The Blogger on Books Series dates back to my time on My Space. Put a book nerd on social media, what am I going to talk about? Books, of course. And a series was born. I write about books just-read. Not every one; just the ones I want to write about. Catch Blogger on Books IV, V , VI , VII, VIII, and IX here on the site, and Blogger on Books 1 through 3 on Wadadli Pen (the online platform for the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize, a programme I launched in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, and which I still coordinate). Reviews migrated from my My Space page are tagged as throwback reviews. Also since I’ve started receiving more of these, going forward I’ll be sure to tag with an (RR) any review or complimentary copies received from the author or publisher whether for review purposes or not – all reviews are still my honest opinion. Also-also, a ‘few’ of my quick takes have become lengthier than anticipated. So, going forward, if they do, I’m just going to make them a full review even if, length aside, they still feel like quick takes to me.
Who am I? Author, Journalist, Editor, Producer, Columnist, Course/Workshop Facilitator, #gyalfromOttosAntigua
Last read …
In Harriet’s Daughter, young protagonist Margaret developed such an obsession with the leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, she insisted those close to her call her Harriet (of course, that wasn’t the only reason) and started an ill-advised Underground Railroad game with her schoolmates. With Margaret, penned by Tobago-born Canadian writer Marlene Nourbese Philip, there is never a dull moment. She is independent-minded and rarely holds her tongue – it leads to messy situations at home and in her friendship circle. I liked that the author leaned in to Margaret’s imperfections (she can be mean but is not necessarily malicious, and as an adult I can see the flaws in some of her thinking while at the same time understand why her thinking makes perfect sense to her). I can even root for her – the world we live in could always use more independent-minded women (which she almost certainly will be). Margaret is also big-hearted and empathic. Sometimes she’s a bit too young acting, sometimes too wise for her years but Margaret is never uninteresting and there are times when you just want to wrap her in your arms and protect her or better yet see and validate her. She is determined, she is creative and imaginative, she is intelligent, and to old school parents, this can read as stubborn, own way, and too smart for her own good – all of which her father, a Barbadian immigrant to Canada, fears she is becoming. He threatens to send her home to his mother to make her more disciplined, and her mother, who is from Jamaica, and has her own heartbreaking backstory, doesn’t put up much of a fight – many of the women in this book don’t, not at first. And the arc to freedom for both girls and women is a key plot point. I do think there is more monologuing than might happen in real life (Mrs. B’s last conversation with the girls – Margaret and her best friend who becomes the mission driving many of her actions in the book – comes to mind) but all in all it’s a quick and complex and entertainng and feeling read. 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. It’s perhaps no surprise that Harriet’s Daughter simultaneously reminds me of Jamaica Kincaid (Annie John) and Judy Blume (Are you there, God? It’s Me Margaret) and so many books and stories (right up to recent animated film Turning Red) in the tradition of female protagonists emerging from girlhood in to confusing and restless adolescent-hoods amidst families that don’t quite get them but, in the best case scenarios, love them just the same. With a lengthy stint on the Caribbean Examinations Council syllabus, in addition to being taught in Canada and Britain, just to name some of this book’s travels, it hardly needs my say-so, but it’s a good read. And as seen since I grabbed it from my shelf on June 17th, I zipped through it. So that it became my first complete read (at this writing 27-06-22, knock on wood, not the last) of my 2022 #readCaribbean #CaribAThon reads for June – #CaribbeanHeritageMonth.
Older Reads (i.e. books completed)…
A History of Barbuda under the Codringtons 1783-1883 by Margaret T Tweedy – Quick Take I
Yemoja’s Anansi: A Short Story by Christal Clashing
Victoire: My Mother’s Mother by Maryse Conde (translated by Richard Philcox)
DNFs (the books I did not finish) –
Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 6 Number 1 Summer 2013 – This is not really a DNF but I didn’t read it cover to cover so much as scan it, pausing to read the things that held my interest and for anyone interested in Antigua and Barbuda academic thought on politics, society, philosophy, and literature this annual publication is definitely a must-read, and I actually liked this one given its focus on “reconstructing our neglected literary tradition and review its books”, compared to some of the later Reviews. I had some mental pushback (and at least one serious recoil) which at least signals engagement. I learned things as I always do reading these. Sometimes the reading is challenging given its base in academia but when it connects, it roots deep. Example: “Many of us were programmed to consider ourselves not to be Africans…we do not know ourselves and some of us do not wish to know ourselves” – p. 23 “ And there are always little nuggets of information that may not be important-important but make the Antiguan in me take note anyway. Example, the detail about enslaver and founding father of America Thomas Jefferson, drinking only 12-year-old Antiguan rum “as it was the best in the world” – p. 24. The most interesting segment to me though was the feature essays segment (about 100 pages from p. 53 – p. 153) – its four articles ‘Frederick Stiles Jewett: A Connecticut Poet and Newspaperman in Antigua’ by Gregory Frohnsdorff, ‘Through an Enlightened Lens? John Luffman’s View of Antigua in the 1780s’ by Robert Glen, ‘Antigua and the Antiguans: the Question of its Authorship’ by Edgar Lake, and ‘How He Kick She’ by Radcliffe Robins.
Kirkus Reviews LXXXVIII, No. 24 December 2020 – This is actually a keepsake for me as it includes the Kirkus Review of my book Musical Youth, selected as one of its top indies of 2020 – and I was reading it to find out about other books favoured by Kirkus but time constraints force me to shelve it (for now?) but I will keep it for reference.
Managers’ First Aid Kit: A Practical Guide to Remedy the Three Most Common Managerial Challenges by Joan H Underwood – This would be a good read for management trainees or new managers, some of it is even applicable to life outside of the organization as it’s about shifting how you do things. As my own obligations pile up, however, and my reading tanks, I had to make another cut and this was it.
Rise up, Sista by Kristine Simelda – As with most of my DNFs, this is not meant as a knock against the book but at this time I need to make some cuts because there’s only so much time and I’m not really connecting with this one. For anyone who might be interested in the tale of a reggae artist and British rocker in the 1960s, definitely check it out though.