Monday and Tuesday Book Blog Memes (October 21st 2019)

I think I’ve still got time to get in on Book Date’s It’s Monday! What are you Reading? literary lime; so here goes.

What have I been reading?

So far for October, I finished Dreamland Barbuda, a book about the communal land rights issue in Barbuda –sister island to my home country Antigua. It’s been a contentious issue going back more than a century but got even more contentious in the wake of hurricane Irma in 2017 when the island was completely evacuated after being decimated by the storm. In this book, a Barbudan makes her case for the traditional communal land rights over the free hold land ownership preferred by the central government. This book review is written up in my Blogger on Books series and is also the first installment in my #bookchat #unscripted booktube series.

I also watched I know why the Caged Bird sings, a 1979 TV movie based on the book by Maya Angelou, the first book in her compelling series of memoirs.  I know why the Caged Bird sing was an instant favourite when I read it so many years ago. Yet, I didn’t even know this film existed but it was pretty good (the timing was great too, watching it felt like a great way to pay tribute to the late great Diahann Carroll who featured in it; it just had so many of the giants of Black entertainment from that time in it too – Esther Rolle (of Good Times fame), Ruby Dee (of too many classic films to mention but let’s start with A Raisin in the Sun), Madge Sinclair (of Trapper John MD), and a number of other familiar faces from the late 70s/early 80s film and TV. Co-written by Angelou it was really faithful to the book and as such really well done. Also viewed this October and worth checking out the Sam Cooke documentary on Netflix, The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, another stumble upon.

I have also been digging through my active reading pile depending on interest (most to least interested): Greyborn Rising by Derry Sandy, Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal, Wartime at Woolworths by Elaine Everest, and The Secret (still). Greyborn is an ARC I wish I had time to just sit and read because it’s really interesting, action-packed and different, I’m almost done with Wartime (women at home during WWll) and The Secret – the former I’m moving through at a fairly good clip, the latter considerably slower, and I actually just started Of Noble Family. I’ve read it before (before it was published) and the author explains why – I didn’t even realize she’d done this.

She breaks down why she brought me on board to assist with language editing on her book: “I hired Joanne Hillhouse to translate the dialogue. I also rewrote sections because she made suggestions about places where the communication would be nonverbal. Language is complex and not simply what is say, but also what is not said.”

You can read more re books finished in my last round up.

Meanwhile, I want to shout out a vlogger who finished my book, Musical Youth, Giselle Mills – listen to what she had to say:

If you’re in a reading mood yourself check out my latest CREATIVE SPACE, Research Matters & the Archive Digitization Project (this is the edition), which ropes in one of my recent client projects, research, something I don’t normally do unless it’s connected to my reporting; two poems written recently for blog prompts – The Moon’s Mistress, linked on my poetry page, and The Wedding Project, posted to my Wadadli Pen blog; also at the other blog, a write-up I did on the Canadian non-profit CODE and the Burt Award which has made such a difference in the Caribbean and in my own publishing journey – producing 18 books which you really should check out.  Speaking of my Burt book, shout out to Felicia for sharing it with her readership. BURT AWARD POST from my other blog, and thanks to Felicia again for sharing Musical Youth with her readership for #freestyleFriday.

As for what I’m about to be reading …why same thing I read last week Pinky…lol. I’m slow, distracted, stressed, and busy, I’ll be on my active reading pile for a while. But reading does help lift my spirits which I need whenever I can get it, so I don’t mind the slow.

I did get in two new books this past week, one from an editing client who said “I’m so excited to announce the launch of my novel.   Thanks for all your help. Digital version should be out soon”, and one a graphic novel August, from a fellow local writer; looking forward to reading that one – I think it just might be the first graphic novel from Antigua.

How about that.

It’s already Tuesday as I write this so how about I link it up with Rainy Day Ramblings’ Tell me Something Tuesday, because I think I said a mouthful.

ETA: This week’s Tell me Something Tuesday asks if you would stay in a haunted house for money…Joanne’s answer, no.

#FreestyleFriday “Musical Youth” by Joanne C. Hillhouse

Shout out to Felicia at Nesie’s Place. Thanks for sharing.

Nesie's Place

Musical Youth cover


~ Award winning title ~

2nd place in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.
#12 in Amazon Hot New Releases – Teen and Young Adult Performing Arts Fiction – in its first month of release

Featured in Essence Magazine February 2016

Music, Discovery, Love. Can one summer make the difference of a lifetime?

Zahara is a loner. She’s brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn’t really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka’s life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew. When they all get roles in a summer musical, Zahara, Shaka, and the rest of the Lion Crew use the opportunity to work on a secret project. But the…

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#BookChat – Books I’ve read so far this year, Books I’m currently reading, and Books I DNF

Reading is essential for me. I like blogging about books too – a natural extension of the fact that I like talking about books I’ve read. I don’t count books so much as enjoy the experience of reading – which is why the reviews matter to me more than the number, 19 (or 28 depending on how you’re counting) so far this year. I thought I’d share everything I’ve read so far for 2019, linking to the reviews in case you wanted to check them out. If you’ve read the book reviewed, leave your own thoughts. Oh, and as this post talks about books I’m currently reading (today: Wartime at Woolworths), recently finished reading (yesterday: Dreamland Barbuda), what do you think you’ll read next (no clue), I’m linking up to the WWW Wednesday post at Taking on a World of Words.

Novels/Books finished

Dreamland Barbuda by Asha Frank (see also #BookChat #Unscripted 09.10.19)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh
London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (audio book)
Animal Farm by George Orwell (audio book)
Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
The Black Rose by Tananarive Due
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin  (audio book)
Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis
Evolution: Weaving in and out of Consciousness while the Truth is Somewhere in the Middle by Felene M. Cayetano
On this Island The Natives… by Dale Butler with illustrator Lindsey George
The Masquerade Dance by Carol Ottley-Mitchell w/illustrator Daniel J. O’Brien

Non-novels/Books finished

13 Strategies to elevate Your Career by Janice Sutherland
Ororo: Before the Storm ( 3 issue limited comic book series) by Mark Sumerak with illustrator Carlo Barberi
X-Women One Shot (comic)
Giant Size X-Men – Stan Lee Presents the Uncanny X-Men – Second Genesis (comic) by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum w/Glynis Wein and John Costanza
Storm: Prelude to the Wedding of the Century (comic limited series) by by Eric Jerome Dickey w/David Yardin, Jay Leisten, and Matt Milla
The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 11 Number 1 Summer 2018 (ed. Paget Henry)
Some other stories read during this period can be found in Reading Room and Gallery 35 at the Wadadli Pen blog – just added, The Golden Bough by Salman Rushdie

Books/Novels currently in my active reading pile

Wartime at Woolworths by Elaine Everest – honestly I could’ve finished this long ago with more dedicated reading time but I don’t have more dedicated reading time (so)
New Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby – and including works by more than 200 women of African descent from around the world – I’m more than 200 pages in and not even halfway through; it’s good reading though
Greyborn Rising by Derry Sandy – this action filled work of Caribbean speculative fiction is probably my favourite thing I’m reading right now; curious to see how it turns out
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – been itching to read this one for a while now so I gave up I think and just decided to try the audio book; still struggle with this format but the book itself is off to a rousing start
The Secret – it was a gift, I’m trying
Another Mother by Ross Kenneth Urken – an ARC from the author, just started
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James – I had to start this over once because it’s not the kind of book that does well with being put down and picked up as I have to but when I get in to it, it’s good
Wastelands (Dark Tower 3) by Stephen King – love this series so decided to give the audio book a go; have a vague feeling that I read it already but we’ll see
Beneath Lion’s Wings by Marie Ohanesian Nardin – I’m having a sense that this may not be my cup of tea but I’m still sipping
Inferno by Dan Brown – when I’m reading it, it goes by; problem is I’m not reading it a lot
Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman – still trying to get through the audio book and wishing I had the actual book
Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal – I actually had a hand in editing this book, and, in addition to my payment and some public plaudits on the author’s online platforms, I received all the earlier books in the (Glamourist) series, which I read:   Shades of Milk and Honey,  Glamour in Glass, Without a Summer, and Valour and Vanity

(non-books/novels currently in the active reading pile btw include an old New Yorker article on Barbuda, an unpublished thesis about the history of Barbuda, another unpublished – I think – history this time of social changes in Antigua-Barbuda through education in the late 19th and early 20th century – picking up lots of new information, How to Write and Get Paid – interesting case studies from other freelancers, a play about Black West Indians in one of the great wars of the 20th century sent to me by the author, The Caribbean Writer Volume 32 and Pen America Journal #18 In Transit- both of which I am in, The Antigua  and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 12 Number 1, Simply Antigua Barbuda, Callaloo Volume 35 Number 1, and The Boy who loved Ice Cream by Olive Senior)

I know, I know, too many damn books at once (and that’s not counting my TBR plus the book’s I keep adding to my wish list)  but I’m not stressing it. I just grab one and try to read a little every day because reading is my happy place (and heaven is an unlimited supply of books, time to read them, a bottomless cooler of cold Wadadli, sunset with no san’flies, and eyes that don’t conk out on me).

About those DNFs

Storm and Illyana Magik-Little Girl Lost (1-3 of 4 issue limited comic book series) by Chris Claremont w/illustrators Brent Anderson, John Buscema, Ron Frenz, and Sal Buscema – didn’t finish book 4 due to technical issues – but I’m mostly okay with that as I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I expected to considering the Storm in the title.
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff – life is too short
Caribbean Social Studies 1 – read what I wanted (primary the profiles of Caribbean personalities then passed it on to a child I felt could make fuller use of it)
Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin – I want to read it-read it
For more re my several other DNFs (because I may be reading too many books at once but I’m also learning to let go the of the books I’m not feeling), scroll to the bottom of this post.

Teen Encounters (#MusicalYouthbook)

Musical Youth, the second edition of which was released in summer 2019, has led to some great teen encounters. Last October I had just performed at an event in which I read an excerpt from Musical Youth cueing some teens who were also performing at the event that I was the author of the book recently added to their schools reading list. They stopped me to tell me how much they loved the book, loved the character of Zahara, and thought Zahara (the main teen protagonist, a shy guitarist and songwriter) and Shaka (the other main teen protagonist, an extroverted dancer, lyricist, and rapper) were #relationshipgoals I’ve overused that latter hashtag a bit (too much) since then but I was just happy at the fact that young people were embracing this book about young people like themselves.

First published in 2014 after winning second place/first runner up in the inaugural Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean fiction, its rise hasn’t been meteoric but it’s proving it has staying power and that it connects.

Oonya Kempadoo, author of the critically acclaimed teen/young adult novel Buxton Spice, wrote in a recommendation that she has since given me permission to share: “I first recognized the weight of her work by the response of the teens to her book, Musical Youth , in the Grenada Community Library. It remains one of the most popular books with teens, despite their tendency to shun Caribbean literature when they have a choice because they are required to read it in schools.”

I think the image above was one of my moments of realization re how much this book has been embraced. The teen above – image shared with permission of her mother – is a  guitarist herself and is cosplaying Zahara from my book Musical Youth for character day – a day in which students and teachers dress up as a favourite fictional character – at her school. In a world in which The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Okoye, and Storm exists, she opted to play “Zahara”. Afro puffs, check; red-and-black guitar check; looking like she’s rocking out for the end of summer production, check. I can’t even.  This was a part of the writing life I never anticipated – and it feels good.

Fun factoid, this is her second time dressing up as Zahara – four years ago she and her mother read the book together and I was tagged back then too, but of course she’s older now and expressing the character in a way that’s reflective of her. I can’t help thinking that this is what the whole push for diverse books is all about, seeing yourself (as a Black, Caribbean girl) reflected and projecting some version of how you see that self in to the world.

Also good was an encounter this week with another teen at a local bookstore where I was perched for the day. I heard the book store attendant calling me and looked up from my lap top to see she had a young lady with her who she said very much wanted to meet me. I went over,  she told me how much she loved The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth, and how she’d been trying to get her hands on Dancing Nude in the Moonlight (I wish I had a copy to give her but I assured her that they’d be in stock at the Best of Books soon – you, dear reader, can also find them online), we took a picture, I chatted briefly with her and her friend – a future author and filmmaker, by the way.

The moral of the story, if there is any, is that it’s nice after hanging with these young/teen characters in isolation while writing them (much as I enjoyed their company) to have young people/teens in real life respond to them so enthusiastically (in Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean, and, fingers crossed, beyond – e.g. Musical Youth’s selection for the Children’s Aid NYC middle school event Iron Go Chefs 2019).

Hopefully, they’ll continue to discover and respond to it. What more could a writer hope for.

About Musical Youth: Music, Discovery, Love. Can one summer make the difference of a lifetime? Zahara is a loner. She’s brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn’t really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka’s life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew. When they all get roles in a summer musical, Zahara, Shaka, and the rest of the Lion Crew use the opportunity to work on a secret project. But the Crew gets much more than they bargained for when they uncover a dark secret linking Shaka and Zahara’s families and they’re forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about class, colour, and relationships on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Musical Youth placed second in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. Read more about Musical Youth and my other books here.

Link ups: I’ll be linking this one up to the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post; also sharing at Multicultural Children’s Book Day (as I told them I would); don’t forget to check out my contribution to a Coffee Addicted Writer’s Book Blogger Hop which includes a round up of recent posts here on the blog.

Blog Hop/Blog Round Up (October 4th 2019)

Book Blogger Hop
I’m doing my latest blog round-up via Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer’s Blogger Hop. This week’s blog hop question is ‘you’ve dropped your favourite book while being chased by a herd of zombies would you go back to retrieve it?’

My answer is uhm NO. HelltotheNo!

Look I’m someone who’s actually given thought to this – somewhere between the umpteenth The Walking Dead re-run while I wait for a new season to start and repeats of 28 Days (or Weeks) later, all the way down to that laughable Netflix zombie series (what was it called?). I am a zombie fic fan (from the movies World War Z to the books they’re based on World War Z: an Oral History of the Zombie Wars by Max Brooks), and fan enough to know that you don’t do foolishness like go back for books (and I love books – you know I do – but did you see how many people died when they went after the dog in Dawn of the Dead?). Nope; survival doesn’t leave room for foolish decisions in the zombie apocalypse.

If you still give what I have to say about books any cred after that answer, here’s what I had to say about what I recently read.

How do you transfer this book – the way the individual stories unfold (the same scenarios through different perspectives and how they become something entirely different), the heavy use of symbolism, dream symbolism (the rabbit), dream imagery, object imagery (the bowler hat), that scene on the hill (!), the entanglement of base individual desires and the fate of whole countries, the writing generally (“…the abyss separating Sabina and Franz; he listened eagerly to the story of her life and she was equally eager to hear the story of his, but although they had a clear understanding of the logical meaning of the words … they failed to hear the semantic susurrus of the river flowing thorough them”), the way the narrator seems both a part of and apart from the story he (she?) is telling, is so familiar with the reader (first person, direct address) with god like knowledge of the characters (even the things they don’t understand about themselves), the unexpectedly happy (?) ending though the much more tragic end came earlier in the story, the who-knows-what-really-happened-ness of it all, life and death and the meaning of it all love, lust, political ideology, the fates of countries etc. – to film when it can’t even walk a straight line in your head.

Speaking of films, my most recent watches are Unbelievable (which is triggering and amazing – so be warned but, I thought, really well done – Emmy worthy), Hell or High Water (which had one moment that took me by surprise and was otherwise, okay), and Daveed Diggs’ Blindspotting. In the latter, the Hamilton alum stars, writes and produces a racially-charged film which walks a tricky line between hyper realistic and fable-esque, and walks it mostly well. Oddly, hip hop head though I am, the rapping felt forced, but I thought the film did a really good job of being both charming and dark, and leaving me tensed almost until the very end for the darkest possible outcome.

The Emmys were held recently, I caught clips but I didn’t watch the whole thing and except for one shining moment, I was disappointed with the fate of one of the best mini-series ever When They See Us.  It only picked up one of its multiple nominations, a deserved win for Jharrel Jerome who played Korey Wise, but the snubs mean nothing for producer, writer, director Ava DuVernay in what is easily the best thing she’s ever done – and she’s done a few good things (Selma, Queen Sugar). I was concerned before this that the industry didn’t appreciate this limited series the way I did; so many of the professional video reviewers I follow didn’t give it the time of day (and some only way after the fact considering how quickly they jump on other films). I even reached out to one of them only to find out that this was the one they decided to put behind a pay wall (hmmmm). They turned me off and haven’t been essential viewing for me since. Most of the conversation, as far as video reviews go, were from Black film fans sharing the impact of the film on them and exploring the issues it raised. It was very FUBU, so I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, that Hollywood didn’t seem to get what a powerful and seminal piece of work it is.

In the spirit of giving ourselves props because who knows if they will, I wanted to point to three women, three farewells from my Wadadli Pen blog: specifically, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison (a critically acclaimed and bestselling African-American writer), Caribbean-American writer Paule Marshall, and Antigua-Barbuda writer Mary Quinn (all of whom died this summer).

In one post I talk about using someone’s question of who is Toni Morrison, uttered after her death, to discuss my favourite Morrison books – spoiler alert, they’re Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Jazz; and my favourites by the Barbados-descended Marshall (Praisesong for the Widow; Browngirl, Brownstones; Daughters) . Read to find out why and to read what I haven’t read, and more. In another post, I wrote, “Toni created writing that teaches us how to write and informs us on our lives lived – especially so our lives as black people, especially given that she was a writer very specific about not writing for the white gaze. If you haven’t already, go read her. That’s the best tribute we can pay to a writer of her caliber (or any writer, really) on their dying (and, as it happens, on their living).” The same goes for Marshall.

I mention finally Mrs. Quinn who was known locally as the Grand Dame of Poetry – “an honorific respected by the literary community of which she was a part and by the wider community in recognition of her status as one of our local literary elders)”. You can read my full post in tribute to her here.

TTFN but look out shortly for my post on a fan encounter and the time a teen cosplayed a character from my #MusicalYouthbook (the second edition and first hard cover edition of which were recently published).

Larry David & Maya Rudolph Back On ‘SNL’ For Town Hall Skit As Show Goes Heavy On Trump Impeachment — Deadline

Did not catch the full episode; I’m not a regular Saturday Night Live watcher (not a SNL hater either). But I liked the casting and writing on the town hall sketch (Maya Rudolph is everything!) – Kate McKinnon’s Elizabeth Warren describing herself as fun like a “brisk walk” (lol…apt…no shade; I’m a walker, it’s good for the health) and Woody Harrelson as Joe Biden comparing himself to a plastic straw befuddled by the idea that he’s always worked hard and you used to think he was good and just so just so now he’s bad (“I’m like plastic straws: I’ve been around forever, I’ve always worked, but now you’re mad at me?!”)… that straw analogy, man, because yeah the straw is out of step with these times (my country has come down hard on plastics and Styrofoam…though we still blithely destroy mangroves and deny children the right to strike for action on climate change) with different and more urgent challenges (as Greta Thunberg’s recent UN speech should have reminded us, climate change is upon us and the need for action is urgent and the slow foot drag of the past won’t work). I don’t know about these elections (hell, I’m not even American) but that analogy was astute and sharply funny.

Also “faunt”.


The just launched impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump was the big story of the week, and it also dominated the Season 45 premiere of Saturday Night Live with three skits devoted to the it, aw well as the top of Weekend Update. Following the Cold Open featuring Trump making panicked calls over the impeachment,…

via Larry David & Maya Rudolph Back On ‘SNL’ For Town Hall Skit As Show Goes Heavy On Trump Impeachment — Deadline

Not a One Hit Wonder

It’s nighttime in Antigua, I’m on my back porch, fighting mosquitos and trying to grab some of this night air – I love the night, don’t you? The crickets and frogs – and this music I’m listening to while I do what I have to do, because I wouldn’t make it through this life without music –  means it’s never really quiet but it is serene.

What am I listening to?

What about your Friends?

Possibly my favourite song by the best selling girl group of all time and easily my favourite girl group (as evidenced by how quickly I snatched up their first three albums (and the first album making of VHS) Ooooooooh on the TLC tip, CrazySexyCool, and FanMail back in the day; by the fact that I had a T-boz bob for part of my uni years (that’s what I asked for when I went to the salon too); and had legitimate debates with people about how Left Eye (my favourite group member) was legit one of the best female emcees in the game. I stand by that btw (she’s still my favourite part of Lil Kim’s Ladies’ Night).

Anyway just sharing some of my right now music with you – I love this song because it has echoed my shaky friendship moments, because each of the girls gets her moment to shine (if you remember back in the day part of Left Eye’ s frustration was radio stations playing the non-rap version of TLC songs plus no doubt the times when the group went full rnb e.g. Creep). But in this song they are in perfect balance – T-boz’s low growl, Chilli’s highnotes, and my favourite part Left Eye’s electric rap; plus that full on TLC energy. Love this song. Yesterday was one hit wonder day; what do you call the opposite of a one hit wonder… a hit maker? Well, TLC were pure hit makers (and never generic). It hasn’t been the same for me since Left Eye died and I haven’t really bought their music since but they’re still doing their thing and I’ve got to ask how the hell I’ve aged and they haven’t because

RIP Left Eye.