My #BHM #ABookADay/#BookoftheDay Project

Link Up – This post will be linked up with Stacking the Shelves, the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post, It’s Monday, what are you reading, and the Monthly Wrap up.

Impulsively, at the start of February 2021, Black History Month, I shared a book by a Black author and each day at around midnight pulled another one at random and shared it across my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At mid-month, I did a rundown on my YouTube.

(ETA 03/03/21 – end of month rundown vlog below and embed the mid-month blog above)

This was just for fun, though perhaps inspired in part by, seeing several online readers in 2020 announce via social media their plan to #readBlackbooks while unironically showcasing stacks with many non-Black voices. Also in 2020, in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter FedUprising, movies like The Help (based on the bestseller of the same name, often in those named stacks) started trending in response to well-intentioned but misguided efforts to understand the Black experience. This was misguided because books like The Help are not #ownvoices (i.e. underrepresented voices being given the space to tell their own stories) and they perpetuate the white saviour trope (i.e. centering whiteness in a story purportedly about the Black experience), and that’s before we even get to the charges of appropriation alleged against that particular book by Ablene Cooper, the reported inspiration for The Help’s Aibileen Clark character. – as far back as 2018, Viola Davis even expressed regret at playing the Oscar nominated role. That was not at the front of my mind but was plausibly somewhere at the back of it. For inspiration, I turned exclusively to books I have not only read but written about in my Blogger on Books series – I quickly learned that even drawing from this specific space, there was so much to pull, more than the shortest month of the year could contain. But hopefully, it’ll be an inspiration to anyone who engages with any of the content around this BHM series to read more – specifically to #readBlack more.

I’m sharing them not in the order I posted them but in the order of popularity – least to most popular, based on insta-engagement with my posts (not necessarily on the popularity of the book itself). As I noted in each post, some of my books are included as well but it’s all about sharing the love. My reviews are linked (with the exception of my books in which case I link reviews by others).

Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy is technically of the same universe as The Colour Purple and The Temple of My Familiar.

Review excerpt: “The story jumps around from Africa to America to Europe, and back to Africa, and digs painfully in to the issue of female circumcision; but more thematically in to the subjugation of women and the role women are called to play in their subjugation (the ways in which women become some of the most ardent supporters of the patriarchy), and perhaps more specifically still, in to the fear of a free and self-possessed woman.”

Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
Full excerpt here.

Review excerpt: “Family, community, and rituals – rituals for living, rituals at the time of dying – are the meat of Turn Thanks which strikes a tone somewhere between reflection, gratitude, and sadness.”

Turn Thanks Poems by Lorna Goodison
Full review here.

Belizean novelist (1st after Independence + 1st to achieve international renown) Zee Edgell died in December 2020.

Review excerpt: “Beyond plot, this is a masterclass in characterization and perspective, one in which there are no handlebars or guides available to the persona, one in which mistakes are made, repeatedly, and yet, and yet, it never feels like the writer has lost the plot. A plot which by the way makes a sub-plot of eco-commercial globalization, simple people and big business, capitalism and rural innocence in a way that does not feel improbable to any Caribbean reader. She intertwines these threads of malice and power, family and faith, yearning and terror, heartbreak and hope.”

The Festival of San Joaquin by Zee Edgell
Full review here.

Eric Jerome Dickey (who died in January 2021) writing for two of the most iconic Black superhero characters Storm/Ororo and the Black Panther/T’Challa in this six part mini-series. “It’s got action (each book ending on a cliffhanger), it’s got larger themes, but at its core (it’s) boy-meets-girl-bickers-with-girl-cant-live-without-girl …” which made it ideal for a Valentine’s Day pick.

Storm: Prelude to the Wedding of the Century by Eric Jerome Dickey
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “The collection is tonally an emotional roller coaster. Its imagery is precise and evocative. Its energy and word flow; use of symbolism (e.g. her father’s watch in ‘TimeXemiT(ion)’), metaphor (“This beloved mango tree is recovery” in ‘My Sister and I are picking Mangoes’), anthropomorphism, allusions; its play on words (e.g. the use of GoD, shorthand for the government of Dominica, suggestive of God-God, in ‘Housing Revolution’ to underscore the dis-ease one feels post-disaster when dependent on powers greater than oneself to reorder one’s life especially when uncertain that their motives and values align with yours), and blurring of the lines between realism and mythology. All of this elevates it.”

Guabancex by Celia Sorhaindo
Full review here.

The Known World is so good, and so heartbreaking, also so complicated I had difficulty finding a clean pull quote from my review for this post. Just know that I described it as a “page turner” … “in spite of a measured storytelling pace and tone” … “searing and jarring”. It is that, all of that.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Full review here.

Review excerpt: ‘The book handles its shifting tones well – a certain sex scene comes to mind. It really works because of how well the characters have been defined. Oh and the writing is delicious. “And what do they even call this? It’s not a threesome, or a love triangle. It’s a two-and-a-half-some, an affection dihedron (and, well, maybe it’s love).”’

The Fifth Season by N K Jemison
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “What Yellow Sounds Like is all about the Blues – the angst and grit, sass and rhythm of it.” Read more of my thoughts on this book here

What Yellow Sounds Like by Linda Susan Jackson
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “So I suppose my first note is that the teen drama featuring two mixed race brothers – one Black presenting, one white presenting – is a quick read. It drops you right in to the book’s central conflict from the first scene; the fault line between whiteness and blackness, and the resulting quakes caused by anti-Blackness.”

Full review here.

Just re-released as an audio book. I read the print edition years ago and wrote, “It’s genuinely funny and then clocks you in the middle of the laughter with some hard truths – rooted in our Caribbeanness but also in our humanity.” The audio book, what I’ve heard of it, and especially so Four Angry Men, reminds me of listening to Paul Keens Douglas stories of Slim and Tanty Merle at the Oval on the radio as a child. The Caribbean, and Four Angry Men in particular, is well suited to the audio book format given an oral storytelling tradition that makes it less a reading and more a radio play of ole talk and a weaving (and at the same time specific and grounded) narrative. The Caribbean and the collection’s natural, sometimes absurd, humour comes through, but this is not all easy laughs, there is a certain poignancy within the broad laughter of the rum shop. The production is atmospheric, without crowding out the story, and the voices, distinctive Bajan voices, are well cast and directed by Barbadian literary media arts company StoryShyft. White Sand, the story of a naive girl stepping in to the lion’s den, has a light and hopeful tone and an undertone of dread. And I absolutely loved The Five-Day Death of Mr. Mayers as much as I did on the page – the story is still funny and thanks to the characterization and imagery, the layering of voices and addition of a score, almost cinematic. In Time of Need is Story Shyft’s first audio book production. Look out for Shakirah’s Josephine Against the Sea, which releases in the US this year.

In Time of Need: A Collection of Short Stories by Shakirah Bourne
Full print edition review here.

All the Burt (Caribbean) titles. Burt is an awards programme that invigorated the teen/young adult Caribbean market by boosting three books a year and independent/small press publishing in the Caribbean in particular between 2014-2019. If you and/or your teen are looking for something to read, you can’t go wrong with any of these titles. So many good books, such a range of themes, styles, and genres; and while the authors are a mix of ethnicities (which I only mention because this is a #Blackbooksmatter type post), they are all Caribbean (we are a diverse region), it actually fits the spirit of the post when you consider the purpose and impact of the Burt Awards. “The Burt Award, named for Bill Burt and administered by CODE, a Canadian non-profit, stimulated the production of teen/young adult fiction specific to communities whose voices are not often heard in the vast publishing world. He presented the first Burt Award (for teen/young adult African literature), in Tanzania in 2009. The programme subsequently expanded to Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada (specifically among First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people), and the Caribbean.” The Burt Caribbean programme sadly doesn’t exist anymore. But thankfully these books do. Read about them in this article.

My Day 28 #BlackHistoryMonth #bookoftheday was… not a book … Rather in recognition of the launch this week of the 2021 season of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize challenge, nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua & Barbuda since 2004. This is a link up to all #WadadliPen winning stories and visual art to date (including the winning Ms Anansi image from 2013). It felt fitting to end with Anansi whose mythology travelled with us on the slave ships from Africa, whose oral takes introduced us to story, and who, as illustrated, continues to be re-imagined (see everything from Philip Sherlock’s Illustrated Anansi for children to Imam Baksh’s Children of the Spider for teens). The Wadadli Pen challenge encourages us to imagine our Caribbean specific stories. Read the winning stories through the years. And help us share the news that March 26th is the submission deadline for the 2021 challenge (click the Wadadli Pen 2021 tab on the site for details). Support the work if you can from wherever you are (we have big dreams for this project); email

Review excerpt: “not just a book for writers or artistes, but a very human book (with nuance and heart). A must-read.”

Create Dangerously: the Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Dandicat
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “But what strikes me is the brevity of the language and the way she efficiently, and beautifully, blends and ‘confuses’ the senses and gets to the heart of the matter.”

Like the Singing Coming off the Drums by Sonia Sanchez
Full review here.

This biography of Antigua & Barbuda’s winningest calypsonisn King Short Shirt, named for one of the icon’s songs, was long listed for a Bocas prize, the first and to date only book from Antigua and Barbuda to be so honoured.

Review excerpt: “The book is important too for marking the societal shifts in modern Antigua and to some degree the wider Caribbean.”

Bonus link, find the song on Short Shirt”s classic Ghetto Vibes album.

King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me: The Life and Times of Sir Maclean Emanuel by Dorbrene E. O’Marde
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “It’s a timely read, as an indictment of America’s prison industrial complex and its hunger for Black lives.”

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “London Rocks is the story of Dante, a Black British youth – of Caribbean, specifically Antiguan-Barbudan descent. Don’t let the book’s deceptive thinness (novella length at just 93 pages, including a glossary) fool you, it’s a weighty volume made lighter by the rhythmic flow of the narrative, the precise use of language, the way it captures inner visions by being both symbolic and real, and the atmospheric rendering of setting – that setting, a London rarely seen, and even more rarely understood (by those who think race issues for Blacks in a metropolis is purely an American problem).”

London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne
Full review here.

This UK publication is successor to the seminal Daughters of Africa, also edited by Margaret Busby, released 25 years earlier. It is an NAACP Image Award (fiction) nominee. I have a story in #NDOA alongside more than 200 writers from across Africa and her diaspora.

Review excerpt: “Bold and insightful, brilliant in its intimacy and universality” (review by New Beacon Books).

New Daughters of Africa: an International Anthology of 20th and 21st Century Writing by Women of African Descent edited by Margaret Busby
Full review here.

No review as I am also a contributor but here’s a link to an #aboutthebook.

So the Nailhead Bend, So the Story End: an Anthology of Antiguan and Barbudan Writing (edited) by Althea Prince

Review excerpt: “… in a children’s books, children should get to see themselves, dream, feel joy, and on Turtle Beach on Anais’ birthday on the occasion of the hatching of hundreds of new life, there is that.”

Turtle Beach by Barbara A Arrindell w/illustrator Zavian Archibald
Full review here.

Randall Kenan died in summer 2020.

Review excerpt: “I like that it isn’t myopic, that it embraced the opportunity to move beyond the obvious cliches and stereotypes and temptation to romanticize or, alternatively, condemn; that it attempted to capture the day-to-day realities, inner life, and philosophies of varied Black people in America.”

Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century by Randall Kenan
Full review here.

Review excerpt: “She (Trevor Noah’s mom) is very familiar. She is African and the women I grew up knowing are African-Caribbean, but they have in common a particular strain of strength and resilience, and manage to regard the fact that their life is more struggle than not with a mix of humor and resolve. The fact that they don’t bemoan their existence but push through it, well, I can only aspire to have half their strength.”

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Full review here.

#MusicalYouthbook which started life as a CODE Burt Award teen/young adult Caribbean lit finalist and was recently named a top 100 indie of the year by Kirkus Reviews. Review excerpt: “I’ve just this minute finished reading Musical Youth. It’s absolutely brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I think it should be read by young adults across the Caribbean. The themes are so powerful.” – Carolyn Cooper (professor emeritus, UWI)

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse
More reader and professional reviews here.

Review excerpt: “I hardly know where to start. Maybe with the good people who make up the uneasy alliance of ‘heroes’. The remaining members of a decimated house in a very old order (secret society stuff) watching and guarding like the Watchers (Highlander) or the Talamasca (Anne Rice worlds), a soucouyant and apprentice soucouyant, a shape shifter of some sort, a clairvoyant, dog and dog like beings, an underworld king, a university student with the gift of tapping in to whatever supernatural power she needs, a child ghost, another child ghost, a former trans prostitute cum vampire, some machine gun wielding humans, a dead obeah man and former enslaved man. That’s just some of the people and other beings in this fast-paced, high stakes novel. There’s also a sentient house.”

Greyborn Rising by Derry Sandy
Full review here.

My second book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight was originally issued with Macmillan and later re-issued with Insomniac as Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings – the other writings being stories and poems of mine, most previously published in various journals and anthologies. One Amazon reader review said about this latter collection: “Why it took me so long to read some of Joanne’s work? I don’t know – perhaps when you live on a small island you too busy looking out to see what’s under your (nose), but her writing rings so true for someone who has spent a good part of their life in Antigua. ‘True that’ I found myself saying: first as I read ‘Dancing (Nude) in the Moonlight’, and again – even more so – when I read the ‘Other Writings’ – even though the dialect sometimes got away from me. Time for a ‘Collected Works of Joanne Hillhouse’ I think with lots of her short stories that might keep you awake at night, and more of her poems – so sparely worded, but so powerful.”

One Amazon reader review said about the latter collection (above, right, including the original novella and other short fiction, non fiction, and poetry): “Why it took me so long to read some of Joanne’s work? I don’t know – perhaps when you live on a small island you too busy looking out to see what’s under your (nose), but her writing rings so true for someone who has spent a good part of their life in Antigua. ‘True that’ I found myself saying: first as I read ‘Dancing (Nude) in the Moonlight’, and again – even more so – when I read the ‘Other Writings’ – even though the dialect sometimes got away from me. Time for a ‘Collected Works of Joanne Hillhouse’ I think with lots of her short stories that might keep you awake at night, and more of her poems – so sparely worded, but so powerful.”

Dancing Nude in the Moonlight by Joanne C. Hillhouse
More reader and professional reviews here.

“A wrenching read, and yet a hopeful one” tackling “heavy issues (mental health, lesbianism, race, differentness, acceptance, young love, parent-child conflict, homophobia, first v. developing world issues) with candour, quintessential Caribbean humour (“No, girl, you’re not dying”), and, at the same time, care.”

Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini
Full review here.

This is my first book. Two of the covers pictured were never used; and one is the first and one the second published edition.

Reader review: “The figure in the straw hat spooked me, though, but it would not have been a true Caribbean story without the presence of an apparition of some sort. The author had demonstrated enviable skills in economy of words – covering so much with so little. For those who grew up reading-loving-stories from The Sun’s Eye, you’d definitely appreciate this book. Read it.”

The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse
More reader and professional reviews and endorsements here.

Review excerpt: ‘To Shoot Hard Labour veers from your traditional slave narrative in that it begins in 1834 – the year slavery legally ended in the English speaking Caribbean, with the four year apprenticeship in all colonies but Antigua being a technicality that extended it another four years. I, therefore, describe it as a post-slavery narrative. Its main theme, beginning with Papa Sammy’s ancestor Rachael’s long walk across Antigua to re-connect with the daughter sold off years before, is the quest for freedom, life, humanity in a world determined to keep Black people underfoot. “Only when they find Minty they really believe that slavery was all over for sure.” (p. 32) But not without scars, “Minty had a brand on she hand.” (p. 32)’

To Shoot Hard Labour: The Life and Times of Samuel Smith, an Antiguan workingman 1877-1982 by Keithlyn and Fernando Smith
Full review here.

in doing this month long project, I tried to spread it around the globe – 7 local/Antiguan-Barbudan, 8 Caribbean, 9 American, but only 3 international – a sign to me that I need to read more globally. There are so many other books I could have pulled – from Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then and Lucy, to Althea Romeo-Mark’s If Only the Dust would Settle and The Nakedness of New, to Bernice McFadden’s Glorious, to Eugenia O’Neal’s Dido’s Prize, to the Collins Caribbean children’s books currently being rolled out, to the books currently in the running in the #readAntiguaBarbuda readers choice book of the year initiative, to Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, to Dreamland Barbuda by Asha Frank, to Caryl Philips’ Dancing in the Dark, to Hazel Campbell’s (RIP) Jamaica on My Mind, to all of these children’s books, and I could go on (but this is long enough).

Thanks for taking this month long journey with me and continue to #readBlack #readglobally #readdiversely all year round.

18 thoughts on “My #BHM #ABookADay/#BookoftheDay Project

  1. Black Brother Black Brother is high on my wish list after one, reading Ghost Boys, and two, watching this author and her daughter over the summer discuss their books. I was on the street team for Agnes at the End of the World and loved this book, despite it being about a pandemic. It gave me hope while reading.

    • Ghost Boys is on my TBR. I haven’t heard of Agnes at the End of the World but now you’ve put it on my radar. If you don’t mind sharing, I’m interested in you being on the street team…I know what it looks like for the music industry but not the book industry, and, as an author, maybe/clearly I should.

  2. Pingback: Carib Lit Plus (Early to Mid March 2021) | Wadadli Pen

  3. The only one of these I’ve read is Trevor Noah’s. LOVED that book! I’ll confess that one of the series I featured on my blog this month had ZERO info on the author to be found (it’s a chapter book series, so that happens sometimes with those). I accepted the books for a Black History Month feature without looking into the author, and the fact that there’s no info on her makes me think she’s probably not Black. I still featured the books because I do think they offer a lot of great diversity (there are also characters with physical disabilities and same sex parents), but it made me realize I have to do a little more digging before agreeing to feature a book for a specific purpose like Black History Month. I would have felt better about it if I knew for sure the author is Black.

    • Loved Born a Crime as well. Be sure to check out his comedy special Son of Patricia on Netflix as well. I hear you re due diligence when spotlighting a book for diversity which may not actually be specifically representative of that diversity . I have read and enjoyed books that are not #ownvoices books (To Kill a Mockingbird has been a personal fave since secondary school). But there is a necessity to make space for #ownvoices books especially during a time dedicated to those voices (but in general as well). The publishing industry in general need to boost diverse voices and readers and book bloggers are a part of that – so, while, of course, reading what we enjoy, it’s good to be diligent. All of which is to say, I think it’s good that you’re being self-reflective on that (as we all should be).

    • If you liked it, you should check out her earlier book Silver Sparrow – that’s my favourite. I’ve also been to a reading by the author (alongside Judy Blume at a bookstore in New York – it was quite the treat).

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