Just read this on p. 463 of Small Island, a scene in which Gilbert from Jamaica and his recently arrived in post-war/rebuilding England wife Hortense are sipping on tea and eating cake – a time out from the steady flow of racial micro and macro aggressions they’ve been experiencing as immigrants in a country they still at that time thought of as their Mother Country.
“…three boys came greeting me with a cheery nod, looking on Hortense with a wink of: ‘Okay there man – you have a pretty coloured lady.’
‘You know these men?” Hortense asked.
‘They are from home,’ I told her.
‘And you know them all?’
‘I know they are from home.’
‘But you don’t know them?’
‘No, but I know they are from home.'”
So much about this little scene struck me. Hortense, freshly arrived is still invested in the classist and colourist divisions that exist on our islands (even now), still not realizing that her privileges (education, light skin, class) don’t matter – only her perceived Blackness and outsiderness/nonbelongingness (perceived, again, because this is a generation of West Indians who also considered themselves British, as her subjects). Her new husband meanwhile has been there long enough to find a new community in people who look like him even the “small island” ones (like people from my Antigua and Barbuda) – because that’s another division (even now), how the larger islands see themselves in relation to the smaller islands. So much complexity in this simple interaction, the complexities of small island existence, of the migrant experience, of, yes, slavery and colonialism, of the post-World War 2 emerging modern world, of gender, of race, of class). The chaps are from home and now, in this cold, in many ways, place in which they find themselves, to each other, they are also becoming home.
Clearly, I am finding this book very stimulating but me still nah done. Among the things keeping me from the page this week, shoe shopping, my nemesis, and dress fitting for the Sabga event I have coming up next week. Cinderella moment loading in 3, 2, 1… except I’m one of the wicked step sisters who can never find shoes that fit (lol).
What else have I read this week? Two more of the Catapult Resident Blogs bulletins – issue 1 vol. 2 (up to pg 4) and issue 2 vol. 4 (up to page 23) specifically.
Tomorrow is Whit Monday, a holiday, but not quite one for me, so trying to make this Sunday as much of a down day as possible – reading will definitely be a part of that or this isn’t a Sunday Post! Wonder if I’ll be able to finish this book today.
What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? What do you think you’ll read next?
What am I reading?
Today it’s been Small Island by Andrea Levy; I’ve cleared 44 more pages since my last reading journal. Also today, I’ve read a bit more (two pages more) of BIM: Arts for the 21st Century vol. 10 issue 1. Also dipped this past week into Shakirah Bourne’s Nightmare Island (I’m at page 124) and at page 19 of the 1619 Project.
I’m still bringing up Troubling Freedom and its revelations in conversation – such as my recent interview for CREATIVE SPACE (what I’ve been transcribing and editing most of today) with Malaysian writer Preeta Samarasan – that’s after writing about it already in the first CREATIVE SPACE of the month.
I don’t plan ahead like that but I did just add Preeta’s Tale of the Dreamer’s Son to my TBR. You should check it out and also my old review of her first novel Evening is the Whole Day.
Bill Lee, the jazz bassist who played with Bob Dylan and Duke Ellington before composing scores for his son Spike Lee, died at his Brooklyn home on Wednesday morning. No cause of death has been confirmed. He was 94. The news was confirmed on Spike Lee’s official Instagram where he shared a series of portraits…
A sad day for music lovers between the passing of the Queen of Rock and one of the icons of my formative child, tween, and teen years [and taking something of that time with them, as I was just saying to my niece akin to Michael, Whitney, George, Prince] Tina Turner; and Bill Lee who composed the scores for his son Spike’s early films – She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing, and Mo’ Better Blues.
In between these two clinic visits, there is a trip to the ER which she leaves after waiting five to six hours, only to have to return in half an hour. The security remembers her and tries to help, but she has lost her place. By the time she leaves with a prescription, it’s so late all the pharmacies are closed, and she walks to the bus station, hoping to catch a bus home.
from CREATIVE SPACE #11 OF 2023 – DOES OUR PUBLIC HEALTH HAVE A CULTURE OF CARE?
I’m starting to feel the nerves of what’s coming up in early June; I’m trying to stay in the moment. I’m working on my column right now – I have a draft I read to someone about a week ago because it was just something I needed to get out and I wasn’t sure it was publishable. They thought I should publish it and I realize I wanted to as well. Now I’ve got to cut about 1,000 words…and make sure it’s a column fit and not just a vent.
Other recent writing, a story I wrote (as in completed a full draft of) in the past week. This is the story I mentioned in the last Journaling Writing. That I have a complete draft is important because returning to partially finished things has proven challenging. I have done one revision and there is more work to be done – 1, fleshing it out (per some notes I journaled while walking around with it in my head); 2, making choices re the edit notes I inked in in my revision session before putting it away to return to it with fresh eyes. I haven’t made any hard choices on the edit yet but I am feeling motivated to return to it.
I also started writing something new yesterday. It was a world that suggested itself to me while I was walking that I returned to almost reluctantly during my dedicated writing time. Almost reluctantly because while I’m happy new writing is happening, I’m peeved at myself for the time I haven’t put in on getting over the hump with the short story collection in progress, the completing of which has been my mission since I decided to do this public journaling of my writing process and progress. Part of it is there just hasn’t been time but when there is time as noted I’ve been writing newer things; trying to decide if that’s a good problem to have or a lack of focus/discipline.
There’s a part of me that likes grazing and seeing where things go; but I also know a goal (e.g. a submission deadline) can sharpen my focus.
Case in point, this column – today’s my deadline; I’ve got to get back to it.
Said in my last journaling writing post that I needed to write more and with more energy and the very next day did just that. Wrote a story. Finished what feels like the full arc of it in a single sitting. Put it down. Made some edit notes in my notebook while walking. Tonight started revising.
I like the reminder that this is how I write – I discover as I write and revise and edit what the story is and who I’m writing about, and the discovery is what makes it interesting and fun.
Still not as locked in as I need to be but still working that muscle. And I might have a new story; still working it out.
Y’all know I like a link-up, so today’s book blog link-up will be with Reading is My Superpower’s First Line Friday…
My last reading update was last week’s Sunday post. I didn’t plan one for today but I’m not too long back from an appearance where I read to students laid out on blankets in the sand at the beach at their school’s annual reading picnic. It took me two buses and some walking to get there but was worth it – even if they were as much of a handful as groups of children hyped up on fresh air always are.
I took the setting as invitation to read from Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and talk to them about the real life inspiration (Wadadli the Arctic seal, a seal who drifted in to the Caribbean Sea), about the difference between a story being based on something as opposed to being inspired by that something, about the marine environment in the Caribbean compared to up North, about different environmental issues raised in the book and humans’ role in those issues – as helpers and hindrances, about how grandmothers by any name (Nema, Nana) know everything…and much more. In the end we did a story chain inspired by my own story as a way of motivating them to tell stories of their own, begin by asking “what if”, and submit to the Wadadli Pen challenge 2023. I’ve tagged the teacher who invited me that I’m looking forward to those entries – submission deadline is the end of May.
I’ve covered eight more pages of Shakirah Bourne’s Nightmare Island and am now at page 115 (the parents have entered the chat)
I’ve covered 112 pages of Andrea Levy’s Small Island and am now at page 372 (the war has ended but not for everyone)
I’ve covered three more pages of Gayle Gonsalves’ My Stories have No Endings and am now at page 270 (and can feel it winding down)
I would say the pages covered, most to least, aligns with level of enjoyment at this point.
First Line Friday link-up requires me to grab the book nearest to me and leave a comment with the first line. Lost! and Small Island are equidistant from me, so I’ll do both.
Dolphin is an Arctic seal.
from Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure
Would it have been easier to not name my seal after another sea creature? Yes…but it provides opportunities to explore why someone might be called out of their name, the differences between seals and dolphins, and anticipate Dolphin, the Arctic seal’s, reaction when he meets a real life dolphin after having built them up in his mind. You know how that is.
That’s Queenie’s perspective and we know right away that we’re stepping in to some nonsense – some micro-aggressive racial stuff, some ignorant or uninformed points of view, but if we can get past that, we might enjoy the journey…and so far I am, even when Queenie makes me feel like throttling her.
About the author: unfortunately the author of Small Island, a Brit of Jamaican descent, Andrea Levy, is no longer with us – about four years now, I believe. Her book won the Orange Prize, and honestly, I can see why.
Share your own First Line Friday in the comments below, so that we can link-up over our shared love of reading.
It’s early days in the submission cycle of the Wadadli Pen 2023 challenge; the entries are trickling in at a pace for me to be enjoying the privilege of being trusted with people’s dreams. As someone often on the other side of the submission process, that’s how I look at it. At this stage. Check back with me at deadline when there’s a bottle neck of last minute entries.
I was updating the Carib Lit Plus bulletin on Wadadli Pen with a competition – this one for World Oceans Day – by another local non-profit, and because memory likes to make connections, I remembered the first time I organized an arts competition (pre-Wadadli Pen). I was working in environmental education and among my projects was a mascot competition and an environmental-themed story competition – the plan being to use the mascot as a tag in all our public service announcements (which I did) and to create a story/colouring book (which I completed compiling and editing before leaving but which was not published after I left to the best of my knowledge). It gave me a taste for it though (what initiatives like this can create) and some understanding (not a full one as I really didn’t know what I was in for when I went on to launch Wadadli Pen in 2004, two years after leaving that job) of what might be involved. Memory and its persistent connections reminds me that years later I was on assignment as a freelance reporter when the subject asked me about the mascot I had rolled out in our PSAs and implied that my mascot idea had been …pilferred…from him (he apparently had an idea similar to our selected mascot concurrent with our rollout). I assured him that it hadn’t as it literally was from the creative imagining of our children.
Which is not to say that Wadadli Pen has not dealt with plagiariam – it has. But for the most part it’s been a front row seat to creative imagining by young Antiguans and Barbudans -and now (that it’s open to all age groups) all Antiguans and Barbudans. More memory and connection as I type that…recently a team member made a radio appearance to promote the season and as I was editing the video for upload to our YouTube channel, I heard the interviewer suggest that it (Wadadli Pen) should become regional and even international…and I remember when I was part of a regional project thanks to Wadadli Pen, a project that created an online portal and opened the door for us having an online presence and the coordinator made a similar suggestion, at least re the sub-region. I panicked at the time because it felt like more than I could take on; and honestly it was – Wadadli Pen even went on hiatus for a period after that. Dreaming is good but if you don’t manage growth you can get burned out. But there’s a team now, I am learning to manage better and dreaming bigger for Wadadli Pen (which is now a legal non-profit Wadadli Pen Inc)… so who knows.
As for my own writing – this post is a good example of how neglected it’s been these last few days or weeks, I don’t know anymore. I thought I might take today – well, this afternoon (yesterday afternoon) – to do nothing but write and went away from the internet and everything after doing some Wadadli Pen work and other priority things (medical, financial, communication) in the morning. I even had a writing plan but between the heat (scorching today) and maybe lack of spark …or discipline…I wrote only a little bit (in two sessions)…trying to do some new writing…and that through forcing the writing. I’ve clearly lost my step and need to make a habit of making space every day to create…and that’s what I mean to do…that’s the whole point of this journaling after all, holding myself accountable. So I wrote a little today (and took the wrong bus dragging myself through this crazy heat) and will write more tomorrow (hopefully with more energy and no wrong turns).
This image has nothing to do with my writing (though I may try it as a writing prompt). It’s an art piece I bought from a student art exhibition for my youngest nephew (his first art piece) earlier this year. It’s his birthday (tomorrow, today). Happy Birthday, Elijah.
house fires – such as inTo Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee and the ones Louis uses to rid himself of problems in both New Orleans and Paris in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire
fires reflecting social unrest – as seen in Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, in which firefighters are literally prevented from putting out fire under threat of gunfire during gang wars, and the store fire in Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give
the two sides to a fire fire of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and its fictional prequel Wide Sargasso Sea in which Dominican writer Jean Rhys writes back to Empire
fire that says full stop – in both Maeve Binchy’s Firefly Summer and my own book Oh Gad!
Speaking of my books I have two more coming out this summer – well, I have a story in the German abridged edition of New Daughters of Africa, and then there’s this.
To be a Cheetah – a bedtime story. Afire with the love between a mother and child, and currently available for pre-order wherever you buy books.
You must be logged in to post a comment.