Today’s #readCaribbean #CaribAThon journalling will be linked up with WWW Wednesday in which book bloggers are invited to answer –
what are you currently reading? what did you recently finish reading? what do you think you’ll read next?
Currently reading – as I’m blogging my reading every day (give or take) this month, this answer is specific to what I have been reading today, and I’ll share my #lastline #whereIpause –
“…and what is now curfew zone/was then just Home.” (p. 20, Selected Poems, Lorna Goodison) & “He waited for the stillness to shift to reveal what was underneath.” (p. 384, What a Mother’s Love don’t Teach You, Sharma Taylor)
Recently finished reading – If you’ve been following the journalling you already know (sorry for the repetition) – but I finished Marlene Nourbese Philip’s Harriet’s Daughter and I rec it especially for the teen/young adult misfit in your life (of course, it’s a Caribbean read so it’s also an opportunity, if they’re not Caribbean to broaden their reading palette).
Think you’ll read next – I’ll just share some of my active reads that I’d really like to get back to and finish. So if I mention a book I’m already reading it; just not today.
The Caribbean books (it’s all Caribbean all month) I don’t yet have that i would most like to read include way too many to mention….so I’ll just mention these.
The way my budget is set up, I’ll have to check for them at my local library, and the way my time is set up…well, gimme time.
In the first picture I am posed with Cuthbert Forbes who contacted me about donating a couple of my books to the Halo Foundation Wings of Charity auction in London. I donated hard cover editions of two of my picture books – my Caribbean faerie tale With Grace and my environmental-themed Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. I hope the receipient enjoys them. You, of course, can learn about all my books here.
Incidentally, my visit to Government House where the foundation office is based prompted this week’s CREATIVE SPACE called ‘Gallery Space’ as I took the time to tour the area earmarked for the Sir Selvyn Walter Art Gallery while there.
Have I mentioned, in this #readCaribbean #CaribAThon reading journalling that I’ve been doing in June, the Wadadli Pen Reading Room and Gallery. Wadadli Pen is the non-profit through which I work with a small team of volunteers to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. The blog which started out as a platform purely in service of that has expanded to the Caribbean and even the world in terms of content (and readership/engagement) and this literary salon is an example of that, and the series is 44 editions deep (actually I think it’s up to 45). Because #readingCaribbeanwriters for me is about more than just reading books, it’s no surprise that this edition includes poetry by Ian McDonald and Jason Allen-Paisant.
Fun fact: Ian, author of The Hummingbird Tree, is most often thought of as a Guyanese writer but he has Antiguan roots – and that’s one of the things I’ve learned doing the blog. There are conversations with writers (Kei Miller, Christal Clashing, various writers of Caribbean romance via the Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast), the local film The Making of the Monarch, a really interesting historical read by Natasha Lightfoot, and more. Good stuff. Check it out.
Now to my reading progress. Since finishing Tobagonian-Canadian Marlene Nourbese Philip Harriet’s Daughter, as mentioned, I’ve added former Jamaican poet laureate Lorna Goodison’s Selected Poems to my current reading rotation. I took it with me on a lovely evening walk and read a bit before the sky beckoned. With poetry, it’s hard to find a #lastline #whereIpause because the punctuation is different so I may literally use the last line instead of the last sentence. So, so far I’m up to page 10 – “I recite these names in a rosary, speak them/when I pray, for Heartease, my Mecca, aye Jamaica.” (p. 3) & “let the dead/bury the dead” (p. 9)
I read a bit more of Jamaican-Bajan writer Sharma Taylor’s What a Mother’s Love don’t Teach You – which drops in early July and, fingers crossed, I hope to finish and share my thoughts before then – “Yes, British knew something was coming and he braced for it.” (p. 383)
“Harriet’s Daughter with its assured and immersive use of voice, is marked by inspired use of dreams and solid characterization, nuanced handling of family dynamics and friendships, deft contrasting of how we perceive things versus how they truly are, use of expectation and the possibility of thrashed hopes in building tension, interesting presentation of the Caribbean as a place one girl yearns for and another girl dreads and by doing so reinforcing that home is where you feel wanted and loved not where you are. There’s also, surprisingly, a fair amount of action.”
Technically only three books (four in actuality) finished this year. Ouch.
I grabbed another unread book from my shelf, Canada-based Jamaican poet, and former poet laureate of Jamaica, Lorna Goodison’s Selected Poems. I like Goodison’s poetry but haven’t read her since finishing Turn Thanks which I blogged about in 2016.
Look forward to reading and hoping to finish at least one other book before month’s end. If I learned anything from Harriet, it’s never give up, who’s to say what’s possible.
I was just tweaking the April 2021 post about the Trinidad and Tobago based Bocas Lit Fest 100 Books that Made Us – a campaign they invited people to vote on – and thought, why not share it (the Wadadli Pen blog post which has links to the Bocas list and my video in response to the impossible challenge) over here. So here it is.
June being #readCaribbean and #CaribAThon month and as I’ve been journalling my reading progress this month, I thought I’d list the ones I’ve read from #100CbnBooksThatMadeUS, linking any reviews I’ve written of books; so here goes: Annie John & A Small Place by Antiguan and Barbudan writer# Jamaica Kincaid; Banana Bottom by Jamaican writer Claude McKay; Breath, Eyes, Memory & The Farming of Bones by Haitian writer Edwidge Dandicat; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Dominican Republic writer Junot Diaz; The Book of Night Women & A Brief History of Seven Killings by Jamaican writer Marlon James; A Brighter Sun, The Lonely Londoners, and Ways of Sunlight* by Trinidad and Tobago writer Sam Selvon; Brown Girl in the Ring by Jamaican writer Nalo Hopkinson; The Dragon can’t Dance & The Wine of Astonishment* by Trinidad and Tobago writer Earl Lovelace; A House for Mr. Biswas & Miguel Street by Trinidad and Tobago writer V. S. Naipaul; Moon on a Rainbow Shawl by Trinidad and Tobago writer Errol John; Praisesong for the Widow by Barbadian writer Paule Marshall; Small Island by Jamaican writer Andrea Levy; The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Trinidad and Tobago writer Monique Roffey; Wide Sargasso Sea by Dominican writer Jean Rhys
& these are the ones listed on my TBR (no book shaming for things I “should” have already read): The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy – Rights of Passage, Islands, Masks by Kamau Brathwaite; Augustown by Jamaican writer Kei Miller; Beka Lamb by Belizean writer Zee Edgell; Beyond a Boundary & The Black Jacobins by Trinidad and Tobago writer CLR James; The Bone Readers by Grenadian writer Jacob Ross;The Bridge of Beyond by Guadeloupean writer Simone Schwarz-Bart ; Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide by Barbadian writer Hilary Beckles; Brother Man by Jamaican writer Roger Mais; Cereus Bloomsat Night by Trinidad and Tobago writer Shani Mootoo; The Chosen Place, The Timeless People by Barbadian writer Paule Marshall; Green Days by the River & The Year in San Fernando by Trinidad and Tobago writer Michael Anthony^; Everyone knows I am a Haunting by Trinidad and Tobago writer Shivanee Ramlochan; How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Guyanese writer Walter Rodney; How to Escape from a Leper Colony: a novella and short stories by US Virgin Islands writer Tiphanie Yanique; I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Guadeloupean writer Maryse Conde; In the Castle of My Skin by Barbadian writer George Lamming; The Long Song & Small Island by Jamaican writer Andrea Levy; A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes on Belonging by Trinidad and Tobago writer Dionne Brand; The Marvelous Equations of the Dread: a Novel in Bass Riddim by Jamaican writer Marcia Douglas; My Bones and My Flute by Guyanese writer Edgar Mittelhozer; Redemption in Indigo by Barbadian writer Karen Lord; Salt by Trinidad and Tobago writer Earl Lovelace; Summer Lightning and Other Stories & The Pain Tree by Olive Senior; Voyage in the Dark by Dominican writer Jean Rhys.
& these are the ones I just added scanning this list again for this post: Dying to Better Themselves: West Indians and the Building of the Panama Canal by Jamaican writer Olive Senior; The Ventriloquist’s Tale by Guyanese writer Pauline Melville.
#Some of these authors have ties to other places but I listed their Caribbean country of primary origin only because, time.
*I think I may not have read one of these but I’m not sure which.
^I actually have read sections of these but I don’t think the whole book.
As for what I’m actually reading, I’m almost done with Harriet’s Daughter by Marlene Nourbese Philip. Here’s the #lastline #whereIpause – “‘Alright girls, time to go. I have some food for you – never know what crap they’ll feed you on that plane. Nothing like good food to keep a perspective on things. Come on, come on. Your mammies must be wondering what we doing so long up here.’” (p. 146) & “I reached out to touch the numbers and suddenly there I was in my bed wide awake, hearing my heart beating.” (p. 148)
What can I say about the topic that’s been dominating my timeline – the US Supreme Court upending of women’s reproductive rights – when I live in a country where that was never really up for discussion, where mere months ago the discussion in media was about marital rape (because apparently whether that’s a thing or not is up for discussion), where – as discussed in a recent CREATIVE SPACE and this blog posting – a woman’s “shoulder meat” is considered obscene in public spaces, where convictions and sentences related to violence/sexual violence against women and girls continue to confound, where…and I could go on. It is a burdensome thing sometimes be-ing as a woman when our being comes with so many caveats – it varies per location but seems fairly universal, and it is exhausting. To be clear, if I had a say I would come back both as a Caribbean person and as a woman, and a Black woman at that, but also some days the exhaustion is real. And I have wondered how (or if) this US decision will affect the Caribbean, does it matter here, where we never had a Roe v. Wade. Not so much practically perhaps, as in terms of what direction the conversation goes. When the brief originally leaked in May, our attorney general was quoted in the media as saying, “It is intended to have some public discussions on the matter and then make a determination as to where we go from there. I know the public interest has been piqued by the intended delivery of a verdict in the United States in the case of Roe v Wade.” It’s obviously not a one to one relationship, we are an independent country with our own values and exist within a context specific to us and how our history has shaped us, but the US casts a big shadow and we are within its sphere of influence to the point that it’s a common saying that when the US sneeze, the Caribbean catch cold. So, will this latest development impact pro or anti choice attitudes and conversation? Without doubt.
What then can I say, except to continue to fight until wherever we be our right to be fully as we choose to be is not up for discussion. That said, it seems timely to re-share this CREATIVE SPACE discussion with activist Ronelle King, founder of #lifeinleggings, about gender issues in the Caribbean.
And now back to my regularly scheduled #readCaribbean #CaribAThon reading journalling. If you’re new here, June is #CaribbeanHeritageMonth and I’m using this month and these social media memes to try to push my sluggish reading and practically stalled book blogging.
I’ve made more progress on Marlene Nourbese Philip’s Harriet’s Daughter than anything else, and coincidentally, the section I’m up to now emphasizes the young female protagonist’s sense of being controlled and wanting to be free to change her name, help her friend escape a bad situation, and be and think for herself. Here’s the #lastline #whereIpause –
“Others joined in: ‘Long live the Underground Railroad.’ (p. 88) & “Make-up and clothes weren’t going to get me out of that house and away from parents who didn’t want me in any case.” (p. 92) & “Then Mrs B began talking.” (p. 98) & “I thought of making up an excuse about not feeling well, to get out of being at the dinner table, but I din’t want to call too much attention to myself, so I decided against it.” (p. 105) & *possible spoilers* “Wait. If they refuse – and what you kids are asking for seems quite reasonable to me – if they refuse, I promise you you’ve got my help. How’s that? So Tuesday evening, right after school, you girls come on by here, and we’ll see where things are at – you’ll probably know by then anyway. Cheer up now, no poker faces.” (p. 111)
& from Sharma Taylor’s What a Mother’s love don’t Teach you also in progress, “But mi fraid too.”
I’ll get back to my #readCaribbean #CaribAThon journalling of #whatImreading in a minute but first, did you know June 22nd was Windrush Day. As a West Indian, I couldn’t let that pass. See, my country is part of the former British West Indies (and, in fact, QEII is still our titular head of state, with the governor general as her representative, a largely ceremonial role; and if you followed the recent royal tours, you’ll know there is restlessness abrewing in the region about that relationship). Windrush, meanwhile, is the name of the most prominent of the ships (actually the Empire Windrush) that ferryed West Indians to assist with the rebuilding of post-World War II Britain (after many of ours had already served in the war).
It has come to be a catch-all title for that generation of West Indian British people who worked hard in steel, coal, iron, healthcare, service, transportation etc, and put down roots there (marrying, having children, sending for children left behind when they could), and faced racism and xenophobia there, and raised their children there, and generations later faced deportation or threat of deportation though Britain was their home (many were literally born there). This Windrush scandal blew up in 2018, which non-incidentally is the year the observance of Windrush Day, in recognition of the contribution of Caribbean people to modern Britain beginning with the Windrush generation, began.
Three books come to mind. Two are classics. One is Trinidad-born Sam Selvon book The Lonely Londoners, published in 1956, about the lives of West Indian men in Britain during this early period of finding one’s footing there.
The other is British writer of Jamaican descent Andrea Levy’s Small Island which is set right after the war and explores the conflicts and adjustments as a British couple and Jamaican couple share space and try to make way as the country recovers, as the two women form a friendship. It has been adapted for screen by the BBC and for stage by the National Theatre. I wrote about the latter in Blogger on Books.
The more recent read is the anthology Windrush.
I actually have a write-up on that in Blogger on Books. It does a really good job of explaining what Windrush is all about and it’s a part of history that should not be forgotten. Read about it.
Okay, on to my reading progress.
#lastline #whereIpause on Sharma Taylor’s What a Mother’s Love don’t Teach You was “I say aloud what we both thinking: ‘Mama missing!’” (p. 374) & “A pain plunging deep into mi belly.” (p. 376) & “Uncork it before it kill him.” (p. 379)
Marlene Nourbese Philip’s Harriet’s Daughter – “‘Hey, Ti-cush,’ I called out, ‘remember to keep it a secret, o.k.?’ She nodded and stalked off.” (p. 67) & “But then that was Ti-cush: ‘Life sucks’, was her motto, and that was how she looked that day – like life sucked.” (p. 72) & “Nobody wanted to change – they were happy with their roles – all except life-sucks-Ti-cush.” (p. 79)
Margaret Busby’s New Daughters of Africa – “And at the far end, barely visible, but there, an open door.” (p. 577). This is from the story ‘Abele, from The God Child’ by Nana Oforiatta Ayim who is African – but like I said the editor has African AND Caribbean roots and that’s good enough for me.
Another day, a little more reading, a brewing sense of frustration…not with the reading I have done (that’s been fun). It’s pretty much the same as Post 15 and the ones immediately before it in my #readCaribbean #CaribAThon reading journal for #CaribbeanHeritageMonth; I’m in a back and forth rhythm with Sharma’s and Philip’s books.
For Sharma (Taylor, that is), the book is What a Mother’s Love don’t Teach You and my #lastline #whereIpause is “I hole mi head high.” (p. 373)
For Philip (Marlene Nourbese Philip), the book is Harriet’s Daughter – “Watch your mouth girl – that’s Rudeness! Keep that up and yu won’t have a choice. You need some good Bajan training, that’s what you need.” (p. 55) & “That night my dreams were all of Harriet Tubman – she was helping Zulma escape to Canada and me to Tobago.” (p. 60)
Fingers crossed I finish one of these, maybe both, and maybe even something else before the month ends.
Speaking of endings, I want to end with the last line from a poem from Bahamian writer Lynn Sweeting.
“o moon, i’m gone, i cried, and fell upon the earth, yes, she said, but death is mother of rebirth.” (‘Sonnet for the Moon‘, 2012, Tongues of the Ocean)
I learned today in this post from fellow Bahamian writer Nicolette Bethel that Lynn has died. I may have first read her writing on Nicolette’s online journal Tongues of the Ocean and I know that I interviewed her for the Wadadli Pen blog – as I mentioned in the obit. I posted today to the Carib Lit Plus arts bulletin. But I most associate Lynn with Womanspeak, a journal of writing and art by Caribbean women which she edited and published independently, every other year or so over a decade. So many of us (including myself) had pieces accepted for this journal and (speaking for myself) it felt good and validating when we did. There are so few (even less so 10 years ago) Caribbean-specific literary platforms, especially women-specific ones. We were, in my opinion, in good company, and the publication was both a quality and engaging read with a good spread of new and established voices. For myself, my publications with Womanspeak included the story ‘All Fall Down’ and the poems ‘Feather in her Ear’, ‘Corporal Punishment’, ‘Another Garden’, and ‘Prison for Two’ in 2013; and the poems ‘She works’, ‘Development’, and ‘She lives there’ in 2012. My last communication with Lynn related to a story accepted (in November 2019) for Womanspeak; only communication fell off in 2020 with the pandemic putting a pause and/or halt to so many things, including the journal. I hadn’t heard anything in some time, and that story was put back in to my submission rotation and has a spot in my short story collection in progress. I was surprised to hear of Lynn’s passing today (June 21st 2022). I was jolted and saddened by the news. Though I didn’t really know Lynn, I always admired the work she did with Womanspeak and am happy to say, it endures. The work endures. I wrote about volume 7 here and here. And the books themselves are still available for purchase.
(Womanspeak Cover art – clockwise from top left, ‘Requiem for Haiti 2010’ by Chantel Bethel, ‘The Book Effect – The Countess’ by Claudette Dean, ‘Kenya’ by Maria Maria Acha-Kutscher, ‘Finding Joy’ by Chantal Bethel, and ‘Sisters’ by Claudette Dean)
This being #BlackMusicMonth, I had to get one of these posts (5th in a maybe-series) of me listening and reacting to new music in – especially with Drake and Beyonce dropping throwblack club music. Yes, throwback club music #nothingnewhere Hear me out, I was born in the 70s, came of age in the 80s, and the 90s were my clubbing years, I’ve danced to these beats before. Of the two songs, I prefer Beyonce’s ‘Break My Soul’ which I ended up listening to a few times
though I heard Drake’s ‘Falling Back’ first.
I remember having just two reactions to the latter – 1, I wasn’t feeling the video and 2, this is an old school club beat (yep, my club music is now officially old school, I accept it but can’t help still wanting to be surprised by innovation which isn’t happening). Maybe I need to listen again, just the music (that video was …a lot) but, as is, it was alright but my pulse didn’t rise.
‘Break my soul’ is a bop though especially the repetitious “you won’t break my soul” part which was giving CeCe Peniston.
I am at the point in my #readCaribbean #CaribAThon reading journalling that I’m feeling a little disappointed that I haven’t finished not one book, not one (not counting the DNF mentioned in Post 13). I am, however, enjoying treating myself to a little reading time every day though – it infuses each day with a little burst of joy and I have to find a way to keep reading in my daily routine past Caribbean Heritage Month.
Before I get in to Sunday’s very little reading progress – thanks to an emotionally chaotic but in the end satisfying Father’s day (in spite of not one of my plans working out) – I mostly wanted to hop on here to say Happy Juneteenth to my African-American family, collectively speaking, from folks like myself in the Afro-Caribbean. As books like To Shoot Hard Labour and the existence of slave dungeons and other detritus of chattel slavery and the whole sugar-plantation economy on my island attest, there are some painful commonalities and intersections in our journey notwithstanding the differences and the uniqueness of each experience. So, while I am reading only #Caribbeanwriters this month, I thought I’d give over some of my blog real estate to a couple of books that speak to the African-American pre-Emancipation experience and what makes Juneteenth (the day, June 19th 1865 in which enslaved people in Texas were informed of their freedom, marking the official end of slavery, enshrined as of 2021 as a federal holiday) meaningful.
Books like Alex Haley’s Roots – before it was one of the best mini-series of all time, it was one of the best books of all time, a family saga intertwined with the horrors of the slave trade and slavery itself; one of my takeaways on seeing the mini-series as a child and reading the book as a college student was how much of their humanity our ancestors (Black people kidnapped or sold off in to the unique and particular horror of chattel slavery) managed to hold on to inspite of every effort to separate them from themselves and each other. Like Fiddler said to Kunta when they made him change his name to Toby under the whip, (from memory, so possibly paraphrasing) “what you care what they call you, you know who you is”. This is a powerful work that started and ended in Africa, a reminder that we were never slaves, but rather enslaved PEOPLE who did not start and end in slavery – though it was a long night that transformed us in ways we are still trying to unpack. I use we because this is my backstory as well as a descendant of Africans enslaved in the Caribbean but Alex Haley’s Roots is in many ways a uniquely American saga and a must-read, I believe, and must-watch for anyone truly desirious of understanding the African-American experience.
Books like Edward P. Jones’ The Known World – which is a powerful and unsettling read about the experiences of free and enslaved people of various types but especially Black people. I’ll say less here as you can read my review in Blogger on Books.
And now back to my regularly scheduled June reading goals and specifically my very little reading progress on a very chaotic but ultimately satisfying Father’s Day (technically the morning after)… I read another chapter of M. Nourbese Philip’s Harriet’s Daughter and my #lastline #whereIpause is “I just lay there playing dead.” (p. 35)
ETA: Though I received no new books this week as I started a ‘new’ book last week, I’m adding this to Mailbox Monday.