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Where are the Caribbean Suspense Thrillers, Mysteries and the Literary Crime Fighters? December 6, 2010

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I am to give a gift of books to an American friend who is lying sick in bed. She is a voracious reader and needing to stay put and mend bones, now has the time to relish the suspense thrillers, mysteries and crime dramas she so loves. That should be easy I mused. I will start with the Caribbean and make my way around the world. I will throw in Africa and Europe. The US can take care of itself. Come on. It has the lion share of the market. Yes, the collection for this dear sick person will be come from around the world. I did due diligence on the Internet as I didn’t have time to live with the books in the store. To my chagrin, my Caribbean search pulled up Agatha Christie, Billy Ocean and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.   

There is not much out there by way of Caribbean mysteries and thrillers. And the Caribbean has certainly not embraced writing the crime novel – not the Godfather variety. Well, we are brown-sugar-sweet people soaking up drugging doses of vitamin D elixir daily, drinking coconut rum cocktails while we submit to the caresses of the soft feathery trade winds. What do we know about plotting mayhem?  In all seriousness I recall only one book. Trinidadian writer Lisa Allen Agostini edited and contributed to a collection titled Trinidad Noir published by Akashic Books.  But how am I to get it at the last minute? And if I can’t get that book what could I buy in its stead. No, the Kindle version isn’t going to do it. This reader needs to hear the living organic schwuucck as she turns every page. This is part of the medicine, the recovery process. So back to my question. Is it too hot in the Caribbean for mystery writers to survive? Would it be considered too much a celebration of the shadows of life? We can do shorter, infinitely as thrilling car chases on our mountains and switchbacks. The terrain can’t be the problem. Is this a malady and if it is, what’s the cause – the ravages of colonialism, or is it simple population ratio dynamics? The Caribbean has always broken rules about ratios. For example, the Jamaican Diaspora and homeland population combined at approximately 5 million has produced a surprising number of Olympians with medals. It has to be something else. On top of that, a certain Caribbean generation has the mystery and crime solving stories planted deep in the subconscious. That generation grew up on Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie stories, and now breeze through Robert Ludlum and J.D. Robb between readings of Paule Marshall, Orlando Patterson and Lorna Goodison. Why has it not spawned its own contribution to the writings?

We do take ourselves seriously when it comes to literature. I’ve noticed that Caribbean writers, if in the mood for frivolity and lightness, take to the playwriting form. That’s as far as it goes. How many romantic love songs are in the Bob Marley canon? Very few. Indeed, writing is serious sociopolitical business. To some people the crime drama isn’t literature. While writers shouldn’t write at the behest of readers’ whims, it would be nice to give a nod to the group of readers who love suspense, who would rather read a book for adrenaline than go jogging. And look what good it does for the mind. A good nail biter will break the stupor of too much TV, allow the brain to create its own pictures and kill the weird habit of speaking in incomplete sentences. I celebrate the pedigree of the Caribbean literary canon – the blue blood material that is a must read for young college students. But whatever we think of the upstarts, thousands of travelers per year tuck the American crime novel under their armpits like the iconic American football as they plough through busy airports and train stations, privately salivating about the gore, chills and heady crime solving their alter egos will soon enjoy. Imagine how much shorter and less annoying our journey would be if we had a choice of paperbacks by Caribbean Diaspora writers. I’m on the hunt now for these suspense thrillers and mysteries. It’s unfortunate that I have to plan ahead when I get a thrill out of doing some things at the last minute but there it is. Next, I promise to get help regarding my own nightmarish flight from the Kindle and iPad. Nothing should stand in the way of the mission. Meanwhile, I hope the next Stieg Larsson rises out of the depth of our crystal blue waters soon. Go for it. What have I bought for my dear sick friend? I have picked up Road Dogs by the famous Elmore Leonard and Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup, Indian diplomat by day and writer by night. I hope Six Suspects is as compelling as his first book Slumdog Millionaire. I plan to go to my local Borders and order Trinidad Noir.

http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/    

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/crime-fiction-around-the-world-in-80-sleuths-873660.html   

http://lisaallen-agostini.com/?cat=7

Thanksgiving Day in the US with Caribbean Seasonings November 25, 2010

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As I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00037044.html, I am keeping my eye out for Caribbean representation. I just heard Juanes, a Latino singer songwriter of Colombian heritage. I don’t think we are getting geographically closer to the Caribbean today despite the tremendous history Trinidad and Tobago has with designing Carnival floats. Conceptualist Peter Minshall’s stupendous gift of visual storytelling should be part of this American celebration. Bob Marley, one of the greatest singer songwriters of all time just slipped by.  His ghost ship of a Macy’s float is festooned with red green and gold flags, lion crowns and illegal tropical vegetation. Forever pushing the envelope,  he leaps high above the noise like the dot over “I” to drive home the point, “don’t worry bout a thing cos every little thing is gonna be alright.” I am thankful for the writers and storytellers of Caribbean heritage who contribute bolts of intense color to the weft and warp of life. They might not be visible on the 34th Streets of America and some may not even be easily identified as having Caribbean DNA. Google the term Caribbean writers and you will find treasures in virtual book stores. Some writers like Mary Prince, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson and Marcus Garvey pushed the envelope, burned new frontiers eons ago. Hundreds, graceful unique blends of warrior and magician, are scattered throughout the Diaspora, contributing daily – Lisa Allen-Agostini, Edward Baugh, Andrene Bonner, Carolyn Cooper, Maryse Condé, Edwidge Danticat, Frankétienne, Malcolm Gladwell, Lorna Goodison, Devon Harris, Marlon James, Earl Lovelace, Paule Marshall, Orlando Patterson and Derek Walcott among others. Tell a friend about them. Leave a word of thanks on their pages, and if you can, help build the library of someone you know with their books.

Sightings … Caribbean Diaspora Author V.S. Naipaul on Charlie Rose November 25, 2010

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Well past midnight on Tuesday, literary serendipity pried my eyes open from a deep slumber to show me Charlie Rose interviewing none other than nobel laureate, V.S. Naipaul. I stayed up long enough to catch a tiny piece of the interview. How could I have fallen asleep while writing, when Caribbean Diaspora authors rarely get interviewed on a program with national reach in the US? Cough it up to fatigue. I stayed alert long enough to glean that V.S. Naipaul had written a new book and I noted some of his views about energy, belief, paganism, the birth of religion and so on. On Wednesday, I scoured the Web to see what I had missed. Here is an excerpt of the Charlie Rose transcript – the little piece that sparked my interest:

Naipaul: One of the more exciting ideas that is new to me was the idea of energy, that Africa is such a difficult place to live in. The extremes of climate, water, that people need to hold on to such energy as they have to keep going ahead. And that becomes religion. And that is very interesting to me, the idea of energy.

CR: And how did you discover that?

Naipaul: Well very simply. A man spoke to me about it. He’s an academic and I liked him. He’s a man of mixed African and French parentage and what he said held me because his idea is that Africa is such a difficult continent. It’s really made for animals and not men. That’s a big idea. I didn’t go along with that big idea but I thought it should be examined. That’s one of the things I examined. Link text

I was relieved to hear Naipaul say he didn’t go along with the big idea. But the monkeys of the mind are working overtime now to reduce what could be a great literary feast into 10 day-old-bread. What was the context of the discussion with the likeable academic? To which continent or iconic culture is the likeable academic or others like him comparing Africa to draw such a conclusion? Does he have spiritual fortitude? Does Naipaul secretly share that belief? On the issue of animals, are we far superior to dogs (albeit domesticated) who lead the blind and alert people to danger; to lions just as calculating as Wall Street financial wizards or to wolves who mourn their young? And if we take this further, shouldn’t dogs be just as dismissive about us? We do make life complicated for them sometimes. . Okay I just heard someone say, “well animals didn’t take us to the moon.” Yes, human beings come wired with free will. How does that play into Africa’s tough classroom? What do we say about the people who graduate it with no complaints? Isn’t there some school of thought that says the Garden of Eden was in Africa? Where has all the majesty of Africa gone. See. Monkeys of the mind. I am flying from limb to limb and laughing at myself a little as I do so. I want to know. Of course Naipaul’s book, The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief might not mention a word about the likeable academic but I hope it answers some of my questions. I am very curious. Have you read the book? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Friendship and the Act of Writing November 23, 2010

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Sometimes blogs are like best boyfriends or cousins with whom you had a falling out when you were ten. They stole your apple or your banana when you were hungry and impressionable and you haven’t quite forgiven them. Eons later, something cataclysmic happens and you are both thrown on the same patch of grass. You barely remember the fruit which was at the center of this tribal war. You laugh and forgive each other and things are right again. It is so with me and this blog. I wrote one article. That was it. Very short relationship. But writing, communicating, storytelling is in the DNA. It can’t be dismissed. So we, the blog and I, have promised to meet for fifteen minutes everyday. This so we can genuflect to each other, re-establish our mutual respect and acknowledge ourselves as higher beings and not as the labels and forms currently identifying us — that of reluctant blogger and blog. Yes, blogs have purpose and meaning too, just like people. It’s all about love. I hear it takes ninety days to establish a habit. Oy. Fifteen minutes per day for the next ninety days … hmmmmmmm.

Carolien Aikman’s “Prayers for School Days” June 5, 2009

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http://mamausedtosay.com/

Caribbean American Heritage Month Press Release June 2, 2009

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4th NATIONAL CARIBBEAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH CELEBRATIONS PLANS UNDERWAY

This June 2009, marks the fourth national celebrations of June as Caribbean American Heritage Month and the first with a Democratic President. ICS and its affiliates and partners around the country have succeeded in setting a pace for the past three years commemorating National Celebrations of June as Caribbean American Heritage Month that sets the bar for this year’s celebrations.

Citing the need to continue building on the previous year’s, ICS as the architect and Chair of the National Campaign to commemorate JUNE as Caribbean American Heritage Month, has forged relationships with individuals and organizations around the country with a singular vision in mind, that is to set a standard for what Caribbean American Heritage Month must become.

Members of the National Commemorative Committee which includes community leaders from across America have been working feverishly to ensure a widened outreach. Increase efforts were made to engage new community leaders in centers of high concentration of Caribbean Americans. The purpose of the National Commemorative Committee is to put in place an organizing process that is able to withstand the rigors of national, language and racial and ethnic differences over time. Says, Dr. Nelson, “what we have is not perfect, but it is perfect for where we are now. We are a community in transition from the cocoon of near invisibility to staking our claim in American society and history. Given the awakening that took place in the 2008 election, I anticipate an increase in the number of events and an increase in participation of community organizations and leaders.

From Atlanta to Brooklyn to Orlando to Fort Lauderdale to Washington DC the first 4 days of June are filled with a series of activities that reflect the diversity of the region while celebrating the unity. From film festivals to carnivals to food festivals to the capstone National Caribbean American Legislative Conference in Washington DC, the month is shaping up to be a wave of opportunities to display Caribbean influence on American life.

The Caribbean diaspora in the US is estimated at around 5 million. Given this significant number and the current political/economic environment, and anti-immigrant climate, the efforts to establish a National Caribbean American Heritage Month which began in 1999, remain significant and critical in making visible the Caribbean American identity, developing the agenda and recognizing Caribbean Americans who contribute significantly to the American landscape.

For more information about Caribbean American Heritage Month, and how you can get involved, visit http://www.caribbeanamericanmonth.org

May 27, 2009

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June 14 - 18, 2009

June 14 - 18, 2009

Tamarind Fest Sunday June 14, 2009 May 27, 2009

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National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave., NW Washington, DC 20005-3970
202-783-5000, 1-800-222-7270 www.nmwa.org
2 – 4 PM

Merle Collins Ph.D., University of Maryland/Honorary Chair of Tamarind Fest
Professor Lorna Goodison, University of Michigan
Presentation of Awards

The Paule Marshall Caribbean Writer Award

The Claude McKay Caribbean Writer Award

First, Second and Third Generation Women Writers of the Caribbean Diaspora Who Cross Literary Genres

Maya Angelou, Paule Marshall, Lorna Goodison and Merle Collins are a quartet of first, second, and third generation Caribbean Diaspora women whose writings traverse literary genres with ease. The courageous and unique Spirit of the Caribbean flows strong throughout their writing. Like delicate bones in one body they are separate, possessing strong individual form and function but together they embody the nurturer and warrior energy – creating safe haven for transformation. Like the physical and spiritual geography of the Caribbean their words are unconfined literary space. These women writers and their works are a paradox, informed by hurricanes, hot tropical sun, azure blue water and a thirst to unite and make peace offerings to their seasoning of Africa, Europe, The Middle East, Asia and whatever else the universe has planted within their Caribbean motherplace. These literary pilgrims, from very early in their career, have fully developed expression in various forms of literature. Theirs is not a succumbing to fickleness but the wisdom to acknowledge the difference in each day. Theirs is a profound expression of the Spirit of the Caribbean

AngelouMaya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was only three and she was sent with her brother to live with their grandmother in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas. In Stamps, the young girl experienced the profound effects of racial discrimination and brutality and used the experience to launch her career. Her connection to the Caribbean comes from her Trinidadian grandfather and a strong footprint in pre-civil rights Harlem. She became a member of the Harlem Writers Guild which had strong Caribbean representation in the 50s. She’s been moved by the writings of people of Caribbean descent like James Weldon Johnson and has rubbed shoulders with other Caribbean Diaspora figures like Paule Marshall, Rosa Guy, Louise Bennett, the renowned language revisionist of Jamaica, Stokely Carmicheal and Malcolm X among others. She has performed for presidents. Her extensive body of poetry and prose has been translated into several languages.

MarshallPaule Marshall was born in Brooklyn to Barbadian parents. In 1983 the New York Book Review published an article of Marshall’s in 1983 she toasts the speechifying of the Caribbean women in her mother’s kitchen as foundation for writing.  From these women, James Weldon Johnson and other writers she admired, she began to learn the art of expression. Among her long list of writings are, Soul Clap Hands and Sing, Brown Girl Brown Stones and The Fisher King. She has taught many in the classrooms of Yale University and Virginia Commonwealth, classroom and her books are required reading for thousands of students.

CollinsMerle Collins, poet, novelist and teacher was raised on the island of Grenada. She earned her doctoral degree in government from the University of London. She is now a professor of Creative Writing, Literature and Caribbean Studies at the University of Maryland. Her focus has been politics and society and the links between literature and politics. The Grenada revolution was a cyclical event which informed her writings on political freedom. Her work been published in several anthologies. She has written short and long fiction and performs her poetry in theatre. Her publications include two novels, Angel and The Colour of Forgetting, a collection of short stories and several collections of poetry. Her current project is “In the Footsteps of the Old Heads: Saraka and Nation in the Caribbean.” Merle Collins won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003.

GoodisonLorna Goodison was born in Jamaica one of nine children – a family of writers. Her career has run the gamut: artist, art teacher, public relations executive, poet and memoirist. Her considerable body of work includes eleven volumes of poetry among them Tamarind Season and Baby Mother and the King of Swords. She has written short and long narratives, her most recent being a 2008 novel From Harvey River. She is winner of the Musgrave Gold Medal from the Institute of Jamaica and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Goodison has wide appeal, her work being the subject of study in numerous literary critiques and her poems have been included in many collections including the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry.  Currently she is Professor of English at the University of Michigan and enjoys a robust schedule of performances and readings worldwide.

Marcus Garvey Go Petition Campaign May 27, 2009

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garvery 565_thMarcus Mosiah Garvey (1887 – 1940). New Thinker, Writer, Publisher, Entrepreneur and Pan Africanist was Jamaican by birth but belongs to the Black Diaspora. Slain, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and Kwame Nkrumah, former president of Ghana are some of the many change agents who respected Garvey for his courage. Like Garvey before them, both leaders also fought for the enfranchisement of the Black Diaspora. If he were of another race, Garvey, by today’s standards would easily be honored a genius, a man before his time.

In 1914 Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). His goal was to unite all people of Black ancestry. To date, the UNIA holds the record for being the largest Black organization in the world. It was the precursor to the modern American civil rights movement. At the height of his career, Marcus Garvey established numerous projects to benefit and educate Blacks, among them the: Negro World newspaper; the Black Star Line shipping company; the Negro Factories Corporation; and the Liberia Colonization Plan. His creation of the Black Star Line to foster trade by and between Blacks around the world was revolutionary. Some of his feats have yet to be duplicated. More than 80 years later, there is still no black shipping company listed on the American stock exchange.

At a time when lynchings were popular in the American south, Garvey’s high profile conferences and writings were inspirational to Blacks around the world. But his speeches about Black liberation were deemed incendiary by the authorities and he became a constant target of governments on both sides of the Atlantic. The US Federal government under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover mounted a campaign to undermine Garvey and destabilize the powerful movement. As head of the FBI, Hoover had previously admitted to having difficulty finding a legal reason to silence Garvey. Eventually the FBI succeeded by taking advantage of dissension among the upper ranks of the UNIA. During this effort, Garvey survived an assassination attempt and was subsequently indicted and sentenced for mail fraud despite the evidence being circumstantial. He was imprisoned in 1925 but public outcry continued after his incarceration. When 9 jurors who had previously convicted Garvey signed an affidavit for commutation, President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence. But that did not prevent his deportation in 1927.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Professor Robert Hill of the University of California and editor of the massive 12-volume Marcus Garvey Papers project has since uncovered evidence in old FBI documents, including memos from J. Edgar Hoover himself, supporting the argument that the trial and imprisonment of Garvey were politically motivated.

Marcus Garvey is the first national hero of Jamaica. Around the world, memorials have been erected in his honor and schools and colleges named after him. Since the 1980s, US Congressman Charles Rangel has advocated on behalf of US citizens for Garvey’s exoneration. On February 10, 2009, he again submitted H. Conn. RES. 44 to the House of Representatives requesting the exoneration of Marcus Garvey.

Hello world! May 26, 2009

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Welcome to Tamarind Festival – The Great Caribbean BookTribe. Through the works of Caribbean writers, you are travesing the world on less than a dime a day. The authors you meet here have come through a cultural wormhole that opens to a Caribbean washed by the indelible influence of Africa, Europe, Asia, The Middle East. Their zest to experience the world has taken them on pilgrimages to the Taj Mahal, the boblsed track of Nagano Japan, the slave-holding jails of 16th Century Ghana, Shanghai China, Alaska, the MTV building in Manhattan,  the factories of Detroit Michigan or Caribbean Utopia. When you travel with them, it is guaranteed that one of your inner selves will be deeply satisfied. Escape to Quiet. Live Your Fantasy. Know Your World!