[Many thanks to Nicholas Laughlin for bringing this item to our attention.] Moko is pleased to announce a new special issue for Spring 2018 focusing on the art that Carnival inspires, edited by Trinidadian writer and editor Anu Lakhan. Description (by Anu Lakhan): Carnival throughout the Caribbean and the diaspora has both fans and detractors. The […]
I’ll be linking this post with the meme This Week in Books.
This week I finished Nectar in a Sieve and started the next book in the Glamourist Series.
I also did some housekeeping re the Blogger in Books series, starting the sixth book in the series with Nectar.
My review begins:
“Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya – Nectar in a Sieve is a very harrowing novel. Harrowing has a few definitions. It can refer to the tool used to break up and level land, to the process of drawing a harrow over the land to break it up, to becoming broken up by the process, and to disturbing and distressing the mind, soul, and spirit. All seem applicable.”
Today, I started Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal, my third (fourth if we’re being technical) read in her Glamourist series. And yes, there are several books on my active reading pile, more on my unread books shelf, more on my wish list, plus one I bought this week (a Faye Kellerman…but in my defense, a World War ll era detective novel by one of my favourite mystery-thriller authors, and from the discount shelf) and another I inquired about at the bookstore (a Jonathan Kellerman, my favourite-er mystery-thriller author). Don’t judge me. I need good things right now.
As a reminder, I have restarted my creative writing workshops as of this month. You can participate from anywhere. This cycle runs to February 3rd but if you want to participate in future cycles contact me. Read about my Jhohadli Writing Project workshop series here.
JHOHADLI WRITING PROJECT – what it means – Jhohadli (this refers to my pen name/alter ego), Writing (this refers to what I do and what I teach), Project (a piece of work or an activity towards a specific purpose; a study of a particular subject). Beginning with my first Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project (in 2013), the Jhohadli Writing Project has evolved in to the umbrella under which I offer my writing workshops and courses. UPDATE! The latest workshops in the series begin on January 13th 2018 and it’s open to local and international participants. Contact me me (ideally on or before January 5th 2018) to find out how you can participate. This is only the first series for the year, more will follow; if you would like to be added to the mailing list for news contact me.
I’m doing this because books are my happy place (one of them) and 2018 started to lose its new year smell today (which no bueno since my new year doesn’t officially begin until after my birthday). One way to hold on to that new year smell is to limit contact with the real world but the real world will not be denied! Come in, books, to give me a happy.
Thanks, ZeeZee, for inviting me down that rabbit hole with you. Nod to the creator, Jamie, the Perpetual Page-turner. Jamie said she isn’t sure she’s going to participate because she didn’t read a lot this year. Ha! I see your ‘didn’t read a lot this year’ and raise you ‘welcome to my life pretty much every year’ – because I swear the book blogging community makes me feel like a slug. These are some fast reading, plentiful reading people. But, still, I’ll play.
2017 Reading Stats
Number of Books read: 19
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre you read the most from: Fiction (various)
Best in Books
1. Best Book you read in 2017: I’m going to stick with the one from my year end Top 10, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t: I’m reading it; will see how it turns out.
3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book that you read: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. This one actually ended up in my hands after I complained about the movie in a facebook group and a book blogger decided to send the book to me because the book is always better. It was. So much better it’s in my year end Top 10.
4. Book you pushed the most people to read (and they did): I didn’t push a lot of people to read this one but it is the book that I talked about a lot, prompting someone else to read it and fuelling much discussion between us. The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Number 2 in my year end Top 10.
5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?
Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series. Technically, I started this some years ago as I had a role in editing a later book in the series but I started at the beginning this year and am two books in. I like it so far.
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
I know I read some people I haven’t read before but I can’t think of any new author I discovered.
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I think a vampire mash up with historical fiction featuring a well known former US president (Lincoln) is pretty far out of my comfort zone though anyone who knows my joy of speculative fiction might disagree.
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
None. I’m not much of a re-reader.
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?
None of the covers really wow’d me.
11. Most memorable character of 2017?
I think maybe the boy, Free El Salvador, in the Lizard Cage because his fate is what had my guts twisted up in worry during most of the reading.
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
Wide Sargasso Sea. Beautifully descriptive and textured prose.
13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?
Probably The Known World. The writing in this had a way of surprising at times, without being showy, but what was even more profound was the way it made me question and/or re-discover what I thought I knew about slavery.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read?
Probably Wide Sargasso Sea. I am Caribbean. Jane Eyre which it responds to is one of my favourite books from girlhood. It’s a Caribbean classic – one of the rare Caribbean classics by a woman, one that everyone has read; but like so many classics, it’s one of those books that you feel like you already know and half-convince yourself you’ve already read. And maybe you have.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?
I can’t pull an exact quote or passage off the top of my head but …Marlon James’ Brief History of Seven Killings…I’m not finished reading it by half (it’s very long), but so many passages are vivid and violent and don’t allow you to look away. Back in September when I was only 36 pages in I posted this to my facebook: ‘How many times can you say “oh f*ck, that was intense!” when reading a book? Well, I’m only 36 pages in so I don’t know yet. But “oh f*ck, that was intense!” #HistoryofSevenKillings #whatimreading …’ So you get the idea.
I’ll also share something from a book I’ve actually finished: “She couldn’t out-run Glendon, she had to wrong-foot him.” – from Skinning Up by Jacqueline Crooks in Closure: Contemporary Black British Short Stories. This was one of my favourite stories in the collection, the tension pulled tight and the situation all too relatable, if you’re a woman.
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?
Shortest was Go de Raas to Sleep and longest is (still in progress). See above.
17. Book That Shocked You The Most
Probably The Lizard Cage. It was so unrelentingly brutal that I didn’t see the ending coming.
18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
My One True Pairing…hmmm…you know what, the regency era glamourist couple in the glamourist series. They work and she doesn’t lose herself in the process.
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
The Singer in The Lizard Cage (not to be confused with the Singer in A Brief History…) and Free El Salvador.
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
I guess this would have to be Shakirah Bourne’s In Time of Need. I’ve only read her short stories, some of which are in this collection, before; but this book delivered on the promise of those stories.
21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
I guess that would have to be the Abraham Lincoln Vampire book.
22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?
No crushes. Alas.
23. Best 2017 debut you read?
I didn’t read any 2017 debuts.
24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
LOL probably Leone Ross’ world of hymens, hymens, hymens everywhere in The Müllerian Eminence in the story collection Closure.
25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Go de Raas to Sleep.
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?
Probably a tie between The Known World and The Lizard Cage. Both were rough.
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Well, it wasn’t published this year but In Time of Need, maybe.
28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?
I’m going to say Closure because there were so many stories in there just kind of pushing the boundaries of form and subject. See Now Then given its fluid relationship with time and its narrative form would be in there though.
30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
The Known World. Loved it. But our history (as African/Africa-descended people in the Americas) has not been easy.
Your Blogging/Bookish Life
1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?
Oh wow…Zeezee? And not just because she’s tagged in this post.
2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?
Do You Know Eileen Hall? about The Fountain the Bough by Eileen Hall. Because I was the only one writing about her, because she’s so obscure, because there was so much research and excavation involved it felt like a proper investigation as much as a review, because once I started it felt like a mission to discover this Antiguan and Barbudan writer and return her to her people (she is described as an American poet on Wikepedia)…and of course nobody cares really, the hours on hours of research are in the end just my self-indulgence…but it was fun.
3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
After the Storm which was my first post after the passage of hurricane Irma. So many people reached out via email, facebook, and here on the blog, it was a beautiful reminder that sometimes we’re not as alone as we feel.
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Okay, I have three. The first is the Wadadli Stories Book Fair. My favourite moment at that was when a little boy asked me if I was a pirate. Costume win! The second was Carnival where a couple of friends and I built a mas of our own, Grace’s Merrymakers, inspired by the mango tree faerie from my book With Grace. Costume win times three! The third was pre-Christmas, the book signing for my newest picture book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure.
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?
I’ll share one of my favourite comments (from Anne at Books, Baking, and Blogging) “as a white woman I think it’s important to be educated on intersectionality. I think “my” feminism is intersectional, but I do of course need to keep my eyes open and I also need to be open to learning from others. There’s so much I don’t know yet, or that I could do better. It’s posts like these that help me learn.” It was in response to my post on the movie Suffragette and I like it because sometimes it’s not clear that we’re hearing each other across the barriers of our individual identities, and it was a nice reminder that sometimes we are.
6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
Time. Also still navigating how to monetize the blog.
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
I actually did a Top Ten Posts of the Year and it was Ancestral Remembrance on Emancipation Day. Most popular book review page would probably be Closure going by page views – probably boosted by the publisher sharing the link to the review on their website.
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
A Year of Grace. I worked a long time on that video.
My Pre-Teen and Teen Lit Heroines. It seemed the kind of topic we could pick apart for hours.
Why With Grace. Where I discuss fairytale tropes alongside my own efforts to craft a Caribbean faerie tale.
9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Just to read more. Life gets in the way.
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?
I don’t know if it’s my number one priority, but I do really want to read Kei Miller’s Augustown because I’ve liked everything of his that I’ve read so far. And he made me ackee lasagna one time (lol).
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?
Well, I have a to-read list of pre-2018 books that I’ll need a few lifetimes to read. Pulling some from that list at random…. Decoded by Jay-Z (moreso after this year’s 4:44), The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (I like alternate histories and this one hit my radar after its Man Booker win), Handbook for an Unpredictable Life by Rosie Perez (celeb bios are a ‘guilty’ pleasure), Unbelievable by Katy Tur (I can’t believe I want to read this after the sh*tshow of the last US election but I kinda do), Women Heroes of WWll: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn Atwood (because the WWll period fascinates me and usually the histories fictional and non-fictional are usually so testosterone heavy), The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesy (really I’m overdue to read something from this writer whom I’ve both met and studied with), The Night Rhonda Fergusen was Killed by Edward P. Jones (I’m game to read anything else of his), Anne Rice’s Wolf’s Gift series (love-love-love her Vampire Chronicles), Leone Ross’ Come Let us Sing Anyway (because she colours outside the lines), The Repenters by Kevin Jared Hosein (I like his short fiction and have used it in some of my workshops and his earlier book got my reluctant reader nephew to finish a book)…just to name a few.
3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Probably Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. I liked Silver Sparrow and I like her.
4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?
You know what, it’s been too long since I read an installment from Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware (detective) series. I’ve been reading it for a couple of decades, but I’ve missed a few lately, and I haven’t been able to source locally (so if anybody wants to send me one of his newer ones…).
5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?
Read more. Finish more. Enjoy it more. Network more with other bloggers – it’s such a rich community that I’m happy to continue discovering. Figure out how to monetize and boost this blog effectively.
6. A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):
Well, Brenda Lee Browne’s London Rocks is technically a 2017 release but she’s indicated that it goes in to wide release in 2018. I was one of its editors and while I haven’t had the opportunity to read the final version as yet, I liked it enough to recommend it when asked by a regional journal to be part of a special issue nominating another Caribbean writer we “feel needs to get on”.
Shout out as well to Floree Williams Whyte’s The Wonderful World of Yohan (yes, another one that I had a hand in editing) which I recently voted for as my Antiguan and Barbudan book of 2017 – an informal poll on my other blog. It’s a late 2017 release and as I said there, I voted for Yohan, among other reasons, “because he is a boy with a Walter Mitty-esque way of seeing the world which we really should encourage more – dream, dare, be your unique quirky self. Our boys need to know there’s not just one way to be or just one way to be a boy.”
(image leading in to this section is me and Floree, who came out to my signing for Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, both flashing our books)
Read reviews of any of the 2017 (or older) reads referenced in this post in my Blogger on Books series.
There are a handful of Antiguans and Barbudans among the 2000 people profiled in the Oxford University Press six volume Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography. I had the opportunity to write about one of them, cooking maven and gender advocate Gwen Tonge on commission from OUP. The collection also includes write-ups on George Walter by Columbia University professor Natasha Lightfoot, Georgiana ‘Nellie’ Robinson and Vere Cornwall Bird by UWI lecturer Cleve Scott, Leonard ‘Tim’ Hector by DePauw Assistant Professor Leslie R. James, Curtly Ambrose and Viv Richards by sports historian Geoffrey Levett, and Jamaica Kincaid by Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Daryl Cumber Dance. There may be others (if so, apologies; oversight not intended) but those are just a handful of the ones from the Rock (our 170 combined square mile of Rock of Antigua and Barbuda). The collection profiles notables like Celia Cruz, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Pele, and is edited by Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates and John Hopkins University Professor Franklyn Knight.
Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography release: AASC-DCALAB_Contributor Flyer
I recently came across this post by the late L. A. Banks (in whose workshop I was fortunate to participate when she came to Antigua in 2006 for the first – and no more – Caribbean International Literary Festival). It’s more of a rant than a post actually and, writers, if we’re being honest, we’ve had a few such rants in our time.
She writes, “How is it fair to hit the inboxes of working authors, asking them to step away from their writing or their lives to literally walk you through all the knots and rigors of getting published… when they don’t even know you? Just sayin'” – if I’m being honest I’ve had this done to me all the way back to when I published my first book The Boy from Willow Bend and knew nothing. So I probably wasn’t getting Banks-level requests; and though you might say, well, how much time does it take, well take your one request and multiply it and you might understand why a writer’s patience might have frayed to the point where they just hit delete (as Banks promised to do in this post). I understand the instinct to reach out though, I understand it and I’ve done it. My first, second, and tenth step, however, is to take the initiative and do my research; and I can tell sometimes when I do feel pressed to ask when someone feels pressed to answer – and though I may feel rebuffed at the time, being on the opposite side of it as well, helps me not hold a grudge over it. Writers are busy, we don’t have all the answers, sometimes we are treading water or drowning ourselves. Because I’ve been and in many ways still am there, however, I have tried to answer when and where I can (because we have to help each other where and when we can), and shared a portion (not all, because that too would be time consuming) of my own research online. Building a resources data base and posting about my own experiences in writing and publishing here and on the other blog (both of which have search features) has given me some space while hopefully given some others the information they’ve been seeking in their research. Space is important for a writer. So, it is important to remember that just because someone is accessible doesn’t mean they’re always available. I had to deactivate the messages function on my public facebook page at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed, because I was receiving at one point multiple, increasingly discourteous messages from people who needed information and didn’t want to do the research for themselves. These were not people seeking publishing or writing information – though I’ve had my share of those – but students assigned to research a local author who decided that that meant hitting up the writer on facebook to answer their questions – one going so far as to tell me not to re-direct her to my link here where they could find my bio and past interviews, just answer her questions. There were a lot of them but she proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back due to her approach and persistence even after being checked. At a certain point interest in your work, which feels good, tips over in to something ugly when people don’t know how to approach you politely and accept, as an answer, that you may not have the time to engage individually.
Banks also writes, ‘For those who adopt such an annoying research method of learning about publishing, this says to me you’re not serious—because you have clearly not invested in your own personal education. This is the lazy man’s approach. You haven’t gone to a conference, taken up a writing workshop, or immersed yourself in the world of “knowledge-building” for your intended craft. What you want is a quick and dirty hand-holding session by a well-known author, so you don’t have to really do any kind of meaningful investigation on your own.’ It sounds harsh but she’s not wrong. None of this is owed to us and we have to put in the work. One of the things that has evolved in my writing and freelancing life is my editing and coaching services in part in response to these requests that I take a look at this or that, a time consuming exercise (more so because as a freelancer I only get paid for my time if I insist on it), that I’ve had to monetize. From can you take a look at this letter for me to can you read my 300 page manuscript, people don’t often understand that what they’re asking is a burden to the other person – time consuming at minimum. In this past year, I had someone close to me for whom I’ve provided over the years free editing services bill me for a service at a time when I was not in a position to pay and thought they were doing me a favour. I’m not mad at them though, it was a good reminder; what we do has value and we shouldn’t be ashamed of asking people to respect that.
Banks asks, “When you send blind requests to someone’s FB inbox and solicit advice, and in most cases not even being familiar (having read) that author’s body of work, it’s really disrespectful, when you think about it. The larger question is, why should that author or person stop, drop, and roll because you suddenly had a eureka? Why should they stop and do one-on-one counseling on-line (when their time is a serious premium), versus teaching at workshops or conferences where they can dispense this knowledge efficiently to a mass audience or group? Why shouldn’t they instead elect to answer such questions in the many college settings where they are compensated for their knowledge, time and talent—just like you one day hope to be?” While I don’t agree that merely asking is disrespectful, I started offering workshops because I wanted to be able to address some of this. As I write this, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new series of workshops I hope to offer this January. I am mindful even as I type this that the registration level is not equal to the number of requests I get for advice or to review things. I understand that some of it is financial. I understand about wanting to do some kind of personal or professional development programme, and not having the money to invest. I do. And I try to strike a balance but a writer has bills to pay too…and bill collectors don’t care how many woman hours I’ve given to helping hours. So I hope my efforts can pay off for both me and those who have the money to invest. And on the days when I have the time, I’ll continue to give what I can (but it’s important to understand that sometimes I can’t).
Banks drew a firmer line than I have – and she wasn’t wrong to do so and I am learning to be less apologetic about needing to make a living and not always having the time (even if it means that sometimes I’ll be called…a female dog).
Finally, Banks delves in to a bunch of social media faux pas that I won’t detail here but some of which you may be able to relate to, writer or not – we’ve all taken missteps, the point is to stay learning – so I take the smack on the wrists if I’ve been guilty of any of these and will try to do better.
Do better is a good mantra for all of us. So, don’t feel no way; just do better.
AND if you want to sign up for my latest workshop – resident in Antigua or not – there’s still time.