While doing pre-work ahead of writing my column this week, I thought I’d lively up the tedious organizing and filing by sharing links to every CREATIVE SPACE since the column became a feature – every other Wednesday – in my island’s top (sometimes only) local daily, the Daily Observer. You know, In case you missed it. I thought I’d make it more interesting for myself (let’s call it research and analytics) by ranking most popular (views, shares, likes, comments) to least (*crickets*). Where the column has made the front page (either with art or text), and/or where there’s a video component, I’ve included that.
“Out of all the features I’ve ever been blessed with – THIS?! I will forever hold dear to my heart. The fact that I only represent ONE of so MANY DOPE creatives here at home/from the 268, I take this as a win for ALL of us. THE COVER AND TWO SPREADS IN OUR LOCAL NEWSPAPERS?! This is CRAZY! I hope this is just only the beginning for us 268 creatives to finally be seen. Thank you @jhohadli for this amazing feature.”
Chavel Thomas, featured in Chavel Thomas: Burning Boundaries (instagram)
“While having a late breakfast I was reading my local newspaper today and almost dropped ma plate when I saw my name in a beautiful write up about local Antiguan and Barbudan films, a review of me and a few words highlighted by Antiguan book writer, artist and so much more @Johadli gave me an overwhelming warmth and love within unexplainable. I always reverence this lady’s credit line one in fashion reverence Ms. Wintour. Major #thankyouthankyouthankyou The praises for local film is one I take seriously because it helps us more as an encouragement in what we do – all artists takes these write up serious if firm about being an artist. Big up everyone in the write up and I personally look forward for many more support, support to this film industry here on Antigua/Barbuda especially financial support.”
Francoise Bowen, featured in ‘It’s Not All About Netflix’ (instagram)
N.B. This is the master list. For genre specific listings, search for fiction, non-fiction, poets, screenwriters, playwrights, children’s literature, songwriters, or whatever else. This list is all books including some books that are exclusively ebooks or spoken word CDs, but you can also search this site for publications by Antiguans and Barbudans in journals, contest wins, and performances. Chances are it’s somewhere here on the site. If you’re looking for Wadadli Pen winners, use the drop down menu on the right or search Wadadli Pen by year, name, story or other feature (e.g. ‘Wadadli Pen winning stories’, ‘Wadadli Pen story links’). Hope you find what you’re looking for.
July 12th 2021 has, as of last year, been dubbed Caribbean Literature Day. Shout out to St. Martin’s House of Nehesi Publishers for coining it in 2020.
Days like this are an opportunity to draw your attention to the literature that gets crowded out by more mainstream titles – and, unfortunately, even in the Caribbean, books from up North still define mainstream. But between #readCaribbean and #Caribathon during Caribbean American Heritage Month (i.e. June, which was also Pride Month and Black Music Month; World Environment Day, June 5th, was also in there making for the most intersection of observances all around) and now Caribbean Literature Day, we’re pushing back, baby.
I thought I would focus here on Wadadli Pen on the often overlooked solo pieces published in journals and anthologies – the readership is small which is unfortunate because some of them are quite good. If I had my…
It’s been very hot here this week – what else is new (hello, Caribbean) but I’m not knocking it, wouldn’t live anywhere else (not permanently anyway) and one day this week the sun felt especially nice on my skin. I was lying in the grass taking in a cricket match (West Indies women v Pakistan…after clearing my vaxx-card and all that) and thinking about nothing else at the time (not even the book packed in my bag for when I got bored), so that might have had something to do with it. But yeah, the sun’s been stiflingly hot much of the rest of the time. There’s a cool breeze tonight though; I’ll take it.
I haven’t finished any this week – boo!
But I have added to my reading list – The 1619 Project (it’s about time). Does that count as a book?
Have I made progress on any of the million books I’m reading. Good question.
New Daughters of Africa – this was the heavy tome I had with me at cricket and though I didn’t do any reading during the actual game, I’m up to page 407. So about halfway through?
The Shake Keane poetry collection The Angel Horne – I’m up to page 36 (though, true confessions, it started strong but I’ve skipped a couple of pieces after trying and failing to get in to them, since)
Yeah, that’s it. I’ve been somewhere between busy and doing busy work. But in case you missed it, here’s my Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy review and a 2021 quick takes Blogger on Books post in Blogger on Books 2021 in Book Chat and Extras (name changed so that my reviews are easier to find) on children’s book The Talking Mango Tree by A H Benjamin and Daniel J O’Brien, Caribbean short story collection In Time of Need by a Bajan writer whose first big US publication Josephine Against the Sea (which I am reading) hit the market this week, Shakirah Bourne, and a classic The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier.
Okay, let’s see what’s new (or updated) on the blog.
My musings on googling while Black in which I ruminate on who is centered and who isn’t in search results…and life
As you’ll see while reading that, it was prompted by the uploading of my short story ‘Little Prissy Palmer‘, one of my linked published short Fiction
A new installment of my column CREATIVE SPACE which runs every other Wednesday in local paper The Daily Observer with an extended edition here on the blog
This share of a share list from my other blog Wadadli Pen which is the online platform of the project I started here in Antigua and Barbuda in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts
My media page, the page about media and other publications related to my work, which has a few new links (see link to a Kirkus article which referred to Musical Youth as an “well-observed charmer” and a blog which shouted out its “knowledge of music”), one of my favourites being, in the Academic section, a thesis on ‘The construction of memory and power relations in Elizabeth Nunez’s Prospero’s daughter, Andrea Levy’s The long song and Joanne Hillhouse’s Oh gad!’ because it’s kind of wild to discover academic engagement with my work
I read it when I was 13 and I think it opened my eyes with regards to the things I could write about and I think that was a very instructive moment in my life that lead me to where I am right now.”
said on local TV on World Book Day by someone who is now a legit success as a writer (having self-published books in the double digits and recently picking up a romance writers award from the US) and in her other professional pursuit, a sentiment I return to even as it makes me feel old af because in spite of any unworthiness I may feel …I receive it
I remember that particular project involved turning around six books (some twice) in a very tight window. It might be responsible for why I need new glasses (no, there’s a lot to blame for that) but it was a good project and I’m glad I was able to satisfactorily complete it. Especially with last year being such a mixed bag and me struggling in ways I’m only beginning to realize. I need more like it – hopefully not all at once but all right on time.
As I’m typing this ‘Irreplaceable You; on Netflix (mostly because Gugu Mbatha Raw is in it and she’s not in enough things) is playing in the background; here’s what else I’ve been watching these past few months
My Network of all the places to find me on social media
I google a lot. For work (whether research for an article, a project, a story, a blog, or personal curiousity). And while googling, I am reminded that the default setting of … well, everything – band-aids, ballet tights, Hollywood films, book covers, books, etc. – is (or was, until quite recently, so is) white. Do it now. Search ‘man’, ‘woman’, better yet, ‘beautiful woman’, ‘beautiful man’ – I did it with you and, in order, for me, google images spat out a pic of Jonathan Majors; Kamala Harris; Lupita Nyongo, Priyanka Chopra, and Zoe Kravitz; and… that’s it, as far as people of colour, for my ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘beautiful woman’, ‘beautiful man’ searches, respectively. Every other image was the default. As the links above show, things are changing but there’s clearly still a default where tech, media, publishing, and everything else centers whiteness. Even when I’m googling from the Caribbean (where those algorithms at?).
What prompted this post?
I was posting my story Little Prissy Palmer about a girl who befriends some dogs and, on a whim, googled images of ‘girl with dog’. Google images said, here.
I tried again. ‘Black girl with dog’.
They do exist!
It may not seem like a big deal (and, of course, this example is anecdotal but it is also illustrative). Imagine a more colourful world, you know like the real world, except in this real world, the biggest billboards in all the world wash out all this colour in to nothingness. It exists and yet it’s rarely seen. That’s called erasure, and there’s a huge percentage of the global population experiencing it. In so many spaces; some you might not think about…like the google.
You that all purpose drawer where you keep things that don’t fit anywhere in particular but may come in handy. That’s the dis ‘n dat file at Wadadli Pen. Amid the various literary and cultural data bases I’ve built on the site, which is the online platform of the project I created to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, there is Dis ‘n Dat.
***DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.
Updating these links, it hits me how impermanent the web is (though we like to say the internet is forever): so many sites have gone altogether or gone stagnant since Wadadli Pen started and since I started keeping this list. We’re still here though; let’s have a party! But first, check out the links.
I did my last movie/TV round up back in April, and before that November; these things are not planned. But, as before, here’s a look back only at what I finished (i.e. not the things I fell asleep to or had playing in the background of something else). I may do one of those rankings Film and TV YouTube is so fond of one day, but it is not this day (‘Lord of the Rings’ reference).
I like a good music doc and The BeeGees’ ‘How do You mend a Broken Heart’ was a good, if largely uncomplicated, fairly predictable one. That’s okay, though because I like the Brothers Gibb, and there was something poignant about seeing the eldest, Barry, as the last brother standing – his “I’d rather have them back here and no hits at all” resonated with me.
Fun fact, according to the doc, ‘How can You Mend a Broken Heart’ doc, this heartbreaking love song was actually the first song Barry and Robin, younger brother and rival, wrote together when reconciling in 1971 after a tumultuous break up – marking the return of the BeeGees ahead of the supernova era of their career.
There was a movie called ‘Monster’ about race and the justice system starring the same kid from ‘Luce’ – mentioned in last August’s movie roundup – in really a very similar role (not the details of the characters’ lives so much as his positioning in the story within those complexities of race, trust, and judgment). I’m about as ambiguous on these films as the films are themselves in relation to their themes. Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson (take over from Luce’s Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as his parents) in ‘Monster’ and I have to admit I didn’t realize Jennifer was now playing mother (to a teen no less) roles – that window of time between ingenue and matron goes by in a Hollywood minute doesn’t it, faster still if you’re a person of colour. Seems like just the other day she was a young songstress singing of heartbreak.
John David Washington’s performance as a street thug was a weak spot of ‘Monster’ – like, rapper Rakim “A$AP Rocky” Mayers, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, was better than him in this, he just was. Good thing I watched ‘Tenet’, Christopher Nolan’s latest, right after because it was a timely reminder of the compelling screen presence JDW inherited from his daddy (Denzel Washington) and at the same time his own hard-earned capabilities – as an actor, leading man, and, potentially, big box office draw. I mean ‘Tenet’ tanked but that’s timing (it was one of the first movies out in the pandemic) and Nolan (whose movies can be puzzle pieces you either put together or you don’t or don’t mind if you do because that’s part of the fun – like my fave ‘Inception’). The film was a mixed and confusing and visually stunning and interesting bag, and indulgent (in Nolan’s insistence on a cinema release when COVID-19 numbers were spiking). But the performances were good. I even liked Robert Pattinson when previously I didn’t understand the sparkly vampire’s appeal (or really the appeal of those ‘Twilight’ films for which he became famous). He and JDW have good chemistry.
‘Wadjda’ is a Saudi Arabian film I found on Netflix one night, and sometimes those algorithms work because this indie was right up my alley. It’s female directed, the first feature by Haifaa al Mansour (I say first though I don’t know if she’s directed anything else), filmed guerrilla style not just for budgetary reasons but because she was a woman (reportedly she couldn’t even talk or interact with men while directing). It was released 2012 but is available all these years later thanks to Netflix’s need for content in the ongoing streaming wars. I recommend – the tween main character and her wish for a bicycle is the simple set-up for a story that tackles gender roles in a rigidly religious society without, in my opinion, though I’m not the person whose opinion really matters in this, being broadly Islamaphobic. It is a specific girl’s story and the making of it a specific director’s story – and it’s #ownvoices which imbues it with a level of authenticity.
Speaking of Netflix a real light and fun find was ‘The Upshaws’ (starring Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps, and the underrated Kim Fields of ‘Facts of Life’ and ‘Living Single’ fame) with its traditional/old school family sitcom format, which is not really the thing anymore (I lean more towards sitcoms like ‘Community’ which I’ve been rewatching), but this was funny which is the bar a comedy needs to clear. Think ‘Good Times’ for the economic struggles (though this family is more middle class) but with cursing.
On the opposite end of joyful was the very disturbing, to the point of I wish I hadn’t watched it, film from some years ago ‘Little Children’ – what an uncomfortable film, what a set of frustrating people.
I also watched ‘Bad Hair’, a questionable but not horrible satirical horror about weaves and assimilation and African folklore; and ‘Army of the Dead’, which I thought I’d like more given that I stan zombie flicks and was still on a Snyder cut ‘Justice League’ high, but, opening sequence aside, no, this was just frustrating and a plot holesaloopa.
‘The Dig’ is one I watched by accident (I was working and had it going in the background) – and you know what, it deserved better (from me). It was really good. It starred Ralph Fiennes whom I hadn’t been able to see as anything but a villain since ‘Schindler’s List’, until now!, and the cruelly underrated ‘Promising Young Woman’ Carey Mulligan (whom I also recently saw as a world weary detective in Collateral, making for three superlative performances by Mulligan that couldn’t be farther from each other). Plus I like fiction that teaches me a little of real world history I wouldn’t otherwise read about – and this one about an archeological find amidst class divides and loss was quietly entertaining and informative.
I also watched a film I had no idea existed ‘Blue Miracle’ and I haven’t felt this invested in a predictable feel good film in a while – this story of a man trying to save his orphanage by winning a fishing tournament is also based on a true story; schmaltzy as these stories are but, also, highly recommend. Another one I barely new existed and thoroughly enjoyed was ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ which was a very meta animated take on the apocalypse (if the apocalypse was led by the AIs that rule our world, which as a child of the OG Terminator era, I kind of believe it will be). Speaking of futuristic fare, I watched ‘Blade Runner 2049’ and will risk the wrath of the stans of this franchise by saying…meh. I’m sure that makes me very uncool. *shrug*
The other music doc I watched in the past few months was ‘Remastered: Who Shot the Sheriff’ which was more social commentary of a particular time in the life of Jamaica, the same time covered in the Marlon James book ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ (reviewed here) than it was music doc about reggae icon Bob Marley. I first studied this period in university and I am, of course, a Bob fan, but there was some new stuff here for me (or maybe more accurately a deeper understanding of certain things). One might even consider it additional reading for anyone interested in adding to their understanding of hemispheric politics and particularly the machinations of America in the internal politics of Caribbean and Latin American countries.
A thing is a thing.
I watched an old teen film/new adult critically acclaimed indie ‘Ghost World’ and I definitely felt like I caught this fic with teenage Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannsen a few decades too late to really be its audience. I am of the Winona Ryder era of cool, disaffected teen (‘Heathers’, ‘Beetlejuice’ etc.). This came across in parts mean girl-ish to me (real mean girl-ish not movie ‘Mean Girls’ ish). Like, I get it, you’re sooo disaffected – “I’m sure it sucks”, “All these movies suck”, “let’s get out of here” – and so unnecessarily unkind that the overbearing uncool people they either target or ignore come off better by comparison. But I do think there’s an audience for this because it isn’t bad, and I wasn’t indifferent to the ennui experienced by the Birch character; I just wasn’t wild over it.
What else did I watch… Kevin Hart’s ‘Fatherhood’, a bit paint by numbers but with Alfre Woodard and Hart trying to stretch a bit, fun for a movie lime when you have to find something people of varying tastes can agree on; ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’, zombie flick number two of this period, it took a dark and unexpected turn there at the end; and another of those voice-dubbed imports as Netflix tries to satisfy our appetite for content amidst the aforementioned streaming wars, this one from France, ‘How I became a Super Hero’ about a world in which supers exist but a drug which artificially imbues regs with superhuman powers is wreaking havoc… and I mean, sure. Which reminds me, I need to catch up on season 2 of The Boys.
Another book I received recently (in addition to Ronan Matthew’s Ruby’s Dream, mentioned in my last reading journal) was Obeah, Race and Racism: Caribbean Witchcraft in the English Imagination by Eugenia O’Neal. I haven’t cracked either yet. But I have made incremental progress (where I am in brackets) on Windrush (p. 44), The Angel Horne Collected Poems of Shake Keane 1927 – 1997 (p. 29), New Daughters of Africa (p. 403), Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie’s Americannah via audio book (chapter 13), and Joan H. Underwood’s First Aid Kit: A Practical Guide to Remedy the Three Most Common Managerial Challenges (p. 15).
I finished Daylight Come, the Caribbean-based climate change horror fantasy adventure by Jamaican writer and environmental activist Diana McCaulay.
The plot in a nutshell is that the island (not-Jamaica but not-not-Jamaica) and the world have become so superheated, going out during the day is a death sentence. So humans and the environment have had to become nocturnal. Dangers include feral creatures, starvation, and, of course, other people. There is the desperation for few resources, of course, but there is also the violent dictatorial tendencies that don’t need the excuse of a dying world to assert themselves.
I feel like I lost a day this week but that day wasn’t Tuesday. That’s the day that I did a test run of the link up with producers of the Medellin World Poetry Festival and the person who will be translating my reading on August 10th 2021 during the 31st iteration of the festival. Details in Appearances. This was the piece I used for my test run.
You might also want to check out these other recent additions to the blog: This upload of my short story Little Prissy Palmer previously published in The Machinery
My own video #readCaribbean vlog, the edit of which was my new/first ever mentern (mentee+intern) first completed task, and not bad for a first attempt, is below. Remember to subscribe to AntiguanWriter while you’re there.
Sharing to continue the conversation on #readCaribbean (and because Kei Miller and Shakirah Bourne are among my faves) but only skimming because Things I have Withheld is on my TBR and I am actually reading Josephine against the Sea, and I like to be clear on what I think before engaging with criticism by others. Impetus for me to finish the book!
Can you believe 2021 was my third year doing #ReadCaribbean on the Insta? Thanks to Cindy Allman of Book of Cinz, this project has really taken off, encouraging readers all over the world to explore Caribbean literature.
We bookstagrammers and writers highlight what’s on our reading list during June – books about the Caribbean, usually written by Caribbean people living at home or abroad. Many people, particularly Caribbean people, get to discover the length and breadth of the canon, not just the bitter aftertaste they experienced in Lit/English class in secondary school.
This year, I read the following:
Things I have Withheld by Kei Miller (Jamaica)
After reading Augustown, I was curious to read this collection of essays by the Jamaican author. Overall, the writing was excellent and thought-provoking. I especially loved the travel essays. My favorite bits were:
“Mr. Brown, Mrs. White, and Ms. Black” which looks at…
I remember another (now multi-award winning Caribbean writer) lamenting that one of the downsides of publishing with online literary (or other) journals is sometimes they just disappear on you and the publication credit with them. It’s not the same as a print publication going out of print – because the issue that you were published in still tangibly exists. It hasn’t happened to me a lot but it has happened. Notably, ‘Carnival Hangover’ was originally placed with an online publication that’s since disappeared. I reposted the story on this site. Thankfully, though, I had the opportunity last year to submit it as well to intersectantigua.com which didn’t mind that it had a publishing history – plus they created an audio version of the story that’s now also available on my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel. This has happened to me again with The Machinery, a literary journal out of India, which, in 2017, published ‘Little Prissy Palmer’, a little fable about a loner girl finding unlikely kinship. It’s a little too visceral for me which makes me think it was probably inspired by my own canine encounters, some of which are not so friendly, when I go walking. But who can say for sure. Sharing a screen capture from the story on my twitter today (June 30th 2021), I decided to re-post the story here. In case anyone wants to read it. I wish I had a dogs and Black girl graphic to go with it, but try to imagine it – meanwhile this is the excerpt I shared (full story below that).
Little Prissy Palmer
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Her father, Denfield Palmer, was to blame for her name. A fine sportsman, he approached football with precision, and was a star with the village-side. He wasn’t too literate though. That’s what came of scudding school religiously for the football field. Maybe he’d heard someone refer to another girl as prissy and taken it to mean pretty. Long and short of it, while her mother was still out of it, he gave his preferred name for the birth certificate and turned his child in to a pappyshow.
Red, that’s what they called the girl’s mother, a white woman, didn’t fuss; didn’t have as firm a hand as you needed to with someone like Denfield.
So, Prissy Palmer it was. Wasn’t need for a nick name or a grinding name to ridicule her with after that. Also setting her apart from the children in the village was the fact that she didn’t go to the village school, or the one in the next village, or the next or the next, not even any of the ones in town. No, her mother – who had abandoned her American father’s dreams but not her trust fund, sent Prissy all the way cross country every day, to Mountain High where the various expat and socie children went. Being from a village behind God back, Prissy didn’t have friends there either. The island was mostly black, the school was mostly white, and Prissy, with skin the dull shade of a peanut shell, was neither this nor that. Always a minority, and cursed with her daddy’s cast eye and the bully-bait name he’d burdened her with, school days were very long for little Prissy Palmer.
After-school was long too. Several bus rides and a long walk through to the back of the village where her parents farmed their plot, long. Long even for a healthy, young girl raised on ground provisions; long and tricky, especially the part where she had to walk past Stanlee’s dogs.
There was no fence and the dogs were never tied. Roaming dogs weren’t unusual in the village but Stanlee’s dogs were so fierce even other dogs feared them.
It was usually dusk by the time Prissy Palmer typically tiptoed past Stanlee’s plot. If she was lucky they’d still be sleeping, the draining island sun had that effect on dog and man – though usually only dog could indulge the pull of sleep high day. And little girls with only one route home tried to slip by without waking them.
But then there were evenings like this one when Prissy could feel the heat of their breaths on her calves, the sense, false or otherwise, of something sharp nipping at her, which is when she ran. The absolute last thing anyone should do when waylaid by dogs, let alone Stanlee’s dogs. Prissy Palmer had strong legs from all the walking she did, and she pumped them hard as the dogs followed their instinct and gave chase. Keeping pace, dancing in and out of her feet, like she was a play mate, instead of food. When she tripped, they approached, looking like jumbies in the dark. Panting jumbies with wagging tails. They didn’t bark or attack. And though Prissy’s bum and pride were bruised, and her breath hitched in fear, her small hand tentatively reached towards the closest one’s nozzle, petting it. She smiled when it practically swooned, its ha-ha-ha breathing blowing hot on her face. The others approached curiously, one butted its head against her side gently, the other pushed its way under her arm, jostling the first one out of position, as if to say, my turn. Another leaned heavily against her back. She could hear more of them in the dark. How many of them were there? She petted them all, whispering soothing things, “you’re not angry, you just want to be friends”. That was something she could understand. Little Prissy Palmer wanted friends, too.
She had lost hold of her book bag in the fall. One of the dogs brought it to her, straps between huge white teeth. It was damp when she took it. She wiped her hand on the pleats of her uniform jumper, and pulled herself to her feet. “See you then,” Prissy said, turning toward home. The dogs followed her. She tried to shoo them away but they were persistent. The pack of them set up camp right there in her parent’s yard, and didn’t budge no matter how much her father cursed and her mother fussed.
Stanlee came looking for his dogs, of course, and when the dogs wouldn’t leave with him threatened to report Denfield and Red to police for animal theft, and when that had no effect threatened to throw poison meat in the yard because if he couldn’t have the dogs no one would. When that didn’t work, he returned with his cutlass and threatened to chop tout monde sam and baggai. That’s when the big black one that seemed to be the leader growled at him, the others advancing, until Prissy urged them to “settle”.
Stanlee backed off after that, stumbling down the road, grumbling; defeated.
After that little Prissy Palmer seemed happier, her canine friends making up for her lack of human ones, even though her father complained about all the howling they did at night, and her mother teasingly called her “crazy dog lady”.
Respect the author’s copyright. Reblog, don’t repost; and credit.