Behind the exhibition aiming to move Caribbean art ‘away from trauma’ — Repeating Islands

I have to admit, when I saw Antigua and Barbuda’s name pop up in this article, I hoped one of our artists might be included (you know how I am about representation). That mention:

‘“After that hurricane season happened, we asked ourselves, how can we think about our future?” said [co-curator Maria Elena] Ortiz. “I think the Caribbean has been marked by traumatic things, it’s a source of inspiration that is valid and true. But how to move beyond that, is it possible, needed? How can we have autonomy? It’s often forgotten or not talked about.”

It ties into the recent announcement from Antigua, which has a “Chinese colony” plan to build resorts, homes and factories, sparking outrage from local activists and environmentalists.

Last summer, Antigua and Barbuda was the first country in the region to sign up for China’s Belt and Road initiative, which will see infrastructure built across the islands, including one area that is a marine-protected reserve.’

Issues at the intersection of investment and ownership and autonomy and independence and development and the environment and resources/lack of resources and China’s expanding influence in the region (among other things) are definitely part of the conversation – some on the news, some in the street, some whispered. I would like to think our visual artists are engaging with these issues as well – but art has so little impetus here: no national gallery, no endowments, no grants, limited opportunities (whether workshops, apprenticeships, or opportunities to BE an artist), none of the network of agents and managers that can assist with accessing off island opportunities, no real clear interest in the non-Carnival arts on the part of the powers that be.But also no lack of talent and unique point of view (and let’s be clear the artists are still putting in the work and from Wadadli Pen – which has now and again included visual arts challenges to The Black Exhibit to Spilling Ink and others, the community tries to shore up its own). I would just like to see more opportunity that’s all, especially when we are specifically part of the conversation.

That said, this looks really interesting and really relevant and I like the idea of moving away from the traditional themes, techniques, and perspectives (as Antigua and Barbudan artists like Mark Brown, X-Sapphair King before his untimely death, Guava  de Artist, Emile Hill, and others have been doing) – and, if you’re in the area (see details of The Other Side of Now after the link), I encourage you to check it out. Participating artists (I looked it up because I was hoping there was an Antiguan-Barbudan artist involved) are Jamaican artists Deborah Anzinger, Charles Campbell, and Jamilah Sabur; Andrea Chung who is American of Chinese, Trinidadian ,and Jamaican descent and Nyugen Smith who is American of Trinidad descent; Hulda Guzman of the Dominican Republic; Deborah Jack of St. Martin/Netherlands; Louisa Marajo from Martinique; Manuel Mathieu of Haiti; Trinidad and Tobago’s Alicia Milne, who, per the article, had the interesting concept of appropriating and subverting those cliche touristic plates; Lavar Munroe of the Bahamas; Angel Otero and Cristina Tufiño of Puerto Rico; and the one whose work and whose arc as one of the region’s young, distinctive, emerging voices I’m most familiar with Sheena Rose of Barbados.

A review by Nadja Sayej for London’s Guardian. In The Other Side of Now, 14 young artists are looking to the future of the region rather than focusing on the past “Is it possible to move Caribbean art, or art of the Caribbeandiaspora, away from trauma and catastrophe?” asks María Elena Ortiz, who has co-curated a new […]

via Behind the exhibition aiming to move Caribbean art ‘away from trauma’ — Repeating Islands

Musical Youth Study Guide (Author Edition)

“She remembered sitting on the floor near where her mother sat sewing a random piece of cloth into something beautiful. She remembered the way the machine hummed, its motor shaking the floor under her. And in the corner was the Stella Harmony.

The guitar was her father’s.”

Human connection is one of the things we crave, from the womb. Our mother, father, our first community are vital to how we imprint and identify. Not everyone gets that. Zahara, the main character in Musical Youth, never knew her father and barely knew her mother. What we see here are snippets – the flashes that we grab as memory starts to form; and from those snippets we learn that her mother was not without resources (she sewed) and that she was a self-styled fashionista (she made beautiful things). Zahara’s connection to music (and her father) comes through the guitar, which is not only symbolic of that connection but becomes a tool through which she begins to shape herself.

*

‘“I liked the mix,” she said.
The smile he gave in response was shy.’

Mix tapes (as in cassette tapes) were a thing in the ’80s when I was in my teens (like the characters in this book). That’s how we passed music around back in the day. What we have here is Shaka, the main male character,  giving Zahara a mix of songs he likes – one of the stages of wooing. Yes, it’s on CD but that’s not too anachronistic given that Shaka grew up listening to music on his grandfather (Pappy’s) record player – he’s used to older-old school tech. Anyway, this moment is about Zahara engaging, giving her opinion (which is a sign of her opening up). It is, also, a big Shaka character moment:  having shared his music, yes, to woo her, he’s also beginning to invite her into his creative side. The shyness is out of character for him and shows that her opinion matters.

*

‘Whenever she was tense like she was now, music helped. So she put in her Claudette ‘CP’ Peters CD, turned off the lights, and danced, brukking out to “I’m in Control” wishing she felt half as confident as the soca diva sounded.’

I was really keen to include a local musical icon relatable to teens and, given how obsessed my own teen was with CP not all that long ago, and given that I am myself a fan, she was an obvious pick for me. It was about adding a bit of local colour (along with the dialect drop in the narrative as well) given that she is an International Soca Award Winning Diva but also a very specifically Antiguan-Barbudan artist. It’s about giving us our own heroes; we spend so much time looking out. It’s a character note for Zahara as well, for whom CP’s confident onstage persona is, to her mind, a stark contrast to hers, and, as such, aspirational.  I hand-delivered two copies of the book to CP when it came out – have no clue what she thought of being a character or if she even read it but I wanted her to have it.

*

“Zahara used to watch from the window as her grandmother slashed at the ground, pulling up weeds, digging for potatoes, cutting and trimming bushes until she’d either tired herself out or the day’s tension had eased out of her. She’d be talking to the plants by the time she was done, and if one of them gave up some thing good that day―big red tomatoes for their dinner plate maybe―she’d even be smiling.”

Zahara’s Granny Linda is all silence (things not spoken about) and reprove – and, in my experience, not atypical (though there is obviously a line that can be drawn between formidable Caribbean mother and abuse).  Zahara has had to learn to read her moods. This is an example of that. Gardening makes Granny Linda happy and Granny Linda happy means Zahara can breathe easier. Here, she was mentally comparing her granny to the granny in the play they were doing (based on Ashley Bryan’s book The Dancing Granny) and finding them to be similar in some ways. Some foreshadowing here as later we do see Granny Linda dance.

*

“ZGuitarGirl: I guess…
Dubliner58: Hey, hey, hey, no second guessing!
ZGuitarGirl: K”

I didn’t want to overdue it (gimmicky) but as communication tech is a plot device in the story I wanted to play just a little bit with some of the informal ways we (young people in particular) communicate. The “k” I stole from my niece who would just “k” me and leave me to decipher.  It makes sense for this relationship with Zahara’s first guitar teacher and mentor – who happens to live islands away.

*

‘He remembered as a boy, singing the word ‘ass’ when “Dan the Man” would play. That was his favourite part, and even though it was only talking about donkeys, it used to fill him with a strange sort of delight to say the forbidden word. It was the same way kids had enjoyed singing “For Cup” last Carnival knowing full well that adults wouldn’t box them for being rude because it was just a song and songs were harmless, especially at Carnival time when normal rules didn’t apply.’

Some insight to Shaka and his relationship to music – he’s not stuck in the music of his generation; thanks to Pappy, he grew up listening to a lot of older jazz, soul, blues, and calypso before going out and discovering contemporary or other non-contemporary genres on his own. And, yes, Carnival is that alternative reality where the rules of regular society don’t apply. The thing about calypso, the best calypso, is that there are layers of meaning, some you don’t pick up until you’re grown (double meaning is a hallmark of calypso – so that even with the more salacious ones – e.g. Short Shirt’s Push, Mayfield’s Yah-So-So – children can sing them and understand one thing and grown folks can sing them and hear something much more salacious. The layer between the two levels of understanding is thinner than it used to be but layers of meaning is a note I take from calypso which is one of my inspirations as a writer. This moment acknowledges that.

*

“And as he rhymed and she hummed, she couldn’t help thinking that like her melody and his rhythm, they complemented each other. He was so laid back and cool and she was so reserved and tense. She got him caring about the things she cared about; he got her to ‘ease up, jack.’”

Just what it says, them beginning to click musically and music analogous to  the bonding they’re doing in terms of their personalities. The use of “jack” here is another cultural note as I haven’t really come across another Caribbean culture that uses it, certainly not as abundantly as we do (so, a dash of Antiguan-Barbudan vernacular for a bit of local colour).

*

“Pappy’s TV, the news on low volume so he could say he watched it even if he wasn’t really paying attention; footsteps in the front bedroom, his mother shedding her work clothes before finishing up the dinner chores he’d started earlier was a part of that feeling. He didn’t examine it too closely but the rhythm of their evenings, all of them present and accounted for, made him feel comforted, safe.”

This chapter is one of my favourites and it wasn’t in the original draft – it was one of the additions on revision (after the book had placed second for the inaugural Burt award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature) when I realized that Shaka needed some colouring in. I decided to give him some quiet time and in that quiet time feel the world around him – the world that as it drapes itself around him, makes him feel “comforted, safe”. The sense of setting, atmosphere, and mood I try to conjure here is in the small moments, the familiar moments, the moments of a house settling in to its evening ritual.

*

“Anansi’s mother-in-law would be wearing a housecoat made of fabric from the same colour palette. The most outstanding ladies’ costume, though, was worn by Anansi’s wife; a black evening gown made of yards of netting giving the illusion of a spider’s web. For most of the play Anansi’s wife would sit perched in her chair, a special prop designed to look like a spider-web and built by Wanga, the celebrated Carnival costume designer. It reminded Zahara a little of Pappy’s chair, in that, she suspected no one but Mrs. Anansi would be allowed to sit in the ‘web’.”

Dressing the characters for their stage production was fun. I just went wild as if budget was no obstacle – and then found a way to make it not be an obstacle. They have what so many creative projects in Antigua and Barbuda don’t have, financial relief.  I have since discovered a staging of The Dancing Granny that was put on in the US a while after my book came out and, though one has nothing to do with the other, it makes me happy. From a great children’s book (by an American writer of Antiguan descent) to a play in a book (by an Antiguan writer) to a play in the real world (or in America, anyway) – come on!


This stage production and my book Musical Youth have no connection
apart from the fact that they both found inspiration in Ashley Bryan’s
Dancing Granny.

(while you’re on youtube be sure to check out Shaka’s Playlist and Zahara’s Playlist)

*

‘“Now, story done, so we celebrating. Remember to smile and make that smile come all through your big toe.” He demonstrated the fast-shrug, chest-flex, hip sway action. “This is Ethiopian, East Africa, lots of shoulder and neck action, you see? Like that.” “Isn’t Anansi from West Africa?” Zahara snarked.’

I think the dance sequence is probably the most heavily researched aspect of the book. Believe it or not, I danced in school productions as a child and a teen (just like I sang and played guitar on the church choir as a teen) – I don’t claim to have done any of it masterfully but the research was already happening back then, though I didn’t know. While writing this seen though I watched a lot of youtube clips and I reached out to someone au fait with African dance styles and where they are located geographically on the continent. Then I was challenged to try to capture the dance in words (years of writing about dance as a journalist – especially time spent covering the Afro-Caribbean dance group the Antigua Dance Academy – helped). I’ve since had the opportunity to see young people attempt to recreate the dance I describe. So this was as close as I got to writing an action scene or sequence in this book. Also a character note re Zahara’s snark. It’s impertinent to be sure, and she does need to check her tone, but it’s not out of character so much as (oddly enough) a sign of character growth (I mean can you imagine the girl we met at the start of the book speaking up in any way?).

*


w/Tayari Jones (2015)
Brooklyn Book Fair.

So that’s some insight about the writing of Musical Youth. It’s intended as a (decidedly unconventional study guide – the format was inspired by this Tayari Jones’ Notes on “Quotes” from An American Marriage, at the African American Literary Book Club).  I did a study guide previously for my first book The Boy from Willow Bend because it is on the schools’ reading list in a couple of Caribbean countries. The approach I took with that one was to  answer questions frequently asked by students. I didn’t have student FAQs about Musical Youth but I thought the chosen format might be fun.  And it was.  Quotes were chosen at random (discarded only if they were too spoiler-y). I hope that for students reading Musical Youth, now that it is  also on reading lists in a couple of Caribbean countries (and has even found its way into the NYC school system), it will help sharpen the focus re  some of the books’ themes, characterizations, and narrative choices. And, of course, if you’re interested in reading more of my books, here you go.

Other Musical Youth links of possible interest (in no particular order):
Writer’s Gallery Launch Event – Musical Youth (2014)
Musical Youth – an extract
Reviews – Musical Youth
Throwback Q & A: Musical Youth
Jamaica Observer Bookends Children of the Spider, Musical Youth
ABS TV interview re Musical Youth etc.
First Pages – Musical Youth
Frequently Asked Questions: Musical Youth
Musical Youth Out in the World
Antiguan Author Releases Award-Winning Novel, Musical Youth
Talking Musical Youth, Burt, Reading and Writing in Bookends 
Musical Youth (Excerpt)
Schools Tour Stop

Also see Media Page

What’s Up

It’s been a minute so I thought I’d come through and update about what’s new in #TheWritingLife and #onthehustle… maybe #justlife and, of course, right here #ontheblog. I’ll be linking this up with the Caffeinated Reviewer’s Sunday Post.

On the blog, in case you missed it.

I’ve added a post announcing the Cushion Club Summer Read Challenge. Sorry, international readers, this Challenge’s prizes are just for Antiguans and Barbudans. Doesn’t mean you can’t read along. The Cushion Club, you may remember, is a children’s reading club I’ve volunteered with for many years – most of those years as a regular Saturday reader and mentor; more recently, from a distance (e.g. assisting with promo of the Cushion Club Summer Read Challenge). A Challenge like this is a fun way to beat the summer slide while discovering new worlds.

I’ve added a post sharing my response to a writer-in-progress (like myself) re writing and publishing. I’ve since received a query from another writer also seeking something that I tried to give in the best advice I could and, somewhere in there, responded to a third writer with some critique re a manuscript I was asked to endorse. I can’t always read the things that come in nor give the time others might require. I am, myself, a working writer trying to create my own material, strike out at my own opportunities, work on these projects (Wadadli Pen, Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project, etc.), attract clients, deliver for my clients, network and promote (my books and my services), pay my bills, and somewhere in there practice some self-care (about which I remain a work-in-progress). So there’s that – if I have to set boundaries sometimes, please understand that I’m doing the best I can.

I’ve updated the Blogger on Books series with Brenda Lee Browne’s London Rocks. It’s dope (the book); check it out. Other recently completed reads are George Orwell’s Animal Farm (audio book), and S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (audio book), and Mark Sumerak’s and  Carlo Barberi’s Ororo: Before the Storm comic mini-series. If you’re looking to read more black books here are a list of recommendations I gave on facebook in response to someone who was looking to do just that.

I’ve updated the CREATIVE SPACE series with coverage of the Antigua Dance Academy’s 2019 production Earth Rising. Also dope; sorry you missed it. But I have video! (It’s also uploaded to my youtube channel – subscribe, if you haven’t already). The CREATIVE SPACE series has continued longer than I thought it would given the non-response re direct appeals for advertising dollars (via sponsored post) from businesses operating in Antigua and Barbuda. In fact I had no follow up to the previous CREATIVE SPACE (another theatrical production) planned. But when ADA founder Vee issued an invitation, there was only one answer. Because from my experience of past productions, I knew I would have a good time and I largely did. Thanks to some housekeeping you can catch up with all the CREATIVE SPACEs of 2018 and of 2019 by clicking the links.

Shifts within the Writing Life have included.

New writing, new submissions – but you know that. Older writing like Ah Write! has popped up. I’m about the new writing, though. Thanks to a Commonwealth Writers mentorship that I participated in for the first half of the year, I was able to revise several pieces (with the aid of critiques and edits from my mentor), learn some new things about my writing, and, unexpectedly, because life has been sapping my creative energy, write and complete some new stories, re-engage with a work in progress, and make some submissions I didn’t expect to. A lot of that came together for me when I was doing my participant report and while there has been no huge breakthrough as yet, things are shifting and will, I hope, continue to do so. Because I need it.

You know what else I needed but my soul didn’t know it? Middle school New York City kids preparing a meal inspired by my book Musical Youth in an Iron Chef style competition.

I bumped into this on twitter – my book alongside Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street Gary Soto and Ed Martinez’ Too Many Tamales, and Ann McGovern’s Stone Soup…what!… in a Children’s Aid NYC event (Iron Go Chefs 2019) … shout out to the kids from Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School for selecting Musical Youth. What an unexpected find. You have to understand, I’m from Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean, and my book is out there doing things! Go book! I looked up the Children’s Aid Go Chef’s programme as well and it’s pretty dope – it’s an extension of GoHealthy which promotes nutrition based education. The annual competition “brings together youth from across Children’s Aid sites to challenge their peers in making the best-tasting and healthiest dishes in front of a panel of esteemed judges.” I edited a recipe book earlier this year (the second recipe book edit I’ve done throughout my time as a freelance editor), and reading about GoChefs, the same thought crossed my mind as when I was reading about all these culinary creations, they need to invite me to taste these recipes next time. I love this.

Musical Youth is the book about which Buxton Spice author Oonya Kempadoo recently said “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.” A bookstagrammer recc’ed it recently as well, saying,

insta 2.jpgThese reviews and recs have been added to the Musical Youth reviews page.

Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary and Other Writings and Oh Gad!  also picked up new reviews, and I’ve also added a review to the Reviews – Other page, where you’ll find reviews and reactions to my other writing (i.e. stories, poems – not the books) including Zombie Island, published 2017 in Interviewing the Caribbean and shared recently on this site.

On the promotional front, I reached out to a couple of people I would normally be reticent to reach out to for reviews, and joined the Ministry of Tourism’s summer promo (after partnering with a local bookstore for discounts on my books Musical Youth and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). Tourism through their platforms gets us more looks and the books hopefully gets more readers.

On the hustle.

Actually an overlap between The Writing Life and being On the Hustle, I did a workshop on STORY with the Ministry of Education. It was my second time doing this (I first did the Summer Institute – which is the annual training programme for teachers – in 2016) and it was nice to be invited back. The participant reviews were positive

“I’ve learned some new ideas to make my class more enticing”

“I got the chance to colour, role play and I enjoyed the first exercise we did. I’m gonna use that as an exercise at school”

“I learned that storytelling can describe the school and cultural activity of sharing different life stories and more”

“I got a whole lot and I wish we had you from the beginning”

etc.

‘There were some unexpected things said in their evaluations – one educator said it was a good memory “to have an Antiguan writer read her story to me”. This participant is referring to my story share – my picture book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure – which left one, per her evaluation, “heart-warm(ed)” by the outcome of the story.

More fun still was seeing them unleash their creativity, beginning with a Lost! inspired colouring activity which led in to story writing and story presentation and story discussion and analysis (thanks to Lost! illustrator Danielle Boodoo-Fortune for the colouring sheets).

Looking forward – always – to getting to do more of this type of activity.

I also create my own opportunities to do more of this type of activity. The Jhohadli Summer Youth ‘Writing Project, the first or one of the earliest offerings of my Jhohadli Writing Project, is a writing camp for teens that first took place in 2013. My model back then was to get businesses to sponsor scholarships for participants. I’ve had some bumps and yadda yadda yadda this year JSYWP 2019 participants have to pay but I have extended the invitation for those who can’t pay to still apply and will offer spots to one of those applicants without the ability to pay for every two paid up registrants. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll need to spend time between now and July 22nd, when the first of two summer sessions is set to begin, planning (I’m behind where I hoped to be but I’m working, and hopefully it will all come together in time).

Seems like a good time to mention that I provide freelance writing, editing, coaching, and course/workshop facilitation services, among other things (like CREATIVE SPACE, and more). Peep my portfolio and check my performance reviews (for workshops, editing, coaching, articles etc).

Just Life.

Like the sub-head says, just trying to make life. Too busy to do much reading – for my book blogger folks reading this (I’ve even had to pass on a couple of review and/or endorsement requests, though I did at least one in recent weeks). Though surprisingly I just did a count and I’ve completed 22 books so far this year, compared to 20 overall in 2018. So not too shabby. To be honest though 11 of those are comics, 3 are misc. (children’s book, journal, tourism), 3 are audio books, 1 is a poetry book; so I’ve really only read 4 novels (plus I have 4 DNFs which is high for me) – but I enjoyed them all (except for the DNFs obviously – except not really – 1 was an audio book and I’ve reported before on my struggles paying attention to audio books, though I’m reading another one now, but I’ve added the print edition to my TBR; and 1 is a text I passed on to one of my kids after reading the parts I wanted to). See Blogger on Books 2019 to read my reviews. My reading pile (with New Daughters of Africa being my most active read this week) is too damn high and my TBR keeps growing but life don’t care – I will say this, though, reading and writing is one of the things that keeps me buoyant through the storms. It is for me one of my happy places and I need that.

We’re coming up on Carnival in Antigua-Barbuda and Grace’s Merrymakers, 2017, my mas inspired by my children’s picture book With Grace, is one of mine (happy places) in recent memory and I had to share with my mas collaborators – one seen dancing here

when someone on social media declared it one of theirs as well: “This is incredible!! The detail on the wings alone…wow. How long did it take you to make the costumes? I’m going to look up With Grace, too. Thank you so much for sharing — I have a huge smile on my face seeing this — and now I must go to Antigua for Carnival.”

I agree.

Now, what’s up with you.

Black Books

I’ll be linking  this one up with Tynga’s Stacking the Shelves book blog meme – I think you’ll see why it’s a good fit.

When someone on facebook asked for Black book recs, these are the ones that came to mind. This list is obviously not exhaustive, it’s mostly what came to mind and mostly because a majority of these have been blogged here or on Wadadli Pen in my Blogger on Books series. I also limited it to mostly novels with some short story collections mixed in but all fiction. I thought I might share them here. have you read any of them?


New Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby


Closure (an anthology of modern Black British literature) edited by Jacob Ross


The Known World by Edward P. Jones


Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah


A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini


Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker


Glorious by Bernice McFadden
Sugar by Bernice McFadden


In Time of Need by Shakirah Bourne


See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid


Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid


Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid


Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay
Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden
All Over Again by A-dZiko Simba Gegele
Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis
Dido’s Prize by Eugenia O’Neal


Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate
Fear of Stones and other Stories by Kei Miller


Ladies of the Night by Althea Prince
Loving this Man by Althea Prince
Prospero’s Daughterby Elizabeth Nunez
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Road to Wadi Halfa by Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Sula by Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Breath Eyes Memory by Edwidge Dandicat
The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Dandicat
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Dandicat
Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
Brown Girl Brownstones by Paule Marshall
Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall
Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Ansa
The Year in San Fernando by Michael Anthony
Jane and Louisa will soon come home by Erna Brodber
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Unburnable by Marie Elena John
Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo
Tide Running by Oonya Kempadoo
Home to Harlem by Claude McKay
Miguel Street by V. S. Naipaul
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
Caucasia by Danzy Senna
Considering Venus by D. Gisele Isaac
And Sometimes They Fly by Robert Edison Sandiford
It begins with Tears by Opal Palmer Adisa
Coffee will make you black by April Sinclair
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Roots by Alex Haley
The Black Rose by Tananarive Due
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Disappearing Acts by Terry McMillan
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
I Know what the Red Clay looks like edited by Rebecca Carroll
Not without laughter by Langston Hughes
Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell
Brothers and Sisters by Bebe Moore Campbell
Just as I am by E Lynn Harris
Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris
Abide with Me by E. Lynn Harris
If this World were Mine by E. Lynn Harris
Ludelle and Willie by Brenda Scott Wilkinson
London Rocks by Brenda Lee Browne
What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by
Lesley Nneka Arimah*
An American Family by Tayari Jones*
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin*
The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross*
Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James*

my books

I also recc’d three of my own Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, The Boy from Willow Bend, and Musical Youth

*asterisked are a couple of the books I haven’t read but which are on my TBR or ones I am currently reading.

Miss Pacific Islands Gracefully Responds To Being Called “Black, Ugly And Disgusting” — MadameNoire

Source: John M Lund Photography Inc / Getty A Papua New Guinean beauty queen was racially insulted during a moment that should’ve been memorable for her in a good way. Over the weekend, 19-year old Leoshina Kariha had a racial insult hurled her way during a pageant on the South Pacific island of Tonga. While…

via Miss Pacific Islands Gracefully Responds To Being Called “Black, Ugly And Disgusting” — MadameNoire

Colouring is Fun, Story Matters, and Other Notes from a Workshop

I used Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure in one of my STORY workshops this week because it has environmental undercurrents and the workshop was green themed. The workshop participants were educators, my second time bringing STORY CRAFT and its use in the classroom to such a group, and with a short prep window and narrowly defined outcomes, this children’s picture book proved to be the best fit.


One of the workshop participants left with a copy of the Spanish language edition of Lost! – Perdida!

In Lost! I touch on sea creatures’ habitats and threats to those habitats (from big ships to plastics), on Caribbean underwater life specifically, and on people working to assist animals (we weren’t yet Green Fins certified as we have since become in Antigua and Barbuda, but we have a community of active environmentalists willing to step up when needed – in this case, to assist a stranded Arctic seal get back to its natural habitat [based on a true story]). Of course, it deals with more than this – human interaction (role played by anthropomorphized animals) including helping ones who feel lost or out of place, adventure and exploration, being different (and that’s okay!), and paying attention (even if you’re a bit of a daydreamer).

“Don’t worry, I won’t sting,” the jellyfish says. “My name is Coral, after the reefs.”

It was a unique pleasure to deconstruct one of my books (I feel blessed to be able to  say that) in the ways that we did, and it’s always a delight when a group is engaged and receptive. And willing to experiment with bringing STORY CRAFT to the other domestic environmental themes they were incubating – and potentially, hopefully, to the classroom. Good Stuff.

At least that’s what I thought. Let’s take a look at a sample of their blind evaluations.

“I’ve learned some new ideas to make my class more enticing” … “What do I expect to get from this session? +to learn how to implement ‘story telling’ to teach lessons + to learn how to implement ‘story telling’ to spark children’s interest in lessons and their creativity. Did I learn anything today? Yes. The objectives I set out to gain were accomplished” … “I got the chance to colour, role play and I enjoyed the first exercise we did. I’m gonna use that as an exercise at school” … “I learn(ed) that storytelling can describe the social and cultural activity of sharing different life stories and more” … “I got (that) teaching can be fun using different storytelling forms…One specific takeaway storytelling in  every subject area” … “I got a whole lot and I wish we had you from the beginning” … “One specific take away is this will encourage me to write more because I enjoy writing drama, and storytelling” … “We got the elements of storytelling; how to help stds tell their story. We got the basics – not just what we should do, but what not to do in helping stds tell their stories. One specific take away for me is the various types of stories” … “I was able to get more insight into the importance of stories. Also see that stories are a part of our every day lives. Take away: The feeling of relief after realizing that today’s activities were going to be interactive. The activities which I can use in my own classroom” … “I enjoyed interacting with and  bringing the text alive through role play from different points of view. One specific take away – being immersed in storytelling makes me feel excited and I know children will enjoy the same. I realize I need to research more interactive techniques” … “I learnt that stories could be told in many different ways” … “At the end of this lesson I’m able to write short story on my own.”

There were some unexpected things said in their evaluations – one educator said it was a good memory “to have an Antiguan writer read her story to me” and another felt “heart-warm(ed)” by the outcome of the story. So, seems Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (my first attempt to use a book of mine in workshop in such a comprehensive way) was a good choice after all.

Plus colouring!

That’s just a few, most opted to take their images home – shout out to Lost! illustrator Danielle Boodoo Fortune for the colouring page and the idea of using it in workshops.

The night before this workshop, I also opened email to one of the most brutal writing-related rejections I have ever (ever ever? ever ever!)  received – the kind of rejection to make you question everything (are you even a writer?). But thankfully I didn’t have time to dwell because I had to go to sleep, get up, and do this. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not feeling bruised (because as much as I always think of myself as a work in progress and leave room for growth, this one KO’d me and I still feel like CRAP). But I got up and as far as workshop delivery is concerned, in the immortal words of Ice Cube, (the day) was a good day.

This one is for the Children

What’s your youngling doing this summer? Well, if in Antigua and Barbuda, consider encouraging them to participate in the Cushion Club Reading Club for Children’s Summer Read Challenge. Read and report (to cushionclub@yahoo.com) on at least three books – 1 international (that means from anywhere in the world that’s not the Caribbean), 1 regional (that means one from anywhere in the Caribbean that’s not Antigua-Barbuda), and 1 local (that means one from Antigua-Barbuda).

If you’re not in Antigua, still encourage them to read-a-long. They won’t win any prizes but they will discover perhaps some books outside of their usual library of reads.

I say children in the header but this post extends to teens as well. As you can see, the Challenge is open to lower teens. My Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project, meanwhile, is open to all teens in Antigua and Barbuda, and here’s a reminder re registration.

JSYWP Registration Form 2019

For you at home, here’s a colouring sheet from my book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure which I hope you’ll consider for your Summer Read.

(This sheet is by Lost! illustrator Danielle Boodoo-Fortune. Feel free to download and let your kid colour their own vision of Coral and Dolphin’s life under the sea).

(or maybe they want to use Lost! to begin or continue practicing their Spanish by reading it alongside the Spanish language edition)