She’s Royal – Extra

I’m done with my She’s Royal series but you know how movies have DVD and/or Blu-Ray extras – well…

Meet Queen Anacaona 


Hispaniola, you may remember from your history books, is the island where Christopher Columbus made first contact with the people of the hemisphere which would come to be known as the Americas (a geographic space encompassing north and south America and, little as it’s mentioned, the Caribbean) – you might also have heard it referred to as the ‘new world’ (though of course it was hardly new to the people already living there). Among those people were the Taino, and Hispaniola (then only part of the Taino terrain as there were Taino elsewhere in the Caribbean) is now divided between the French Caribbean country of Haiti and the Latin American Caribbean country of the Dominican Republic. We won’t get in to the complicated and contentious history between these two countries sharing this singular land mass, but we will venture in to the complicated and contentious relationship between Queen Anacaona’s people and Columbus’ people (meaning broadly the Spanish).

Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492. Anacaona (born in 1474) is on record  as meeting him in 1496 along with her brother, the Jaragua chief, Bohechio. “In Bartolomé de las Casas’ Historia de las Indias, he reports the meeting as cordial and friendly” (Source). That, of course, didn’t last. “The Spaniards as we know, pillaged the island through massacres and slavery.” (Source)

In the contentious years that followed, Anacaona’s brother died and she became chief of the Jaragua. The Spaniards also captured her husband – Caonabo, chief of the Maguana – who subsequently died making her also chief of the people of Maguana territory. His territory was in present day DR and hers in present day Haiti, making her influence span the mass of the island of Hispaniola. She and her people outnumbered the Spaniards but acknowledging their superior weaponry, she took a diplomatic route to stabilizing relations between the interlopers and her people.

“As she saw it, rebelling against the invaders would be like signing a death sentence.” (Source)

Blending houses, figuratively speaking, was the route taken – with intermarriage between Taino royalty and elite members of the Spanish military. The peace, however, lasted only as long as the leadership – and with the arrival in 1502 of a new governor, it collapsed with the massacre of many influential Tainos, and the capture and torture of others. Queen Anacaona herself was tried (for treason ostensibly) and sentenced to be hanged.

“…she was offered the chance to save herself. She would be granted clemency if she agreed to become a concubine for one of the high-ranking officials. However, she refused the deal and was hanged.” (Source)

She was 29 at the time.

The fate of the so-called new world was written – later the indigenous people would be all but extinct (not all extinct as we would have been taught in history class years ago), and Africans (my ancestors) would be enslaved up and down and across the Americas (the USA, across Latin and South America, the Caribbean – again little as it’s told one of the most brutal forms of chattel slavery was experienced in the Caribbean) for hundreds of years financing the western empires that would go on to dominate the world (hence the rising tide of call for reparations – sparked in the Caribbean and credibly part of the conversation as the Democratic primary in the US gets going).

In Haiti, though, Queen Anacaona remains a symbol of rebellion and pride.

This extra is the last of my She’s Royal series though clearly I could go on and on the full has never been told.

Mailbox Monday Meme (MMM…M)

This is a Mailbox Monday post which begs the question ‘What good books did you receive to curl up with this week while the storms blow through?’

I’m in the Caribbean, so no storms…yet. And, as it happens, no new books either. But I would like to share some new reading if that’s okay.

This week I finished …

Evolution: Weaving in and out of Consciousness while the Truth is Somewhere in the Middle by Felene M. Cayetano – Here’s my review of the poetry collection by the Belizean-American/Garifuna writer – and here’s an excerpt of that review: “That she left in the lumps and the pulpiness made for a richer experience as we almost voyeuristically watched this young woman wrestle and come to terms with herself and her lineage.”

So that’s all of one whole book down for April so far (can you feel the momentum slipping?)

This week I read…

Beneath the Lion’s Wings by Marie Ohanesian Nardin – in which an Italian gondolier courts an American tourist in Venice (so far…I’m only 35 pages in)

New Daughters of Africa (which has some 200 writers and is edited by Margaret Busby) – it’s a thick one but riveting…I’m only about three stories in so I’m still deep in the historical section (the history of African people in America) – it’s not pretty but it’s not dull.

Inferno by Dan Brown – they’re still in the gardens outside of Florence, they’re still running, there are drones and symbols and impossible odds…I still don’t care…but I’m still reading.

I probably would’ve read more if I hadn’t started a new editing assignment this week and, Murphy’s Law, my eyes hadn’t started acting up around the same time (and yet I still watched …what’d I watch… Game of Thrones, John Oliver, Train to Busan (without English subtitles and I still dug it because, zombies), and every episode of that new Netflix zombie series because I can never turn off a zombie show… when I should’ve been sleeping)

This week I also read…

This amazing review (it’s so fun finding reviews!) of my book Musical Youth…in French. I had to use google translate to decode it (so fun!)… and I shared it here on the blog; it ends: ‘To my knowledge, there is no French translation available, much less Creole, but I hope that “Musical Youth” will become a classic of literature for generations to come. And why not an audiovisual adaptation to immortalize this illustration of our time?’

Woah! I actually really appreciate this…it’s been a challenging week…but this was good; this was good

Another writer’s recollection of a visit to Claude McKay country which I posted on my other blog with her permission – don’t know who Claude McKay is? You should. He was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance in addition to being at the vanguard of Caribbean literature…also I love the idea of a poetry garden (what am I talking about? read the post)

Some other interesting stuff (poems, short fiction, lectures, interviews) I added to the Wadadli Pen Reading Room and Gallery 33rd edition

Oh and I grabbed…

A Callaloo journal I’ve had since 2012 from my shelf…so the pile in progress has not gotten any shorter…and I’m still scouting for new books…it’s a sickness I tell you.


What’s Good Today, Joanne? This Review, World; That’s What’s Good!

This is a review I found just today and my spirit is dancing. The original is in French so I hope the OG author will forgive me sharing an English language translation with you (linked back to them) – no copyright infringement is intended. I appreciate said author’s deep read of my book Musical Youth.

The blog is My insaeng, ma vie (My insaeng, my life) and the post title is “Musical Youth”ou une adolescence caribéenne du 21ème siècle (“Musical Youth” or a 21st century Caribbean teenager), and this is what google translate says it’s saying:

I continue to read regularly, but I do not report anything that I read. I publish flash reviews and I keep the blogging reviews for the books that made my heart vibrate and transformed me.

My first love novel of 2019 is “Musical Youth” (2013)* by Joanne C. Hillhouse. I stumbled upon it by doing research for episode 3 of Karukerament** about two months ago … Since, Zahara and Shaka, the two main characters, spontaneously visit my daydream moments (this word is cooler than daydream, no ?).

“Musical Youth” lasts only one summer’s time. A summer where Zahara and Shaka participate in a musical project, the opportunity for them to discover themselves, to wonder about what they want to become and to make their first significant steps towards adulthood.

If I had to qualify this story … I would say it’s authentically Caribbean.

Authentic as their family model

One day, we may be able to normalize the Caribbean family where the father is present and assumes his role. Maybe someday. In the meantime, it is always possible to qualify the negative portrait of Caribbean paternity. This is what Joanne Hillhouse does by humanizing the two fathers whose absence is precisely explained. At the end of the novel, there is no more unsaid, which allows Zahara and Shaka to continue to build. They have all the cards in their hands to manage in their own way their relationship to these fathers who will never be part of their lives … Zahara can count on the love of his (her) grandmother, Shaka on that of his mother and his grandmother -Father.

Authentic as their everyday

The plot takes place in Antigua and Barbuda. The characters express themselves in patois. No need for long page descriptions to bring to life the Caribbean character and beauty of food, green spaces, architecture and music. But “Musical Youth” is above all a way of approaching life with resilience without losing the hope of making a difference.

Zahara comes from the lower middle class, goes to a private Catholic high school. Shaka comes from a modest background, goes to a public high school. Their daily lives are limited to classes, extracurricular activities and the family home. There is nothing flamboyant in their environment. Their happiness and well-being never depend on the material.

No flashy car, no frantic race to be the most fashionable, no alcoholic parties while parents are on the move, no drug use … In short, they are not looking for extreme thrills usually described in the teenagers of the year 2010. Or say rather that they are looking for another type of sensations. Those brought about by putting into practice their passion for music, by the love they feel for their surroundings.

Their use of the mobile phone is so small that I identified myself by projecting myself at the time of my adolescence in the early 2000s. Nevertheless, some recent cultural references like soca diva Claudette Peters or Skype, YouTube allow register history (and the Caribbean) in our present for 2010 …

Another strong and current time marker: the question of colorism.

Authentic as the suffering caused by colorism

From the first pages, we are witnessing the ravages of colorism. It plays on the perception we have of ourselves, it plays on our perception of others and on the perception that others have of us. The subtlety of Joanne Hillhouse has been to address the issue from several points of view by highlighting different aspects depending on the character involved.

Before being called Shaka, he bore the nickname Zulu. Initially launched as an insult because of its dark skin, the character reappropriates the nobility of this nickname when his grandfather tells him the story of the Zulu people. This is an important scene for me because it emphasizes the awareness of an Africanity in its Caribbean dimension. Shaka knows where he comes from and draws on the power of ancestors to assert himself. In addition, this scene shows the care taken by an adult to reboost a boy’s self-esteem. I have the impression that black men are rarely placed on the side of the victims of colorism. Shaka is not considered a handsome kid for his physique. He does not consider himself a handsome kid. “I am black but cute”, he shouts as a joke as Zahara begins to realize Shaka’s perception of society. The self-esteem that his mother and grandfather have cultivated at home help him deal with the moments when he is confronted with colorism and suffers from it.

Zahara’s skin is clear enough to fit into the desirable black category. This does not preclude the fact that she has no confidence in herself and does not consider herself beautiful. Here again Joanne Hillhouse gives the opportunity to the character to become aware of its place on the spectrum of colorism to free itself thereafter. Zahara’s naivety about it at the very beginning of the novel illustrates what is called the “light-skinned privilege”. Her awareness is through a voluntary approach, by empirical evidence that she takes the time to analyze. Besides, Zahara and Shaka have a brief but frank conversation about it. I reread the scene several times so much I was moved. She wonders if he loves her just because she’s clear. He wonders if it’s because of his dark skin that she does not like it … Once their worries verbalized, they take the time to think about their feelings straightforwardly. The balance of their relationship is based on the fact that they help each other to become a better version of themselves. Zahara takes confidence in herself and her music. Shaka’s appearance trust becomes real as he defines his identity as an artist. They can do nothing against colorism, but they have the honesty to question their own prejudices before getting rid of them. They choose themselves knowingly.

A classic in the making?

The romance between Zahara and Shaka is the driving force but not the end of “Musical Youth”. My carefree side can only be satisfied with the softness and “slow” at which their relationship develops. However, what has conquered me is the dynamic between the different social classes, between the different generations, as violent as it sometimes can be.

What touched me was cultural pride, it is the highlighting of our problems without falling into judgment.

What made me tickle was the talk of being Black, about being a young Caribbean girl from the 21st century.

To my knowledge, there is no French translation available, much less Creole, but I hope that “Musical Youth” will become a classic of literature for generations to come. And why not an audiovisual adaptation to immortalize this illustration of our time?


*publication year of Musical Youth was actually 2014, the year it won second place/first runner up in the inaugural Burt Award for teen/young adult fiction.

**Karukerament, according to my research, is a podcast, produced by this blogger, analyzing the representation of the Caribbean in audiovisual fiction (it seems to be discussing or reviewing independent Caribbean film or Caribbean representation in film generally, or maybe both).

-I have crossed out a couple of errors re the book itself (possibly things lost in translation) + a glitch in the matrix that resulted in some repetition while trying to render the blogger’s words accurately.

WWW Wednesday

Another day, another meme; this one the WWW Wednesday meme over at Taking on a World of Words.

The three questions are …
What are you currently reading?
Way too many books, a partial list of which includes (the ones I made progress on this week) –

Marie Ohanesian Nardin’s Beneath the Lion’s Wings – sent to me by the author some time ago – I lost my place and had to start over but it’s going better this time around – love revisiting Venice

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolf – passed to me by a friend when it came out – I’m only now reading it – and right now just don’t care that much about what I’m reading

Evolution – a poetry collection – by Belizean writer Felene Cayetano – almost done

One of my comics – this one a classic X-Men Women one-shot – X-Men are my favourite super heroes as you might have guessed from recent reviews of comics featuring Gambit and Rogue, and Storm and T’Challa

Inferno by Dan Brown – still not really engaged, still reading

New Daughters of Africa – edited by Margaret Busby – loving this one so far – it’s thick though so it might still stake some time


And a handful (3) of unpublished academic theses specific to Antigua and Barbuda; a literary journal; and a very (very very) short business ebook

What did you recently finish reading?
Recent is relative especially since my stride buckled in March with two Did-Not-Finish (which is unusual for me). I did finish listening to James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and reviewed an ARC of a children’s book The Masquerade Dance by Carol Ottley-Mitchell.

The Masquerade Dance

What will you be reading next?
Well, I just booked a new book editing assignment, am currently in negotiations re another one, and fielding an inquiry re a third; so (knock on wood) I’ll be busy with client manuscripts for a bit.

First and Some Seconds

“What a joy to be introducing New Daughters of Africa – a truly collaborative venture that will have an inspiring legacy for years to come! Enabling it to be assembled in record time, writers not only came on board with enthusiasm and alacrity but often steered me in the direction of others whose work they admire, lest these were not already on my radar. Altogether more than 200 living writers have contributed work to these page – an amazing party guest list!”

That’s from the first page of what I’m reading! And so far so good.

And this is my contribution to First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros hosted by I’d Rather Be At The Beach.

book of the year presentation 4

And these children from a local school will be reading their first chapters from these books soon (they might have started reading already). This was yesterday, the conclusion of the #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda #discoverAntiguaBarbuda Readers Choice Antiguan and Barbudan Book of the Year initiative I organized as founder/coordinator of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize which I started in 2004 to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. The winning author, Vivian Luke, author of F.A.K.E. got to select a school to receive primarily (though not exclusively, the kids added books from the Diary of… series to their haul, of course) local and Caribbean books (including four of mine – With Grace, Musical Youth, and both Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and its Spanish language edition Perdida!). She chose the Foundation Mixed School and they came by the Best of Books bookstore to select more than EC$950 worth of books sponsored by five of our patrons. That’s one thing that’s new over at my other blog (see pictures from yesterday here) and another is the results of our National Youth Awards (which includes a win in the lit art category for the 2018 winner of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Challenge).

Some of the new stuff here on this blog include a CREATIVE SPACE update featuring a Women’s Empowerment Luncheon I attended recently at which one of the featured speakers was Queen Bey’s (Beyoncé’s) longtime publicist; the previous CREATIVE SPACE on What’s what at Wallings (our main nature park) has been archived; also my Media page has been updated with a link to a radio interview I did about the Readers Choice initiative, my own writing, and lit arts in Antigua-Barbuda.

Hope you’re having a happy reading week. I am, largely because of The New Daughters of Africa, which also includes my story Evening Ritual. Receiving my contributor copy was a highlight of last week as I said on my facebook author page (that’s a hint to follow me there by the way).

Til next time.

PRESS RELEASE The Antigua and Barbuda Readers’ Choice Book of the Year Is… — Wadadli Pen

Issued April 3rd 2019 The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize congratulates Vivian Luke, whose book, F.A.K.E., netted the most votes in its #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda Book of the Year initiative. On being informed of the news, Luke said in a statement, “Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for my book… Writing is a […]

via PRESS RELEASE The Antigua and Barbuda Readers’ Choice Book of the Year Is… — Wadadli Pen

This Looks Interesting

Also, Dev Patel in more things – hope he’s not playing secondary to what’s his name Armie Hammer in this story (don’t Green Book this, Hollywood). He’s been good in everything I’ve seen him in (Dev, not Armie who I really only found interesting in The Social Network and to some extent Sorry to Bother You – nothing against him personally, it’s just a chemistry thing). What have I seen Dev in?

Slumdog Millionaire
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Newsroom

Hope he continues to get ever more expansive opportunities (i.e. not opportunities limited by Hollywood profiling).

Which brings me to my two cents on the Jordan Peele brouhaha. Really? People are throwing around charges of ‘reverse racism’ because he said “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes, but I’ve seen that movie.” Quick quiz. Are the majority of films in Hollywood made by white male directors, starring and telling stories from the point of view of white males? What is wrong with one of this deep field of auteurs adjusting the lens? Has he not cast white people in his two films, Get Out and Us giving them their own arc and nuance? Pick your favourite director – how many people of colour leads have they had relative to their entire filmography? Okay, let me make it easier, how many secondary people of colour characters have they had that wasn’t a trope or a stereotype or there simply to serve the white lead’s narrative (still looking at you Best Picture winning Green Book)? Easier still people of colour at all. Let’s get even narrower – how many black leads or people of colour leads have there been in the horror film genre in a mainstream Hollywood film? I was watching a discussion about horror noire recently. It mentioned the erasure of one of the few black women in a featured role in a horror film (Rachel True in The Craft) – on digging, I learned of her not being included in press junkets when the film was released in the late 1990s nor being invited to present alongside her co-stars at the MTV awards as though she wasn’t in the room, though she was, and more recently being omitted from convention panels that her co-stars were a part of and a recent Hollywood Reporter article (the latter was fixed after she spoke up on social media). The reality is that opportunities are limited for people of colour in Hollywood because casting directors, producers, directors, and filmgoers have blind spots and don’t even notice their absence or stereotyping when they do show up  – that’s the thing half the time it’s not even malicious. And then a single director says to reference Issa Rae, I’m rooting for everybody black, and somehow this attempt by one individual to address an imbalance by telling stories particular to his point of view is the most racist thing that ever racisted? (I think the word you’re looking for is prejudice anyway, since racism is systemic and underpinned by power but…okay). Us, Peele’s sophomore effort, opened very strong and there are a million theories and stories around that film and its success. Here’s one, Lupita Nyongo despite winning best supporting actress for 12 Years a Slave (which came out in 2013) and being young, gifted, beautiful, charismatic, and a fashion darling to boot had not played a lead role in a film before Us. Reflect on that and miss me with the outrage.