When It Hits, You Feel No Pain (my pre-Grammys post) #Music #MusicalYouthbook

MUSICAL_YOUTH_Cover_FRONT_FinalIf you’ve read my book Musical Youth, you know that I love music. So, I’ve been using the Grammy awards nominations to catch up on what I’ve been missing in music. Music lover though I am, it’s been quite a bit. So, here for your amusement is my reaction to the nominees and my picks for that little golden gramophone on January 26th 2020. The good news is even if my picks lose, I’ll be all caught up on what the kids are listening to (according to the tastemakers in Grammyland which may or may not intersect with what the kids are actually listening to).

lauryn hill.jpg
(when the Grammys were great)

I didn’t do full albums just individual nominated songs (so those are the categories I’ll cover). Music is the backdrop to much of what I do anyway so I was just switching up the playlist by listening to all the nominated songs in each category, including the categories I don’t normally care about. Songs are listed in descending order from my pick to songs I wouldn’t particularly pick (enjoy the music).

 Record of the Year

‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo

‘Sunflower’ by Post Malone and Swae Lee (one of the songs that stuck in my head from Into the Spider Verse)


‘Hard Place’ by H.E.R. (H.E.R. is a whole mood and I find that mood matters when I’m listening to her)

‘7 Rings’ by Arianna Grande (borrows heavily from Sound of Music’s Favourite Things)

‘Old Town Road’ by Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus (I like it, I do; but it’s been overplayed)

‘Bad Guy’ by Billie Eilish (I feel old lol)

‘Hey Ma’ by Bon Iver  (if I know the Grammys, Bon Iver will probably win, if Old Town Road doesn’t, notwithstanding their placement on my list – which is just about what my ears enjoyed)

Song of the Year

‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo

‘Lover’ by Taylor Swift (this one surprised me but the beat hooked me and then the words; the performance was the weakest part for me but it’s a songwriting award)
‘Hard Place’ by H. E. R.
‘Bad Guy’ by Billie Eilish
‘Bring my Flowers Now’ by Tanya Tucker
‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ by Lana del Rey
‘Always remember us This Way’ by Lady Gaga
‘Someone you Loved’ by Lewis Capaldi

Pop Solo Performance

‘Truth Hurts’ by Lizzo
‘7 Rings’ by Arianna Grande (which gives me an opportunity to share my favourite use of ‘Favourite Things’ outside of the original Lauryn Hill’s Black Rage

)
‘Bad Guy’ by Billie Eilish
‘Spirit’ by Beyonce
‘You need to calm down’ by Taylor Swift

Vocal Duo

‘Old Town Road’ – Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus
‘Sunflower’ – Swae Lee and Post Malone
‘Senorita’ – Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes
‘Sucker’ – Jonas Brothers
‘Boyfriend’ – Arianna Grande and Social House

Dance Recording

‘Got to Keep on’ – the Chemical Brothers
‘Midnight Hour’ – Skrillex, Boys Noize, Ty Dolla $ign
‘Underwater’ – Rufus du Sol
‘Piece of Your Heart’ – Meduza featuring Good Boys
‘Linked’ – Bonobo

None of it makes me want to dance – I came of age on peak Madonna, Michael, Janet, Prince, Jody Watley, and ‘Pump up the Volume’

– but this is how I’ d rank them.

Best Rock Performance

‘This Land’ – Gary Clark Jr. (wow!)

‘Woman’ – Karen O and Danger Mouse
‘Waste Pretty’ – Bones
‘Too Bad’ – Rivals
‘History Repeats’ – Brittany Howard

Metal

‘Bow Down’ – I Prevail
‘7’ – Tool
‘Humanicide’ – Death Angel
‘Unleashed’ – Killswitch Engage
‘Astorolus the Great Octopus’ – Candlemass featuring Toni Lommi

Rock Song

‘This Land’ – Gary Clark Jr. (seriously, though, how is this not nominated for song and record of the year

)
‘Harmony Hall’ – Vampire Weekend
‘Give Yourself a Try’ – The 1975
‘History Repeats’ – Brittany Howard
‘Fear Inoculum’ –Tool

RnB Performance


‘Love Again’ – Brandy and Daniel Caesar
‘Come Home’ – Anderson. Paak and Andre 3000
‘Roll Some Mo’ – Lucky Daye
‘Could’ve Been’ – H.E.R. and Bryson Tiller
‘Exactly how I feel’ – Lizzo and Gucci Mane

Traditional RnB Performance

‘Steady Love’ – India Arie


‘Built for Love’ – PJMorton and Jazmin Sullivan
‘Jerome’ – Lizzo
‘Real Games’ – Lucky Daye
‘Time Today’ – BJ the Chicago Kid

RnB Song

‘Say So’ – P J Morton and JoJo


‘Could’ve Been’ – H. E. R. and Bryson Tiller
‘No Guidance’ – Drake and Chris Brown
‘Roll Some Mo’ – Lucky Day
‘Look at Me’ – Emily King

Rap Performance


‘Middle Child’ – J Cole
‘Racks in the Middle’ – Nipsey Hussle Featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy
‘Clout’ – Offset and Cardi B
‘Down Bad’ – Dreamville Featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG & Young Nudy
‘Suge’ – Dababy

Rap/Song Performance

‘Panini’ – Lil Nas X
‘Higher’ – DJ Khaled with Nipsey Hussle and John Legend
‘The London’ –  Young Thug, J. Cole, and Travis Scott
‘Drip too Hard’ – Lil Baby and Gunna
‘Ballin’ – Mustard and Roddy Ricch

Best Rap Song

‘Bad Idea’ – YBN Cordae and Chance the Rapper
‘A Lot’ – 21 Savage and J. Cole
‘Racks in the Middle’ – Nipsey Hussle and Roddy Richh
‘Gold Roses’ – Rick Ross and Drake
‘Suge’ – DaBaby

Country Solo


‘Bring My Flowers Now’ – Tanya Tucker
‘God’s Country’ – Blake Shelton
‘All Your’n’ – Tyler Childers
‘Ride me back Home’ – Willie Nelson
‘Girl Goin Nowhere’ – Ashley McBryde

I didn’t know a lot about Tanya Tucker (I was more familiar with the Loretta Lynns and the Dolly Partons who, along with Kenny Rogers, were popular thanks to their films and crossover success when I was a wee-wee one) but I looked her up after this; quite the interesting life and career. This song is touching and her delivery haunting.

Country Duo/Group Performance

‘New Man’ – Brooks and Dunn w/Luke Combs
‘Common’ – Maren Morris with Brandi Carlisle
‘Daughters’ – Little Big Town
‘I don’t remember me before you’ – Brothers Osborne
‘Speechless’ – Dan + Shay

Country Song

‘Bring My Flowers Now’ – Tanya Tucker
‘Girl Going Nowhere’ – Ashley McBryde
‘Speechless’ – Dan + Shay
‘Some of it’ – Eric Church
‘It all comes out in the wash’ – Miranda Lambert

Improvised Jazz Solo

‘Sightseeing’ – Christian McBride
‘Elsewhere’ – Melissa Aldana
‘Sozinho’ – Randy Brecker
‘Tomorrow is the Question’ – Julian Lange

Gospel Performance

‘Speak the Name’ – Koryn Hawthorne with Natalie Grant
‘Love Theory’ – Kirk Franklin
‘Talking Bout Jesus’ – Gloria Gaynor
‘This is a Move’ – Tasha Cobbs Leonard
‘See the Light’ – Travis Greene)

Christian Song

‘God’s not done with you’ – Tauren Wells
‘God Only Knows’ – For King and Country and Dolly Parton
‘Haven’t seen it yet’ – Danny Gokey
‘Only Jesus’ – Casting Crowns
‘Rescue Story’ – Zach Williams

Here’s something I learned, Christian basically means white God music while Gospel means black God music. I would never have known this because in my world Gospel and Christian are pretty much the same thing. But I heard a commentator online point this out and then when I got to this point in the nomination I realized what they were saying. Why though?

Up to this point in the listening, observable trends for me is that a lot of contemporary RnB is that middle groove (though I can appreciate this, listening to so many of them back-to-back-to-back, I find myself missing the Whitney-esque divas that could blow), ‘modern’ country seems to swing from the older storytellers (a la a Kenny Rogers Coward of the County

– yes, I just wanted an excuse to post the OG KG) to the kick em up rousers that make me think of pick-ups on dirt roads, and hip hop …well, artists like J. Cole stand out for me for a reason. That said, in each genre I’ve listened to there are songs that wouldn’t be out of place on my playlist. You might be surprised to learn that this is one of them
. My love for hip hop is real.

Let’s continue.

American Roots Performance


‘Faraway look’ – Yola
‘Father Mountain’ – Calexico and Iron & Wine
‘I’m on my way’ –  Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
‘Saint Honesty’ – Sara Bareilles
‘Call my name’ – I’m with her

Yola is easily one of my favourites of this listening binge though for the life of me I can’t tell why this is American Roots and not soul and/or RnB, or all three. Because there’s the big voice my spirit was craving. I mean, just listen to her

American Roots Song

‘Faraway Look’ – Yola


‘Black Myself’ – Our Native Daughters
‘I don’t wanna ride the rails no more’ – Vince Gill
‘Call my name’ – I’m with her
‘Crossing to Jerusalem’ – Rosanne Cash

Song for Visual Media


‘Spirit’ – Beyonce
‘I’ll never love again’ – Lady Gaga
‘Lonesome Cowboy’ – Randy Newman
‘Girl in the Movies’ – Dolly Parton
‘Suspirium’ – Thom Yorke

Arrangement, instrument and vocals

‘All Night Long’ – Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier Featuring Jules Buckley, Take 6 & Metropole Orkest
‘Marry me a little’ –  Cyrille Aimée & Diego Figueiredo, arrangers (Cyrille Aimée)
’12 Little Spells (Thoracic Spine)’ – Esperanza Spaulding, arranger (Esperanza Spaulding)
‘Over the Rainbow’ –  Vince Mendoza, arranger (Trisha Yearwood)
‘Jolene’ – Geoff Keezer, arranger (Sara Gazarek))

Best Remixed Recording

‘The One (High Contrast Remix)’ – Lincoln Barrett, remixer (Jorja Smith)
‘I rise (Tracy Young’s Pride Intro Radio Remix)’ – Tracy Young, remixer (Madonna)
‘Swim (Ford. Remix)’ – Luc Bradford, remixer (Mild Minds)
‘Mother’s Daughter (Wuki Remix)’ – Wuki, remixer (Miley Cyrus)
‘Work it (Soulwax Remix)’ – David Gerard C Dewaele and Stephen Antoine C Dewaele, remixers (Marie Davidson)

Best Music Video

‘This Land’ – Gary Clark Jr. – Savanah Leaf, video director; Danielle Hinde, Jason Cole, Alicia Martinez, and Devin Sarno, video producers (I would love to see him perform this at the Grammys, uncensored, with the imagery projected behind him in all its American pastoral nightmarishness)


‘Cellophane’ – FKA Twigs – Andrew Thomas Huang, video director; Alex Chamberlain, video producer (there were some visually astounding moments in this – I wouldn’t be surprised if they went for this one)
‘Glad He’s Gone’ – Tove Lo – Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia, video directors; Natan Schttenfels, video producer (some interesting cinematic shots in this and it didn’t quite go where I was expecting it to which is always fun)
‘Old Town Road’ – Lis Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus – Calamatic, video director; Candice Dragonas, Melissa Larsen, and Saul Levitz, video producers (the production values are there but too predictably hokey for me)
‘We’ve got to Try’ – The Chemical Brothers – Ninian Doff, video director; Ellie Fry, video producer

Don’t forget to share your Grammy picks and what you’re listening to these days. Always ready for new music.

#soadorbs

I did my first facebook live event – an AMA and giveaway of the Musical Youth second edition (pictured) and hard cover copies of Musical Youth and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure – in December 2019. Today, mid-way through my birthday week (a January 2020 literary gift) that giveaway came full circle (or at least one-third full circle) with the recipient of Lost! posting this publicly on facebook.


“my children absolutely loved it…especially knowing that it has a Caribbean flavour.”

I absolutely loved this. #soadorbs

Also, so appreciated, because one of the most important things you can do for writers – in addition to reading us, of course; is share the love (from reader reviews, the only reviews I have ever really been able to count on as a writer from a small place, to images like this one of children reading something I wrote – you have no idea how much that means).

I’ve uploaded the live to my youtube channel, so please do check that out. Subscribe to the channel; I hope to do more with it. And I hope you’ll check out my books. I appreciate you.

Netflix, Dolby Soho Team For Exhibit Showcasing ‘Dolemite Is My Name,’ ‘The Irishman,’ ‘Marriage Story’ & ‘Two Popes’ — Deadline (ETA: My Preamble on the Films)

On the heels of last year’s Rome, Netflix has some of the biggest contenders in the awards race this year. Have you seen any of them?

The Race opened with the Golden Globes this past Sunday. I skipped it in a one-woman protest over When They See Us – the best mini-series of the past year (both topically and creatively) – being snubbed. But I am as ever looking forward to the Oscars (or at least the Oscar nominations when I’ll know how mad to be because #Oscarssowhite remains a thing). So I don’t know who won at the Globes or who’s in front so far – I did catch Ricky’s opening monologue on youtube though and it was funny.

But I can say that I’ve seen three out of these four Netflix films being pushed for Awards consideration. Here’s what I thought (and before you jump on me remember, per Salt ‘n Pepa, that opinions are like a**holes and everybody’s got one…and we’re entitled to them too, so chill and just state your dissenting opinion without calling me out my name).

Dolemite – Eddie is back baby! Eddie Murphy’s had some hits, critical and/or commercial or should’ve been critical and commercial (48 Hours, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Coming to America, Boomerang, Life, Bowfinger, his previous Oscar nominated performance in Dreamgirls, voice work in Mulan and the Shrek films, stand up films like Delirious and Raw, his entire SNL catalogue including his 2019 guest hosting stint) and misses (most of the other stuff, though those aren’t without their inspired moments – I’m thinking of that film where he played a senator or congressman which was funny-ish – and I’m sure the kid films like Daddy Day Care and Dr. Doolittle have their fans, just not me). Dolemite is My Name is in the hits category with Eddie hitting the comedy notes effortlessly and yet with great energy (i.e. not phoning it in) but also bringing nuance and complexity and great humanity to the depiction of the blaxploitation era independent filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore. A great ensemble piece too with costumes (by the great Academy Award winning put some respec’ on her name Ruth Carter) that is historic and inspirational and just fun. I want to see both Eddie and Ruth get a nomination for this, maybe Wesley Snipes too who hasn’t been this delightfully outside his comfort zone since To Wong Foo.

Marriage Story – this is my second favourite of the Netflix awards hopefuls. I liked this film more than I expected to. I thought it was going to be just a re-tread of a film I saw as a kid and loved, Kramer vs. Kramer but its quiet yet ugly (that fight!) devolution of a relationship was its own thing (with the kid striking the one sour note for me; the kid in Kramer vs. Kramer was more endearing). I kinda maybe get the Adam Driver thing after this (in a way I didn’t with his turn as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo). I still don’t stan but I get it. I also enjoyed the supporting players like Merritt Wever (last seen in my second favourite mini-series of the year, Unbelievable) and Julie Haggerty (of Airplane fame, so you know she was funny), and the lawyers (Ray Liotta, love him, loved him since Field of Dreams, and Laura Dern especially, Hawkeye was quietly distinctive as well). But Adam playing hubris and befuddlement to desperation was truly gripping. Scarlett J. didn’t stand out for me as much but it was a solid performance – though I found her wardrobe oddly distracting with its almost 1980s-ish ordinariness, especially considering that she was playing the actress with Hollywood aspirations to his New York theatre snob. Joker (a film I won’t see) seems to have the momentum but Adam deserves a solid shot.

The Irishman – sigh. I feel like I’m missing something but I just don’t get the hype about this film. It’s not that it’s overlong and slowly paced, though it is, but I’ve sat through three hour movies before without feeling so aware of the slow trickle of time. I’ve liked all of these creatives – Scorcese, De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci – in the past but this just felt self-indulgent to me (notably the unconvincing and distracting de-aging … just cast younger for the younger versions of the character jack because Lord the uncanny valley-ness of it all). That said, I appreciated some of the directing choices (the death note with each minor character introduction) and how they tied in to the film thematically. Because the film really is a treatise on death and life – the bloody uncertainty of the gangster life yes but also the sad note that survivors of the life face the same fate we all do, aging and still death…and because of the choices made, alone and undignified in the case of the titular character played by De Niro. Women and people of colour were absent or underused but what else is new, it’s a Scorcese film (I was surprised when Anthony Anderson showed up in The Departed). It was good to see Joe Pesci again – distracting face and all, and Pacino as the union boss was really good in his usual bombast but also in rare quiet moments the likes of which we haven’t seen since Godfather I. One thing, I’ve been saying it is what it is for years, so let’s not act like that’s a new catchphrase. Oh, another thing, I see some pushback trying to shame people who aren’t bowled over by this film (the leading contender for best picture) for not being cerebral enough, for leaning toward the Marvel films Scorcese dismissed as amusement park rides, and…no, just no. I like a lot of the Marvel films, yes, no apologies, but in the Scorcese oeuvre I also had a date threaten to fall asleep on me when I took him to see The Age of Innocence which I loved. So, don’t even.

Two Popes – no interest in seeing this. And I’m Catholic. Great actors though so I’m sure they’ll do well without my support.

Netflix continues to pull out all the stops on behalf of its bumper crop of Oscar-bait films. It has teamed with Dolby to set has set up an immersive exhibit in New York that will showcase Dolemite Is My Name, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes. The exhibit will be held at Dolby…

via Netflix, Dolby Soho Team For Exhibit Showcasing ‘Dolemite Is My Name,’ ‘The Irishman,’ ‘Marriage Story’ & ‘Two Popes’ — Deadline

2019 in Books

Season’s Greetings all,

As I write this, it’s 2-3 days from the end of the year. There’s a chance I might finish at least one more book before year’s end but real life may not cooperate – either with me finishing that book or having time to write about it. Besides, today’s  the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post, a great platform to connect with others in the book blogging community. So, let’s connect. Read and share your year in books in the comments.

Books read (not counting journals and magazines, but definitely counting comic series and children’s/picture books) – 22.

The breakdown is 10 physical copies,  1 e-book, 4 comics/comic series, 4 (non-comic) picture books and/or children books, and 3 audio books.

This count is low compared to most of the book blogging community but my overall total is up by 2 from 2018. And look, for me, reading is about the experience, the journey, the stories, not the numbers. I only in recent years started keeping count and the one good thing about it is it gives me opportunities, like this, to reflect on what I’ve read. I’m starting with my faves but if a book is lower down it doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. If I finished it (with one exception and I think you’ll guess which one) I liked something about it. That said, my DNFs are higher than ever this year; the books I didn’t like, with rare exception, I probably DNF’d… because life is too short). Now to the good stuff.

MY TOP 10

Animal Farm by George Orwell (audio book)

Review excerpt: “…it is not clear, honestly, if we are sheep, pigs, snapping dogs, selfish cat both-sides-ing it, hens (who make a stand but are eventually made to sit), the stout horse, or the seen it all donkey. Who are we in this history currently being written in the place where we stand …this is something the book challenges us to ask ourselves.”

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal

Review excerpt: “Most importantly from a storytelling standpoint, and this was surprising to me given that I was aware of the plot, the narrative is engaging, entertaining, and surprising.”

Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker

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 enforcers of the patriarchy)…”

Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh

Review excerpt: “Anansi is a central character in Children of the Spider. However, the manifestation of this character (that can be whatever it wants – demi-god, remember?) in the, in some ways, afro-futurist world of Children of the Spider, is one of the exciting revelations of this book.”

The Outsiders by S E Hinton (audio book)

Review excerpt: “…all those dudes, they are stamped in my mind and I am of the generation where they were the hotness. So it was a fond walk down memory lane. Eye candy aside, this is a really touching read.”

London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne

Review excerpt: ” I don’t think we’ve seen this particular story before.”

Dreamland Barbuda  by Asha Frank

Review excerpt: “…it is an informative read which brings receipts to underpin its argument. And it is an argument – a combative little book – notwithstanding the scholarly distance suggested by its sub-head ‘A Study of the History and Development of Communal Land Ownership on the Island’.”

#BookChat #Unscripted (vlog on Dreamland Barbuda)

Storm Limited Series Prelude to the Wedding of the Century (6 part series) by Eric Jerome Dickey, penciled by David Yardin, inked by Jay Leisten, coloured by Matt Milla

Review excerpt: “It’s got layers throughout – e.g. the African collaborator selling out his own people for his own reasons, it’s got action (each book ending on a cliffhanger), it’s got larger themes, but at it’s core the boy-meets-girl-bickers-with-girl-cant-live-without-girl through line.  A good read, especially for me given that I am a Storm lover.”

The Black Rose by Tananarive Due

Review excerpted: “And then there is Madam C J Walker, who Sarah becomes, a remarkable woman who led a remarkable life, and what’s more it’s a story (her story as a Black woman in America, and as an entrepreneur who is truly a self-made millionaire, and her part in the complicated story of our Black hair) which should be known. If it’s ever made into a film though, it might need to be condensed, for story telling efficacy.”

I don’t have a solid #10 but I liked some aspect of the other books finished, more or less in this order. You’re invited to read my thoughts on those as well.

The Masquerade Dance by Carol Ottley-Mitchell with illustrator Daniel J. O’Brien (“I like that the book reminds that mas is ancestral and meaningful”)
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (audio book) (“It’s frustrating to listen to when you consider that this was written decades ago and the racial issues it examines are still too relevant today”)
Giant Size X-Men – Stan Lee presents The Uncanny X-Men – Second Genesis by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum w/Glynis Wein and John Costanza (“quippy banter in high stress action situations”)
Evolution by Felene M. Cayetano (“her verse sometimes had that pop in the head effect from when something connects in a profound or relatable way”)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (“dream imagery, object imagery (the bowler hat), that scene on the hill (!)”)
Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis (“As a Burt book, it’s a good pick for a Caribbean teen”)
How to be a Knight in 10 Easy Stages by Scoular Anderson (“I learned some things”)
13 Strategies to Elevate Your Career by Janice Sutherland (exclusively e-book) (“a quick, useful read”)
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (“mixed feelings”)
Pirate Party by Scoular Andersono (“funny”)
Ororo: Before the Storm by writer Mark Sumerak and the whole team (“origins story”)
On this Island The Natives… by Dale Butler with illustrator Lindsey George (“for tourists”)
X-Women Marvel One Shot by Chris Claremont and Milo Manara (“it wasn’t written for me”)

Thanks for hanging with me this year. Before I was a writer, let alone an author, or even someone who provides writing and writing related services, I was a #gyalfromOttosAntigua curled up with a book, always with her head in a book, and through the ups and downs, that girl is with me still.  Talking books (whether through my Blogger on Books blog series or #BookChat #unscripted vlog series) gives me a chance to share a small part of her.

Fruitful new year to you reading this and to me writing it. And I’m thinking of a particular friend right now as I say, let’s turn things up for 2020. Let’s! But you need to be here for us to do that though so, as you would say,  #20Plenty.

Another One of Those Round-up-y Posts

Promos

I received copies of the hard cover editions of my books Musical Youth and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and of the second edition of the former. So I did a giveaway on my facebook page to celebrate – shout out to winners Tiff Tyf, Sam Sam, and Merle Harris-Odlum. I did the announcement via my first facebook live which you can find on the page (click the screen capture for the link).

Also I was recently spotlighted at Ravishly.com in an interview discussing my book Musical Youth.

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On Being Read at Your Alma Mater

(me, with other 89ers)

Recently, I stopped by my secondary school alma mater and someone commented casually that my book Musical Youth is taught in the third form there (I know it’s on the national schools’ reading list but I somehow hadn’t considered that there were any more copies at the school than the ones I’d gifted to the library a handful of years ago when I was recruited to narrate the annual carol service). I was further informed that my first book The Boy from Willow Bend was (or had been) studied there as well (I know it’s on the national schools’ reading list but…). Since that day I’ve kind of fantasized a picture of me and the students all in our beige jumpers brandishing copies of Musical Youth and The Boy from Willow Bend. Short of that, when life unclouds (though I’ve had to cut way back on unfunded school visits) I may reach out to visit with the students reading my book in the same classrooms where I once read V. S. Naipaul’s House for Mr. Biswas, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Selvon, and Hardy, and Shakespeare. I just need a sponsor and a beige jumper.

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New article in APANA

APANA is a new Caribbean publication focused on sustainable development and social engagement. In the article I talk about the two major non-profits I’ve been involved with thanks to my passions for reading, writing, and creative expression.

Read the full issue here or visit their website.

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New or Updated Posts (In case You missed it), Plus Books I’m Reading

CREATIVE SPACE 14 – About a fresh staging of The Vagina Monologues in Antigua and Barbuda – has replaced CREATIVE SPACE 13 – Fashioning a Hit! Spotlight – Nicoya Henry which has been archived. For previous editions see CREATIVE SPACE 2018 an 2019. Some Blogger on Books updates via Quick Takes of two Scoular Anderson Big Cat books.

                Speaking of Books I’m reading, that’s expanded to a scary degree. I’ve recently received (and started reading) Another Mother by Ross Kenneth Urken and Death on the Danube by Jennifer S. Alderson and recently received (but haven’t started reading) Fireburn and Transfer by Apple Gidley. Of previously read books, I’ve updated my review of Inner City Girl (a Burt pick out of Jamaica), Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy which I found myself thinking about again after the section on female genital mutilation in The Vagina Monologues (Possessing goes in to excrutiating detail about this practice). Of the others, I’ve been actively reading (this past week or so) Marie Ohanesian Nardin’s Beneath Lion’s Wings which I received from the author some time ago, Greyborn Rising by Derry Sandy, a publisher arc I’m really enjoying but don’t have nearly enough time to read, and especially (finally!) Mary Robinette Kowal Antigua-set Of Noble Family (the last of the books I own in the Glamourist series and the one I worked on). I’m also listening to the audio book of Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. Oh and I’m crocheting again for the first time since my grandmother taught me and my sister as children – I’m doing it mostly for anxiety relief but it is taking shape.

Also re updates and new posts, see my top Marvel films (and share yours), my updated media page, and  More November pics as well for some final Sharjah images (after my Scenes from Sharjah post) and pics of my long ago early mentor, famed Caribbean writer Olive Senior.


(Senior with my books The Boy from Willow Bend,  Musical Youth, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure)

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About the Golden Globes

Hm. They were announced on the day that I’m typing this and I have been known to write about films and awards here, but I may be too upset to be coherent just yet. LIke how the *&^&**^%U(^ does When They See Us get no nominations, none taaaarl. Make it make sense. I’m not going to do a breakdown. I don’t care. I won’t be watching. You can read my review of the Ava DuVernay mini-series here (it’s the best mini-series of the year as a work of art and as something that’s both classic and timely, and one of the few films I felt compelled to do a solo post about this year) though obviously not the only film or series I saw and liked (though honestly when it comes to series especially I’m behind on everything – so, no Watchmen spoilers). Two movies or series I did see were  Unbelievable and Dolemite is My Name on Netflix.  Both were great and I’m happy to see them in the awards conversation. Speaking of the awards conversation, it’s been dominated by The Irishman which… I think is overrated (OMG the hyperbole!…look, it was alright…it was alright) and the CGI’d de-aging was distracting. I am okay with the two acting noms especially Pacino who embodied Hoffa and good to see Joe Pesci again. I tried watching Once Upon a Time, the Tarantino film, and didn’t get through it. And I have liked films by Scorcese (e.g. Taxi Driver, The Departed) and Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, Django Uchained) in the past. Talking movies, I also watched American Son which felt a bit plodding in its execution but still landed its gut punch at the end, and a film about colourism called The Wedding (an old film based on an older book) starring Halle Berry who is also in this year’s John Wick 3  which I watched in recent weeks (don’t judge me, I am part of the #foreverKeanu crowd). Speaking of Keanu and the Globes, “I punched Keanu in the Face’ sung by Randall Park at the end of Always Be My Maybe should’ve been nominated for best song.

Right?

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Music

What other music can I share with you? How about No Name? Tyler the Creator? both?

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately because when it hits me I feel no pain (it’s great for anxiety) and because I’m trying to get caught up on all the Grammy nominees (you know, what the kids are listening to) – funny story, I asked my niece about some of them after listening (because we both love music, you know). Every Grammy nominated name I called, with the exception of Lizzo, she’d never heard of them, and started dropping names that the Grammys isn’t checking for… maybe she’d be as upset about the Grammys as I am about the Golden Globes. Anyway, I’ll leave my thoughts on the Grammy nominees for another day and until then, try to stay on my two feet. You too.

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Finally

Recent projects include a book edit and some athlete profiles. Thanks to Belizean author (Pengereng) Ivory Kelly for a recent shout out on her blog re my editing services – “I highly recommend a professional editor such as Joanne Hillhouse (jhohadli.wordpress.com/writing-editing-coaching-services/) or Virginia Hampton (hampton.virginia19@gmail.com) who have provided excellent service to me and other writers in Belize and abroad” – in a post on publishing.

Anyone needing my services, contact me via the link.

More November Pics

What is this post? I’m just clearing out some pics, I guess, and since they’re all pretty much related to #TheWritingLife, this seems a good place to share them.

These are from some time spent hanging with Olive Senior, award winning Jamaican writer and my first workshop leader, and local writer/book industry colleague and friend Barbara Arrindell. It was a fun lime, and fun to get to know Olive better on a personal level, and show her a bit of my island. In these photos we are at Fort James, Antigua – it’s one of the forts built with the labour of enslaved people from Africa to protect the interests of European powers (in our case the English against the Spanish and the French) in the West Indies/Caribbean in colonial times. It’s also the site of one of our more popular beaches.

This is a screen grab from video posted by Trinidad and Tobago author Lisa Allen-Agostini to her Instagram of her reading my book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure at a local school. So cool when writers share the love.  So let me share some back: go read Lisa’s Home Home if you haven’t already; the link is to my blogged review of it and I am not surprised that it’s landed a US edition due for release in 2020.

These are from the Alliougana Book Fest in Montserrat. Fun fact about Montserrat – it is a Caribbean island and British dependency which has a deep Irish influence and is the only country outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is a National Holiday. This is a testimony to Irish influence (notwithstanding it being made up primarily of people of African descent) on the island but also commemorates a 1768 anti-slavery uprising planned for St. Patrick’s Day. When Barbara, above,  took the ferry over to Montserrat for the festival, she sent me this pic. It made my day (it was after this that we arranged the lime with Olive when she was in transit in Antigua en route back to Canada where she lives). Olive is an esteemed Caribbean writer, Commonwealth book award winning author of Arrival of the Snake Woman and Other Stories, Summer Lightning and Other Stories, Birthday Suit, Dancing Lessons, Anna Carries Water, The Pain Tree, The Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage, Boonoonoonous Hair, Discerner of Hearts and Other Stories, Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the Building of the Panama Canal, Gardening in the Tropics, and other books. She is instrumental in me becoming the writer that I am. I did my first writing workshop (the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute) with her at the University of Miami and it was at that workshop that I started working on The Boy from Willow Bend (one of the books she is holding). These photos and especially the one where she’s holding The Boy from Willow Bend were a full circle moment for me. Other books of mine pictured are Musical Youth, Lost!  A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe.

These are from Sharjah – location is the lobby of the Sheraton with Margaret Busby (editor) and Yvonne Bailey-Smith (contributor), both from New Daughters of Africa, and their dinner companions; and a stairway at the Sheraton with the same group.

These are media engagements in Sharjah – one print-related, one TV (an Africa station, I believe) –

TBR Name Tag

Today’s just-for-fun post is my name in TBR books which I got hipped to over at Nicole @ BookWyrmKnits who used her avatar name Bookwyrm. To shake things up a bit I’ll use my full author name and I’m going to go deep cuts on this one (I won’t be mentioning any book I’ve mentioned before or any book I already have in my possession – rather those books I want to read but which seem so far away who knows if I’ll ever get to them). One unanticipated upside, I culled said TBR in the process because sometimes a book can be on there so long you lose interest in it, and that’s okay (life is short).

J-O-A-N-N-E–C–H-I-L-L-H-O-U-S-E

Jonestown by Wilson Harris

On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Never far from Nowhere by Andrea Levy

Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie

Exploring Shadeism by Sharon Hurley Hall

Catch and Release by Ronan Farrow

How Long Til Black Future Month?: Stores by N. K. Jemisin

Intruders: Short Stories by Mohale Mashigo

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingslover

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesy

One Day I will write about This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina

Untamed by Madeline Dyer

Doe Songs by Danielle Boodoo Fortune

Everyone knows I am a Haunting by Shivanee Ramlochan

 

Yeah, I know I cheated a little bit but *Kanye shrug*

I don’t have time to dig up all the covers, but real quick, why I chose them – Jonestown because it’s a crime that I haven’t read any Wilson Harris – the late Guyanese writer is one of the more experimental Caribbean writers and the Jim Jones saga remains dreadfully fascinating; On Sal Mal Lane because Ru has a strong and bold voice in the non-fiction I’ve read and she was cool when I met her, this one has been on my TBR for a while and either this or her other novel are overdue for a read; bell hooks is one of those activist-writers I should have read already and I love that the title references Sojourner Truth’s famous speech; Andrea Levy is a great one recently lost from the Caribbean, specifically British Caribbean literary canon, another one I’m past-due to read; Nudibranch, I like speculative fiction, and this one seems interesting, and, given my current attention span, short stories holds particular appeal for me; Intruders is on this list for the same reason – and both are out of Africa; and the Jemisin book, speculative, the author is African-American – and I’m still keen to read her novel trilogy; exploring shadeism – shadeism or colourism is an area of interest for me if Musical Youth didn’t give that away – and so many of us remain frustratingly in denial about it; Catch and Release is #MeToo related and digs in to the behind-the-scenes of breaking the story that (with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s reporting and their own book She Said) changed the game – I was interested even before I knew these books were being written (these are right in my wheelhouse); Little Fires was firing up the blogosphere not so long ago – I don’t even remember what it’s about but I remember it; I don’t remember how The Lacuna got on my list but it is an Orange prize winner, so I’m keeping it there; The House on Fortune Street because Margot Livesy is one of those writers I’ve been meaning to read since I ‘discovered’ her during my time at Breadloaf; One Day and Untamed – I was mostly relieved to find titles starting with those vowels on my TBR – I don’t remember enough about how they got there to know why I wanted to read them in the first place but the Untamed synopsis is tempting and the One Day title intriguing; Doe Songs is by one of my favourite Caribbean writer people and illustrator of one of my books ; and Shivanee too falls in to that category of Caribbean writer people I’ve met in real life whose writing I’ve found to be quite potent and unpredictable – plus I love the title.

Whew! Every time I think one of these tags is going to be quick and easy, I’m proven wrong.