Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish in June 2010. It is what all that suggests, top ten lists for bookish folks.
The August 15th 2017 Top Ten is ‘Ten book recommendations for ______________: (Skies the limit here…examples: for Hufflepuffs, for fans of Game of Thrones, for people who don’t normally read YA, for animal lovers, for video game lovers, etc.’
Having recently pulled some book recs for an interview with the African Book Addict blog, I decided to whittle that list in to my Top Ten Tuesday, a Top Ten for people interested in easing in to Contemporary Caribbean Fiction. Is this a definitive top 10 of contemporary Caribbean fiction? Of course not! But it’s my top ten on this day and that’s all we need. So here goes:
1.The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat – This Haitian American writer is one of my all-time favourites and this is my favourite book of hers, so far. It’s technically historical fiction as it deals with a brutal chapter in the not so distant past between the two countries which share the island of Hispaniola – Haiti and the Dominican Republic, a drama still playing out in some ways to this day.
2. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid – I just finished reading this Antigua-born, US-based writer’s latest (See Now Then) and I liked that as well; but Lucy, the story of a young island girl acclimatizing to life in the US, is still, not necessarily my favourite as that changes, with Annie John also asserting itself, but it’s up there.
3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – a Dominican boy/young man coming of age in the US and the dangerous ways his worlds intersect.
4. Fear of Stones by Kei Miller – an earlier career short story collection from one of the main Caribbean literary voices of this generation. Looking forward to reading his newest novel, Augustown.
5. Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay – a coming of age mystery adventure with a very sympathetic protagonist and a very relevant theme, and, at the same time, a relatively easy read.
6. The Book of Night Woman by Marlon James – not as easy, not as contemporary, but very compelling. I haven’t read this author’s Man Booker prize winning History of Seven Killings yet, but after this tale of life and death on a Jamaica plantation, when sugar was king and Blacks were enslaved, it is very firmly on my to-read list.
7. Waiting in Vain by Colin Channer – like romance? Give this one a go. Steamy.
8. White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey – a tragicomical tale of one expat woman’s efforts to acclimatize to life in the Caribbean, to understand and inhabit it, over several decades.
9. Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo – It’s been a minute since I read this one but I remember I hadn’t read anything quite like it when I did – technically in the coming of age sub-genre but touching on sexual awakening (and other types of awakenings) and such taboos in a bold way.
10. Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean is a good introductory read – new voices, a range and sometimes twisted (i.e. not your palm trees and blue seas) view of the contemporary Caribbean.
You’re welcome to check out my Blogger on Books series where I’ve reviewed some of these books here and on my other blog (just use the search feature); crowd sourced Caribbean favourites – classic and contemporary; and, of course, my own (as in I wrote them) contemporary Caribbean reads.
It’s funny how quickly Carnival goes by. It’s like this two week alternate reality where everything else ceases to exist, and then, in a blink, back to reality. Within those two weeks there is pageantry, soca, calypso, pan, controversy, and, of course, mas including the epic Carnival Tuesday parade (all 10,000 plus steps of it). Carnival is mas, and mas is an opportunity to showcase our creativity and that, the opportunity it provides to showcase our creativity, is the purpose of this post.
See, I wrote a children’s picture book called With Grace (released last December), and the world of that story became the pattern that we drew from in crafting our mas – in great part because I wanted to see the tree faerie come to life.
We had more elaborate plans to start but adjusted to our reality and are grateful that with the help of sponsors (shout out to Titi Rent-a-Car, Townhouse Mega Store, and Pink Mongoose), we were able to bring the tree faerie to Carnival City.
I’m not going to pretend that I had any hand in the actual building – I am rather lucky that my friends (Helena Jeffery Brown and Augusta Scotland Samuel) who do have experience with costume building were interested in taking on this project.
Material was bought ,
Wire was bent ,
Shapes were drawn ,
Fabric was cut ,
& Details were added (these are for the headpieces and standards – because we might not have had a mango tree like we’d hoped but the standards made for a good stand-in).
In their skilled hands (plus seamstress, Ms. Blaize, who sewed the tops they then decorated), it all came together..
We had to do a product description for the stage and here’s some of what we said – “The fairy’s bodice is the colour of tree bark crisscrossed in green. Her skirt consists of green leaves, with stripes of gold, hanging from her body like leaves from a tree. Look closely, you’ll also see mango blossoms – between the fairy’s wings, pinned into her hair, and along the leaves making up her hand pieces. The fairy’s wings spread wide as she wakes, the orange pink hue of a ripening mango, made of bent wire in the tradition of Antiguan mas. Another feature of local mas, the standards – poles wrapped in leaves, in hues of green and gold – are the trees waving in the breeze. It’s mango season, Carnival season, a season of creativity in full bloom.”
On the Road
After all that, we were only on the road on Carnival Tuesday (shout out to Just Friends, for being so welcoming to us on the road); on Carnival Monday, given our size, we only crossed the stage. Shout out to our banner holders …and our back-up banner holders.
We were happy to have the opportunity to showcase what mas is about to us – not just fun (though it is always that), but the colour, spirit, and creative energy of our Antiguan and Barbudan people. As a writer, it made me happy to see a character I imagined (a character then illustrated by Cherise Harris and re-imagined by Jeffery) come to life as a part of one of my favourite events, Carnival, mas, Tuesday, the biggest live theatre event (for that’s how I’ve thought of our mas since I first witnessed it as a child). This year I also spied a smurfette and a mermaid (dope); so why not the mango tree faerie, a 100 Wadadli character. Again, thanks to our sponsors (Titi Rent-a-Car, Pink Mongoose, and Townhouse Mega Store) for supporting our vision – remember, support the businesses that support the arts.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Grace, of Grace’s Peak, loves her hill, and her home above the village, above the whole island. All her trees are lush and full of ripe fruits, except for the one at the far end of her orchard. She hates that tree. So when the smiling, barefoot, girl from the village asks Grace if she can pick fruits to sell at the market, it is from that sad, bare tree that Grace “generously” allows her to pick. Little does Grace know that the young girl’s kind, generous heart and her sweet special song will make the impossible happen, and change life at Grace’s Peak forever. Published by Little Bell Caribbean.
Also, for news on Antigua’s Carnival, go here.
My story The Other Daughter, which, you may remember was published earlier this year in Adda, an online literary platform by Commonwealth Writers, is now a selection for The Culture Trip’s “Global Anthology, an initiative that highlights a work of prose from every country on Earth, as well as many nations, states, sovereignties, territories, and flag-less regions.”
It’ll be a lot of reading to get through but I look forward to it.
Here’s what Michael Barron, the Culture Trip’s US literary editor said in his intro to the anthology:
“As with any project covering the entire world, assembling an anthology on this scale required a few allowances in its methods. Only three of its criteria are therefore invariable—every piece had to be written in or translated into English; every writer had to be native to the country represented (no expats); and all 193 member states of the United Nations had to be present. That we ended up with over 220 selections is a barometer of how fraught international ‘recognition’ can be, and even this number doesn’t recognize the entirety of Earth’s many human-made divisions.
The variety of prose and the political states of regions found here is an indicator of the many geo-socio-literary challenges that presented themselves as the Global Anthology developed. It was just as difficult, say, to find a writer from the Central African Republic, as it was to choose a single American author to represent the country. We sought to feature as many under-known and contemporary writers (to English and Western readers) as we could, often cold emailing people after hours of Google sleuthing. In cases where we were able to make contact and received permission to translate and publish their work, we would then conduct interviews with these writers for the site. Subsequently, much of this material marks the first appearance by, and introduction to, these writers (and in some special cases the first appearance from a country or region) in English. That they understood and contributed directly to the vision of this project was a huge encouragement for us to keep going. Thank you.”
With only one author per country, he acknowledged, “This isn’t a perfect anthology, but it is a sincere attempt to cast as wide a literary light on the world as we could for English readers. And it will be a living thing, its scope periodically updated and expanded until we’ve accounted for a voice from within every human border. We hope it spurs similar projects in other languages. There is no singular “voice” that one can give to the world; we let the type of writing represented be determined by what we encountered in a certain area: whether it be hospital stories from Andorra, or queer literature from Greenland, or postmodernism from Honduras, or black satire from Eritrea. Along the way we discovered the developing literature of some countries and the robust yet undiscovered oeuvres of others. Obscurity, however, is subjective: we can confirm that there is no place on Earth (not even Antarctica) that literature isn’t written.”
I am thrilled to be repping for the 268 (Antigua and Barbuda) in this anthology. If you haven’t read The Other Daughter Yet, I hope you’ll give it a read and also read the interview conducted with me by Mr. Barron.
‘Open’ the anthology here.
I’ve also updated the media page with links to my interviews on The Culture Trip and African Book Addict, and my guest post on Wandering Educators. I hope you’ll check those out. As noted before, I am not always able to respond to individual requests for information, but this is a one stop shop for any information that I am comfortable sharing publicly – and some that I’m not.
If you check the Networked page, you’ll see an addition and subtraction there. The addition is Women who live on Rocks, a mostly expat site about the lighter side of island living. I thought I’d bring some homegrown flava (lol) so I applied to become one of their bloggers. Here’s my first post.
“The truth is, white massa didn’t have much use for old worn out slaves. The ones that was old and couldn’t work hard had to leave the plantation. But not for freedom. No, it was the custom of the Old Road slave massas to take the weak and sick slaves out to sea and throw them overboard. They didn’t have any time to dig holes and bury them. I think that everybody in Antigua know the story about a slave that was taken away and bury alive. She was crying, ‘Massa, me no dead yet! No bury me!’ Now massa say, ‘I have money to buy more, pull um go along.’
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.
But though assurances was given, the young slaves wanted to know what the land was like. So most of the young ones didn’t stay at Old Road after slavery end. Some drift from plantation to plantaion; others settle down in one place.
Now the old slave massas at Old Road was tricky and smart people. After slavery end they wanted the strong slaves they sell or swap off during slavery to come back to work on their plantation. Them through them have proper luck: slavery was all over and they wouldn’t even have to buy them back. They would have both the slaves and the money. So the bad-minded slaves massas at the Old Road Plantation make sure they tell everybody where their people can be found. All the families say how they give thanks to massa for his great interest, but everybody have in mind not to return to Old Road. People badly want to unite with the family – particularly with womenkind. I hear that the women was furious and desperate to find their family.” – from To Shoot Hard Labour: The Life and Times of Samuel Smith, an Antiguan workingman 1877-1982.
August 1st 2017 is Emancipation Day in Antigua and Barbuda (the enslaved people having been legally freed in 1834), but as the excerpt above indicates, the end of my ancestors’ enslavement was not necessarily the beginning of freedom. No, in 2017, freedom, in every way we can be free, remains a work in progress. I am just back from Watch Night, an Emancipation Eve event that’s been going on for something like 10 years, give or take. Per usual it included a mix of speeches, performances (Promise, Kiyode Erasto, King Zacari, King Short Shirt, and a group called …Lion King (?)… a young musical quartet that made me think of the Lion Crew in my book Musical Youth), and drumming by the Nyabinghi drummers. It intersects with but has not really been integrated into Carnival, though this year it did move closer to the city, to the Botanical Gardens specifically. Baby steps.
I’m blogging about this tonight because I wanted to honour my ancestors on whose shoulders I stand, and because I wanted to do my part to share with Antiguans the programme for the rest of the week – yes, for the first time, there’s a whole week of activities.
Time Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
12:30 King FrankI D. O’Marde M. Brann L. Johnson
Emancipation Carnival Community Reparations
14:30 Word/Drums Calypso Joe Headwraps Fashion Pan
16:30 Dance Mas SoCalypso Onion Effect Cuban band
There is also an art, artifacts, and photo exhibition and book sale at the Public Library, Wednesday to Saturday starting at 9 a.m. DJs will be at the Botanical Gardens every day from 10:30 a.m. – Nez on Tuesday, Chicki on Wednesday, Irish on Thursday, Charlie on Friday, and Undercover on Saturday, plus a daily food, bar, and marketplace.
The book quoted above should be essential reading in Antiguan and Barbudan schools; in school is where I was introduced to it, in secondary school history class, after a lifetime of hearing one side of the story. The full has not yet been told, but that book’s a good start. As noted to tonight, its relevance is that history informs our present in more ways than we realize – culture, food, economy, psychology, socially, and in so many other ways. The past is present. Also check out this link which quotes from the work of Desmond Nicholson, another noted local historian.
It’s been a quiet Sunday here in Antigua (quiet and hot!), the quiet before the storm that is Carnival – the Carnival bacchanal is already brewing (but that’s a story for another time). Though, if you’re up for it, you can read my fictional Carnival Hangover story (mind the triggers though). This is my Sunday Post (hosted by the Caffeinated Reviewer), also my Sunday Salon and I’ll probably link to some other bookish memes before I’m done (Stacking the Shelves, Mailbox Monday , and It’s Monday, what are you reading – for example).
I have a few books on my mind this week including Musical Youth (which I’m pushing as a great summer read for the teen in your life). Here’s an extract posted recently to the publisher website.
As to other people’s books… I finished reading Shakirah Bourne’s In Time of Need *throws confetti* and I posted my review. It’s a short story collection and I talk about each individual story. Here’s an excerpt (of my review, not the book):
‘I really loved ‘Crossing Over’ – I’ve read it before, in St. Somewhere, and was happy to see it here. It’s easily one of my favourites in this collection. The opening “When I was younger, I used to love going to funerals because I could sneak away from my crying mother and run outside in the graveyard with my friends, where the real fun began”, had a cracky, darkly humorous distinctly Caribbean, uncensored childlike askew view of the world that tickled me and yet the story navigates the tonal shift to darker themes with ease.’
Shakirah is a Barbadian writer, playwright, and filmmaker, a young Caribbean creative with seeming boundless energy given the sheer number of projects she’s rolled out in the past few years…but then she’s not as active in the blogging community as she used to be (the answer to her productivity may lie in that *hint hint* to self*). Read the entire review here (well, until it moves to ‘older reads’ in which case the link can still be found here ).
So I’m actively reading See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid and Glorious by Bernice McFadden, and less actively (through no fault of the book’s, just time) Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and then there are some dormant ones on my current reads list (which I’ll get back to as soon as I can) – including (freshly plucked from my book shelf) Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya. Yes, I am the kind of reader that has several books going at once. What can I say, I like to mix it up –this is true of how I work and how I play.
Anyway, hope you’re enjoying life wherever you are and you’ve got a good book in your bag for those long bus rides.