Musical Youth, the title that placed second for the inaugural round of the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature, will be enjoyed by young users of the Public Library of Antigua and Barbuda, thanks to a donation of 15 copies of the Young Adult novel written by local author Joanne C. Hillhouse.
“It means a lot to me to have my new book, Musical Youth, in the stacks of the long awaited, brand new library,” said Hillhouse, who added that a library is an essential and potentially vibrant part of not only the literary community but the community as a whole. “I love that Antiguan and Barbudan teens are going to have ready access to this book and I hope that they will be able to see themselves in it.”
Hillhouse contributed the copies on behalf of herself, Musical Youth publisher CaribbeanReads, and CODE, the Canadian non-profit behind the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. Copies of Musical Youth and the two other winners – All Over Again by A-dZiko Simba Gegele and Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis, both from Jamaica, are now on sale across the Caribbean and CODE has also purchased 2,500 of each of the three titles from their publishers, which will be distributed to institutions like the library and youth organizations to ensure that the books gets into the hands of the teens and young adults for which they are intended.
Musical Youth is the story of Zahara and Shaka and their circle of friends, all gifted young musical talents, who are transformed by a summer spent working on a musical production. Initial reader response has been positive, and Hillhouse is hopeful that Antiguan and Barbudan youths and youths across the Caribbean will embrace the story.
Musical Youth, which launched on November 21st at the Best of Books, is Hillhouse’s fifth book afterThe Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad! Hillhouse, who provides freelance writing and editing services, was supported at the launch of her latest book with readings by Alexandra Spence, Margaret Irish, and Asha Graham – finalists in the 2014 Wadadli Pen writing challenge which she coordinates. In addition to the library donation, Hillhouse also took the opportunity to contribute copies of the book to the Cushion Club reading club, another programme with which she has volunteered for many years.
Hillhouse also conducted a writing workshop sponsored by CODE on November 22nd and 23rd. CODE has sponsored similar workshops in Trinidad, Guyana, and Jamaica to assist with the development of skills that can feed in to the programand the development of fresh, contemporary literary content.
CaribbeanReads is a St. Kitts registered independent publishing house which released both Musical Youth and the Christmas anthology Round My Christmas Tree in November – the latter includes stories by Hillhouse and another Antiguan writer, Carel Hodge.