Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Storm Warning, an excerpt

Jean Therrasan dug his knife into the muscles on the back of the cow’s neck and jerked the blade across, putting enough weight behind the blade to sever the animal's spinal cord.  The cow dropped to its knees and slowly fell over on its side.  Its eyes rolled.  It kicked weakly.  Jean untied it from the tree and dragged the head around.  He stabbed the knife into the animal’s throat, sawing the knife toward him.  Hot blood gushed out over his hand and onto the ground.
This was the last of Madam Amabelle’s cows and it was an old one, its ribs showing.  She had offered him a portion of the meat in exchange for his butchering it but now he was thinking he would just let her keep it.  He wondered what she would do after the meat was sold.  Two of her children dead in the earthquake and one, the eldest, never heard from again after he slipped away one night.  Gossips said he was in the Bahamas, in Dominica, dead. 
“Jean, you not listening to me,” his brother, Guy, accused, dragging him out of his thoughts.  “Claude, Yonel, Jaques, Marie, they will all be there.  They have agreed.” 
Jean straddled the dying cow.  Its hind legs vainly kicked the air.  Jean pushed the cow’s chin up with one hand and made another slash with the other, slicing through ligaments and skin to open a cut that went almost from ear to ear.  The cow glugged, trying to suck air but drowning in its own blood.  Jean pulled apart the folds of skin.  The blood pooled on the stony ground.  His dog crept forward and lapped at it.  Jean pulled the head away, cut out small chunks of flesh and threw them at the skinny dog.
“You talk and talk about wanting to leave but now I show you how you can do it, you have nothing to say.”
Jean sighed.  He wiped his bloody hand on the cow’s flanks and turned to face his brother.  Blood dripped from the knife.
“What time?”
“Henri said the plane comes in at two.  The officers should be back at the station in half an hour.”
Jean thought about it.  “How many will there be?”
His brother hissed impatiently.  “How I would know that, Jean?  I don’t know how big the plane is.  It will be enough for all of us to get some, you, me, Henri, all of us will get some.  It’s the best chance we’ve had all year.”
Jean waited him out.  “I meant, how many officers will there be?”
“Oh.” Guy flicked his hand dismissively.  “Three.  Yes, three.  I think three.”
Jean’s gaze sharpened. 
Guy hunched his shoulders defensively.  “Henri wasn’t sure but he didn’t think it would be more than five.  Around three, that’s what he said.  It’s possible there might be five.  It depends on who’s on duty.”
Jean turned his attention back to the cow which still kicked weakly.  It was taking long to die.  He stepped on top of it and bounced up and down, one foot on the ribs, the other on the softer tissue of its stomach.  More blood spurted from the animal’s neck. 
Bon, I will come,” he said.
His brother beamed, pleased.
That was the start, Jean thought, watching the captain help the woman and child into the boat.  That night brought him here.  One thing leads to the next in a person’s life just like how one bead on a chain follows on from another.  The boat rocked on the waves as the woman lurched.  The boy fell forward and began to cry.  Jean leaned back slightly and dipped his hands in the water.  It was surprisingly warm.
Doudoux, doudoux, do not cry.”  The woman sank down onto one of the hard wooden seats and pulled the boy to her.

Available 25th April, 2013

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Snapshot Saturday - Books to you!

I grew up in Road Town, the capital of the BVI and was lucky because the Public Library was just a 15-minute walk away from my house but, before the 1970s, children in most of the hills and valleys away from town depended on the mobile library service.  This is the latest incarnation of the Bookmobile which is still used to get books to kids in some areas of Tortola where no branches of the library have been established.

BVI Bookmobile

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.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Heading South

Movies set in the Caribbean are rather far and few between (leaving aside Pirates of the Caribbean) but one that's garnered good reviews should really be better known - Heading South by the French director, Laurent Cantet, stars Charlotte Rampling and explores the topic of female sexual tourism.  In the late 1970's three white women travel to an idyllic beach hotel in Haiti and find love or, at least, lust with the young Haitian men they meet there.  They find one young man, the interestingly-named, lithe and handsome, Legba (Menothy Caesar), particularly attractive.  In the Haitian vodun pantheon, Legba is the guardian of the crossroads and the intermediary between the loa and humanity and is often depicted as an old man leaning on a crutch.  By naming his young character after Papa Legba, Dany LaFerierre, the author of the short stories on which the film is based may have wanted to signal his character's position as bridging the gap between the artificial, paradisiacal world carefully contrived for visitors by the hotel where they're staying and Haiti's grimmer realities.  In West Africa, however, Legba is usually portrayed as young and virile so LaFerierre may have wanted to reference both his youth and virility as well as his role as an intermediary.


At first,  the 55 year-old Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is willing to share Legba with the recently-arrived Brenda (Karen Young) who had sex with the then 15 year-old Legba three years ago and experienced the first orgasm of her life.  She's been unable to get him out of her mind since and has returned, impelled by motives she, herself, is not clear about.  But Legba can escape the realities of life under the Duvalier family only for so long. 

This is a clever and nuanced movie definitely worth watching.  (As an aside, I tried to find out what has become of Cesar since the movie but my Google search yielded few clues except that he now lives in Europe and appears to have had a bit part in Pierre Scholler's 2011 political drama, The Minister.)

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Flamboyant in bloom - Snapshot Saturday

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.

Flamboyants (Delonix regia) are also known as Flame Trees and it's easy to see how they got both of those names.  They are also known as Royal Poinciana, named after a former governor of St. Kitts.

Playing around with some blurring effect to make it a bit painterly.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

$25 Giveaway + Q &A with Janis F. Kearney, author of Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Presidential diarist and author Janis F. Kearney transforms civil rights legend Daisy Gatson Bates’ life from black and white, to living color.  The author, who interviewed Bates many times; recreates her conversations and interviews to “fill in” places left un-filled, and colors incidents and experiences, to bring Daisy Bates to life. Kearney plumbs the mysterious murder of Bates’ mother, and the orphan’s childhood; the young woman’s prophetic decision to share a traveling salesman’s life; her non-traditional role as co-publisher of an award winning newspaper; and her leadership role at a time, and place where women rarely led.

Q & A 

1. What did you find the most startling thing about Daisy or about her life?
JFK:  I found the transformation from a happy, confident child to one who hated with such intensity, shocking but understandable.  The discoveries of her mother's death at the hand of others, and the fact that her father "ran away" to save his life, leaving her with friends, must have changed everything she had believed about herself, thanks to a doting foster father.

2.  What are some lessons girls can learn from Daisy's life?
JFK: Girls must be taught and shown by example how important self-esteem is in their happiness and their success. While equality of the sexes has been legally accepted for decades, it is still a cultural problem. Girls are still not viewed - and do not view themselves - as completely equal in so many cases. Daisy taught by example that no matter what you have or don't have, you can play an important role in life's events. Your courage and your actions equalizes things for the sexes.

3.  What were the factors that made Daisy who she was?
JFK:  Daisy's courage, her inquisitive nature, and her inability to accept the status quo simply because, `that's just the way things are.'  She was an unusual woman in that she not only questioned the status quo, but dared to go about changing things for the better of all.

4.  What was a turning point in Daisy's life?
JFK: I contend there are more than one turning point in all of our lives. We come to `forks in the road' many times over our lives, and the decision at that time makes all the difference in how we will live out the rest of our lives.  1. Two events in her life together sealed the transformation from a happy, carefree child to a child burdened with bitterness and hate: The confrontation with the butcher, and the discovery of her mother's murder. 2. The death of Daisy's foster father was another turning point, as he inplored her to rid herself of her bitterness.  3. Another turning point was meeting L.C. Bates. I still wonder if either of them would have been able to live up to the amazing accomplishments had they not been partners in life.

5.  Who are the new black leaders and what are the new "black" issues?
JFK:  Great question, but one I cannot answer. The civil rights era was such a tumultuos time for African Americans, and I truly believe that LEADERS were needed to realize the success during that time. I am not sure that is critical at this juncture in our society. There are still civil rights struggles, but we are past the point of relying solely on one man or woman to lead our "hearts." It is a more personal struggle. The need for that titular head of civil rights is not something that is as critical. What is needed now, is for all human beings to practice and live up to the edicts of human and civil rights. 

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Monday, 14 January 2013

Anna Heegard - mistress and abolitionist

At the age of 19, Anna Heegaard, daughter of a Danish planter and a free mulatto woman, began a series of relationships with white men that were to end with her famous liaison with Governor General Peter von Scholten, the man who emancipated the slaves of the Danish West Indies (now the USVI)....

"In 1827, when Peter von Scholten came to St. Croix as Governor-General, he was entertained in great style. Gala events were held in his honor: sumptuous dinners, garden parties, balls. Planters attempted to outdo each other in trying to impress him and to gain his favor. Since Capt. Knudsen and his mistress, Anna Heegaard, attended many of these events for von Scholten, it was natural that their paths should cross. In fact, Anna made it her business to keep close to the Governor-General. In devious ways, she tried to attract his attention, to make him aware of her. She had long known of von Scholten's friendly and sympathetic attitude, of his many efforts to elevate the coloured people of the islands.
Once she had gotten close to him, Anna Heegaard let no opportunity go by to describe to von Scholten the plight of the "free-coloured," the urgent need for reforms and the kind of reforms that were needed. She spoke to him of the humiliation the elite of her group felt in having to carry the so-called "freedom-letter," a document that every "free-coloured" person had to carry to show that he or she was not a slave.
To quote, Lawaetz: "These documents were offensive as they were all similar, without considering birth, culture or upbringing, their form giving the impression that the person only recently was freed, while his or her freedom might have originated from a great grand mother. Some of the "Free-coloured" were respected in the society, while some of the very recently freed, even dishonored the society. It was necessary to make distinct separations."

Indignation showed in Anna Heegaard's voice when she spoke to von Scholten about the widespread and officially sanctioned discriminatory employment; how talented and able people in her group were denied the right to work in any but the most menial jobs. She, and people like her, were deeply resentful of an official statement to the effect that if the "free-coloured" wanted jobs, there were plenty of such jobs in the cane fields with pay. Never, never, said Anna Heegaard, would any "Free-coloured" person that she knew go back to the cane fields and join the toiling slaves for any kind of remuneration.
Von Scholten was impressed with the sincerity, dedication and intelligence of the young woman. Much of what she said to him touched deeply on problems in an area in which he had been trying to find workable solutions. Not only did this young woman know the problems intimately, but she had answers, and what she had to say made considerable sense.

It got to the point where von Scholten found himself seeking out Anna Heegaard to get her honest and intelligent opinions on just how he should cope with the many problems that daily arose between planters and their slaves; "free-coloured" and a society that did everything but out rightly reject them.

This was the beginning of a relationship between Anna Heegaard and Peter von Scholten that was to deepen..."  From Isidore Paiwonski via The St. Croix Landmarks Society

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Snapshot Saturday - a BVI Dollmaker

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.

Joyce Titley, dollmaker       

Each of Mrs. Titley's dolls has a name and a distinct personality.

She often uses found objects like the shells to make her pretty, whimsical dolls.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Orange You Glad It's Friday!

Today I'm joining the meme based on the colour orange! That's right. You can take photos of anything orange and join!  Below are the doors to one of the shops on Main Street, Road Town, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.  Visit the Hood Photo Blog to see more great pix!

Hucksters at the Old Customs House, Tortola, BVI

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

An Introduction to Caribbean Writers cont'd...


The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart was my introduction to this author and I was amazed I hadn't read her before.
The Bridge of Beyond (Caribbean Writers Series)FROM AMAZON - "This aptly titled novel takes the reader to many "beyonds." Through the life of Telumee Lougandor we meet a proud line of women who live in small villages in Guadeloupe: women whose lives are beyond Africa, beyond the slavery that in theory has been abolished, and beyond the physical restrictions of their difficult existence which is eased only by their faith in the spirit world. In the day-to-day lives of Telumee and her grandmother Toussine - washing clothes at the river, tending to a garden, working as a house-servant, and interacting with others in the villages - Simone Schwartz-Bart shows lives linked by common suffering. Ma Cia, a witch "closer to the dead than the living," soundly advises young Telumee: "Be a fine little Negress, a real drum with two sides. Let life bang and thump, but keep the underside always intact." While doing their "women's work" - work they must do to survive - the Lougandor women not only endure, they grow. They love, lose at love, and allow themselves to love again. They know the meaning of oppression - sometimes by other villagers or the men in their lives and always by the whites. The Bridge Of Beyond is a view of unending hardships made bearable by the love and wisdom of elders - especially grandmother Toussine - and the healing power of the spirit world. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title."


Oh Gad is the newest novel from Antiguan, Joanne Hillhouse, one of the Caribbean's younger writers and it's receiving great reviews.

FROM AMAZON"A stirring novel about a woman facing cross-cultural odds and redefining everything she understands about her family, herself, and the country she’s never really been able to call home.  Nikki Baltimore was born in Antigua but grew up with her dad in the United States. With each year, she’s grown further apart from her mother and maternal siblings, potters in rural Antigua.
Her mother’s funeral brings Nikki back to the island, and, at a professional and personal crossroads, she makes the impulsive decision to stay after being offered a job by the ruling government. Soon, Nikki is embroiled in a hurricane of an existence which includes a political hot potato, confusion in her romantic life, and deepening involvement in the lives of the family she left behind. Will Nikki eventually find her place in the chaos and begin to plant the roots that have escaped her all her life?"


Waiting in Vain: A NovelWith the publication of Waiting in Vain in 2003, Jamaican-born, Colin Channer, joined the ranks of black men writing romance or, if you prefer, romantic women's fiction.

 FROM AMAZON - "Representing a figure all too rare in contemporary romance, African American A.J. "Fire" Heath, a sensitive, sophisticated man with a good career, is a major asset to this appealing first novel by short-story writer Channer. Fire's combination of good looks, kindness and brains, and his desire to find the right woman "in the fullness of time," will make him nearly irresistible to readers of commercial fiction. A painter and novelist who has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Fire shuttles between his native Jamaica, London and New York. In a chance encounter on a Brooklyn street, Fire meets Sylvia, another transplanted Jamaican, who is disappointed with her magazine-editing job and her art-dealer lover. Fire and Sylvia pursue and retreat from each other in convincingly soul-searching scenarios while Channer vividly describes urban New York, industrial Brixton and rural Jamaica. Channer has a fine ear for Jamaican patois (and for when it bubbles up in otherwise American-accented conversations). Also to his credit, Channer largely resists the trendy name-dropping and product placements so common in this genre. Subplots of intrigue in the African American art world add substance without detracting from the pace. As readers in the know will recognize, this tale of continent-hopping romance takes its title from a Bob Marley song. Author tour.  Publisher's Weekly.  Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. 

Sunday, 6 January 2013