Musical Youth is beautifully written. It is a pride to Caribbean young adult fiction. Though it addresses a current and very real social issue, the writer skillfully educates you while she takes you back to the innocence of school days in the Caribbean. You can’t help but remember your first crush, how every little thing they…
It’s been a quiet Sunday here in Antigua (quiet and hot!), the quiet before the storm that is Carnival – the Carnival bacchanal is already brewing (but that’s a story for another time). Though, if you’re up for it, you can read my fictional Carnival Hangover story (mind the triggers though). This is my Sunday Post (hosted by the Caffeinated Reviewer), also my Sunday Salon and I’ll probably link to some other bookish memes before I’m done (Stacking the Shelves, Mailbox Monday , and It’s Monday, what are you reading – for example).
I have a few books on my mind this week including Musical Youth (which I’m pushing as a great summer read for the teen in your life). Here’s an extract posted recently to the publisher website.
As to other people’s books… I finished reading Shakirah Bourne’s In Time of Need *throws confetti* and I posted my review. It’s a short story collection and I talk about each individual story. Here’s an excerpt (of my review, not the book):
‘I really loved ‘Crossing Over’ – I’ve read it before, in St. Somewhere, and was happy to see it here. It’s easily one of my favourites in this collection. The opening “When I was younger, I used to love going to funerals because I could sneak away from my crying mother and run outside in the graveyard with my friends, where the real fun began”, had a cracky, darkly humorous distinctly Caribbean, uncensored childlike askew view of the world that tickled me and yet the story navigates the tonal shift to darker themes with ease.’
Shakirah is a Barbadian writer, playwright, and filmmaker, a young Caribbean creative with seeming boundless energy given the sheer number of projects she’s rolled out in the past few years…but then she’s not as active in the blogging community as she used to be (the answer to her productivity may lie in that *hint hint* to self*). Read the entire review here (well, until it moves to ‘older reads’ in which case the link can still be found here ).
So I’m actively reading See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid and Glorious by Bernice McFadden, and less actively (through no fault of the book’s, just time) Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and then there are some dormant ones on my current reads list (which I’ll get back to as soon as I can) – including (freshly plucked from my book shelf) Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya. Yes, I am the kind of reader that has several books going at once. What can I say, I like to mix it up –this is true of how I work and how I play.
Anyway, hope you’re enjoying life wherever you are and you’ve got a good book in your bag for those long bus rides.
Caribbean Reads has posted an extract of my teen/young adult novel Musical Youth. So, if my First Page and the Reviews I’ve posted, nor the fact that it was first runner-up for the Burt Award (a prize offered for books and manuscripts focused on the Caribbean teen/YA market), a win that netted my then rough manuscript a publishing deal, haven’t been enough to prompt you to check it out, maybe this will do it. <—Click the Link
That’s it! Check the link, read the extract, hopefully be inspired to buy a copy for a teen in your life…and here are some pictures:
About the Book: Music, Discovery, Love. Can one summer make the difference of a lifetime? Zahara is a loner. She’s brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn’t really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka’s life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew. When they all get roles in a summer musical, Zahara, Shaka, and the rest of the Lion Crew use the opportunity to work on a secret project. But the Crew gets much more than they bargained for when they uncover a dark secret linking Shaka and Zahara’s families and they’re forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about class, colour, and relationships on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Musical Youth placed second in the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.
A Teen’s Review: “I was very impressed with this book mostly because I am a teenager myself and I found it very relatable. Firstly, I will state that I was impressed with the evolution of the relationship from friends to lovers between Shaka and Zahara. I especially liked how it grew off of their deep passions for music. Also, I loved your usage of the ” Antiguan Dialect” in the novel and the use of modern technology. The usage of these two things allowed myself as a teenage to better relate to the book. Finally I would just like to say that this book kept me on my toes especially considering a finished it within a day!”
Musical Youth at an event in somewhere, USA…
And no better time to grab it for your bookshelf. It’s currently on sale (for a limited time) at Amazon.
Sample Amazon Customer Reviews:
“I was swept up into the twist at the end and was thoroughly engaged from the first page to the last.”
“I fell in love with the characters.”
“I liked the story of the young people’s interaction, the flow of the story and the fact that it was not about sex, but the growth of the friendship into love.”
“Quite a page turner, finished it in no time.”
“The characters, both young and old are very true to life – from the main characters, teens, Zahara and Shaka and his Crew, to the grandparents and other adults in their lives.”
“I was very impressed with this book mostly because I am a teenager myself and I found it very relatable.”
“Many times in Caribbean books you reminisce about how your childhood compared and Pappy was it for me: holding everyone and everything together with simple finesse that you didn’t even notice it.”
“Musical Youth is beautifully written.”
Bookends, the Jamaica Observer literary supplement has always been kind to me. You can see previous coverage of my writing and books on my media page. Give thanks. I am delighted to be featured, this time around for Child Month, with an excerpt from Musical Youth, published alongside the newest winning book to emerge from the Burt Award contest to unearth new teen/young adult literature (this book, incidentally, won the Burt prize the year I served as a judge; my own book Musical Youth was runner-up for the prize the previous year).
“In the land of the Spider gods, a
girl counted the stars and waited.
The hillside where she crouched
was exposed to the eyes of the
enemy, with just a few mossy and
pungent boulders for cover, but
their heads bent in prayer around
the fountain below, the men never
looked up from under their hoods.
They lit flambeaus and put them
out again in an order only they
understood. Seven of the Brothers
wore black robes. The eighth
wore red and carried a spear.
In the land of her mother’s
grave and her father’s memory, a
Hmmm, a girl is giving me Aria Stark vibes. In all seriousness though, that isn’t that far off; Children of the Spider is a fantasy with a young girl’s heroic and complicated journey and loss at its centre; she makes alliances along the way and encounters the most unlikely mythical creatures, danger at her heels the entire time. The only difference between this and other books in the genre, typically, is that this one is set in Guyana, drawing on the location to add something fresh to this popular sub-category. If the teen/young adult in your life likes adventure and fantasy, they’ll like this, I believe.
‘At the last lick of her pick, she opened her watery eyes
to find his face inches from hers. She hadn’t heard or
felt him come closer. Thinking he might kiss her then,
she held her breath; but he merely smiled.
“How you feel?”
She searched her heart.
“Happy,” she said.
Her fingers were still tingling, and the electricity of it
travelled up the rest of her body until she felt like she
had to move, or scratch, or dance or something. She
leaned forward and kissed him. And just like that the
spell was broken.’
Shaka and Zahara are wrapped up in the world of music and each other, their friendships and the summer musical production that will change both their lives. I wanted to create something that spoke to that time in your life when you’re just beginning to figure things out about your self and your friendships are the all-consuming relationships of your life. We’ve all lived that time and I drew on my own memories (and my teenage niece’s frank feedback) in connecting with these millennial 2.0 kids. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really enjoyed hanging out with these kids and I know I (and, fingers crossed, your teen) haven’t seen the last of them.
Here’s the link to the Jamaica Observer Bookends May 2016 spotlighting both Children of the Spider and Musical Youth. Thanks to Ms. Sharon Leach for inviting me to submit. Hope you enjoy but not only that. Hope you support the authors, share the link, buy the books, encourage others to buy the book, suggest your libraries and schools add them to their stacks or reading lists, do what you can to make the teen/young adult readers these books are targeting reach their target. Support the literary arts.
There’s always one who’s bored. One who’s chatty. One who’ll volunteer to sing the Lion Sleeps Tonight with you (possibly because she feels sorry for you at your sad attempts at singing it solo). But there’s always that one who looks so engaged you’re not surprised when you’re going around the circle to ask them what they like to do and she says reading.
It’s the Antigua Public Library Easter Camp and you’re reading from your own Musical Youth (that moment when Shaka, teased about the darkness of his skin turns to Pappy for reassurance) – incidentally where the singing of The Lion Sleeps Tonight came in; from Country Club Kids, a story found in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary edition and Other Writings (Rosada reflecting on how she and her grandmother Chacha bonded over her involvement in tennis, seen as a game for socie kids, but which they both take pride in her being able to do really well); and finally from Jamaican writer Diana McCaulay’s Gone to Drift, because that’s what you’re reading right now (the young protagonist bonding with his grandfather over their mutual love of fishing and the sea even as he worries about the fate of the man who has gone missing).
You discuss with them the main characters, what each excerpt has in common, the connections between each child and his/her grandparent, the thing the child loves to do that’s a special point of connection between the child and grandparent.
You hope, though all of this could be projection, that you’ve entertained and inspired them even a little.
You’ve promised to return, challenged them to read, and are curious to see if any do – little ones can be fickle that way but you hope. You hope they will, as you’ve suggested write a moment mirroring the ones in the stories, involving them and a grandfather/grandmother, aunt/uncle, mommy/daddy, or someone else who inspired and supported in them a love for that thing they love to do, and how it created a connection between them: maybe the girl whose mother, a dancer like her, introduced her to liturgical dance, the girl whose PE teacher introduced her to rounders, one of the best childhood games ever (!), the girl who likes football, the boy who likes football, the boy who likes video games (“all of them”), the girl who likes to read Nancy Drew novels, I bet she has a story in her.
Like I told them, can’t wait to hear.
The videographer from the Education Broadcasting Unit broke down his equipment right as my session was getting ready to start but I did ask the library to take some pictures. Fingers crossed. I will post them as soon as I have them.
I’m in New Orleans at the moment so hopefully I won’t be online hardly at all (#tearsupthebucketlist)… but just wanted to dip in to share with you some visual highlights from the Brooklyn Book Festival where I was invited to be a panelist
alongside Matthew McGevna, author of Little Beasts, Tanwi Nadini Islam, author of Bright Lines, and panel chair Ian Maloney who after individual readings led us through questions about how we write, what inspired these particular works, and the unique challenges of bringing them to fruition in a panel dubbed Confronting Tomorrow. And because you always, always have to be grateful, I have to thank the organizers of the Brooklyn Book Festival for inviting me, Musical Youth publisher CaribbeanReads for making it happen (seriously, Carol Mitchell, you go the extra mile), Beverly George and the Friends of Antigua Public Library (especially Peter) for once again making my time in the Big Apple stress free, my co-panelists for a wonderful shared experience, Caribbean Cultural Theatre for all they do to promote the artistes from the region, everyone who came out, family, friends etc etc (thanks…and apologies because mistakes have and will be made, and I don’t ever intend to be presumptuous with or neglectful of anyone though I don’t doubt that I have much as I don’t mean to) and not just thanks but big big props to talented Antiguan and Barbudan designer Miranda Askie of Miranda Askie Designs for outfitting me (in jewelry and clothing) for the event (#crosspromotiontotheworld) – for more of Miranda’s fashion, check out this write-up by sistren Antiguan-Barbudan blogger/author/designer Tameka. Here are some of the moments captured by FOAPL (Bev and Peter).