Saturday, 29 September 2012

Boats of Frenchtown - Snapshot Saturday

In an effort to attract agricultural labour after the demise of slavery, officials in the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands)  sent out a call for immigrants, promising good wages.  In response, in the 1870s, a large group of people left St. Bartholomew (St. Barts) and traveled north to St. Thomas where they settled along the coast, just outside of Charlotte Amalie, the capital.  Many were fishermen and the area became, and has remained, a fishing village known as Frenchtown.  I took this pix of the fishing boats a couple months ago.

Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dreams of a Life - a review of sorts

A year or so ago, someone posted on Facebook about a documentary that was then in production about a woman of Grenadian descent who died in her apartment and, for three years, nobody noticed.  Nobody raised a hue and cry.  Nobody reported her missing.

 Joyce Vincent died in front of her television which was still on when the council finally got around to sending people to re-possess her flat since the rent had gone unpaid for so long.  Imagine that!  Three years and she had lain there, in front of the television, and surrounded by the Christmas presents she'd been wrapping.  It was an amazing story.  I wanted to know how it happened and kept an eye out for the documentary.  Now having seen Dreams of a Life, I have to say it raises more questions than it answered.  Her family refused to participate which, itself, raises big questions but also means that we remain as puzzled at her death now as before.

Joyce Vincent's parents moved to England before she was born and she had three older sisters, if I recall the film correctly.  Her mother died while she was young and she was mostly raised by her sisters.  She grew up into a beautiful young woman with an active social life and an interest in becoming a singer.  Strangely, her friends and boyfriends, all said in the film that she never introduced them to her family.  In fact, they seem to recall that she told them her father was dead but he didn't die until a year after her own death.  Was there some kind of estrangement?  Did it play any role in her death?  There's no way to tell without hearing from the family themselves.

When Joyce was in her thirties, she entered a domestic violence shelter but a couple years later she was living in a small apartment.  The friends she'd had in her twenties were surprised to know this, surprised that she'd become the kind of person who could die, unnoticed.  They all said she didn't drink to excess, didn't take drugs.  What happened?  Because of the condition of her body, her cause of death was undetermined.

This was disturbing.  If it could happen to someone like her, popular and apparently well-liked, could it happen to me?  To anyone I know?  If Joyce had been my friend would I have simply assumed she didn't want to talk and stop calling or would I have come by and ensured that, at least, three years didn't pass?  Who were those people who were supposed to get those presents and did they come looking for her?  Did Joyce, herself, push people away?  If so, why?  Like I said, more questions than answers but kudos to the filmmakers for making us remember and think about our own social connections and the lives we lead.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Caribbean Poetry and Fiction - An Introduction

I've realized that outside of certain circles, Caribbean fiction isn't very well-known so today I'm launching what will be an occasional series featuring books by Caribbean authors.  The Caribbean has a vibrant literary tradition that started back in the 1800s and continues today.  Some of the books I'll be listing are classics while others are destined to become classics.  If you haven't already, I hope you'll use the books in this series to launch your own exploration of Caribbean literature.

The Farming of Bones

From Amazon - 

The Farming of Bones begins in 1937 in a village on the Dominican side of the river that separates the country from Haiti. Amabelle Desir, Haitian-born and a faithful maidservant to the Dominican family that took her in when she was orphaned, and her lover Sebastien, an itinerant sugarcane cutter, decide they will marry and return to Haiti at the end of the cane season. However, hostilities toward Haitian laborers find a vitriolic spokesman in the ultra-nationalist Generalissimo Trujillo who calls for an ethnic cleansing of his Spanish-speaking country. As rumors of Haitian persecution become fact, as anxiety turns to terror, Amabelle and Sebastien's dreams are leveled to the most basic human desire: to endure. Based on a little-known historical event, this extraordinarily moving novel memorializes the forgotten victims of nationalist madness and the deeply felt passion and grief of its survivors.

(This and The Dew Breaker are my favourite books by this brilliant Haitian author.  These books are a must-read for anyone wanting to understand Haiti and its people.)

In the Castle of My Skin (Ann Arbor Paperbacks)

From Amazon -

George Lamming's, In the Castle of My Skin, skilfully depicts the Barbadian psyche. Set against the backdrop of the 1930s riots which helped to pave the way for Independence and the modern Barbados, through the eyes of a young boy, Lamming portrays the social, racial, political and urban struggles with which Barbados continues to grapple even with some thirty-three years of Political Independence from Britain. Required reading for all Caribbean people. The novel also offers non-Barbadians and non-Caribbean people insight into the modern social history of Barbados and the Caribbean. 'A writer of the people one is back again in the pages of Huckleberry Finn_ the fundamental book of civilisation Mr Lamming captures the myth-making and myth-dissolving mind of childhood' NEW STATESMAN 'Its poetic imaginative writing has never been surpassed' TRIBUNE 'A striking piece of work, a rich and memorable feat of imaginative interpretation' THE SPECTATOR 'He produces anecdote after anecdote, rich and riotous.' THE TIMES 'There is not a stock figure in the story fluent, poetical, sophisticated.' THE SUNDAY TIMES

(This was required reading in high school and I've never forgotten it or its protagonist.)

By Love Possessed: Stories

From Amazon -

By Love Possessed - With this highly praised collection of short fiction, Lorna Goodison demonstrates why she may be one of literature's best-kept secrets. In the Pushcart Prize-winning title story, humble Dottie thinks her luck has turned when she meets Frenchie, the best-looking, if not most reliable, man in the whole of Jamaica. In "The Helpweight," an accomplished woman must bear the burden of an old flame's renewed affections when he returns from a life abroad with his Irish bride in tow. And in "Henry," a young boy turned out of his house to make way for his mother's lover sells roses on the street to survive. On a whim, he bites off a bloom, which he can feel burning inside his mouth like a red pepper light, hoping it will take root and beautify his own life. Poetically rendered, these and over a dozen other evocative stories create a world in which pride can nourish a soul or be its ruin and where people are in turn uplifted and undone by love.

(I haven't read this yet and am looking forward to cracking open the pages!  I love her poetry so I'm sure I'll love her fiction.)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Here, There, and Everywhere - Snapshot Saturday

I've been to St. Thomas numerous times from the time I was a child but it was only during a recent trip that I realized how common iguanas were over there!  In fact, I'd never seen an iguana on St. Thomas until a few months ago and then I saw them everywhere I looked!  On the highway, near the coast, scampering across the road.  Iguanas for days as we say here (meaning lots).

This kind, the Green Iguana, (as opposed to the Anegada Iguana found nowhere else but on that island) was a recent introduction and not a completely welcome one.  They can grow up to six feet and are voracious herbivores.  Puerto Rico plans to round up as many as possible for export to countries such as Guatemala and Nicaragua where they are considered a delicacy or, at least, to have medicinal properties.  Maybe St. Thomas will start doing the same!

These two were on the highway median. 

We saw this one and the one below near Coki Point.

My daughter likes them and got quite close but I have a strong interest in maintaining the integrity of my skin so I'd rather watch them from a distance!  As this article points out, they can get aggressive.