This is the hashtag I’ve been pushing since the 2019 release of the second edition of my Burt award winning teen/young adult novel Musical Youth. I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some of the #MusicalYouthbook instagram images I’ve captured – because they really do pose the book in the best possible light. Also to share this review just linked on the Musical Youth Reviews and Endorsements page – it is excerpted below. With gratitude.

‘“Musical Youth” takes place on a summer. During this summer, Zahara and Shaka get to do a musical, they get to figure out who they are and to think about who they want to become as they’re heading toward adulthood. Whenever I think about how I could sum up “Musical Youth”, the first words that come to mind are always “it’s an authentic Caribbean story”.

‘The story takes place in Antigua. The characters speak in patois. No need for pages and pages to describe the particularity and the beauty of Caribbean food, Caribbean landscapes, Caribbean architecture and Caribbean music. To me, “Musical Youth” is most importantly about representing the resilience and the hope for a bright future linked to the Caribbean way of life.

‘Zahara is light-skinned enough to be in the “attractive Black girls” category by default. Still, she lacks confidence and she doesn’t think of herself as beautiful. Once again, Joanne Hillhouse gives the character the opportunity to figure out where it stands in the spectrum of colorism to step away from it. Zahara’s naivety at the beginning of the story is the literal example of light-skinned privilege. She is intentional about understanding how colorism works, she gathers empiric proof that she carefully analyzes. Zahara and Shaka even have a brief yet honest discussion about it. I read the scene over and over again because it was so moving. She wonders if he loves her only because she’s light-skinned. He wonders if she doesn’t like him back because he’s dark-skinned… Once they verbalized their worries, they take time to think about how they feel. The balance in their relationship is based on the mutual help they give each other to become the best version of themselves they can be. Zahara finds confidence in herself and in her music. The apparent confidence Shaka showed at the beginning becomes real as he defines his identity as an artist. There’s nothing they can do about colorism, but they hold themselves accountable for their own prejudices before trying to let go of them. They knowingly choose each other.’ – review from Karukerament, a French language blog, which makes their efforts to read Musical Youth, write, and translate a review all the more appreciated since a French language edition of the book does not yet exist.

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