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UVI Presents Inaugural Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair

vi literary festival logo for st. croix event

Acclaimed Caribbean author Jamaica Kincaid and other top writers from throughout the Caribbean and world will share insights on writing, publishing and the importance of literacy during the inaugural Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair, set for March 26 – March 29  on the University of the Virgin Islands Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. The four-day festival is presented by the UVI College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The festival will feature numerous events, including keynote speakers, writing workshops, a literary island tour, book fairs, book signings and a theatrical performance on a St. Croix historical figure and activist.  

This year’s theme, “Embracing Literacy for Life,” will be present throughout the fair, particularly on opening day when featured writers will visit the prison and schools to discuss their work and the importance of literacy.  The festival will feature a vibrant literary corner where children will be encouraged to engage in reading activities.

 “The VI Literary Festival and Book Fair will make a difference in the education and lives in the Virgin Islands because ‘the pen is mightier than the sword,’ " said Dr. Valerie Combie, UVI associate professor of English and Writing Center director. “This festival is also unique in that we have three keynote speakers.”

Keynote speakers include Kincaid, a native of Antigua, whom one literary critic described as “the most important West Indian woman writing today.”  Kincaid’s literary works highlight the pressures of poverty, post colonialism, race and gender issues.  Kincaid is author of the books “Annie John,” “Lucy” and “Mr. Potter.”  She will deliver keynote remarks on Saturday, March 28.  After her keynote address, Kincaid will lead a workshop on autobiography writing.

St. Thomas native and author Tiphanie Yanique, is the keynote speaker for Friday, March 27. Yanique is winner of the 2014 Flaherty-Duncan First Novel Prize for her book “Land of Love and Drowning.  The award-winning book chronicles the saga of a St. Thomas family through three generations.

Yanique will also moderate a special panel introducing the work of other Caribbean authors  including Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse, author of the novellas “The Boy from Willow Bend” and “Dancing Nude in the Moonlight.” Hillhouse also penned the children’s picture book “Fish Outta Water.”  She placed second for the inaugural Burt Award for Young Adult Caribbean Literature in 2014.

Sharon Millar, a native of Trinidad, will take part in the panel discussion as well, discussing her award-winning literary works, including  “The Whale House and Other Stories.”   Millar’s work is centered around her homeland and focuses on protagonists who struggle with moral issues, crime, illness, loyalty, and betrayal.  In 2013 she was the co-winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Publishing guru Malaika Adero will make a special appearance, giving an address on Friday, March 27.  Adero is an independent publishing consultant, editor and writer with a decades long career in book publishing.  She is author of “Up South: Stories, Studies and Letters of This Century’s African American Migrations” and co-author of  “Speak, So You can Speak Again, The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.

Adero was a vice president/senior editor at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster (S&S).   She serves on the board of Poets and Writers, the SonEdna Foundation and on the advisory board of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. She has consulted and worked with institutions on cultural programming, including The Kennedy Center, The National Black Arts Festival, The Metropolitan Museum, Harlem Stage, and The Schomburg Center.

A festival highlight will be a presentation of the newest theatrical production from playwright, director and UVI Professor David Edgecombe, titled “Hubert Harrison.”  The play will be held 7 p.m. Saturday, March 28, at the James C. Savage Theater on the old Good Hope School campus.  “Hubert Harrison” explores the life of the St. Croix native who was an early twentieth century writer, educator, critic and political activist.  Harrison was a leader in the movement for equality and justice for African Americans, influencing and working with men such as W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey.

Festival activities include a Sunday, March 29 morning tour of Harrison’s childhood home in Frederiksted, St. Croix. Jeffrey Perry, author of the book “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism 1883 – 1918,” will give a keynote address on Harrison’s life and legacy.  Perry preserved and inventoried the “Hubert H. Harrison Papers” and helped to place them at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University. 

In addition to keynote speakers, the literary festival boasts a myriad of workshops on storytelling, writing techniques, Caribbean literature, publishing curriculum, and the basics of archival research.  The festival includes a book fair, book signings by authors, a poetry slam with local poets, musical performances and a tour of Christiansted.  Another highlight is a waterfront book bacchanal held outside the Caribbean Museum in Frederiksted, featuring music by the Central High School Jazz Ensemble, Dimitri Copemann and other local musicians.  This one-of-a-kind event includes book sales, book signing opportunities, vendors and Moko Jumbies.  Admission and other fees include:

  • Full admission to the fair: $180.
  • Exhibition booths: $100.
  • Friday daytime workshops: $5
  • Saturday daytime workshops and activities: $20.
  • Friday evening Book Bacchanal: $20.   
  • Island literary tour: $50.  
  • Hubert Harrison theatrical performance: $20 adults; $7 for students.  Tickets available at the UVI Bookstore and the Savage Theater.

Interested participants may also keep up on festival activities via social media using the hashtag #vilitfest.

VI Literary Festival Primary Activities

Date Time Event Location
Thursday, March 26 6 p.m. Author Meet and Greet Government House
Friday, March 27 9 a.m. Opening Ceremony UVI Great Hall
Friday, March 27 9:30 a.m. Tiphanie Yanique UVI Great Hall
Friday, March 27 10 a.m. Writing Workshops UVI Great Hall
Friday, March 27 10 a.m. Children’s Corner Pavilion
Friday, March 27 12:15 p.m. Malaika Adero UVI Great Hall
Friday, March 27 1:30 p.m. Writing Workshops UVI Great Hall
Friday, March 27 4 p.m. Waterfront Book Bacchanal Caribbean Museum, Fst’d
Friday, March 27 6:10 p.m. Open Mic Poetry Slam
Saturday, March 28 10 a.m. Jamaica Kincaid UVI Great Hall
Saturday, March 28 11:10 a.m. Jamaica Kincaid Workshop UVI Great Hall
Saturday, March 28 12:15 p.m. Author Book Signings UVI Great Hall
Saturday, March 28 2:30 p.m. Hubert Harrison Workshop UVI Great Hall
Saturday, March 28 7 p.m. Hubert Harrison Play James Savage Theater
Sunday, March 29 9:30 a.m. Tour of Hubert Harrison Home Frederiksted

For a full schedule of activities and to register and pay online visit  http://www.uvi.edu/academics/lib-arts-and-sciences/research-and-outreach/literary_festival.aspx

Other sponsors of the festival include UVI, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism and Innovative.

The Literary Festival and Book Fair Committee is also seeking volunteers to support the event.  For more information contact Alscess Lewis-Brown, chair of the VI Literary Festival Program Subcommittee at (340) 692-4152.