September 14, 2010

Interview Swap with Summer Edward

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Welcome to Interview Swap Day for BBAW! I was lucky enough to be paired with the very interesting author of the blog Summer Edward's Caribbean Children's Literature Blog. The Caribbean and children's literature is not something I blog about very often so I it was an educational experience to peruse her blog. We do have a few things in common: 1. we both grew up on islands* and 2. love Jane Eyre!

So here's a little about Summer before we get down to the interview. Summer is a twenty something from Trinidad and Tobago who now lives in Philadelphia where she is working on her Masters. She's also Founder and Managing Editor of Anansesem, the Caribbean children's literature ezine.

First, congratulations on your BBAW Cultural Review Book Blog nomination. Your blog is unique with a very specific niche, Caribbean children's books. Why did you choose to write about it on your blog?

Thanks Christina, it’s an honor to be nominated! I started blogging to simply bring awareness to the existence of Caribbean children’s literature. So many people, both inside and outside of the Caribbean, want to know more about Caribbean children’s literature but don’t know where to turn to find out or simply haven’t been able to because there isn’t much information out there. In the Caribbean it’s not like in North America where you have the Kirkus Reviews or the Horn Book to give you an expert opinion and keep you updated on what’s out there. Also, there aren’t a lot of people blogging about Caribbean children’s literature; just a handful of us actually. So being a Caribbean person who loves both Caribbean cultures and children’s literature, I thought I would do something to fill the void.

Moreover, I think people like me, who want to write or illustrate Caribbean children’s books, or who want to see Caribbean children’s literature become more mainstream, affordable, accessible, and lucrative, need to come together as an interest group and network and support each other. I thought that a blog was one way to bring us all together as like-minded people together, which turns out to be the case. As a student of Reading, Writing, Literacy I have learned about the importance of culturally-relevant literacy experiences and multicultural literature for children and young people, and that’s another reason I blog: to advocate for those things.

I have an 8 year old daughter. What Caribbean books or authors would you recommend for her? 

Oh there are so many I think she would enjoy! I don’t want to assume she hasn’t read Caribbean children’s books before, but if she hasn’t, some good books for children who haven’t been exposed to our books or our cultures before are the so-called “Caribbean alphabet books” like Frane Lessac's Caribbean Alphabet, Dawne Allette's Caribbean Animals, John Agard's Calypso Alphabet, Benjamin Zephaniah's J is for Jamaica, Dirk McLean's Play Mas'! A Carnival ABC, and Valerie Bloom's Ackee, Breadfruit, Callaloo: An Edible Alphabet. These books are expository but fun and do a good job of targeting audiences who may not be familiar with Caribbean cultures. Then there’s the “Mauby” series by Peter Laurie (from Barbados) about the adventures of Mauby the Cat on a Caribbean farm; they’re perfect for an 8 year old. Pamela Mordecai (from Jamaica) and Lynn Joseph (from Trinidad/Dominica) have also written some excellent books for that age group/reading level. Like I said there are lots. I have a reading list that I put together myself posted up on my blog and you’ve now given me the idea of organizing the list by age level

Since you live in Philadelphia now, what do you miss most about living in Trinidad?

The major thing for me would be family. My immediate family members are my best friends and it’s hard to be away from them which is why I go home at least once every year, sometimes more. The second thing would be the weather. Here in Philadelphia, they’re just starting to talk about the Summer coming to an end and whenever I hear it, it’s like a death has been announced. I absolutely pine for Trinidad during the Winter season. I must say that I also miss the language of my people, being able to converse freely as we do, in our dialect with all its nuances and colorful expressions. But aside from those things, I really am happy to be living in America. I've had some amazing experiences here in Philadelphia (great city) and I’ve made some lovely friends. Foreigners are often tempted to dislike America and Americans but once you live here you get to see what a great place it really is, how many opportunities there are, how interesting the society is. It really is possible to live out your dreams here. Now, I often feel like my heart is torn between the two places.

 I'm stealing one of your questions: What is the book blogging community of the Caribbean like?

It’s definitely growing, that’s one thing I can say for sure. I think Caribbean societies are definitely changing and becoming more technological, more “Web 2.0.”; so many people are getting online and starting blogs. Some blogs like Geoffery Philp’s Blogspot, Repeating Islands and Caribbean Book Blog are reputable Caribbean book blogs that have been around for some time, but a host of others (like mine) have begun to spring up recently, a lot of them being blogs by writers/authors, established or aspiring. I feel like the Caribbean book blogging community is very close-knit. When I visit the various sites, I see the same people leaving comments. Also, my friend and fellow Anansesem Editor Anouska Kock started a Ning network recently (Caribbean Literary Salon) which is really doing a great job of bringing Caribbean book lovers and bloggers together (you don't have to be from the Caribbean to join though.) That being said, Caribbean people have often been criticized, particularly young people, for not being interested in our own literary traditions and for preferring to read foreign (American and UK) books. I think that Caribbean book bloggers are kind of like the new-age Caribbean literary establishment: a small circle of people who are in some way “experts” -- writers, authors, publishing people, Literature students etc. -- and who do not necessarily represent the average Caribbean reader. We tend to be writerly people with a distinct concern for reading and promoting local/regional authors and literature.

If you could take a whole week off and just read, what books would you pick?

Well, recently I’ve been feeling like my reading material has been lots of “high brow” stuff, novels by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners and so forth. Also, I have really been sticking to Caribbean books in the past few months and I do miss the unique reading experiences books from foreign cultures can offer. I’ve been seriously threatening a trip to the bookstore to get myself some good, fun popular fiction. I love YA books and I’d really like to take a week off to read some of the latest American ones I’ve been hearing so much about. The Hunger Games books for example. People really seem to be raving about them and I feel so out of the loop with “cool” stuff like that. So definitely some YA lit. It’s also been a while since I read a really hilarious, “laugh out loud” book? Any suggestions?

Thanks for interviewing me on your blog Christina!

And thanks for interviewing me, Summer! Please visit Summer and see what she has to say about Caribbean children's books.


  1. I can so sympathize on the family (my cousins are my best friends & I grew up with them) and weather (except I'm the opposite and miss the cold now that I'm down in Texas). Good to know you!

  2. I can understand being torn between two places -- but no matter where you live, it's great to have you in the book blogging community.

  3. Fascinating interview! I'm not familiar with Summer's blog but what a great resource for Caribbean literature! Good luck with your studies, Summer!!

  4. Great interview both of you! I learned a lot!

  5. Great interview! Thanks for the introduction to a great blogger.

  6. Wonderful, awesome, informative interview! What a great niche. Fascinating. :)

  7. This seems like an interesting niche to blog about! I lived not far from Philadelphia for a couple years, and really liked the area. I hope you continue to enjoy it there, although I can understand your homesickness.

  8. I'm with Summer about the weather - I hate for summer to end. Caribbean children's literature sounds wonderful!

  9. Such a fascinating interview!!! I'd never heard of Caribbean Children's Literature Blog, so I'm glad to have heard of it now! I'll definitely be checking it out. Nice to meet you Summer!

  10. Thanks for the great interview, and introduction to a new-to-me blogger!

  11. Hi everyone, I'm glad you all enjoyed the interview :-) Caribbean children's lit IS a great niche and I hope people feel inspired to learn more about it and go out and buy the books!

    Thanks Christina for interviewing me!

  12. Oh and I'm just looking at everyone's blogs...all so interesting... glad to have come across you all :-)

  13. Great interview. I'm a big Jane Eyre fan too and Phil;adelphia is a city I'd love to visit. I think it's great that she saw a need in the blogging world and filled it :)