What a Caribbean ‘Spooky Season’ Could Look Like

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It’s been a while since I’ve just done a random thought post. So hi, goodnight. What have I been thinking about?

*sips tea*

Around this time every year, I start seeing people talking about Halloween. Now as you know this is not a holiday or celebration that has roots in the Caribbean. I know some of you are hell bent on this Halloween thing anyway, but before you roll your eyes and click out, hear me out.

It’s a fun holiday, I get it. I like to do costumes and dress up too. Matter of fact, it’s kind of hard to not like doing that in the Caribbean when so much of our culture evolved and revolves around festivals where you dress up and parade the streets. You want to join in All Hallows Eve because you think it’s fun? Be my guest.

But don’t you ever feel even a little weird that it’s not really your culture? I mean, Jack-o-lanterns? Bobbing for apples? Trick or Treat? These things have very specific historical connotations that have nothing to do with the Caribbean’s heritage. Read the history of Halloween here.

What I mean is, instead of importing something that belongs to someone else, why can’t we create something of our own? We can most definitely take part in spooky season, but make it Caribbean. You know, make it based on our culture the same way Mexicans have Día de Los Muertos. A similar spooky vibe as Halloween, but nothing actually like Halloween. It’s their own thing with their own flavour and history. Halloween is cool, but it’s not our culture.

Imagine… Jumbie Night (it’s a name!)

On the day of Jumbie Night, people decorate their offices and the streets with folklore characters, dress like them and eat special food named after them sold by establishments during the day. In the evening, people meet for Jumbie Night dressed as folktale characters. There are douens, la diablesse, papa bois, churile, mixed in with Carnival characters like moko jumbies, blue devils and midnight robbers if you’re in T&T. We do it in an open savannah where there is a stage for spoken word performance competitions and stories about the folklore is told and vendors selling craft items and food (free for the children). We play games and win prizes and most importantly learn and pass on the culture. And if the adults wanna fete afterward, you know they will.

While Halloween has origins in Celtic and Romanic cultures and has that similar idea of warding off evil spirits, I really love the celebratory vibe of Día de los Muertos which has origins from the Aztecs, and is really about remembering the dead so they will ‘live’ forever in our memory. Jumbie Night can be our thing, with origins in Caribbean culture which spans Afro, Indigenous, and Asian influences. What that will look like depends on us. It can be something we promote and look forward to just like any festival. And that sounds so cool! Can’t we do that? Something with meaning to us, instead of this…

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com (Just what is with the pumpkin faces? O_O )

And like I illustrated, I’m not just talking about trading witch costumes for la diablesse. I’m talking about meeting and sharing the folktales with the next generation but making it a fun event. Continue the oral tradition by encouraging spoken word poetry and narrations, which is still very alive in the Caribbean. Encourage theatre and art based around the mythology. This has been a thought that I have had for years and I always wondered, how can I get something like this started.

Well *excited grin* next month Caribbean Books Foundation will be commemorating for the first time Caribbean Folklore month in October, where we will be celebrating the folktales, mythologies and the authors that write about them in the Caribbean.

And I have to say I am really excited!

And with this, I’ve suggested we incorporate a night where people can dress up and revel as the Caribbean folk characters that we love, which are seriously scary by the way. We decided on the name Jumbie Night, but it is all a work in progress. I don’t know where it’s going, but it’s a start.

During the month of October, we’ll be covering many characters from across the Caribbean, not all, I mean we have to leave some for next year and I love that there are always new ones to be discovered. Caribbean folklore and mythology is so vast and one character changes from one Caribbean country to another. I would love this special night of remembering our folktales together to be on the clearest, most beautiful night of the month! The night when jumbies love to roam. Under the full moon! Don’t welcome them into your homes though. That’s not apart of the plan.

Under NO circumstances

The plan IS to re-engage with our culture. The plan is to continue passing on these stories to our children so they can pass it onto their children. And as Caribbean people we joke all the time about how foreigners view us, like we’re still living in thatch houses on the beach. But the truth is we’re the reason why knowledge of our folklore is declining. We haven’t continued the practices of passing it on. I see people disregarding our culture and acting like it isn’t relevant, or dare I say sophisticated enough because we’re civilised now.

I swear some people in the Caribbean act as if everybody else’s culture and heritage is exotic and beautiful, but ours is plain and outdated and we need to stuff it in a draw in shame with our grass skirts and mud huts. Please, don’t be that person. You know the one. Who’s quick to say Papa Bois is just make believe but every Christmas is playing ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town‘. Santa Claus ain’t real either! But it is…say it with me, FUN! It’s fun! So let’s tell some scary stories from the Caribbean and have some fun.

Caribbean Folklore Month and Jumbie Night coming in October 2021. See the Caribbean Authors blog for more details.

– Written By True Nicks

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved

Vaughn T. Stanford – Men, Unleashed

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation.

This book was bacchanal.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How’s it going, neighbours? Quarantine treating you good? Or isolation have you dreaming of your ex when you swore you would NEVER… listen, don’t take chain-up from Covid-stress. It’s not worth it and this book is the proof!

Today I’m reviewing Men, Unleashed by Vaughn T. Stanford.

I admit I wasn’t really sure about this book when I first read the blurb. But I ended up liking it, which goes to show that you should really give books a chance. So many people will browse over a blurb without a second thought because it doesn’t immediately fit into a genre they like. I read this through the Caribbean Books Foundation Review programme, and it would not have been my first pick but it is definitely something I would recommend to others.

The story follows crime reporter, Steven Gardner, who regularly reports on the worst of humankind in Trinidad and Tobago. He believes though that while bandits are being put behind bars, what about the criminals of everyday physical, mental and emotional abuse that goes unnoticed? He is convinced that not enough light is being shed on the men who are the main perpetrators of this abuse.

With a collection of stories that he has amassed over the years, he approaches his editor and is reluctantly given a chance at a feature column ‘Men Are Dogs’ where he plans to tell the unpleasant details of the victim’s lives. But like any taboo subject, people react. In all ways possible, whether they are for or against what he’s doing. Both inside and outside of his workplace as some of his older, more seasoned colleagues are not happy about being passed over for the coveted Sunday feature. And his feature becomes a hit at the fictional ‘National Standard’ that creates a nationwide discussion on men and their behaviour.

Now, I know some of you must be thinking, ‘so this whole book just bashing man?

Well…

But no, actually, I don’t think so. I think it helps to further open the conversation about certain destructive behaviours that men have been allowed to continue with that cause serious damage to the people around them AND to themselves as well. And yes, it is allowed, whether by women, their parents, society, other men, we allow it to continue by not talking about how damaging these behaviours are and hiding behind the ‘alyuh woman just want to bash men’ attitude.

Every week when Steven submitted a story, I almost felt like one of the readers of the paper where I was anxiously awaiting the next one thinking ‘it can’t be as bad as the last one‘, and then it was equally as bad or worse. Like all of the stories were bad but there were two, in particular, *breathes smh* that made my skin crawl. I literally had to get up and move around to get the sensation to go away. It wasn’t just uncomfortable to read, it was uncomfortable to consider, to phathom, to digest, just the gall of a situation like that even daring to exist had me…

At first, the paper didn’t say who was writing the stories and people assumed it was a woman, but gender doesn’t matter here, being human does. If you’re not even a little upset reading this book, you need to check if you have a pulse. If I was a man, I would have exposed them too!

The main character also had his own issues going on. His sister’s husband was cheating on her and that escalated publicly. He found himself in his own questionable ‘men are dogs’ situation ( I admit I was so mad, I stopped reading the book for a while, I was like what the @#!&!# man, you stupid too? ), and while I kinda liked that he wasn’t some unrealistic, holier-than-thou, ‘I would never’ poster boy, you can’t pelt stones when you living in a glasshouse, partner!

Cause that also begs the question, are men just incapable of making right choices when it comes to their ‘basic’ instincts especially when it’s connected to their emotional needs as well; even if they DO see that it is wrong, are more or less good people, and are not prone to toxic behaviours? Maybe that was what the main character’s slip-up was meant to show. Just how easily he could also end up in a position that cast him into doubt like those other men he was writing about. I don’t know. *shrugs endlessly*

Some of the things the stories in the feature covered were cheating, rape, physical abuse, child slavery/marriage, emotional abuse, drug trafficking, family disagreements, mental illness, grooming, and infertility. And they all looked at the way the men in the stories dealt with those issues or were perpetrators of those things. I don’t know if these stories, the way they happened exactly, are based on real events, but I’m sure if they were the author would have changed all the names anyway. There’s definitely a trigger warning because of the rape and domestic abuse scenes. If that trauma hits too close to home for you, there are other books to read. Don’t upset yourself. Some of it was uncomfortable for me and I ain’t never been in any of these situations. There’s also mild language and consensual sex so it’s an adult book. Not for the kids.

Speaking of close to home.

Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

Since the main character is a crime reporter in this book, Steven covered certain crimes that were very familiar. If you read it and are from Trinidad and Tobago you will know immediately the real-life crimes these ‘fake’ crimes were based on.

From an editor’s perspective, there’s nothing wrong with how he included it. He had a disclaimer from the start. And although the scenarios are similar, he didn’t use any real names, real places, real dates, or times so it falls within fair use. So why mention it?

Because as a reader who lived through these events and saw the uproar and change in the landscape of our society because of it, I’m not sure how I felt about it. I’m not mad, but it just feels personal to me, especially since the cases I am referring to haven’t been solved and are still like a weight on the psyche of our society. Mainly because they involved the preying on normal, vulnerable members of society by very well-off, affluent members of society. A lot of things felt covered up and too suspicious to be a coincidence. And to this day we still don’t know what happened. Not mentioned in the book, but last week we got some kind of justice for Sean Luke. His case has been pending for over 15 years now and it was met with so many mixed emotions. *giant sigh*

If you’re not from Trinidad and Tobago it probably won’t mean anything to you. Just another gruesome mystery for our reporter protagonist to cover in the news. But for the people who are from there, it could feel weird to read ‘references’ about it even in fiction. I definitely felt weird. Is it okay that we relegate it to fiction when for so many it still feels like a raw open wound? But then at the same time, I’m also like, yes, let them know we’re NEVER forgetting. I don’t know, I’m torn.

I can’t really think of anything I disliked. Outside of the stories he prepared for the paper, there were others he encountered from day-to-day. But after a while, it started to feel like a lot of sitting down and listening to other people’s stories. I found myself wondering, why are people randomly telling him their stories though? It didn’t always seem plausible that they were doing it just because he did the feature.

I liked the descriptions of Trinidad, like when he was driving around. If you’ve read my past reviews you know I get a little peeved when they overdo it. Like having a random Carnival band passing by in October just to prove we’re a Caribbean country. *giant eye roll* The descriptions felt natural and ‘lived in’. I can’t speak to how realistic the newsroom (is that what they call it?) setting was, or Steven’s work as a crime reporter. I assume the author did his research and made it as close to the actual experience as possible like a good writer should.

And here are some random thoughts because you know I always go there! HAHA!

Allison (his co-worker) is a real bitch though, just like her uncle. It’s so obvious they related.

What ‘hood rat’ coming to beat up a reporter over a Sunday feature about men? Listen, I live around so-called ‘hood rats’. They doh read papers. -__- Unless this article directly messing with their money, but it’s still sceptical. Maybe they were hired, I don’t know.

Also, I haven’t heard the name ‘Dalrymple’ in a long time, but I’m sure every Trinbagonian knows one, so big up the Dalrymples out there!

But let’s wrap it up. This book, honestly, I can’t say I will read it again. But that’s only because it’s not the kind of story I would read over. I enjoyed it the first time. It was an experience, but I don’t need to read it again. However, it was still compelling, well-written and suspenseful so because of that, I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5, and I had no other real issues with it. My peers (a certain one) have admonished me for not giving 5-star reviews, but that’s not entirely true. I do give 5-stars and have before but you need to touch my heart to get that. I can’t just really enjoy it, it can’t just be a really good book, it needs to be an unforgettable experience.

That being said, I will be giving this book 5 stars on Amazon. I mean, it’s almost there anyway and why stop the author from getting that boost on Steve Jobs’ moneymaker just because I didn’t catch glorious feels. Vaughn Stanford needs to get paid too! Follow the author on social media and visit their website, get the book here on Amazon. Read it, yes, I am recommending it, and remember critics may lie.

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

B. Jane Turnquest – Amount to What Counts

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

Good evening my esteemed friends. I find myself mulling over some tea this afternoon with a book in tow and a sudden urge to wave wistfully at the gardener from my open, ornate parlour window. Such is the feeling Amount to What Counts by B. Jane Turnquest gives you, the book I’m reviewing today by a Bahamian author.

As I didn’t read up on the book beforehand, this children’s book was definitely not what I expected, but not in a bad way. At first I thought that I would be introduced to a story similar to The Secret Garden. But it turned out to be a guide for boys on character development, with verses that they can meditate on to become better men and individuals.

The author’s poetic rhyming lines offers behaviourial and philosophical advice to ‘Master Carlbury‘ who was brought to ‘23 Rhuidrock House to stay with his Aunt Bea and her husband until he could establish himself as a young man of means‘.

The verses cover topics like building patience, dealing with difficulties, understanding self-worth, the strength in being humble, dealing with disappointments, different ways to be brave, among many other things. It is encouraging words for boys to live by and meditate on. Honestly, some of us adults could do with the instruction as well. Many of the shorter phrases would be good on plaques to hang up on a wall at home. I can also see children putting them on cue cards to carry around for easier reference. Some of my favourites were…

Be mindful of your company, your crowd, for with it an estimation of your character is enshroud. What is prescribed, is to be extremely and intentionally selective of your tribe.

You never lose; you win, learn or there is an experience gained. There is always something valuable earned, even in the midst of what stains or pains.

A good sportsman loses with grace. When one does, the defeat is, in a sense, lessened or erased.

excerpts from ‘Amount To What Counts: Manners Matters for Boys’

Parents can also get involved with them as well, as at the end of the book there are certificates that children can earn by doing something thoughtful, being creative or stepping out of their comfort zone. The guidelines can help them explore their own heart through life questions that also help them form bonds as they consider what they should look for in friends, AND there are pages to colour! Colouring always warms my adult heart so this book won me over already!

I would recommend this for 9 to 12 year olds. It’s a good talking point as if children don’t understand some of the words and ‘old-English’ syntax, parents have the chance to explain it to them and help them understand what it means practically.

You can check the author’s Facebook where you can find more of their work and catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the book’s page on Amazon to purchase it. Thanks for reading and until the next review!

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

Diana McCaulay – Gone To Drift

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

It’s fitting that when I was reading this book, I was in a car passing by the sea on the highway heading to Carenage in west Trinidad. I was on page 41 where Maas Conrad remembered his days as a young boy, when his father gave him some of his first lessons as a fisherman.

“Close you eyes, he said and I obeyed. Keep them closed. … … I heard the sea, falling and rising and falling. Now open you eyes, my father said. I looked and I saw familiar shapes become visible. If you take a light to sea, you can’t see inna the dark, my father said. A man at sea need him night sight.” – excerpt from Gone to Drift, Diana McCaulay

I looked over at the horizon line that seemed to blend into the sky and felt a hint of that deep connection with the sea that fishermen need to have. I am not a ‘sea person’ in that sense of the word. Despite my Caribbean upbringing, when I go to the beach I can be found sitting reading a book, not bathing. I do like to look at the sea and bask in its quiet, majestic presence across the landscape. I blame my grounding Capricorn nature. Feet on the ground is best for me, but onto the review. Our Caribbean book is from Jamaica today…

Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay

Diana McCaulay’s Gone to Drift tells the tale of Lloyd, or Lloydie as he is affectionately called in his community, who when he realises that his grandfather, known as ‘Maas Conrad’, has been out to sea longer than usual, even for a seasoned fisherman, grows anxious and questions whether he is okay. While the community shares in his worry, no one seems to be too preoccupied with looking for the old man. Fishermen go missing sometimes, it’s part of the risk involved being out on the open water. They council Lloyd to wait. If his grandfather is alright he will return. But as Lloyd asks around he finds himself suspicious about the events surrounding his grandfather’s ‘disappearance’ and decides that he has to find him himself, sooner rather than later.

Gone to Drift is not an action packed thriller. It’s a quiet, contemplative story that tells several stories at once. A story of how greed can compromise the soul of man, making him willing to ‘make ends meet’ at any cost. A story of community knowledge, practices and skills and how they were quietly passed down through generations but are now lost to a way of life that once was. It’s a story of the forever ongoing disregard human beings have had for the environment.

But most importantly, it’s a story of family ties particularly between grandparents and their grandchildren, as Lloyd’s love for his grandfather is what motivates him to take risks to find him. This story is particularly endearing for us at this time. During the pandemic, we have unfortunately lost a lot of our elders. The over 60 age group has been hit hard by this virus. For us in the Caribbean where extended families are still very much the norm, grandparents are many times as loved and respected as our own parents.

It means that while we may have grown up with the wisdom and love of our grandparents around us, a great part of the next generation of children will not have this crucial grounding familial connection anymore. It is a sad an unfortunate prospect that the stories of a whole generation and the ties they had to the ones before them could be gone without any record after this pandemic is over. It is all the more reason to hold our elders close while we still have them.

Getty image @ Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

I truly did enjoy this book. I really liked how in between the chapters of Lloyd’s quest to find his grandfather, we also got to see his grandfather’s memories of his days as a boy, learning the family trade from ‘a long line of fishermen‘, growing up with his brothers and eventually leaving home, starting a family, and becoming an old man. It’s a meaningful young adult novel that tells a beautiful story, and reminds me a lot of the old Studio Ghibli films where every story had the underlying tale of man’s struggle with balancing industry while preserving the environment.

I would definitely recommend this for early secondary school students (Forms 1-3) and even late primary schoolers, if they are already a serious reader, but I’m sure adults will enjoy this as well. It’s a nice Sunday afternoon read.

You can check the author’s website where you can find more of their work, contact information, social media, and catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit the book’s page on Amazon to purchase it. Thanks for reading and until the next review!

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

It’s Possessive Plural!

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Welcome!

As an editor, I wanted to start a little series where I go over little grammar mistakes that I see authors make all the time. It could be because they are genuinely confused about what is right or they just forgot along the way. Either way, it’s good insight to have in case you have something more official to write.

So today, let’s talk a little about Possessive Plural and how you use it.

But first, a little reminder on possessive singular, which is fairly straightforward.

To show possession of an item -‘s is added to the end of the noun that has the ownership.

For example:

Josie‘s dress

The day‘s end

The exception being when using ‘it’. Possessiveitis its with no apostrophe, not it’s (which is an abbreviation of ‘it is’)

For example: The tree was old and its branches were bare.

Possessive singular is easy, right? What if the noun is already plural?

For example:

The children’s house

The sheep’s pasture

Still simple, just add -’s to the end.

However, when singular nouns become plural, i.e. an -s is added to the end, you simply add an apostrophe after the -s (s’) to show possession/ownership.

Example 1

days – days  /  jackets – jackets  /  baskets – baskets, etc

Example 2

The baskets handles were wrapped in ribbon.

(many baskets with many handles)

Compared to singular possession

The basket‘s handles were wrapped in ribbon

(one basket with many handles )

What writers seem to have a little more difficulty with is when the plural form of the noun ends with –es

However, it is still just as simple as adding an apostrophe to the end.

For example:

The dresses sleeves were all too long.

(many dresses with many sleeves each)

So you see, the principle is the same. It may sound awkward, like something that is actually wrong when you say it out loud because wouldn’t, “the sleeves on the dresses were too long” be much easier to say?

It would, and I admit, I do tend to rephrase sentences like these when line editing sometimes just so it rolls off the tongue better, but it isn’t wrong. Also, it is always better to know the right usage, just in case.

-Editor True Nicks

Was 2020 That Bad, Or Was It Just Your Attitude?

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I find it interesting that in a year where a pandemic raged through the world, most countries were on lockdown or had whole areas in quarantine for months, and where most of us were locked away with only our phones and computer screens to connect us to the rest of the world, that I did not blog more.

Like, what happened? People were bored at home, they were actually reading more! I, I just, I have no excuse for not posting regularly this year.

Granted, I was working on my writing and editing a lot this year (so there, I did have a reason 😉 ), but it got me thinking that maybe a lot of us have just been using the handle of ‘2020, the year where everything that can go wrong will go wrong’ as a handicap for our own shortcomings.

Seriously, elemental and pandemic catastrophes aside, was 2020 really the reason for all our problems, or did we just use it as a scapegoat to not try harder this year?

And I say this because whether things stay the same or not, 2021 might not be any better if we don’t change our attitude. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to kill your ‘See Ya and Good Riddance 2020’ parade. I am not trying to be a downer. If giving 2020 the finger gets you out of bed tomorrow and doing what you need to do, then you do what you have to do! I doubt it will get its double-digit feelings hurt.

My point is, what if things don’t magically change on January 1st 2021? The last pandemic the world saw lasted over 2 years. Granted we’re better able to deal with it now because of advances in medication and global communication to keep productivity up and stay connected, but there is no guarantee that 2021 will be any better or worse than this year.

And if 2021 does stink, blaming it all on the ‘year’ being jinxed or something is not going to solve anything either. I admit, 2019 was an eye-opening year for me. I felt like I finally understood where I wanted my career to go. I was getting ready to test the waters throughout 2020 with a million ideas, and then I tripped on the stupid rug I had picked out, started wondering if the old one wasn’t better, and just ended up standing on the new rug all year afraid to move on it because I didn’t want to snag my shoe again and this time fall flat on my face!

And even though I never complained much about it, or attributed much of my slumpy periods to the ‘curse’ of 2020, I still had to realise that a lot of it was me being passive, me dropping the ball on success because, why not? After all, the whole world is in a state of recession and slumpiness, so it’s alright if I don’t accomplish much this year, right?

RIGHT??

That ‘2020 attitude’ held a lot of us back and if we’re not careful, we will take that attitude into 2021 with us.

A lot of horrible things happened this year. Month after month we had to watch city after city cart bodies off in trucks to be buried after 1000’s of people daily succumbed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and all its subsequent sibling strains, all around the world. Wildfires raged through major continents for months on end, damaging homes and polluting the air. Many countries recorded some of the worst unemployment rates and homeless numbers they have seen in decades as a lot of people lost their jobs and houses due to the shutdown. Some people lost not just one parent or a sibling, which frankly is enough heartache on its own, but several family members to this virus.

But a lot of us were just sitting at home looking on, complaining about having nothing else to do but sit at home and look on, and when you think about it, that’s also horrible in a way. I’m not saying you can stop coronavirus or superhero a mountain of rain over the wildfires. We can’t do anything about these things that are largely out of our control. However, I really wish the ‘worst year ever’ memes can take a rest for 2021, whether it is a good year or not, and we can just get a little more positive about life.

Can we point out the good things that happened this year too? Let’s see.

Show of hands of all the small businesses and entrepreneurs who killed it success-wise in 2020 despite the slump in the economy? With so many businesses closing down, our economy needed you, and we thank you for working so hard.

Show of hands of all those who didn’t get sick once in 2020? Or didn’t get somebody else sick if you were? 🙌 This is an achievement! You followed the Covid regulations, you wore your masks, you sanitised, physically distanced, and washed your hands! You out here keeping Covid at bay, and I thank you!

Show of hands of all those who survived the Covid-19 virus in 2020? So many did not. We appreciate that you are still here with us.

Show of hands of all the people who saw with their own two eyes one of the beautiful mountains that were miraculously revealed after the smog created by man cleared from the skies? For real, we need a timeout more often. Mount Kenya‘s peak! Visible! By the time we get to travel again, the smog will return and it will be gone from sight, so count yourself lucky to have seen it yourself.

Show of hands of all those who learned something great, unexpected, and magical about themselves in lockdown in 2020? Listen. I jumped hurdles I didn’t even know I had in front of me until ‘me, myself and I’ had to face them in isolation. And I’m a pretty introverted soul. Alone time and introspection gets me energized. But I still appreciated the pause that Covid set on the world. Whether it was learning to get along with your family, reconnecting with a loved one, finding your center and your purpose, working your way out of a bad habit, facing the truth about what you want for your life, or finally having to face a bad relationship and deciding to get out of it, you did that for yourself this year, and I’m proud of you.

Very 90’s hi-five, baby!

2020 was not a bad year. It was a hard year. It was a scary year. It was a challenging year, but for those who faced it head-on and adapted and kept striving to move forward, it was still a good year. I can’t lie, this year was stressful for me, but it is December 31st and I am alive, my family is still Covid-free, and we’re meeting our needs despite any challenges. God has been good, and I won’t cry over any milk split along the way. I can’t.

So let’s go into 2021 with that attitude. That whatever may come, whatever 2021 may have in store for us, it’s not the year that defines your success, or your happiness. It’s you. I would like to send all my condolences to the people who lost loved ones this year and didn’t get to say good-bye. Whether it’s something you believe or not, I am imagining your people in a wonderful place filled with light, and happiness and feeling your love, so keep sending it to them even if you’re still grieving.

And thank you 2020. Yes, thank you! For all the hard lessons you thought us this year about what is really important. I hope we learn from it and don’t be like typical humans and forget them by the end of January 2021.

A toast to you, and your smashing 2021 to come! Happy New Year!

– Written By True Nicks

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved

6 Tips on How to Write Effective Blind Characters

I was actually planning a post on this which I will get to, but this is a good share as well.

-True Nicks

CEL STEFANI

I’ve read some complaints people have about blind characters in books. They’re flat or not portrayed properly. If you plan on writing for a blind character, please do your research. I’ve provided 6 tips below to help.

1. Senses do not become sharper

I repeat, they do not become sharper. Blind people have to rely on their other senses because they don’t have sight. If you’ve ever noticed when you’re in a pitch black room and you can hear better than you normally do, it’s because you’re paying attention to your ears. Unless your character has powers, they’re not going to have better hearing or smell.

2. Blind people don’t know colors.

If a person has been blind since birth or possibly became blind at a very young age and does not recall seeing, they don’t know or may not remember colors. You can’t describe what a color looks like…

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For Chadwick

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I started this post almost a month ago, and couldn’t post it. I just wasn’t ready to, but I had to write something because at that point I felt like I had been going in circles since the 28th of August. Trying to work, trying to focus, finding myself staring into space while idly pulling on rubber bands.

It’s almost ironic how loss feels like added weight. I felt heavy in my mind and my soul in a way that I had only ever felt for the passing of a few close relatives. So much so, that while people were doing Black Panther watch-togethers and having ableism and cancer arguments on social media, I had to log-off and take some time to sort out my feelings.

At first, I found myself avoiding any material that had Chadwick Boseman’s face or name on it. His voice and laugh were especially hard to take. Futile attempts to maybe stay in a sense of unacceptance and disbelief.

This couldn’t be true? Maybe if I ignore it, it might not be.

But by the day after his death, I was actively looking for him. Interviews, speeches, pictures, anything to reconnect, to get more of him. Remembering bitterly that none of it was actually new, already relegated to the past, to who he ‘was’. We would have no more of him. He had given all he could give, and was now gone.

I thought back to a lot of things. Like the last time I felt this heartbroken over the death of someone well-known. I wrote about it then as well in my tribute to Maya Angelou after she passed.

She is still a light and an inspiration to my heart.

I also thought about the very first time I felt the blow of a true fan, waking up one morning and hearing that someone you looked up to had passed away. It was Aaliyah then, and I felt like my heart was broken for a solid year. I was 14, begged my older sister to sneak prints of her at her office job, and plastered them on my bedroom wall. They only came down when I left the room many years later.

With Aaliyah, there was no social media. I am not even sure I had access to the internet. When Maya died, I was already on several platforms. However, I wasn’t as engaged as I am now, so I peddled my grief silently. But this time I found out on social media. It’s only when things like this happen that you realise how exhausting these social sites can be.

You can’t attend to everyone else’s thoughts when yours are already so muddled. It’s been both a blessing and a curse, as the constant stream of memories has kept me crying, but kept me healing. Believe me, I understand how weird it sounds. Though I was touched by Chadwick’s life, I barely knew him, and I am struggling to accept his loss. A month later, the ones closest to him must still be in an unbearable amount of pain.

However, before I get back into regular blogging, I feel like I need to address his passing. Not because I want to join the bandwagon of voices, it’s way too late for that anyway. I just need to reach a point of acceptance, and writing is how I heal.

So why was Chadwick Boseman so important to me?

Well for one, he looks just like my younger brother.

They cut their hair and trim their beard in much the same way. They are both dark brown skin, ‘young, black and gifted’ men. They both have a full, toothy smile. And his look isn’t one that you see on screen often. Most of the time black men are clean-cut and shaved down in the movies. But in real life, most black men look like him, and like my brother! So when Black Panther came out, no doubt I immediately found myself drawn to Shuri. I mean, if my brother is Black Panther, that’s who I would be, right?

For my mother’s birthday in 2018, our entire family went to see it together. I painted my face like Shuri and saluted my subjects as a princess of Wakanda. Letitia Wright’s spoken-word piece for him touched me the most as I felt like she was saying everything I was feeling.

Before Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman was an actor I appreciated and wanted to see more of. After Black Panther, he became the older brother I never had. I followed his career, cheered him on, and felt proud every time he walked onto a stage or in a room. His words meant more to me, and it’s a connection that I am sure many fans have with him. We took him on like family and would have bourne any struggle with him. I am sure he knew that, which is why he kept the biggest struggle to himself.

Other than being a very private person, I honestly feel that Chadwick just didn’t want to worry anyone with his illness. This wasn’t a question of what the industry ‘expected’ of him. He was too joyful, too grateful for the chance to be in a position to touch lives, and too clear about what he wanted in life to be someone that others took advantage of. I truly believe he made a conscious decision to be there and to keep working despite any pain he was in because he wanted to be there and understood the importance of it.

Think about it.

Between 2008-2014, he made about 5 films. Between 2016, the year he found out he had stage III colon cancer, and now in 2020, he made about 10 films. That’s twice as many in a shorter space of time. Does that sound like a man being ‘forced to work’ to you? Does that sound like a man being manipulated by the cogs of the ‘system’?

It sounds like a man on a mission, a man who’s on the clock. A man who knows he has a purpose and a small amount of time to accomplish it in. And the roles he took on were of people who were larger than life, who changed the world with their talents and their thinking. He wasn’t just working, he was picking those roles on purpose. It takes a steely resolve to focus on your work when you are in pain, and I am sure there were moments when he was tempted to despair in his situation. But he wasn’t just making another movie. He was leaving behind a legacy.

 “I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because, I was here – I Was Here, Beyonce”

I wanted him to continue. I wanted him to keep inspiring and keep living a beautiful life to a ripe old age, like another legend, Sidney Poitier. But we don’t get to choose how much time we have, we just have to choose what we’re going to do with it. And Chadwick broke the mold in so many ways. He used his little time with us ten times better than some who have lived twice as long as him.

He led the kind of life that makes you wonder if you are really doing all you were meant to do, and if you are holding back yourself in anyway. Purpose and finding it isn’t just about you achieving some goal. It’s about the lives that you touch on the way while living on the fullest frequency which only your true purpose can accomplish.

I am so thankful that I could live in the era when Chadwick Boseman existed. 20 years from now he will be somebody’s Google search. They will read all the articles, watch all the speeches, watch all his movies, and wonder what it felt like to go to a Black Panther premiere or engage with his posts on Instagram. Even though I never met him, I am grateful to witness his greatness.

I am not going to justify feeling sad over the death of a man I did not know personally either. If you do not understand why or how I can feel an acute sense of his loss, not just to the world but to me specifically, then maybe you don’t know how to use feelings. Because sadness is completely natural when someone dies, and instead of demanding that me, and others like me, rewire our feelings, maybe you should be the one seeking help on how to properly use yours.

That being said, if you feel nothing, it’s fine. You don’t HAVE to feel anything. When Kobe Bryant passed away I felt very little. I wasn’t a fan. I thought it was horrible that he and his daughter died at the same time. What a double whammy to his family! But I do not follow basketball. The only reason I know of Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’neal is because of Space Jam and Shazam. But I gave people the space they needed to mourn him as a figure of excellence in their life that they looked up to. Even today, I’m still liking Kobe posts on Instagram from people still remembering him. It’s called support.

Well, until we meet on the Ancestral Plane, goodbye brother Chadwick. Your will was always to protect your people, lifting us up while shielding us from your own worries and pain, like a true king. We honour the sacrifices you made daily, even hourly, simply to inspire us and show us a higher form of purpose and a better way to live, even when you were facing death’s door. I hope your welcome into heaven was this dope.

– Written By True Nicks

Copyright © Critics May Lie All Rights Reserved

Sam Selvon – The Lonely Londoners

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You can find other novels like this at the Caribbean Books Foundation Caribbean Authors

HAPPY CARIBBEAN LITERATURE DAY!!

Code Burt Award winners book covers

Today is a day for celebrating Caribbean literature! I just came off of a Zoom ‘social distancing party’ for the Inaugural Caribbean Literature Day celebration. How wonderful it was to talk and listen to people who not only love but are passionate about creating and preserving Caribbean literature in all its languages and forms!

When I was in school I was biting my teeth into titles like Green Days By The River, Bite In, and Twice Upon A Time. I love Paul Keens Douglas! To this day his wit and natural ability to turn a limerick and a phrase with the ease of the Trinbagonian dialect still inspires me when writing dialogue.

Now it’s not to say that I never read any international classics as a child. I went through the whole Charles Dickens series in school, and from my previous post on editing, I noted some of my favourite books as a child which included several international titles. But Caribbean Literature played a role in shaping my thoughts as a young person growing up.

At that time I didn’t even know that each book was lighting the spark of writing within me, reading stories by my own people, about my own people. My only regret is that I didn’t have any examples of female Caribbean authors on my list back then.

But let’s get on with today’s review. Well, it’s not actually a review but a remembrance of an iconic piece that truth be told, I have never read before. It’s all good though because one of the reasons why I started this review series was to finally get to know more Caribbean titles, both new and old, that I have never read before. Today’s book review is on…

Yes! The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon. The picture above is of the actual copy I borrowed from my sister who has a 1972 edition. A version that is a full 16 years after the first printing that was still alive and well at her house, for better or for worse, 48 years after it was published.

I must say when I started to read it I realised why his other novel, A Brighter Sun, was the piece chosen for CXC’s required reading. I doubt a book about the escapades of grown men living and hustling women and work alike in London would have been fitting reading material for a class taking the national exam. Nonetheless, it was a captivating read, that I’m sure the young people would have just as easily enjoyed outside of the classroom.

Now this novel has been talked about for decades, so I doubt there is much more I can say on it, but since I’m here let me try!

A beautifully woven tale of woe that comes off as nothing more than a good time, The Lonely Londoners has personal meaning for Caribbean people, the tale of the emigrant. I admit I have never cared for the lure of living abroad, but many people at that time painted it as this grand life. And I think Sam Selvon’s novel brought people down to earth about the realities in London for Caribbean immigrants at the time.

It was a fun ride for a few years as they chased women and marveled at the novelties of London, and as Caribbean people, they all tried to look out for each other. However, after ten years Moses was yearning for his first home where life wasn’t so hard day after day to survive, and he wasn’t so, well, lonely. Because even though they got work, it was the worse kind of work for very little pay and the ‘tests’ never really accepted them.

After talking about all his colourful friends and their lives, making their way through the hard winters and merry summers in London, the book ends in deep reflection, with the question of, “Is this all I have to look forward to in life? Working, eating, sleeping, over and over again?” Was it really worth being in the great city of London and walking famous bridges when they were starving for many a season and yearning each long, cold winter for the warmth of their homeland?

It seemed for many of them they came and stayed in London more for the bragging rights of having been there, but their circumstances were dismal or worse than when they were at home.

I really appreciated the Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon. It helped me understand a little more about the many people who have returned from the UK who left around that time, and what they went through.

I especially appreciated Sam Selvon more and his work. Like many men in his time, he left school at fifteen to work, and by the time he was a new-adult man was seeking his fortune in jolly ole London. Even after years of writing and publishing and winning awards in Trinidad and Tobago, he still found himself doing janitorial work abroad and was rarely recognised by their literary bodies.

Maybe it was because he wasn’t traditionally educated, but even in that time where you didn’t need a degree to do everything, I believe he would have been looked at as someone who understood how to convey the thoughts and emotions of the disenfranchised. His work spoke for itself, and I thank him for all the contributions he made to the diverse body that is Caribbean literature today.

Sam Selvon, 20 May 1923 – 16 April 1994

If you would like to read this book you can purchase it on Amazon along with his other books, or if you are in the Caribbean just visit a bookstore. Even today, he is still a familiar face on the shelves.

And again, Happy Caribbean Literature Day!

– True Nicks, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the site please send an email to caribbeanbooksfoundation@gmail.com to get more information.

Patrice M Foster – Molding My Destiny

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This is a consumer review for the Caribbean Books Foundation

And I am back with another review!

Despite being in isolation, I can’t say that I’ve found more time to read. I split my days between editing, doing website work, writing, and not much else. But I still need to get my monthly Caribbean book selection out so after browsing through the Caribbean Books Foundation website I chose…

molding destiny p foster

Molding My Destiny by Patrice M. Foster is an autobiography. I believe this is the first time I am reviewing an autobiography off of their site.

The author starts her story in Jamaica where she was born. Growing up poor in the Caribbean is by no means idyllic or a unique situation. Many of us still have happy memories of childhood despite our financial misfortunes. However, living under her father’s tyranny and witnessing the domestic abuse of her mother and brothers made her poverty much uglier and harder to bear.

Her life changes when her mother manages to ‘escape’ to the USA to work. The author and her siblings then find themselves separated into different homes where they are taken advantage of and basically mistreated in every way possible. Like this wasn’t Annie with kiddos singing in between mopping floors. It was just bad for them. Period.

And when their mother finally saves enough to send for them to be with her in the USA, when they think things are going to get better, it just gets worse. Because now they are not only impoverished but impoverished as strangers in a strange land, eventually resorting to living on the street and stealing food to survive.

Now it all eventually turns out well, or rather the author has reached a place where she has a good life and is trying to make peace with her own demons. It is heartening to know that it was not just a story and somewhere Patrice has survived all that she’s been through and is thriving. But then again, it is also disheartening to know that she went through all of that to begin with!

This book is heavy. If you are holed up in quarantine and feeling kinda down it is probably not the best selection to make right now. Or maybe it is. It surely reminded me that instead of being stuck at home I could be stuck out on the street in the middle of a storm with nowhere to go.

Snoopy to lighten the mood.

For me, just the thought that people, no, parents can forget their children like this is horrifying. I know that it happens, every day! Foster homes and orphanages are filled with children like this. But reading the intimate details of it makes you doubt the goodness of humanity. I mean, even animals know to favour and protect their young! The fact that so many people want to be parents but then refuse to be parents after the children are born should be a crime. It is by now, right? Like people are being jailed for this by now, right?

Otherwise, I always like to see the island the author is from represented accurately in the book. In this sense it was through the food. The author migrated to the USA in the 1970’s, and it was nice to hear about the type of food they ate back then, like ‘blue drawers‘ or ‘duckanoon‘. The author recalled eating it during the farewell party given to them by neighbours before they moved.

Looks very similar to paime, a Caribbean dessert. Although the paime base is made with cornmeal, not sweet potato  http://www.healthiersteps.com

I find it so ironic that people in a neighbourhood wouldn’t band together to help support a family/children in need but will put together a huge celebration over them leaving for ‘better tidings’. There would be no reason for them to leave if they had the support of their community. Where was that goodwill when they were starving? Takes minding your own business to a whole other level.

Though the author and her siblings met unfortunate circumstances, Molding My Destiny is very much the story of the Caribbean emigrant parent/child. This is where the parents either lived abroad and supported their children by sending money, or the family moved abroad when the children were at a young age. The latter creates this disjointed perception of identity in the children. When they get older everyone sees them as from their motherland when they are in their adopted country, but when they go ‘home’ everyone there sees them as citizens of their adopted country because their speech and mannerisms are so different.

For the children who stay, they are what we call the ‘barrel generation’, as every few months they receive a box or a ‘barrel’ packed with essentials like clothes and dry food. People either saw them as lucky for getting so many new ‘gifts’ or unlucky for never having their parents around to truly fend for them. These were children that despite their ‘fortunate’ circumstances could be easily taken advantage of as Patrice and her siblings found to be true.

I suppose my parents were apart of Patrice’s parent’s generation as well since my oldest sibling was born in the 1970’s. They did receive the occasional package from friends abroad but somehow they managed to escape the allure of North America!

The American Dream! Surprised they didn’t have a car, dog AND a horse in this picture because they tried to fit everything else

One of the reasons I’ve never considered living anywhere else was simply because I don’t really care for big cities. I’ve tried it. I hate it. I LIKE being in the country. Green is my vibe. Just the description of her first impression of New York made me squirm inwardly and not regret any of the times my mother refused to send me abroad as a child. And there were relatives that wanted me! 

But my mother always insisted, and I understood why as I got older, that no child of hers would be at the mercy of a stranger, or even a family member, to take care of them. Even with the little we had, her children stayed with her. End of story. 

I also loved the sayings at the beginning of each chapter as it really mirrored what the chapter was about. This one started chapter 10:

The book was a vivid retelling of entering a new world for the first time and the struggle of losing and finding oneself again and again.

Do I have any peeves about this book? Editing. It’s always editing! I’m an editor (in-training) I see these things, alright! Still, I don’t like to mention it, especially if it’s minor things because I want you to support the author. However, it is my duty to be as honest as possible. If it entails you spending your money on a purchase, I should be.

That being said, once they got to America the timelines became confusing. Sometimes years were listed but then I didn’t always know exactly what age the author was at the time. She would be 19 (years) on one page then 30 three pages down, then back to 1984 and I would find myself wondering where does 1984 fit between the ages 19 and 30?

Sometimes the author would blow through several years at once in a few pages, then come back to before a problem was resolved. Now nothing is wrong with going back and forth in time to tell a story if it enhances the telling of the story or makes it clearer. But it wasn’t always clear and I had to read over parts and jump back to chapters to get an idea of where in the timeline I was at. So there were pacing problems in the second half of the book and especially coming down to the end. Add to that lots of punctuation errors and missing words, and it was a little confusing to read at times.

Did I regret buying it? Absolutely not. I hope it’s revised soon and the errors are cleaned up because it is a wonderful story that needs to be told, and I thank the author for having the courage to tell it. I mean, I can only imagine, but I always wonder how family members take books like this.

But anyway! Please give Molding My Destiny by Patrice M. Foster a try! It’s an engaging autobiography of a child living in an abusive household, barely surviving foster care, and then having to survive on the streets. It is living proof that things can always get worse before they get better. I was very happy to see that the book ended triumphantly.

You can check the author’s website where you can find more of their work, contact information, social media, and catch up on what they’re doing next! Also, visit their book page on Amazon to purchase it. Thanks for reading and see you next month for another review!

– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation

If you are a Caribbean author and wish to get your book reviewed by the website please send an email to Reviews@caribbeanbooks.org to get more information. You can send a copy of your book, in either hardcover or digital format. All free copies of Caribbean literature sent to us are not shared or copied in any way. They are used simply for review purposes.

NB: We don’t post reviews of unpublished manuscripts here as this falls under editorial reviews. We also offer editing and proofreading services specifically with Caribbean authors in mind and will give you private feedback.