The fifth Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair is scheduled for April 10 through 13, with a dozen guest speakers and authors gathering for the event at the University of the Virgin Islands’ campus on St. Croix.
The speakers include: Cadwell Turnbull, a St. Thomas native and award-winning science fiction writer; and Tiphanie Yanique, a Virgin Islands-born author who has garnered wide acclaim for her new novel, “Land of Love and Drowning,” set in 1910 in the Virgin Islands.
In addition to Virgin Islands authors, authors from the wider Caribbean and the United States, authors will be coming from as far away as Australia, South Africa and Norway will be speaking, according to news release issued Monday.
There will be a Children’s Corner, which will be operated by the Children’s Museum of St. Croix. The Aunty Janice Children’s Corner is dedicated to folklorist, storyteller and culture bearer Janice Tutein, “Aunty Janice” recently died, and the organizers chose to celebrate her memory by naming the corner in her honor.
While main events will be held at UVI, there will also be several other venues including the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts on the waterfront in Frederiksted, Government House in Frederiksted and Undercover Bookstore in Christiansted.
Full admission to the fair is $150, excluding workshops by Jamaica Kincaid and Zane, and including the opening reception and Meet and Greet with the writers at the Book Bacchanal and reception in Frederiksted, and admission to all workshops and presentations. Day passes or single workshop passes are also available. Discounted fares are offered to teachers and senior citizens. Students are free. Tickets can be purchased online at the festival’s website.
The idea for establishing an annual Literary Festival and Book Fair is credited to Dr. Simon Jones- Hendrickson, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences of UVI. The first program chair was UVI Professor Dr. Valerie Knowles Combie. The 2019, program chair for the fourth year in succession is Alscess Lewis-Brown, UVI adjunct professor and editor of “The Caribbean Writer.”
The slate of speakers includes:
– Deng Thiak Adut, the keynote speaker, a defense lawyer and refugee advocate in Western Sydney, Australia, and a former child soldier from South Sudan. His story is told in a popular short video by Western Sydney University, where he earned his law degree. He was named the 2017 New South Wales Australian Man of the Year. A member of the Dinka people, Adut was born in South Sudan near the White Nile River. In 1987, at the age of 6 or 7 years, Adut was taken from his mother and marched for 33 days to Ethiopia along with 30 other child conscripts and forced to fight for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the Second Sudanese Civil War. In 1995, Adut’s older half-brother, John Mac, smuggled Adut out of Sudan at night in a truck under sacks of corn. Adut spent 18 months in a refugee camp in Kenya. The United Nations granted both brothers refugee status and, in 1998 when Adut was 14, Australia granted both boys a visa.
– Yona Deshommes is responsible for coordinating publicity for Strebor Books, Atria’s African-American literature line, and Infinite Words, a sub-imprint of Strebor Books. She has worked with a myriad of authors that include New York Times bestselling authors Common (“One Day It’ll All Make Sense”), TD Jakes (“Let It Go”), Zane (“Addicted”), and Wil Haygood (“The Butler”).
– Denene Milner is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning journalist whose works has secured her foothold in the entertainment, parenting, social media and book publishing industries. Her books include “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” co-written with Steve Harvey.
– Lewis Gordon is honorary president and core professor at the Global Center for Advanced Studies; Honorary Professor at the Unit of the Humanities at Rhodes University, South Africa, and a musician who regularly performs in blues, jazz, reggae, and rock bands. His books include “Bad Faith and Anti-Black Racism,” “Her Majesty’s Other Children” and “An Introduction to Africana Philosophy.”
– Richard Georges, a writer, editor, and lecturer in the British Virgin Islands. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Prelude, Smartish Pace, Barrelhouse, The Caribbean Writer, The Puritan, and The Poetry Review. He is the author of the poetry collections “Make Us All Islands,” recipient of the 2016 Marvin E. Williams Literary Prize from The Caribbean Writer, and is a founding editor of Moko, a journal of Caribbean arts and letters.
– Fartein Hogar is an award winning Norwegian author, who has written both fiction and non fiction books as well as poetry. His latest book is the result of significant research on the Virgin Islands during the Danish occupation. He is a professor at the University of Norway.
– Paget Henry, author and professor of sociology and Africana Studies at Brown University, will present on “Properly Documenting Sources and Building Credibility.”
– Jamaica Kincaid is an award-winning Antiguan-American novelist, essayist, gardener, and gardening writer. She resides in Vermont and teaches at Harvard University as the “Professor of African and African American Studies in Residence.”
– Rozena Maart is a professor, author, director for the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. She has been recognized for her writing, and for her work opposing apartheid and violence against women.
– Cadwell Turnbull’s fiction can be found in the pages of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and Nightmare. His Nightmare story “Loneliness is in Your Blood” was selected for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy prize in 2018. His debut novel, “The Lesson,” set in near-future U.S. Virgin Islands after an alien colonization, is forthcoming from Blackstone Publishing. Turnbull grew up on St. Thomas and teaches ESL to adults in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
– Hanétha Vété-Congolo-Leibnitz is a Martinican and scholar of Caribbean and African literatures and cultures. She teaches at Bowdoin College in Maine where she lives.
– Tiphanie Yanique is a Virgin Islands-born author who has garnered wide acclaim for her new novel, “Land of Love and Drowning.” Her poetry collection, “Wife,” won the 2016 Bocas Prize in Caribbean poetry and the United Kingdom’s 2016 Forward/Felix.
On the Festival Schedule
On Wednesday, April 10, the School Writers’ Rendezvous moves off into the schools, giving students the chance to meet with and learn from distinguished writers firsthand. The journey into St. Croix schools is sponsored by the Virgin Islands Department of Education’s Division of Cultural Education and Division of Curriculum and Instruction. Thursday evening a formal reception will be held at Government House in Frederiksted.
On Friday evening a grand lot of books will be available for purchase at festive Book Bacchanal in cooperation with the Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts. Authors will not only read from their works but local poets, both amateur and professional, are invited to participate in the open mic poetry session.
On Saturday morning, the Bush Tea Morning Social will open bright and early with music, live performances and a good old-fashioned Caribbean breakfast. At 9:15, author and professor Clement White, a Virgin Islander who teaches at the University of Rhode Island, will address the gathering. Following his address, the festival will include a brown bag lunch and a presentation publishing, by Yona Deshomme of Atria Books.
In the afternoon the workshops will be focused on developing writers and readers.