Still Treated Differently than Male Athletes) at the Washington Post:

(from the latter)
“Women are taught to be perfect. We aren’t perfect, of course, and so we shouldn’t be held to that standard. We have a voice. We have emotions. When we react adversely to a heated professional situation, far too often, we’re labeled hysterical. That must stop. Tennis is a game, but for (Serena) Williams and (Naomi) Osaka, it’s also their job, their life’s work. Yes, Williams was heated during the match because she felt Ramos wasn’t just penalizing her, but also attacking her character and professionalism. Her true leadership and character were revealed after the match, in the trophy presentation, when she shifted the spotlight to Osaka. She didn’t have to, but she did. I know her — that’s who she really is, and she knew it was the right thing to do.”

I actually agree with King (another tennis legend’s) take. Not here to debate it, just sharing what I was reading and won’t tolerate any Williams sisters hate on my blog (FYI). Disagreement is one thing but I’ve seen some really hateful language lobbed at her and willful obliviousness to the realities King articulates. Besides this is Naomi Osaka’s moment (so charmed by her), kudos to her for a match well played. If I’m annoyed at anyone its the media which insists on erasing the Haitian half of her heritage; get it right – this is the first US Open win for someone who by her own words was born in Japan, and raised in America by a Japanese mother and a Haitian father and a Haitian grandmother in a Haitian household.

Champions both.

both champions

“She played well and this is her first grand slam and I know you guys were here rooting and I was rooting too but let’s make this the best moment we can…let’s not boo anymore….congratulations, Naomi.” – Serena Williams during the 2018 US Open awards ceremony.

As for what I hope to read, anything sitting in the active reading pile by my bedside would do. Plus I’ll be reading up on and prepping the stories I’ve selected for my Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series which has been pushed back one week and begins September 15th 2018.

JWP Sept 2018

Shout out to Britain-based Jamaica-born writer Leone Ross on the publication of her story Meat Kind (still tickled to see such a Caribbeanism making it in to the literary lexicon) in The Mechanics’ Institute Review 2018: 15: Short Stories

Check out the music in the current edition of my CREATIVE SPACE series (singer Joss Stone with local Antiguan and Barbudan artist Asher Otto) and… happy reading.

 

 

New Creative Space

If you’re a regular visitor to the Jhohadli blog, you may be aware of two things. I am a music lover and I once fell down a musical hole of Joss Stone love. In particular, in my post Joss in Africa.  I celebrated her collaborative spirit, her generosity of spirit by sharing her sizeable platform with regional artists, her spirit of engaging with and sharing the music – and by extension the culture – of every stop on her tour. Well, it’s Antigua and Barbuda’s turn. Here you go.

Actually go here to read the rest and enjoy the music. Big up Asher Otto!Asher

This 11th installment of CREATIVE SPACE is sponsored by the Jhohadli Writing Project Creative Writing Workshop Series, so that I can let you know that new sessions begin September 15th, so there’s still time to register.

JWP Sept 2018

7 Cover Challenge, 8 Cover Reveal

This past week, I participated, by invitation of Oonya Kempadoo (author of Buxton Spice, Tide Running, and All Decent Animals), in a facebook book cover challenge.  You know the one; name a book you love, no explanation, tag someone else, do this for seven days.

I thought to share those books here doing what I couldn’t do there: explain.

First, options (once I’d narrowed it to books of fiction by women), included books I’ve mentioned before as childhood/teenhood favourites (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Are You There God, It’s me Margaret by Judy Blume, The Last of Eden by Stephanie S. Tolan), all time favourites (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillan, Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston), books I think of fondly (Chocolat by Joanne Harris, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Coffee will Make You Black by April Sinclair, The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacqueline Mitchard, Pearl by Tabitha King, Orenda by Kate Cameron) or found genre shifting/genre shaping or otherwise interesting in some way (Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo, Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan). But just picking on instinct each day (something I looked forward to throughout the week #booknerd), I went with:

second Day 1. Chosen because I never mention it but it really tugged at my heart strings (angst alert!) when I read it years ago, so much so that it’s become one of those books that I’ve held on to (because apparently I love angst), and while I almost never re-read even sections of a book I’ve already read, I did (more than once) with this one (you know, when I need a pick me up #sarcasm). If you’ve read or seen Ordinary People (which has suicide as one of its themes), you have a hint of what to expect from this book (which has divorce, loneliness, and abuse among its themes).

ludell Day 2. I wanted a book from my childhood/teenhood but not the obvious ones plus this book is so rare that finding a cover was quite the feat. Young love, disapproving grandma; that’s what I remember. Maybe it unconsciously provided some inspiration for my own Musical Youth? …maybe not; cool story though.

annie Day 3. At this point, I realized I had not listed a Caribbean book so I had to correct that and while anyone who knows me knows how much I love this book, how much the discovery of it emboldened my own dreams as a writer also from Antigua…so, you know, a too obvious choice…I wasn’t going to let it’s obviousness stop me. Yes, it’s already popular (the fact that it got the most response in my contribution to the 7 covers challenge underscoring that) but this coming of age in Antigua (and commentary on colonialism in the Caribbean) is popular with good reason. Cue the love.

farming Day 4. So if you know me you also know that I love all things Edwidge but did you know that of all her books this is my favourite? Yeah, you probably know that too (it’s been said). How about that it’s one of my top 5 favourite books of all time. OF ALL TIME. Yeah. I left some of my other all time faves off the list so this has to hold the spot for all of them. If you ever wanted to understand, what’s the deal with Dominican Republic and Haiti, two very different countries sharing the same island and a contentious relationship, this haunting tale of a brutal chapter in their relationship history is about as compelling as it gets.

interview Day 5. Knowing the attitudes to ‘genre’ fic and popular fic (and the pressure to be a proper and serious author recommending proper and serious books), I maybe hesitated a little but only a little because Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles beginning with this one right here is my favourite series, bar none. Lestat may be the rock star of vampire lore but Louis’ angsty journey from human to not-quite-human but still a little too tethered to his humanity to ever be fully at ease is what initially hooked me when I discovered this series in my university days (when I also discovered Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, another favourite) making this my favourite book in the whole Vampire chronicles and Louis my favourite character in the series. Sure it’s vampire fic but it’s also a well written modern classic that I unapologetically stan. Also I credit Rice with stoking my love for my favourite American city New Orleans and it started right here; how could I not include it.

blues.jpg Day 6. It was time for another African-American author and Bebe Moore Campbell wasn’t the most obvious choice (given some of my other faves, some mentioned above) nor was Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine my most obvious Bebe Moore Campbell choice (I actually prefer Brothers and Sisters) but this book was one of those books that looked at the transformation/non-transformation of America through a friendship between two women across the racial divide and across several decades pre-civil rights to 1980s (I think). What was interesting about it to me was how it reinforced that the laws don’t necessarily change people’s attitudes just their behavior (something the era of Drumpf seems to be spotlighting as racists come out of their dark corners) but also makes the point (as I remember) that people can. It’s underrated in my view for what it does and that’s why I picked it.

Day 7. I cheated. I was so sure this spot was going to be held by To Kill a Mockingbird which I read in secondary school and fell in love with, or Their Eyes Were Watching God because I lovelovelove Zora who I discovered in university, but the opportunity to end with a one-two bang was too hard to resist. So I went with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte which I couldn’t post without also posting Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, a Caribbean classic that is a response to a British classic – so much to be unpacked their in terms of interrogating the canon, de-centering a particular narrative for a narrative often relegated to the margins, and then beyond the act of writing, in the text itself, issues of race and class and gender that have not lost their potency more than half a century after publication. I reviewed Wide Sargasso Sea in the past year, so you can read my thoughts on that. Or you could read both books for yourself, back to back as Drake would say. Hey, why not do both.

jane.jpgwide

 

In Case You Missed It

Recently, on the site…

“A few years ago, I was assigned the task of writing a review of Hillhouse’s recently published book Oh Gad! My initial reaction was to wince at the apparent blasphemy of God’s name (Yes, I was raised with the fear of God.), but that was a transitory reaction… Hillhouse is a credible, authentic writer whose voice courts universal appeal.  … she creates credible characters who eat, dress, and speak Antiguan.  Characters with whom we can identify.  Even the Asian Ted in Musical Youth confirms “ah ya me barn” … It is significant to note that in her writing, especially her works for young adults, Hillhouse refrains from ‘pontificating.’  She creates scenarios for her characters and allows them to be themselves.  Even though the ‘normal’ behaviors or pranks of teenagers with their accompanying confusions, heartbreaks, and poor choices aren’t documented, her youth are portrayed as real children.  … With her unbounded energy, she continues to exploit the literary scene producing works of great insight.  If the past is any indication of Joanne Hillhouse’s future, we can anticipate more work in all genres as she continues her journey.” – from Joanne Hillhouse’s Iconic Stance Through Her Works by Valerie Knowles Combie from the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, 2018

I’m just going to receive this critical assessment of my collected works (minus With Grace which is not mentioned, but including several of my short stories the mention of which is rare) with surprise and delight and gratitude and appreciation that I have works enough to make a collection and a collection enough to draw the attention and insights of Professor Valerie Knowles Combie of the University of the Virgin Islands. It’s interesting (and disorienting) to sit back and hear what someone else has perceived of not just what I have written on the page (pages) but my journeying as a writer from Ottos, Antigua and Barbuda.

musical_youth_nov1-e1415925946338

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“Hillhouse neatly tucks a lesson on colonisation in reverse into Wellie’s narrative. There’s more at stake in the match than wickets and runs, even more than winning and losing. I’m not a cricket fan, so I never saw the sport in that light until I read that paragraph. It makes sense, then, that there’s also more at stake in Selena and Michael’s relationship. For them to win in life and love, they need to reclaim some things, mostly their power, face their past, and break some chains.” – from Love in the Time of Cricket by Nadine Tomlinson

I linked a new review (excerpted above) from a blogger (seemingly from Jamaica) about my second and sixth book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight. I describe Dancing Nude as my second and sixth book because it’s recently come to my attention that because the first edition went out of print and the book became difficult to source, some may not realize that it has been re-issued (since 2014 actually) as a 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings – despite my efforts to promote it. Sales reflect this to be honest as Dancing continues to underperform relative to the positive reviews it receives from readers and reviewers (and compared to my other books). So, this new review makes me happy for a number of reasons – because I’ve been struggling lately it gave me a bit of an emotional boost, because the reader/blogger initially rolled her eyes when she started reading it but the reading of it brought her around (meaning that the writing won her over), and because a new review gives me an opportunity to remind readers that it is very much available in both print and ebook format as Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings. Check your usual online retailer or ask for or order it through your local bookstore.

Dancing cover 2

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“While some still debate the real danger of climate change, we in the Caribbean have felt the wrath of storms increasing in frequency and size. In 2017, one of the warmest years on record, the hurricane season was a reckoning like none we had ever experienced. There was no letup. In the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, very few in the Caribbean were left untouched. Dominica, St. Martin, St. Bart’s, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Anguilla and Cuba — the devastation was nearly complete.

This was a sign of the times. Last year’s hurricane season was a reminder that when you come from a small island, climate change and its effects are not an abstract concept or a slow-moving problem for another generation. Our interest in action on climate change now is literally life or death.” – from Barbuda’s Hurricane Irma Story Is About Devastation And Resilience by Joanne C. Hillhouse at Huffington Post

I added a link  to the article quoted above to my Publications and Projects page – one of my online portfolios re my freelancing life. The online portfolio captures some of what I have done #onthehustle and potentially attracts new clients, business, and opportunities. When I was approached by a HuffPo editor to write about Barbuda for the anniversary of hurricane Irma, I knew it was a big and complicated task as the story is still evolving a year later, very much unsettled, and more contentious by the day. My first draft was about three times the length of the prescribed word count so required drastic cutting before submission and then went through a couple of rounds of edits (always with my input whether re explanations, clarifications, expansions, or cuts) before publication. It’s still a very sensitive issue, the article won’t please everyone but I did my best to capture the big issues and, as it was an opinion piece, my own perspective on some of what has and continues to evolve. frigates.JPGThe frigates returning home was a point of entry for me to the story (I’m always looking for a way in to the story and for this story, after all the research, this was it) and helped me to frame the narrative, but at its heart, this issue is about people (and with news of Barbudans being evicted from one of the remaining shelters on Antigua breaking the same day my article dropped, reinforcing that this is still an evolving story), I hope we remember that.

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I’ve updated Joanne’s Picks with my favourite Spike Lee films but because she is the voice (for me) of the last two centuries I’ve (for the first time) archived a previous list, Aretha Franklin’s best (RIP to the Queen of Soul).

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The top new/updated posts and page of the last month or so have been…

D. Gisele Isaac – Daughter of the Antiguan and Barbudan Soil (already the most viewed and most shared post of the year which is good, I hope, given my intention in posting it)

Book Reading Update (a post which centered the recently posted review of Althea Romeo-Mark’s The Nakedness of New)

CREATIVE SPACE (The series I started this year to give Antiguan and Barbudan businesses an opportunity to boost local art and culture while boosting their brand)

and

The top posts and page of the last month (not added in the last month or so) have been…

My Queen of Katwe review (nooo idea why this is trending)

Reviews by others of my first (and third, given that it was re-issued with a different publisher) book The Boy from Willow Bend (glad to see that this is trending)

The rundown of my services (I hope this means more business coming my way)

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On the flip side…

The new/updated additions to the blog in the past month or so with the lowest views…

Aretha. Queen of Soul.

My review of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give

The press release re my Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project (which explains a lot since it didn’t take off at all …but, well, it wasn’t meant to  be and I trek on, bringing back the Jhohadli Writing Project this month and promoting a tutoring service for youths)

JWP and tutoring

Previous posts with the lowest views this past month or so (but I’m surprised they’re ranking at all)…

My reflections on working on the book by Hugo Award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal (a past editing assignment)

Other published (fiction) – as in fiction I’ve submitted and which have been accepted for publication over the years (I will add that though it is a very challenging time in many ways, I have been writing new fiction and revising and submitting, so fingers crossed that this page will continue to grow and other opportunities will blossom)

An interview I did for a blog which never ran and so I posted it here earlier this year

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Thanks for stopping by; hope you find something of interest. And that we all find some lift in the days and weeks ahead.

 

Viola Davis Knows What’s Wrong With Hollywood… and How to Fix It — Variety

It was a familiar dilemma for Viola Davis. What to do with her hair? The star of the upcoming film “Widows” needed to know what kind of wig or extensions she should wear to play Veronica Rawlins, the leader of an unlikely band of robbers scrambling to pull off a dangerous heist. Director Steve McQueen’s […]

via Viola Davis Knows What’s Wrong With Hollywood… and How to Fix It — Variety