Category: Books

New Book Highlights The Old House as a Place of Heritage and History

The Old House is a new bilingual book by the Les Fruits de Mer association about The Old House, an 18th century home in French Quarter.

Overlooking Coconut Grove in French Quarter, The Old House has been a part of St. Martin’s history for over 250 years. Very few buildings from its era survive today. A new bilingual book by the Les Fruits de Mer association, The Old House, highlights this landmark and the stories that surround it.

“In many ways, The Old House itself represents the story of St. Martin,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “The building showcases the craftsmanship of many generations of St. Martiners, from those who laid the foundations in the 1700s to those who did carpentry, tile and cement work in the last century.”

The book includes a historical look at The Old House, which reflects the history of the island. During the colonial period, a variety of crops were raised by enslaved people for the benefit of slaveholding families and colonial governments. Around the time of Emancipation, the industry shifted to salt production on the Orient Bay salt pond, which continued until the late 1950s. In 2000, the house itself became a museum developed and run by Pierre Beauperthuy.

The book explores various aspects of The Old House, from its architecture and craftsmanship to its role in salt production and its representation in art. The book includes interviews with Elise Hyman, who worked at the Orient Bay salt pond in her youth, and Sir Roland Richardson, who created an etching of the house and showcased it in an early issue of Discover magazine.

“Sadly, The Old House is one of very few old buildings left on St. Martin,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “This makes the house itself, and its story, even more important. The destruction of two historical sites on the island already this year shows how vulnerable local heritage is. When these old buildings are destroyed, history is erased. The history of enslavement and enslaved people is especially vulnerable. With fewer written records of their lives, the things they built are a key part of their legacy. The history of the culturally-rich traditional period between Emancipation and the rise of tourism is also being lost along with these buildings.”

The Old House book is bilingual in French and English. It is available for free online at lesfruitsdemer.com. A printed edition will be available in the coming weeks. The public is welcome to visit Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House every day of the week from sunrise to sunset. The free museum features exhibits about The Old House itself, and many other parts of St. Martin’s nature, heritage and culture.

Trilingual Poetry Book by Lasana M. Sekou Launches Saturday with Signing and Free Give-away Event

6 Poems by Lasana M. Sekou is an introduction to the author’s work presented in English, French, and Spanish.

The public is invited to celebrate the launch of 6 Poems / 6 Poèmes / 6 Poemas by Lasana M. Sekou on Saturday, February 4. The launch and free give-away of the new book will be held at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter from 9 am to 12 noon.

The author, St. Martin poet and writer Lasana M. Sekou, will be present to sign copies of 6 Poems, and light refreshments will be served for all to enjoy, said the Les Fruits de Mer association, publisher of the book. The launch event is part of the 32nd annual Black History Celebration organized island-wide by Conscious Lyrics Foundation.

The book presents six poems by Sekou in three languages: English, French and Spanish. It was created by Sekou and Les Fruits de Mer for distribution to students, schools, and the public. The internationally renowned author has published over 20 books, said Les Fruits de Mer. St. Martin and its people are often the focus of his writing.

“For the last 40 years, Sekou’s poetry has been a vital expression of St. Martin culture and identity. It was a privilege to develop 6 Poems together to help make his work accessible to more people, especially youth,” said Mark Yokoyama, editor at Les Fruits de Mer.

“We selected poems with themes of the island’s past and present, its traditions, elders, art, and spirit. We chose to present them in French and Spanish, as well as the original English, to make them more available to more people here. And we will be giving hundreds of copies to schools and students,” said Yokoyama, who is also an author.

St. Martin poet and writer Lasana M. Sekou will be present to sign copies of his new book at the launch event on Saturday, February 4, between 9 am and noon. (Photo by Ryan Tackling)

The slim volume includes new translations by Alex Richards, Fabian Adekunle Badejo, and Jocelyne Illidge. A new exhibit in the Amuseum’s poetry garden will be unveiled at the launch event, featuring the poems from the book in three languages.

6 Poems is an outcome of the St. Martin literature panels and poetry in the park exhibits that Mark Yokoyama, Jenn Yerkes, and Les Fruits de Mer have initiated at Amuseum Naturalis. The association is known for its fascinating books for children and adults about St. Martin’s wildlife from the land, air, and sea,” said Sekou.

“It’s an honor to be one of the writers with work being made visible to young people, parents, teachers, visitors, all who visit the museum. With 6 Poems some of that writing can be taken home and into classrooms and media centers of schools throughout our island,” said Sekou.

The 6 Poems collection is also available as a free download from lesfruitsdemer.com, and for purchase on amazon.com worldwide. Teachers and youth group leaders interested in copies are encouraged to contact Les Fruits de Mer at [email protected]. Companies, organizations, or individuals interested in sponsoring copies for schools are encouraged to contact the association, said Yokoyama.

Free printed copies of 6 Poems by Lasana M. Sekou will be given to St. Martin schools as part of Les Fruits de Mer’s book give-away program, said Yokoyama. This project was funded by the Collectivité de Saint-Martin through Vie Associative. Permission to publish the poems in this volume was granted by House of Nehesi Publishers and Sekou.