My Top Ten Posts of the Year

Time for the rundown of the year’s most popular posts. Hope you’ll check them out if you haven’t already.

#1 – Ancestral Remembrance on Emancipation Day

Excerpt: “You know, it’s a strange thing, but I heard that when slavery was over the slaves at Old Road didn’t even get drunk. I heard there was no great happiness among them. They didn’t know what would happen, so them give assurances that they will not leave the plantation, that they will continue on working for the old owners. The old slave massas let them continue to work the ground and grow food for themselves.”

Reflection: This one surprises me; I guess there’s more interest in our history than we realize as this is literally excerpts related to Emancipation in Antigua and Barbuda from the book To Shoot Hard Labour.

#2 – After the Storm

Excerpt: “I have seen social media posts (seemingly out of the US) indicating that we don’t matter either because the posters have never heard of us, because we’re too small to matter, because we’re ignorant for living in a hurricane pathway, because our houses are supposedly poorly built and not because of the 185 mph winds that passed directly over Barbuda, or because we’re doomed anyway – because climate change. I will agree with one thing; we do need to take climate change seriously – it is a factor and, though islands like ours are among the most vulnerable, this is a global problem. The lives of many hang in the balance. The Paris Agreement (which America recently pulled out of) was one step toward combatting climate change. So, in addition to supporting recovery efforts, we can resolve to educate ourselves on climate change and on efforts to mitigate its impact, and do what we can to support and advocate. The lives of every single being on the planet hangs in the balance. We have a saying here, today for me, tomorrow for you; I mention it here not to wish any of the trolls who scoffed at our pain ill but as a reminder that we need to stand together, because we’re all in this together. We, in the Caribbean, grieve and stand with the world when bad things happen anywhere in the world. We are very tuned in to the world (though we know the world is not likewise as tuned in to us) and we care (to wit, our hearts go out to Mexico as well at this time in the wake of the quake there). One of the trolls said we matter only as tourist destinations, and it is true that we live where the world vacations.”

Reflection: This is the first post I wrote after hurricane Irma; I’m delighted especially at how much it’s been shared as Barbuda and other affected islands and countries need all the help they can get (still).

#3 – Grace’s Merrymakers

Graces Merry Makers

Reflection: This was my post on my mas troupe inspired by my book With Grace; thanks for the interest, guys.

#4 – Anne Lamott shares 12 Things She knows for Sure

Excerpt: “via 12 things I know for sure: Anne Lamott speaks at TED2017 — TED Blog

Reflection: This was just a share but understandably one that’s proven popular among book bloggers and readers.

#5 – Food as Culture

Excerpt: ‘Food to reflect differences.

‘“I can help with snacks,” the woman was saying. “Finger foods for during rehearsals and performance night.”

The woman seemed almost shy. Was that Granny Linda? He’d pictured someone taller. Her voice had sort of a shake in it too. This was Zahara’s no non-sense, ‘take no bullshit’ grandmother? Wow.

“Maybe some grilled pork and pineapple skewers?” she added.

“That sounds good,” Mr. Perry said, nodding. “Although you know, some of the kids are vegetarian; pork might not do for everyone.”

“That’s okay, I can substitute chicken,” Granny Linda said, and at that everyone fell out laughing.’’

Reflection: This post was sparked by an online food debate about the right way to make ducana (a Good Friday staple in Antigua) and got me thinking about the ways food shows up in my own work. Who knew food could inspire so much passion.

#6 – In the Race

Excerpt: “Thanks to my nominator for taking the time to read the work (With Grace) and fill out the forms (I know it was a pain); you didn’t have to and I appreciate that you did.”

Reflection: My post on my nomination for the Astrid Lindgren prize.

#7 – With Grace Selected for the Virgin Islands Summer Read Challenge

Excerpt: “As the author of With Grace, I am delighted at this development and hope With Grace continues to find its way in to the hands of children across the Caribbean and around the world.”

Reflection: When I learned that I had been selected for this, I was hyped. Thanks, VI. I just got a copy of the special edition – it’s not in the original post but I’m going to share it here anyway. That’s me with the publisher and the special edition of With Grace.

meeting with Mario Nov 2017

#8 – It’s Lost! Pub Day

Excerpt: “Remember, go to my facebook  (today – November 30th 2017) to participate in the AMA, author-illustrator in conversation, Lost! virtual launch, book birthday.”

Reflection: This AMA was dope. Okay, it wasn’t so much of an AMA as a chat between me and the artist, loved that.

Lost Cover Front 4

#9 – Top Ten – Contemporary Caribbean

Reflection: This trended primarily across the book blogging community; happy to introduce others to books from my part of the map.

#10 – Do You Know Eileen Hall?

Excerpt: ‘If you google her, you might find her wiki entry (no pictures though) describing her as “an American poet”. Not true. She is, though, a largely forgotten Antiguan poet; and the same wiki entry does disclose that “Hall was born in Antigua; her father’s family was from Oxford and her mother’s family was part French and part Irish, the French side having been in the West Indies since the mid seventeenth century.” Like I said, Antiguan poet, one of the first – research would suggest – to be published internationally. Her 1938 book, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, was The Fountain and the Bough.’

Reflection: Researching this post after I’d read Hall’s book consumed the better part of a night, so I’m glad there’s some interest because damn I went down the rabbit hole on this one.

Those are my top ten – i.e. most viewed, shared, liked, commented on – posts of 2017 (so far). Thanks for reading.

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Top Ten Favourite Reads of the Year

This meme asks for Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017 but I’m doing Top Ten Favourite Books (not including literary journals/periodicals even if I’ve blogged my reviews of them) I’ve read (to completion) in 2017 – none of which, as it happens, were actually written in 2017. Now what do I mean by favourite? This is not strictly speaking about literary merit, though that’s in there too, but also the books that were enjoyable, engaging, got me talking, talking back, and which I don’t have to stretch to recall or recapture as I prep this list.

10. See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid See now then
Before I read reviews of this, I saw reviews saying you either love this or hate it, no middle ground. Not true. I didn’t love it or hate it; but I appreciated it. And, as usual, the flow is quite seductive. Link to review.

9. Glorious by Bernice McFadden Glorious
I enjoyed the beginning sections of this and the end, but there were times in the middle where I just didn’t care that much; overall though it was the feelings on the bookend that stuck, that and an overarching appreciation for the larger purpose of the tale beyond the individual woman’s story. Link to review.

8. The Fountain and the Bough by Elizabeth Hall Hall
Something stole Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird’s (a book that reminds that as writers we’re all a bit crazy but take one thing at a time, take it bird by bird, and we can probably muddle through) spot on this list and this poetry collection might be it. I mean, I liked it but top 10 liked it, I’m not sure…but it was just such an exciting discovery for me as an Antiguan reader and writer, I couldn’t not share it on this list.  Link to original review.
7. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Shades
I like books that feel experimental and this does – regency era fic that intermingles fantasy/sci-fi (in that magic is a normal and seamless part of that world) is certainly experimental without being clunky and ridiculous; a compelling main, female character and adherence to the rules of the world grounds it. I also liked the second in the series Glamour in Glass (which is a more ambitious historical re-write) but I liked this first one better. Link to original review.

6. Closure: Contemporary Black British Short Stories by Jacob Ross closure
Story collections are good, especially if your reading time is limited – it’s like snacking as opposed to sitting for a full multi-course meal. If this book was a snack, it’d be healthier snacks – a vegetable platter but with a nice, tasty dip – by which I mean it’s not easily dismissed fluff, it takes a while to digest and it’s enriching, well-crafted insightful stuff, but not always fun. Link to original review.

5. In Time of Need by Shakirah Bourne Time
By contrast, this single-author story collection is pure fun even when its dealing with some unbearably painful stuff. I’m not sure what kind of snack that would be because it’s not empty calories but like with potato chips or fries you’ll go through it without realizing it and you’ll want more when you’re done. Its placement on this list ahead of Closure really adds up to which snack you’re in the mood for and that depends on the mood obviously. Link to original review.

4. The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly Lizard Cage
I was so anxious as I read this, particularly in the last third, because I had come to care so much about the characters, and because it is so unflinching and unrelenting in its telling of a brutal story set largely in a prison in Burma/Myanmar – that somehow manages a redemptive arc (though not, strictly speaking, a happy ending). It wasn’t fun but it was good. Link to original review.

3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Seth Grahame-Smith Abraham-Lincoln-Vampire-Hunter
This was by contrast my swiftest (with the exception of Go De Raas to Sleep) and most fun (also with the exception of Go De Raas to Sleep) read (so why isn’t Go De Rass to Sleep on this list again?) of the year. It’s just such a ridiculous premise and anytime I mentioned I was reading it people got very judgey but dammit books are supposed to be fun and ridiculous sometimes too…and this was that (much more so than the movie which kinda sucked) plus, with unexpected depths. If Twilight fan fiction can become the bestselling 50 Shades (and I’ve read neither, by the way), I’m not going to feel shame for liking a mash-up of historical biography and vampire fiction. I like what I like. Plus this book got me through the literal dark days of the worst days of this hurricane season. Link to original review.

2. The Known World by Edward P. Jones edwardpjones_theknownworld1
I kept bugging a friend with details about this as I read it, so much so that she ended up borrowing it and reading it after I was done. It settles the reader in slavery era America but doesn’t allow anyone – white or black or indigenous/native – to sit easy in a familiar narrative; you might say it unsettles the reader in slavery era America and has an unfamiliar narrative take on a story we thought we knew. Link to original review.

1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys Sargasso
Part of what makes this classic interesting is the way it fills in the blanks re another literary classic, Jane Eyre. And Rhys’ story (covered somewhat in the intro) is also interesting. These things make the reading richer. But as a standalone, even without knowing about the author or the book’s place as anti-fan fiction, it’s still just really good, really well written…really infuriating in its probing at issues of race, class, and gender in ways that can still get the blood hot. Link to original review.

This is not science obviously; these lists can change minute to minute…and I’m reading at least one book now that I’m sure would be among my year’s best if I finish it before the end of 2017. But for now, dey e dey.

Since we’re talking books, as a reminder, these are mine  (pictured at the top of this page) – please consider adding to your Christmas shopping list.

Slavery in Libya

What’s happening in Libya is painful. The colonial era transshipment of generations of Africans and their enslavement in the Americas (including the Caribbean, and North and South America) and in Europe as well under the heel of European powers (not to mention the colonization of Africa itself) is the not too distant past. Distant enough though that people are fond of reminding us that it’s in the past and pressing us to move on. My stance has been NEVER FORGET because this history continues to influence our present in ways we don’t even realize and because if my ancestors had not survived the dark, long night of slavery I would not be here making my own choices in the sunshine. I hold them up because they hold me up. Truly though, slavery has never ended as there have been forms of enslavement from human trafficking for the sex trade to exploitation of labour across the globe (and across industries ranging from fashion/clothing to chocolate/coffee to technology). And we have never truly, seriously, meaningfully addressed the impact of it and possible correctives (like reparations). But perhaps we had been lulled in to believing that the open trade in Africans on the slave market was a thing of the past. The CNN report proving otherwise angered and saddened me (because here were my people AGAIN under the heel of the world) and the easily distracted News was already moving on to other things (something something Drumpf). I’m sharing this post because we need to shed a light on this issue. It also touches on a more complex (perhaps uneasy) reading of African leadership (given the history of Africa). We need to have these conversations.

The PBS Blog

Deu 28:68 “And YAH shall bring you back to Egypt in ships, by a way of which I said to you, ‘You are never to see it again.’ And there you shall be sold to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one to buy.

“The United Nations (UN) revealed on Wednesday that hundreds of migrants from Nigeria and other West African countries passing through Libya enroute Europe are being bought and sold in what it described as modern-day slave markets before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.”

I haven’t had the chance to sit down and share my thoughts on the slavery taking place in Libya. I usually take my time with such things. I don’t want to echo what everyone else is saying or jump on bandwagons. I want to be logical, spiritual, and develop my own thoughts about it so I’ll just…

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Good Morning Antigua Barbuda

I’ve found that part of the job of the writer is the promotion of the book, meaning sometimes (even for the most reserved writer) appearances, and that can include moments like this GMAB DEC 5 2017 8 – being a guinea pig/taster, trying out co-host Ibis’ recipe for sorrel (a non-traditional take on a traditional Antiguan/Caribbean Christmas drink made from the Roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa flower) on morning TV.

I’m not a morning person but I did appreciate the invitation from Good Morning Antigua-Barbuda (the morning programme on national station ABS TV – it was December 5th if you want to check out the live feed) to come on and talk about not only Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure but also the second/special edition of With Grace which was published after the book was selected for the US Virgin Island Governor’s Summer Read Challenge(2017). I actually just got my hand on those when the man behind Little Bell, Mario Picayo, cruised through Antigua. Great to see him and we had a great chat.

meeting with Mario Nov 2017

Good Morning Antigua Barbuda host Patrice took a liking to the art work by Barbadian/Bajan Cherise Harris in the case of With Grace With Grace illustrator (pictured here with her illustrator copy of the original hardcover edition/recently posted to facebook) and Trinidad and Tobago/Trinbagobian Danielle Boodoo Fortune illustrator Danielle (pictured here with her baby-boy/recently posted to her facebook) in the case of Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure – sidebar: read my chat with Danielle and publisher Caribbean Reads about the book.

I gifted her/her daughter with an author copy of both and look forward to their reviews (fingers crossed that it’s positive).

As for Ibis and his sorrel mixing, I never laughed so much in the morning, even on coffee – not at the sorrel, that was good, but at his quippy commentary as he mixed it up. Enough chatter, here are some highlights screengrabbed from the appearance.

GMAB DEC 5 2017 2GMAB DEC 5 2017 5

GMAB DEC 5 2017 6

GMAB DEC 5 2017 7

GMAB DEC 5 2017 9

Finally, re the availability of the books, the publishers of both Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and With Grace are small, independent, Caribbean-focussed presses (Caribbean Reads and Little Bell Caribbean, respectively). Both publishers and yours truly are hustling hard but reader interest will also help to drive demand. Buy, ask for it (wherever you are #worldwidebaby) if it’s not at your bookstore and encourage them to order it, post a review online, share via social media, help build the buzz – those are some of the ways you can support any writer you may think is underhyped. The books are also available online – hard cover, soft cover, kindle, and (in the case of Lost!) audio versions. If they’re out of stock, pre-order, more are coming. Same with those asking about availability in Antigua – copies of Lost! were ordered ahead of pub day (Nov 30) and sold out at Best of Books; they’ve ordered more and I can confirm that Cindy’s Bookstore has as well. They’re expected to be here in time for Christmas. Hoping the same will follow retailers across the Caribbean and beyond. So, get your pre-orders in with the relevant bookstores as well. Not with me, I don’t sell the books directly. I’m out here promoting though. #work #work #work #work #work #amirite

Lost! Official Launch Release

This is the official release drafted by the publisher, and being circulated (with the images above – author photo by Emile Hill c. 2011 & the Lost! book cover) by both of us, and hopefully you too.
MEDIA RELEASE
For Release November 30, 2017
Contact Carol Mitchell info@caribbeanreads.com for more information

Dolphin, the Arctic Seal, Returns to Antigua and Barbuda in an Inspiring Children’s Book

St. Johns Antigua November 30, 2017 — Author,  editor, and writing coach Joanne C. Hillhouse releases her latest children’s book, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. Beautifully illustrated by Trinidadian artist Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, Lost! is inspired by the story of an Arctic seal which found itself in the Caribbean seas a few years ago. The book pulls children into a fun adventure about kindness and friendship that will leave them with a greater appreciation of our marine environment. Lost! includes a fun maze which gives children a chance to help the lost seal find his way home.

Kirkus Reviewers dubbed the book “appealing …, all the more so for being based on real life” and praised it for giving children “…a chance to learn more about the work of environmentalists and Caribbean sea life.” –Kirkus Reviews

Marine educator, Carole McCauley, who has worked in both the Caribbean and the US, declared Lost! “A wonderful and inspiring story for all ages.”

In the book, Dolphin, much like his real life counterpart, the young male hooded seal Wadadli, finds himself stranded in the Caribbean Sea, and far from his home in the North Atlantic. Wadadli was rescued by the Coast Guard of Antigua and Barbuda, while the fictional seal, Dolphin, has a little help from a new underwater friend.

Award-winning author Joanne C. Hillhouse is the Antiguan and Barbudan author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and now Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in various Caribbean and international journals and anthologies. Joanne lives in Antigua and from there she freelances as a writer, editor, workshop/course facilitator, and writing coach; and runs the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize writing programme to nurture and showcase the literary arts.

Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure is published by CaribbeanReads Publishing. Books are available at bookstores across the Caribbean and at online booksellers. Lost! is a reimagining of Hillhouse’s book Fish Outta Water which was published by Pearson Education in 2013. Visit http://www.caribbeanreads.com for details.

 

Pub Day is Not Over Yet!

You might have heard (because I told you) that today (November 30th 2017) is publication day for my latest book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. Stopped by my local bookstore to sign a copy for a buyer and found their first order had already (save the one) sold out – more on the way. I’m going to take that as an omen re international sales. My fingertips to God’s ears. Are you listening God? It’s me, Joanne.

LOL.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in to share my book trailer for Lost! – this is actually my first publisher produced book trailer (yay, me!). Big up to Caribbean Reads Publishing, a small independent press doing big things. This is my second book with them, the first was Musical Youth. Dem likkle but dem tallawah (yay, Caribbean Reads).

Trailer time.

Finally, I mentioned my interview re my Astrid Lindgren nomination on local radio, in this post, but I thought I’d direct link to the upload on my youtube channel as well.

The images used are mostly book covers and scenes from my writing life, and the featured image (random, not me, but I’m okay with it) is from Grace’s Merrymakers Carnival 2017 debut. You may remember that Grace’s Merrymakers was inspired by my other picture book With Grace which is a Caribbean fairytale. I recently received my author copies of the special paperback edition done for the US Virgin Islands Governor’s Summer Read Challenge (shout out to the VI, and wishing them all the support they need to recover post hurricane). More on that meet up with my other dope Caribbean independent publisher in another post. Today is all about Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure.

Read the advance reviews here.

Read the first page here.

Order online or anywhere books are sold. If your bookstore doesn’t carry it, be sure to encourage them to. Let’s make this one a bestseller.

It’s LOST! Pub Day

That’s right, the official publication day for my latest book, Lost! The Caribbean Sea Adventure the children’s picture book and aquatic adventure described as appealing by Kirkus Reviews, is November 30th 2017. Get a copy. Tell a friend. Rec it at your local bookstore. Leave a review. Am I asking too much? I hope not. It’s been a challenging month, year, little while but publication day is like your birthday (it’s your book’s birthday anyway), you’ve got to celebrate that and invite everyone to the party.

The virtual party will be over on my facebook where I have a thread throughout the day which will have me and illustrator Danielle Boodoo Fortune in conversation about the making of the book, and people (like you) asking us anything. Come hang. Hmmm…will there be a giveaway?

I’ll be sharing other things as they happen – look out for the Lost! press release, the Lost! trailer, the Lost! pre-Christmas in-store event…

Some news has already been added to the media page. The advance reviews are on the reviews page.

That’s Lost! book news.

Oh and I added a new Antigua and Barbuda page – it’s not Lost! specific but the book does get a mention.

Remember, go to my facebook  (today – November 30th 2017) to participate in the AMA, author-illustrator in conversation, Lost! virtual launch, book birthday.