Dancing Nude in the Moonlight: 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings. Publisher: Insomniac Press (Canada) Genre: Fiction (short novel, novella; plus short stories and poetry) Year of Release: 2014 ISBN-10: 1554831407/ISBN-13: 978-1554831401 Synopsis: Young Dominican single mother Selena Cruz is trying to make a new life for herself in Antigua, dealing with prejudice, poverty, and her interfering sister. When she meets handsome cricket coach Michael Lindo, her world is turned upside down. The course of true love is never smooth, and Michael and Selena’s story is no exception as they try to bridge the gap between their two cultures and their personal expectations of love. Romantic and delightful, this novella by Joanne C. Hillhouse looks at immigration and cross-cultural relationships in a warm and very human way. Dancing Nude in the Moonlight was first published in 2004, and it is reissued here along with selected poems and stories from Joanne C. Hillhouse’s wide collection of work. She has been published in Caribbean, North American, and African literary journals.
“Likewise, Joanne C. Hillhouse’s 2003 Dancing Nude in the Moonlight and Jamaica Kincaid’s 1997 My Brother leave me awestruck on every re-read by evidence of the crucial role postcolonial literary producers play in setting the agenda for the still fledgling fields of Caribbean gender and sexuality theory. Hillhouse’s and Kincaid’s deconstruction of Antiguan patriarchy not only destabilizes past bad-minded scholarship on family and gender relations in the region. They also offer caution to future scholarship on Caribbean gender and sexuality. The texts assert the necessity of grounding Afro-Antiguan/Caribbean masculinities within the appropriate historical and social sites/matrices. This, they suggest, will produce non-bad-minded accounts of Antiguan and Caribbean expressions of masculinity. Moreover, Kincaid’s My Brother conducts an important probing of the compulsory heterosexuality underpinning Antiguan patriarchy. It also intervenes into the silence around HIV-AIDS and the experiences of men/those living with the disease in the region.” – from Discretely Antiguan and Distinctly Caribbean in the Tongues of the Ocean Antigua and Barbuda issue (which I edited) by Dr. Hazra Medica Read the full essay
“What makes the book a true pleasure is its political edge. Hillhouse arms the characters with larger social conflicts that far outshine the romance…Michael and Selena struggle for romantic survival and for self-definition, despite their histories as discarded children surrounded by bitterness. Every character has some kind of betrayal echoing in their lives. Though no one is innocent, Hillhouse skilfully wraps the reader intimately into the fallout of each character’s experience.” – Fiona Raye Clark, Broken Pencil, Canada
“Can I just say how much I love the title of this book? It evokes a sense of emotional exposure and vulnerability, a psychic unraveling for the sake of heightened intimacy and understanding. The novel marks the first time I read a romance about people from Antigua and the Dominican Republic. It’s a story that deeply personalizes the trials of immigration, and humanizes those directly affected by it. This is a really engaging and readable love story about fully-realized characters from the Caribbean.” – bookempt gyal
“Today I had the awesome pleasure of finding your book at the house of a lecturer in Colombia. I’ve started reading it and so far I’m intrigued. I felt proud and I just thought that I should share with you. Continue to write awesome work, they are reaching many all over the world.” (then) “I finished the book, the very next day and like I thought at the beginning it was great.” (via facebook DM)
*please note I would normally redact before posting but as the status of the post is set to public, I’m taking a chance that it’s okay to share. The Glen who started the thread is an Antiguan wordsmith who was one of the first guys (guys as in a male of the species) to tell me that he liked Dancing and to ask me about writing a male voice (as in he thought I’d done a good job of it and wondered how I knew – like I’d cracked a secret code or something; from my end it was totally gratifying hearing that from a male of the species because I knew Michael wasn’t perfect, in fact he was struggling in some ways just as much or more than Selena to figure out his life). There is no trick really, I try to listen to the character, be true to the character and not project a false idea of who the character should be on to the character, but Glen’s question/comment was the first time I’d even considered that someone might find that an unusual feat for a woman writer. Glen sent me a poem he’d written about Dancing and years later when the idea of doing a 10th anniversary edition and including some extras came up, that poem was one of the first things I thought about. Thanks to Glen for giving me permission to use it and for shouting out the book once he’d received his “thank you” copy. Thanks to Barbara as well, another champion of Dancing (who when the first run ran its course, as a bookstore manager bought up the remainders ensuring that new readers would still be able to discover it right up until it found a new home at Insomniac). Not for the first time, she has recommended the book for the 6th form syllabus. If only I could figure out how to make that happen, eh?
Thanks, Barbara, Glen, and all the other likers and commenters for the love.
“It’s a really beautiful story, and definitely one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.”
“What stood out to me the most was that Joanne managed to “flesh out” such real characters and spin such a realistic story line into such a small book.”
“I would like to see it in the upper forms or even at the 6th form literature classroom level.”
“…a delightful read. The characters inhabited an Antigua that made me feel that I had gone back home to hear about Roland Prince playing his music, to get a spin on the life that Dominican-Antiguans have after settling in a land where some of their fathers had left to cut sugar cane in Santo Domingo. I gave my book to a Canadian friend to read. I would recommend it to anyone to read; for Antiguans, make sure you add this to your gift list for Christmas. I will.”
“I got so caught up in it, I didn’t want it to end.”
“Joanne, I’m mad at you for writing a really good book, and leaving me wanting more with no part two in sight.” (Antiguan Tameka Jarvis-George, author of Unexpected)
From the blogosphere:
“…upon reading the first page of Hillhouse’s second novel, I rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell to the back of my head like dice. I continued, though, because someone I respect had read the book and had good things to say about it. What I discovered was an honest tale about Selena and Michael, two imperfect people who try to love each other as best as they can, while battling all kinds of odds…
The novel shows that self-knowledge and self-love need to be alive and well in two people before they decide to build a life together. What happens in the moonlight may not survive the heat of the noonday sun. These are hard lessons for the characters but they’re worth learning because of the stakes involved. In this regard, the question in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight isn’t ‘Can love win?’ Instead, it’s more like ‘How can love win against great odds?’
Hillhouse’s answer satisfied me.” (Love in the Time of Cricket by Nadine Tomlinson, 2018)
“It is an honest depiction of attitudes toward cultural mixing and interracial dating….There is no way an Antiguan or an individual who lives on the island cannot relate to this story. The island is too small and the story too concise to be shortsighted. As a returning national, I found it answered many questions as to the cultural dynamics of present day Antigua… I thank Ms. Hillhouse for her intriguing adaptation of such an issue and for being sensitive enough not to choose sides, leaving it up to the reader to draw their own opinion.” (@ Life as Josephine, 2011)
“Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is a story of love between cultures. It goes in depth into the hardships and tensions of immigrant life in Antigua…The writer of this novel, Joanne C. Hillhouse, clearly wrote this novel for readers of romance. Not only that, but she seeks to evoke the themes of racism and love in this novel. Love is slowly nurtured between a single mother and an aimless ‘has been’ Antiguan cricketer who turns out to have an unexpected talent for sports commentary… When the Antiguan Michael meets Selena it is love at first sight for him, but Selena has been too deeply hurt by misplaced love in the past and Michael must take his time to ‘woo’ her with much understanding.” (Convent High School, Dominica, 2009)
“A nice, light, summer read for the romantics.” (Search Antigua’s Adult Fiction Summer Reading List, 2011)
On the Radio:
“I was blown away by the book, and like many people who reviewed the book, I wanted more…This is a real gem for Antigua and Barbuda and I would love to see this book on the CXC syllabus.” (2008 during Observer radio discussion)
“This book was at the top of our list a long time ago.” (2008 during Observer radio discussion)
“We have a wonderful book here, written by a wonderful Antiguan, and we want to make sure that every Antiguan understands that we have quality here.” (2008 during Observer radio discussion)
AND NOW, THE PROFESSIONALS
“A narrative that is rich in issues, values, intercultural conflict and gender relations as they present themselves in Antigua today… (the) love story is sensitive, sensuous, well nuanced…” (Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, 2008)
“…a snapshot of what social interaction is/was like in Antigua and Barbuda during a specific period of time. Through the pages of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight future generations will find not just a love story, but a love story that represents one aspect of the nation’s evolution into a multicultural society.” (2008 in the Antigua Sun)
“Dancing Nude in the Moonlight also explores themes of racial and ethnic intolerance, however, the spirit of this narrative is more in the nature of a true love story. Hillhouse cleverly crafts the tale through the eyes of Selena and Michael, alternating each chapter between these two characters…This style provides the reader with both a male and female perspective highlighting how the genders can perceive the same situation so differently…Michael is presented as a determined but sensitive man struggling with the vulnerabilities life has dealt him. This is a rare opportunity for the reader to be exposed to raw Caribbean emotions and feelings…Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is lyrical, sensual and gentle…(it) provide(s) a valuable glimpse of the Caribbean female.” (The Caribbean Writer, 2005)
“…a delicious, sensual story…beautifully crafted and simply told…this is a true 21st Century Caribbean love story, packed with issues such as class; prejudice; stereotypes; sex; single parenthood and starting over. All are explored without straying from the heart of the story – falling and staying in love…Joanne is a wonderful vivid writer, whether it is emotions or physical settings, she really takes you there…This book will talk to many of us, especially those who feel outside of the mainstream. It is a hopeful book with prose that is simple and poetic…it is a very good read…Joanne C. Hillhouse’s writing career is well and truly establishing her as the new benchmark in Antiguan literature. She is proof positive that we have so many stories to tell and she tells them really well.” (The Outlet, 2004)
“Dancing Nude in the Moonlight creates so much depth for its characters that all subplots work together, producing a fantastic fusion of lives that are indeed real. At no time do we get the feeling that ‘this can’t possibly happen’. We can relate to the situations as either clips of our lives, or the lives of people we’ve known or have seen. Turning the last page is almost like saying a final farewell to friends who you won’t see again, but will miss terribly. The emotions of the characters, their ups, their downs, their responses to their situations are so real, you read on because yo u’re genuinely concerned, you want to know what will happen…For me, personally, it falls into the league of Zee Edgell, Merle Hodge, V. S. Reid, Samuel Selvon and the like, whose novels have found a place on the West Indian category of the English B (Literature) CXC syllabus.” (Antigua Sun, 2008)
“In Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Joanne Hillhouse weaves a love story into a narrative of the challenges facing a young family of emigrants from the Dominican Republic to Antigua, exploring themes like the difficulty of trust and the individual’s longing to be at home in the world.” (Caribbean Beat Issue 70, 2004)
“A true page-turner that never misses the beat, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight is definitely an excellent choice for book club discussion and a great selection for a modern literary readers’ collection.” (Sun Weekend, 2004)
“It was refreshing…the characters were genuine and easy to identify with.” (Daily Observer, 2004)
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