Shelfie

Prompted by Chrissi Reads, I thought I’d do Beth’s Shelfie by Shelfie (I seem to be on a book meme/book tag/book blogging community networking roll this week). This one requires me to share a picture of my book shelf and answer some questions.

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This is an old picture (about 9 years old which I know from the big head boy, my botheration boo boo, in front of the book shelf now being a tween …which is crazy to me). But the shelf really hasn’t changed dramatically – some books have been given away (I do major donations to the library, prison drives, and such from time to time), some have been added (new and unread books are mostly on the next shelf up which isn’t pictured here). But as for a major overhaul…ain’t nobody got time for that.

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Let’s call it disorganized randomness (random disorganization?). The bottom shelf is mostly reference material and the next two shelves are fiction, poetry, and non-fiction that I either want to keep or am not ready to part with yet filed in some way that made sense to me at the time. Though I see some books I have since parted with on both shelves, and both shelves are way more crowded hinting at another major donation coming up.

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

One thing that’s definitely the same is that book of post cards (third shelf up) turned out, with Edwidge Dandicat on the cover, and featuring images of so many of my favourite Black authors. It was gift, it has been a talisman, inspiration, #goals, whatever you want to call it (just as long as you don’t call me removing the post cards and sending them anywhere); it’s special to me and the author on the cover, especially so. I actually finally met her late last year at the Miami Book Fair…author to author (or author to fan girl if you prefer)…I’ve always said I don’t particularly want to meet my heroes and I was particularly nervous about meeting her… she was polite, it was uneventful…and I’m happy to have met her and a little sad that I’ll never meet her for the first time again (this time with fireworks and some special spark of recognition though we’re meeting for the first time). Anyway, she’s a dope writer and her Farming of Bones and Create Dangerously are among my favourite books.

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Well, I already have…but in case I haven’t already, the Clinton autobiography…nothing against the former president but, though I remember it as a good read, I’m not particularly attached.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

Don’t ask impossible questions. Okay, you can’t see it but trust me it’s there, so, possibly To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the same copy I used back in secondary school.

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

The Communication book on the bottom shelf (top left) is probably the book I’ve had the longest, going all the way back to age 6, a gift from David.

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

When this picture was taken, the book that was probably newest was The Dancing Granny by Ashley Bryan, who is an African American children’s author with Antiguan roots. I met and interviewed him that year and then he sent me a package of his books including The Dancing Granny, which actually became the play that the kids in my teen/young adult novel Musical Youth prep and perform – in part because I fell in love with it and in part, I think, because I witnessed how children would respond to it whenever I read it during school visits (before I had my own children’s picture books, With Grace and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, I would often default to Anansi, and The Dancing Granny was one of the best Anansi tales I’d found after the ones in Philip Sherlock’s books and a certain King Obstinate (calypso) song from my childhood.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

Well, my to-read shelf isn’t pictured and I don’t really re-read books…so I suppose the most accurate answer to this is anything from the reference shelf at the bottom, as needed, for one of my workshops or for me to brush up on something.

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

Behind the boy’s bum is a box of keepsake pictures.

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

Probably that I’m not penned in by genre but read whatever calls to me…I mean just behind the boy’s head is a pile that includes, a book about the wraethu (I think that’s how you spell that) – a fantasy series , a couple of E. Lynn Harris Black gay-soapy romances, a couple of woman-centred dramas – one a post-World War 2 drama set in a small town in England and one set in modern times in a small town in the US Northeast (by Stephen King’s wife! and one of my favourite books by a King), the first of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and Mario Puzo’s classic The Godfather.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

What’s that you say? do I have a picture of one of my books on someone else’s shelf? Funny you should ask – this picture of With Grace on a classroom shelf was sent to me by a local school: KU1.jpg

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She’s Royal #10

Preamble: This She’s Royal series has been a learning experience for me; I discovered new people and new things about historical figures I already knew. Last week was Nanny of the Maroons from Jamaica, and now we head to Hawaii for another lesson in imperialism.

She’s Royal #10:

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Queen Lili’uokalani (Lydia Kamakaeha)

Her story:  The last monarch of the Hawaiian islands, Queen Lili’uokalani, ascended to the throne after the sudden death of the reigning monarch, her brother. Apparently before European settlement the islands were ruled by individual leaders. Then as the islands became economically and politically important (as a result of this interaction/colonization) leadership solidified under a single ruler. I’m sure there’s more to this story but let’s come back to Queen Lili’uokalani who was born in 1838 with an acknowledged claim to the throne and as such fostered in to her role – private education, English language tutelage etc. We can assume that music was also on the syllabus as, she is also a composer of a more than 150 Hawaiian songs including  Aloha’Oe.

This haunting song, a well known classic, Farewell, Hawaii, was composed, reportedly (there are different stories of its origins), while she was under house arrest at the lolani palace.

Yes, you read that right, house arrest, as Queen Lili’uokalani’s brief (approximately) two year reign ended with a violent overthrow.

Reportedly, the white investors who had settled or invested in Hawaii exerted great pressure on the monarchs and by the time of her brother had pushed him to modify the constitution to a degree that greatly weakened the monarchy (this is known as the Bayonet Constitution which itself suggests that the changes were made under duress). She refused to acknowledge this new constitution and instead drafted a document that restored traditional government. On January 17th 1893, there was a coup led by the European settlers and backed by the US marines, and the Queen surrendered at gunpoint. This stuff isn’t new. Reportedly, two years on, there was an attempt to return her to the throne but in the end might was right (i.e. she was charged with treason and put under house arrest) and the US officially annexed Hawaii in 1898. It became the 50th American state in 1959 – you might know it as the home state of the first African American president, born in Hawaii in 1961, Barack Obama.

As for Queen Lili’uokalani, who continued to advocate in exile for a free Hawaii, she died in 1917. “Her legacy continues to spark discussions about Hawaiian identity and the role history plays in contemporary affairs.” As DeSoto Brown, a historian at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, explained “She remains a symbol of the overthrow, of the loss of sovereignty, of the injustice of what happened.” The descendants of Hawaii’s royal line maintain their claim to the throne and continue to push for the sovereignty of Hawaii. (Source)

Possible casting: Tia Carrere is probably the only Hawaiian actress I know (shame on me) and I haven’t seen her in anything in a while (shame on Hollywood?). But maybe this one needs an open casting call so that we can discover all that untapped talent.
Next up: That’s all she wrote. Thanks for taking this journey with me. The purpose of this journey was to tell stories of royal women often overlooked by Hollywood – They love to tell a royal tale, only it’s the same royals, the same tales, over and over. Hollywood can’t continue to give the British royals all the shine. I mean, they will but they have no excuse; not with all these stories out there and these women featured these 10 weeks being only a small handful of the stories out there for the telling. If you missed any of the entries, no worries; you can revisit all the royals, right here.

 

Can’t wait…but I have to

The Can’t Wait Wednesday meme is an opportunity to talk about a book you can’t wait to read but (drats!) will have to…you know, until you get it…or finish reading the books you’re actively reading…or find time to read…sigh…but yeah, that book. Also linking this post to WWW Wednesday.

red.pngFor me right now, that book is America-based, Jamaican writer Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I did a new book alert about it over on my other blog, so you can go there for more details about it but suffice it to say that it’s fantasy, which is a genre I love; it is genre underpinned by African mythology, which the world needs more of;  and it’s by an award winning, universally acclaimed author who four novels in hasn’t told the same story twice (granted I’ve only read two of those stories, the slavery era narrative The Book of Night Women and the late 70s to 90s crime epic A Brief History of Seven Killings) – and in both cases he writes long and it can feel convoluted and confusing (and I personally know people who’ve tapped out) but it’s always interesting and always unlike anything I’ve read before. So, I’m really looking forward to reading this one, like if I got it right now, I’d likely drop everything else I’m currently reading – sorry, Inferno, Fire and Fury, Evolution, Beneath Lion’s Wings, even you The Fire Next Time and Sonny’s Blue, Wartime at Woolworths and the others, but I’m really hyped for this one … okay, I wouldn’t drop them, but I might put them down. Congrats to Marlon for his film rights already being optioned by Michael Bae Jordan (notable roles have included Wallace from The Wire, Oscar Grant from Fruitvale Station, Adonis from Creed, and, oh yeah, Killmonger from Black Panther); and shout out to April Sinclair who also recently had film production news (with Octavia Spencer and Gabrielle Union attached) come out re a book I read and loved years ago Coffee Will Make You Back. That’s the dream, right there.

Also on my, it’s taking me too damn long to get to them radar are books like Come Let Us Sing Anyway by Leone Ross, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Barraccoon by Zora Neale Hurston, N. K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season (also sequels The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky), and so much more, including quite recently, Milkman by Anna Burns thanks to blogger Claire ‘Word by Word’. So many books, so little…books. In time. In time.

Blog Update 18.02.19

Still praying for rain here in Antigua.

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Okay maybe this picture won’t make you feel very pressed about my lack of rain but the last time I did a round up a commenter requested more beach pics, so I’m just giving the people what they want. We still need that rain though.

Meanwhile, here’s what’s new-ish to the blog.

I finished The Black Rose, a book I griped about not finishing a time or two or three here on the blog. It’s the story of a compelling woman, the first or one of the first African American millionaires, Madame C J Walker. The review attempts to put her story in context.

I also finished the Jamaica set teen/young adult novel Inner City Girl; see my review here.

So as February stands, that’s two books finished for the shortest month of the year…so far. Current reads include Inferno by Dan Brown, Evolution by Felene Cayetano (poetry), Wartime at Woolworth’s by Elaine Everest, London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. There’s more as I’m rediscovering my joy of reading (so in this area of my life, at least, I’m feeling no stress just a hunger to read more). Ah, time.

You can see the Blogger on Books 2019 main page for links to reviews of all books read so far this year.

Long Bay Antigua

That’s another random beach pic (also taken from my Antigua and Barbuda pages) and this seems like a good place to segue.

The She’s Royal Series I’ve been running for nine weeks now finally landed in Jamaica, with Queen Nanny of the Maroons. An interesting life, check her out…hear me, Hollywood, check her out; in fact check out all the women in this series. Speaking of Hollywood, my Oscar picks. And talking blog series, the CREATIVE SPACE series, updated twice so far for 2019, is mostly of interest to local readers, but I’ll share anyway, even if I am linking this post up with the following memes:

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

Mailbox Monday

… and it’s only Tuesday in Antigua and Barbuda where they say the beach is only the beginning, but what a beginning.

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That’s me and, no, I don’t usually stand like that; that was a promotional shoot on the eve of the release of one of my books. I miss those sandals.

She’s Royal #9

Preamble: This is number 9 in the series after last week’s Apache royal. Ten seems like a nice number to round it off at, right?

She’s Royal #9:

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Nanny (“Queen of the Maroons”, “Granny Nanny”)

Her Story: Actually, let me begin with where my story intersects with hers. I was a student at the University of the West Indies, the Jamaica campus, in the early to mid-1990s. My time there coincided with a visit from the Queen of England (Elizabeth herself, of many films and TV shows) – much fuss was made and counterpoint to that, indelibly branded on my mind, is the black graffiti on the campus’ nice front wall declaring ‘Nanny a fi we Queen’. It was a rejection of the colonizer queen and a defiant embrace of the home grown queen of the maroons who was to then the only female Jamaican national hero. Originally from Ghana, Nanny, like millions of Africans, was brought to the Caribbean in chains in the 17th century. She escaped, as a teen, with one of her brothers in to the Blue Mountains, to an area which would become known as Nanny Town. From this base she conducted raids, freeing other enslaved Africans – almost 1000. The British plotted to quell the maroons but Nanny was a fierce and shrewd adversary. The first maroon war ran from 1720 to 1739, her cleverly conceived guerilla style of warfare keeping the British from penetrating the mountains. And in those mountains, the escaped, with Nanny as chieftain, built a society which adhered to customs brought from Africa.  Small and wiry, she is remembered for her leadership and military skills, and her influence which was so strong it was feared to be supernatural. Nanny was firmly opposed to treaties with the British. She was assassinated in 1733 and Nanny Town burned to the ground in 1734. Cudjoe, another of her brothers and leader of the Leeward Maroons, later entered into a treaty that, while it won the maroons independence from British rule, made them complicit in the continuing enslavement of other Africans, returning future runaways to discourage rebellion. But as my opening story asserts, the spirit of Nanny, of the Eastern or Windward maroons, endures.

Possible casting: In a perfect world, I’d say Grace Jones circa her Conan and James Bond days, and she could still kick ass today…but given Nanny’s age, we might have to cast younger. And it should be someone with at least Jamaican roots (because when Americans try to do a Caribbean accent, oy). So…open casting call?
Next up: I have a few possibles to choose from and if next week is a wrap I have to choose one with some impact, yes?…stay tuned.

 

Tuesday First Page Meme (120219)

on-election-night-june-12-2014-at-the-beach-with-marcella-bren-and-barbaraI’d Rather be at the Beach is the name of the blog I’m linking up with. It’s also my reality (I do live in the land of 365 white sand beaches after all)…but unfortunately I have deadlines and an inbox that feels like being stuck in quicksand. So, because books and blogging make me happy, I’m taking a time out to do just that (and maybe take the pressure off) with IRBATB’s Meme –  First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros.

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Last night, I finished and blogged my review of Colleen Smith-Dennis’ Inner City Girl (so check that out) and moved my review of Storm: Prelude to the Wedding of the Century (check that out if you haven’t already) to its own page. You might also be interested (especially if you’re in Antigua) in my review in the first CREATIVE SPACE of 2019 of Honey Bee Theatre’s The Long Walk which I saw this past weekend, posting as well some of the lessons from the play.

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As for the book I’m meme-ing today, no it’s not Marlon James’ new epic which I hyped up on the Wadadli Pen Blog (I don’t have that one yet), I haven’t started it as yet but I plucked Elaine Everest’s Wartime at Woolworth’s which I won on facebook from my shelf after finishing Inner City Girl. There’s such a joyful feeling at this point in the reading process when you haven’t started yet and it’s all possibility. Let me savour that feeling for a minute… … … okay… here we go.

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November 1944.

‘You really need to be home putting your feet up,’ Betty Billington tutted at her friend, Sarah Gilbert. ‘How long is it until this baby’s due? I really can’t keep up with all the baby news amongst my friends,’ she added, a slight twinge of sadness in her voice. She so longed to be like her younger friends who were able to bring new lives into the world, but as quickly as those thoughts had come to mind she pushed them away again.

‘I have two months to go, as you well know, Betty. You seem to be so forgetful these days,’ Sarah joshed.

Another sign of my advancing years, Betty thought before giving herself a quiet shake to remember to stop being so miserable. She had much to be grateful for. With the war now in its fifth year she was blessed to know that her friends and family were still alive, despite Hitler’s attempts to prove otherwise. ‘I do feel you should be at home all the same, rather than here giving me a hand. Not that I’m not grateful,’ she added quickly.

‘Betty, if I don’t feel the ticket, I’ll take myself off home…’

That’s all you get; that’s page 1.

Remember to check out the links, check out my books, explore the site (including new-ish posts like The Perfect Victim); I try to keep it interesting for you.

 

Some Things You Need To Know

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Scene from The Long Walk.

This weekend I saw Zahra Airall and Honey Bee Theatre’s The Long Walk, based on a true story. It won outstanding script, directing, costume, sound, and set at the 2019 Antigua and Barbuda Secondary Schools Drama Festival. I’ve posted my review as my first CREATIVE SPACE article of 2019.

I hope you read it.

But I’m really here to share some information from the playbill, headlined “a few interesting things you may want to know”. Given that we are a majority black country, Antigua and Barbuda, I’d re-edit that sub-head to say “some things you need to know”.

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Scene from The Long Walk.

You need to know that your ancestors didn’t begin on a sugar plantation in the Caribbean. They were people captured or sold, and enslaved from the west coast of Africa, primarily Ghana, “where the dominant nation along that coast was the Akan Nation, which spoke Twi; they would have been from Akan nations like the Asante (Ashanti), Fante (Fanti) and Coromantee (the warriors).”

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Gye Nyame tattoo.

You need to know that the Adinkra symbols, symbols of our tribe (a couple of which – Gye Nyame and Osram Ne Nsoromma – are tattooed on my body) can still be seen in the art around us and in some of our value systems. The playbill pointed out, for instance, that the Sankofa symbol (which is about learning from the past) is “the most popular in Antigua… found in many iron work, window bars, gates and fences”. That’s interesting to me – it’s always interesting to me what survived the journey over and hundreds of years of enslavement and colonialism, and whatever we call this Independence/post-colonial but not quite stage that we’re in right now; especially since at this point so much of it (language, food, mannerisms, etc.) is surviving in spite of us, and in spite of the flood of culture we absorb through media from other places, mostly America these days, unknowingly, unconsciously, but surviving still.

Fungi and Pepperpot Edison Liburd

Coal pot image features in this work of art by Antiguan and Barbudan artist Edison Liburd.

My ancestors, my family, those who’ve read my novel Oh Gad! know, are coal pot makers – i.e. potters making many things from the muddy including the iconic coal pot. Per the playbill, “the coal pot is a concept that came over with our ancestors along with the popular Ananse (Anancy stories).”

They describe the historical basis for the ritual in the play, through which a girl is ushered from girlhood in to womanhood – though in the play it’s interrupted, it can be interpreted as testimony to the ways we held on to ourselves in the lives we made here on the plantation. The ceremony accompanying a birth (something I also researched for Oh Gad!) is also explained – that too is interrupted…as we have been. “A child who has not received the outdooring ceremony is called ‘Ohoho’ until this right can be performed.”

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Scene from The Long Walk.

This is only one of the words (some again, familiar to me from my research but with room for learning) listed in the glossary in the playbill. It’s a short list so I’ll list them all here because it would serve us people of African descent to know.

African gods –

Nyame – Akan God also referred to as “Sky God” – sees/knows all.
Ogun – (of Yoruba) an Orisha, Spirit or God of Iron/Metal
Yemaya – (of Yoruba) an Orisha, Spirit or Goddess of the Ocean
Asase Yaa – Mother Earth/Wife of Nyame
Bia – also spelled Bea, first son of Nyame and Asase Yaa

Twi sayings –

Nante Yiye – travel well/safe travels
Nante yiye yebehiya bio – we shall meet again
Nyame nte – by God’s will/grace
Akoben – war horn used to sound a battle cry

Since we’re talking language and customs from Africa that may still be with us as Antiguan and Barbudan people, I’m going to recommend two resources among many others that were invaluable to me while researching Oh Gad! – the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, and Joy Lawrence’s The Way We Talk and Other Antiguan Folkways. Zahra Airall also gave great credit to the National Archives of Antigua and Barbuda in researching her play, so shouting them out as well.