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.”

BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER by Jewell Parker Rhodes
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 wadadlipen@gmail.com

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.

Finally! Wadadli Pen Challenge Launches

What’s new and different about the Wadadli Pen 2021 Challenge?

No age limit
Sub-theme focused on ‘2020’
Art+Text submissions welcomed

What’s not new
Open to residents of Antigua and Barbuda (only)
1000 upper word limit
Any genre
Make it Caribbean
An opportunity to share your story (and win prizes)
A reminder that prizes are just an incentive, not the purpose
Submit with entry form (see Wadadli Pen 2021)

Wadadli Pen

PRESS RELEASE


THE WADADLI PEN 2021 CHALLNGE INVITES REFLECTION ON ‘2020’

February 26th 2021

The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize returns with its latest challenge to writers and artists in Antigua and Barbuda. As in the past, the 1000 word (maximum) entries – of any literary genre or sub-genre – should be Caribbean in spirit. Entrants can write about anything but there is, also, an optional themed challenge.

The arts often flourish in difficult times as a way of channeling and expressing, also escaping, the turmoil and complexities of that time. For that reason, and the cathartic relief it can offer, Wadadli Pen looks back to ‘2020’, a year which has become a euphemism for struggle and uncertainty, as an optional sub-theme of the 2021 Wadadli Pen Challenge, with a reminder to reflect, imagine, and make it Caribbean. Both written and art-text combos (i.e. storytelling using both written and visual art)…

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More Awards News

Art Directors Guild Nominations

Not my area of expertise but an opportunity to see how caught up I am on the shows in possible Oscar contention. So let’s play (once again) the Seen/Not Seen game. Your answers in the comments.

Period Feature Film
Mank – started, didn’t finish
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Seen, really liked
Mulan – Not seen (but why do I think of this as fantasy rather than period feature)
News of the World – Not seen
Trial of the Chicago 7 – Seen, mostly liked


Fantasy Feature Film
Birds of Prey – Not seen
Pinocchio – Not seen (didn’t even know there was a new Pinocchio)
Tenet – Not seen
The Midnight Sky – Not seen
Wonder Woman 1984 – Not seen

Sidenote: Hollywood needs to come through with Delroy Lindo’s nomination for Da 5 Bloods if the Oscars is to have any credibilty.


Contemporary Feature Film
Da 5 Bloods – Seen, really liked
I’m thinking of ending Things – Not seen (but curious…but also slightly…preemptively spooked)
Palm Springs – Seen, liked
Promising Young Woman – Not seen (but on the to watch list)
The Prom – Started, didn’t finish


Animated Feature Film
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon – Not seen
Onward – Not seen
Soul – Seen, mostly liked
The Croods: a New Age – Not Seen
Wolfwalkers – Not Seen (but on my to watch list)


One-hour period or fantasy single camera series (what an odd combo, period or fantasy)
Lovecraft Country – Started, plan to finish
Perry Mason – Not seen, but a possible future addition to the to watch list
The Crown – Started, didn’t finish
The Mandalorian – Started, plan to finish
Westworld – Started, didn’t finish


One-hour contemporary single camera series
Killing Eve – Not seen
Ozark – Not seen
The Flight Attendant – Not seen (but on my to watch list)
The Twilight Zone – Started, may go back to it (though a little bit spooked)
Utopia – Not seen (in fact, never heart of it)


Television movie or limited series
Fargo – Not seen
Hollywood – Started, didn’t finish
Little Fires Everywhere –Seen, mostly liked
The Alienist – Not Seen (in fact, never heard of it)
The Queen’s Gambit – Not seen


Half Hour single camera series
Dead to Me – Not seen
Emily in Paris – Not seen
Mythic Request – Not seen (in fact, never heard of it)
Space Force – Not seen
What we do in the Shadows – Started, didn’t finish


Multi-camera series
Ashley Garcia – Not seen (in fact, never heard of it)
Bob Hearts Abishola – Not seen (in fact, never heard of it)
Family Reunion – Not seen (I don’t think)
The Neighborhood – Not seen (but on my to watch list)
Will and Grace (the revival) – Not seen (did see the original run but…)


Short form, music video, web series – Not seen (any of them)

Variery, Reality, or Competition series – Not seen, mostly (don’t watch reality shows but I have watched The Voice and Saturday Night Live in the past)

Variety Special – Not seen, mostly (only seen The Oscars and the Super bowl half time show with JLo and Shakira and liked the latter; as for the Oscars, I don’t really get the whole nominating award shows for awards thing)

5 New Things

  1. I finished The Festival of San Joaquin by Zee Edgell and I REC. Read my review, posted to Blogger on Books here.

2. This shelf of books by Antiguans and Barbudans at local bookstore, Best of Books, continues to swell. That’s artist Zavian Archibald holding two of its newest additions, my own The Jungle Outside and Turtle Beach, reviewed recently on the site, which she illustrated – the book, not the site. The rollout of Collins Caribbean titles continues.

3. What am I currently reading? Several books but the one I picked up first after turning the last page on The Festival of San Joaquin is Fireburn by Apple Gidley – this was sent to me by the author, it’s historical fiction set in the Virgin Islands. I am curious about this period. You may remember I wrote about Fireburn during my She’s Royal series, specifically the three queens of that particular revolution – Queens Mary, Mathilda, and Agnes. So, we’ll see how it goes.

4. This link is less new and more an ICYMI – my article Indie Success: Writing off the Map in Publisher’s Weekly. It’s worth mentioning that every person mentioned in that article has a book new or forthcoming since its publication last September – there’s my children’s book The Jungle Outside with Collins (UK), the US edition of which drops soon, and which has already had its UK and Caribbean debut and is available for pre-order in other markets; Shakirah Bourne’s middle grade novel about a girl suspicious of her dad’s new love in Josephine Against the Sea, new in July from Scholastic in the US; Diana McCaulay’s teen/young adult novel Daylight Come (with Peepal Tree Press in the UK) which sounds so different and interesting – it’s a future dystopia set in a Caribbean where the sun is deadly; and Lisa Allen-Agostini’s first adult novel The Bread the Devil Knead. A book for every reading level to add to your TBR and all Caribbean authors, in case you’re looking to diversify your reading list beyond Black History Month. I am from Antigua and Barbuda, Shakirah is from Barbados, Diana is Jamaican, and Lisa is a Trini.

5. I thought I’d end this 5 things post by sharing five things I found of interest in my blog network –

Book’d Out touched, in her It’s Monday, What are you reading Post, on the Facebook v. the Australian government case, which I have heard about but don’t quite follow; the reading inertia I can definitely relate to though I don’t have as good a reason.

Nadinola Writes‘ tag line is “short reads, good laughs” and the headline “Did I mash your corn?” certainly teased a laugh out of me. It is such an Antiguanism (remember I youtubed some of those recently). Reading it there are other Antiguanisms but there is also the universal affliction that connects to the title, speaking your truth at risk of offending, and this more particular truth we grapple with as bloggers – what to say, and what not to say, the why and how of telling our stories (sometimes in a confessional way) in this public space…especially when you live in a small place that provides your words no cover and you no anonymity.

Books and Livres (is this books and books?) said something in their Sunday Salon, a couple of things, that had me wondering, if not for the snow and all the mud, wait, are you in Antigua? – I did have to skip part of the post as, unlike Books and Livres I am NOT all caught up on ‘Supernatural’. One, I have been soaking up as much sun as I can too – infusing vitamin D in my backyard while finishing up The Festival of San Joaquin and listening to disco (yes, disco) – a prescriptive mini-staycation/mental health break. Two, a friend and I were just tonight griping about the home by six feeling because curfew. This period can’t pass quickly enough.

Moviejoltz settled it for me with their review of ‘I care a Lot’ which Netflix has been reccing to me but which, Dianne Wiest aside, has not really sparked my interest (add this one to the not-good reviews I’ve been seeing about it). I have too much to catch up on. But this gives me an opportunity to talk about Diane Wiest who doesn’t show up on screen nearly enough. I first saw her as a kid in a movie called ‘Independence Day’, not that one, a movie about marital abuse that had quite an effect on me. I next saw her in ‘Footloose’ as another oppressed wife, then in several Woody Allen films (back when I watched Woody Allen films), then as the mom in one of my teen days favourites ‘The Lost Boys’ and as another mom under pressure in ‘Parenthood’ (hello, Keanu). She had become an actress I liked if not necessarily one I raved about and this would continue through (‘Cookie’, ‘Little Man Tate’, and ‘The Birdcage’). I haven’t seen her a lot (or at all) since her ‘Law and Order’ days in the early 2000s. So I may not be checking out ‘I care a Lot’ but I may give ‘Let them All Talk’ a look-see.

-scrolling Word by Word recently two books caught my eye. I’ve added The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins to my TBR (though it sounds like I’ll have to read this gothic horror historical novel in the daytime) – I’ll admit that it being partly set in the Caribbean was what made me stop, it’s a rare thing in this book blogosphere, and this blog had more – props to bloggers with diverse reading habits. I’ve already read Lucy by my country woman Jamaica Kincaid, it’s one of my faves of hers, in fact, so I was happy to get in (virtual) conversation with another writer on it. I’ll be adding this review to the reviews page where I collect reviews of Antiguan and Barbudan books on the Wadadli Pen blog. Something new that occurred to me, I wonder if the Queen Victoria Girls School from the book, as mentioned on the blog, was a stand in for the actual school on island, Jamaica being from Antigua, Princess Margaret School. Hmmm.

A Note Re Reader Reviews and Oh Gad!

My novel Oh Gad! has been out of print for a minute. Don’t think that’s going to stop me from sharing these two recent reader reviews I found on Goodreads and added to the Reviews and Endorsements page. As if. As I said in one of my instagram #BlackHistoryMonth #bookaday posts, readers putting their feedback out there (good, bad, in-between) has been invaluable, especially earlier in my career (and still, to a degree) when critics weren’t so much as sneezing in my direction. Honestly, I didn’t have the luxury of not reading what the readers were saying as that became, of necessity, part of my marketing strategy – using that word of mouth to slow build buzz – and it’s amazing to see it still going even with the book being shelved. Beyond that, it’s just appreciation for readers, #bookstagrammers, booktubers, book bloggers, book lovers all for sharing your thoughts wherever you share them. It’s odd and interesting and humbling and indescribable really reading your insights. Always.

“Oh Gad has an interesting structure and drive that keeps you curious for more. Nikki Baltimore, a 30 year old living in the concrete jungle of New York, has her mundane life turned upside down when she gets the call that her distant mother has passed. From the first page, we enter into Nikki’s world, and stick with her through all of the ups and downs, twists and turns that shake her. From her arrival in Antigua to her first encounter with her semi-estranged family from her mother’s side, we read about her navigating a move, new love interests, political unrest, career changes, cultural differences, and a whole lot of family drama. Hillhouse doesn’t stop at just developing Nikki, but also developing the multiple characters that are an integral part of the story. There’s so much that happens, and the page count that allows for it, but I never felt at any point like the story was dragging. Once I did reach the end, I still wasn’t ready for it to be over. The problem with becoming so heavily invested in multiple characters is that you want to see resolution for all of them, not just the MC. Overall, it was a really enjoyable and entertaining read.”

“A wonderful invocation of place filled with in-depth characters. Interesting pacing moving time forward to keep the reader perfectly engaged. Only criticism is abruptness of the ending.”

For more critical and reader reviews of Oh Gad! go here. For links to reviews of all my books, go here. And remember, author to reader, we really appreciate when you take the time to share your thoughts and maybe, by doing so, help someone else discover our books – it’s one of the reasons (apart from being a book nerd who just really wants to talk about the books I read) I try to pay it forward in the Blogger on Books series in which I talk about books I’ve read here and on my YouTube Channel and really across my social media. The image below is from the launch of this book – you can view the full gallery here. And read about my books still in print here. And, yes, I am working on new books. Yes, plural – pray for me.

with late Antiguan and Barbudan calypso writer Marcus Christopher who came out for the midnight launch of my novel Oh Gad! in 2012. It meant a lot to see him there. May he rest in peace.

Blueberry Ice-Cream and Other Nice Things

Honestly, there’s been an uptick in COVID deaths here, putting everyone on edge, even as the vaccine rollout begins and vaccine education amps up. It’s a tense time. But it’s also Sunday so I’m going to try to find some nice-ness to share for the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post.

Like blueberry ice cream. (all gone, no pic)

Like my new favourite mask. (art by local artist Edison Liburd)

Like the Accent tag video that I recently uploaded to my YouTube Channel.

Like my continuing #BlackHistoryMonth #bookaday challenge across my social media (click the pic below for a youtube link summarizing the first half of the month and hold this space for my month end catch up video for the latter half of the month).

Like the 35th anniversary of Janet Jackson’s Control album, the beginning of an incomparable run that included Rhythm Nation, Janet, Velvet Rope, and Damita Joe (yeah, I said it… put some respect on Janet’s name).

Like this dope email I just pulled up, from the quagmire that is my inbox, from a writer who’s been killing it in the game and who took the time to share her thoughts on a story of mine: ‘“Vincent” is so well written! Not one unnecessary or spare word. Every word did its job. The writing is tight and crisp and the story, like the character, so wonderfully layered. Nice writing, Joanne.’

Like I said nice things. Vincent, by the way, remains unpublished but it was long listed last year for the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival (BCLF) Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean.

This week what’d I read? Lines are mad crazy here so I tried to listen to the audio book I’m reading while sitting in a mall parking lot waiting for my mom to do her banking (lol…my life)… and I … fell asleep. Which is why I’m not mentioning the book, because it’s not the book’s fault. Sleep will not be denied in the daytime, it’s nighttime sleep that remains an uphill climb. But we’re not complaining about that today because this post is pure niceness.

Like my latest book, children’s picture book, The Jungle Outside, finally making its way on to local bookshelves and me signing 60 copies.

Site Updates (18-2-21)

What’s new?

A quick stop to share the latest CREATIVE SPACE which is gardening themed – which is in keeping with the local art and culture theme of the column, backyard gardening having taken off in Antigua and Barbuda this past year. How about where you are?

The image to the right is from my latest picture book The Jungle Outside. If you’re in Antigua and Barbuda, it’s available here as of this week at the Best of Books bookstore. It’s been available in the United Kingdom since January, and will be available in the United States and other markets (where it is available for pre-order) as of March. I hope you buy it for the children in your life and share a review when done.

In other book news, I have been sharing #abookaday across my social media and I did a round up of the books shared up to mid-month on my YouTube channel, AntiguanWriter. I hope you’re following and I hope you are subscribed.

Finally, what am I reading this week?

A bit of this, a bit of that – I’ve dipped back in to Beneath Lion’s Wings, a romance sent to me by the author, Marie Ohanesian Nardin, some time ago; and Zee Edgell’s Festival of San Joaquin, which is my first book purchase in a while (because of a self-imposed embargo).

Mostly though, I’ve been listening to Sheena Rose’s new audio book release of her older self-published short story collection In Time of Need.

What are you reading?

And how are you doing. I’ve felt particularly “modie” as we say in Antigua-Barbuda – emotions all over the place but mostly hitting a personal wall with these unevenly applied COVID restrictions and just this treading water we’ve been doing this past year in general. But praying the world turns a corner soon.

The #BookBloggerHop on Film Adaptations

This week’s Book Blogger Hop‘s question is ‘What book or series can you see getting made in to a movie and not being horribly rewritten?’

Some Hollywood takes on favourite books that I’ve liked that immediately come to mind are Roots the miniseries based on the book Roots by Alex Haley, The Godfather based on The Godfather by Mario Puzo, Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, which became Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides, and Louis Lamour’s Lonesome Dove, a mini-series for TV, and there are more; so, I’m not of the mindset that Hollywood always gets it wrong obviously. I’ve liked takes on Little Women, Misery, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, for instance.

But you know what I’d like to see, more Hollywood money going in to Black stories, and stories by various people of colour, because we have a lot of stories yet untold. I mean, pick a book, any book; hell, pick one of mine. My answer to this question could change every day of the year for five years and I still wouldn’t run out of books and stories yet untold. So, let’s start with my most recent upload (a re-upload of an older review actually) Randall Kenan’s Walking on Water, which could be made in to a non-fiction anthology series on Black American lives. It would certainly prove the truth of the oft repeated Black people are not a monolith, as it delves in to lives that are kaleidoscopic in their variation, and all 100 percent Black. Randall Kenan died last summer and this book, to my mind, is more relevant than ever. Here’s my review.

While we’re here, new posts on the blog, since I last participated in a book blog meme, include: Kirkus List Post *for the Scrapbook*, CREATIVE SPACE (Updates), and And They’re Off (Awards Season). See also updates to the Accolades, and the The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth Reviews and Endorsements pages.

Finally, the most recent book reviews on the blog, in case you missed them, are Cold Case by Faye Kellerman and a children’s picture book Turtle Beach by Barbara A. Arrindell, part of the Collins Big Cat rollout of Caribbean children’s books; and before that Storm Limited Series by Warren Ellis and Terry Dodson and Inferno by Dan Brown (I did quick takes on both), and all of my 2020 reads/reviews which ended with Derry Sandy’s Greyborn Rising.

Kirkus List Post *for the scrapbook*

You don’t want to see my email inbox. I continue to wade through it and, doing so, bumped in to this publisher issued press release of me making the Kirkus Review top 100 indie of 2020 list back in December. Don’t worry, I did blow this happening up in December, via social media – via media – via direct mailings – but the press release itself, not so much. So, I’m sharing now. So what it’s February of the extended 2020 season. I’m posting it – for the record – linking to my online scrapbook. With thanks to the literary gods for this blessing among the mixed blessings of #thewritinglife

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Antiguan and Barbudan YA book named one of Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Books of 2020

St. Johns, Antigua (December 16, 2020) The second edition of Musical Youth by Antiguan and Barbudan author, Joanne C. Hillhouse has been named as one of the top 100 Indie books reviewed by Kirkus Reviews in 2020. The starred review calls the book “overwhelmingly joyful” and ranks it “in the tradition of the best YA stories” with “convincing” characters that are “unfailingly realistic in their interactions, interests, and struggles.”

Kirkus Reviews is an American company founded in 1933 and focused on providing reviews that are high in integrity, honest, and accessible. According to their website, they review more than 8,000 books per year, and award starred reviews to “books of exceptional merit.” Musical Youth’s starred review will be featured as one of the Best Indie Books of 2020 in the December 15 issue of Kirkus Reviews magazine, in a special email newsletter on December 21, and on their website starting December 21.

On receiving the news of the award, author Joanne C. Hillhouse was particularly pleased that the reviewers saw the joy in the book. “I wanted to write a book that teens would want to pick up and read even if they were not required to read it for school.” Hillhouse has authored several other books for adults and children including Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure published by CaribbeanReads. Musical Youth is a coming-of-age story set in Antigua. The main character, Zahara is brilliant on the guitar but struggles to fit in in school. She meets Shaka, also a musician, and a romance blossoms between them. By chronicling one summer in the lives of these characters and their friends, Musical Youth, touches on a number of issues that our Caribbean youth face such as class differences, colourism, and relationships-romantic, familial, and platonic. First published in 2014, Musical Youth is not new to recognition and praise. The book was the (second-placed) winner in that year’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature by CODE, a Canadian NGO. In the first week of its release it ranked among Amazon’s hot new releases in YA Performing Arts Fiction, and it was mentioned in the February 2016 Essence Magazine. Caribbean authors and educators have praised it repeatedly, as a “must-read” that is “absolutely brilliant” and “beautifully crafted” with “unforgettable themes, setting, and language.”

The first edition of Musical Youth was not submitted for a Kirkus review because traditional reviews typically require a book to be submitted at least three months before publication and the Burt Award prize required that the book be published within a very tight deadline. The second edition, released after the first run of books sold out, opened the door for an opportunity to submit the book for review. Carol Mitchell of CaribbeanReads stated that “CaribbeanReads’ books have received very positive Kirkus Reviews in the past, but this is our first starred review, so we are very excited. To have Musical Youth chosen as one of the top 100 books by an Indie publisher this year is even more gratifying. It is a wonderful book and this is well-deserved.”

Musical Youth is taught in select schools in the Caribbean. It is available in bookstores and libraries throughout the Caribbean and online. More information can be found at caribbeanreads.com or by contacting the publisher at info@caribbeanreads.com

Me @ a promotional event in December 2020 with both covers of Musical Youth.

CREATIVE SPACE (updates)

I wanted to do a post to make sure you’re not missing out on any of the new content under the CREATIVE SPACE tab. The drop down menu includes every article since I revived the series here on the blog in (wow) 2018. The current cycle, running in the Daily Observer newspaper and here on the blog, with video installments now on my YouTube channel, launched February 2020 which makes this my montheversary. I’m glad I’ve persisted with this series, and I hope you’re enjoying keeping up with my arts and culture coverage, profiles, commentary, reviews, interviews, and more.

Articles so far for 2021 have spotlighted Antiguan and Barbudan domestic bestselling books,

the Catapult Arts Grant which supported hundreds of Caribbean artists in 2020, including me with a grant that allowed me to showcase my work (vid below), plus other initiatives that walked the talk,

and an interview and coverage of fashion designer Miranda Askie Designs and how the last year has re-shaped her brand while she continues to make fly clothes.

If you missed any of the 2020 editions, here you go.