BOOK-MUSIC PAIRINGS FEAT. DANDANO (PART 2)

Hey everyone!

Do you listen to music when you read? If you do, what kind of music goes well with the books you read?

I like many different genres of music – Neo-soul / Soul (think Raphael Saadiq, Georgia Muldrow, Jill Scott, Bilal, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Sade etc), Jazz (think Robert Glasper, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane etc), Rap/Hip hop (think The Roots, J-Hus, Kendrick Lamar, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Sa-Ra, J Dilla etc), R&B (think Faith Evans, The Internet, Moonchild, Res, The Foreign Exchange etc), Highlife (think Ebo Taylor, Osibisa, Kwadwo Antwi), Afrobeats (think Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, R2Bees, KiDi, Davido, Simi), I could go on and on!

I prefer reading in silence, but when I listen to music while reading, I like to listen to music without any words (especially not Rap), just so the words being sung don’t jumble with the words I read. Music has always been a form of storytelling. I love vibing to the beats and rhythms of music, but once I pay close attention to the lyrics of a song, I’m opened up to a new world.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what songs or albums would go well with some of the great novels, short story collections, magazines, poems I’ve read in recent years. I asked Hakeem Adam (who’s knowledge in ALL things Black culture and the arts is vast!), the founder of Dandano – a Digital platform dedicated to the distilled love of African Film and Music, to help me pair some great songs and albums to great literature.

Enjoy our final pairings below!


  • Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman  – Comfort Woman by Me’shell Ndegeocello

In this phenomenal collection of eleven stories, Brit-Somali writer & visual artist – Diriye Osman, incorporates lots of Neo-Soul (my ultimate favorite music genre) and old school Hip-Hop music into his stories. He refers to Me’shell Ndegeocello’s 2003 soul album, Comfort Woman in about three of the stories, so I just had to purchase her album after I read this collection!

‘Come smoke my herb
Make your heart like the ocean
Your mind like the clear blue sky’

(lyrics from Come Smoke My Herb from album- Comfort Woman)

The song Come Smoke My Herb in particular pairs excellently with Osman’s liberating collection. The dreamy instrumentals take you to another planet with Me’shell’s soothing voice. Comfort Woman is such a ‘feel good’ album that can be played back-to-back to help anyone relax and feel free! In the same way, readers around the world will find solace in Fairytales for Lost Children as Diriye Osman’s stories speak on being true to yourself, following your heart and the universal human need to love one another, regardless of sexual orientation, race, occupation, religion – by Darkowaa.

Check out the book review for Fairytales for Lost Children

Listen to Me’shell Ndegeocello’s Comfort Woman

 


  • Blackass by Igoni Barret – Fantastic Man by William Onyeabor

William Onyaebor, despite being a mystery man is one of the most brilliant African electronic musicians. His story is weird and almost unbelievable, but not as unbelievable as Ignoi Barret’s Blackass. The Lagosian remix of Kafka’s Metamorphoses is the kind of book you love and hate and love all at the same time. The writer engages the simple mechanics of Kafka’s classic to engineer a riveting story about race and colorism in modern Nigerian society. Similarly, William Onyaebor also transformed the not so simple mechanics of the Moog synthesizer to redefine how electronic music was created.

In both pieces of art, there exists this mystery that marries them – where William Onyeabor’s brilliance and life in general has been a source of fuel for myth makers in the music world, Ignoni Barret’s main character lives an even greater myth, defying logic yet remaining real enough for us to identify with and appreciate – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Listen to/ watch William Onyeabor’s Fantastic Man

 


  • No Disrespect by Sister Souljah – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill

Sister Souljah’s memoir, No Disrespect (published in 1995) and Lauryn Hill’s debut solo album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (released in 1998) are both classics, in my opinion! My dad got me Lauryn Hill’s album back in year 2000 and I’ve kept it safe ever since! Hill’s album pairs well with Souljah’s memoir as they both speak on love found and love lost while exploring the growing pains & joys of Black womanhood.

[image via @africanbookaddict on Bookstagram]

While songs like Ex Factor and Forgive Them Father deal with heartbreak and betrayal, Souljah vividly takes readers through bitter heartbreaks as she vicariously lives through her mother’s numerous, toxic relationships as well as her own heartbreaks from the married men she naively entertained. More intimate tracks like Nothing Even Matters feat (my favorite!) D’Angelo pair well with Souljah’s bold, explicit descriptions of her physical features and her intimate interactions with the men who miseducate her on love and life – by Darkowaa.

Listen to Hill’s debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

 


  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi  – Ctrl by SZA 

One thing Emezi’s debut Freshwater and SZA’s Ctrl album have in common is how angsty their masterpieces are.

Akwaeke Emezi and SZA’s work may not be for everyone, but I personally found solace in reading/listening to how prevalent anxiety and insecurity are among women my age (late twenties). While Emezi explores the difficulties of loving and accepting oneself in Freshwater through Ada’s character, the songs on SZA’s Ctrl openly speak on the many issues we 20-something women face in the dating world today, growing pains, vulnerability, self-esteem, self love (or lack thereof) and femininity, which I truly resonate with. SZA’s relatable messages coupled with catchy melodies are what keep me going back to re-listen to songs like 20 Something, SupermodelBroken Clocks, Gina etc.

‘How could it be?
20 something, all alone still
Not a phone in my name
Ain’t got nothin’, runnin’ from love
Only know fear
That’s me, Ms. 20 Something
Ain’t got nothin’, runnin’ from love
Wish you were here, oh’

‘Why I can’t stay alone just by myself?
Wish I was comfortable just with myself
But I need you, but I need you, but I need you’

Both Emezi and SZA do a great job of bolding exploring how we all battle with ‘other selves’ within us – in the form of our blended temperaments, alter egos and moods, through embracing vulnerability – by Darkowaa.

 

Check out the book review for Freshwater

Listen to SZA’s Ctrl

 


  • As The Crow Flies by Véronique Tadjo – Find Your Free by Ria Boss

There is something beautiful about the technique of vignetting, especially in literature, by presenting a glimpse of an image and allowing the reader to wander. In Véronique Tadjo’s deeply poetic collection of vignettes that is As the Crow Flies, you flip through these loosely knit images around love and loss.

In some way, Ria Boss’ debut EP – Find Your Free, also presents sonic vignettes that could easily flow in the same rhythm as the stories in Tadjo’s book. The deeply soulful singer/songwriter bares out intimate truths about life, love and survival. Her lyrics weave trinkets of poetic gold as she creates a warm and fuzzy mood to aid her own healing. Just like in Tadjo’s book, Ria’s vignettes are layered, revealing more detail, the harder you interact with the songs – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Check out the book review for As The Crow Flies

Listen to Ria Boss’ Find Your Free

 


What are some of your favorite book-music pairings? I’d love some book-music pairing recommendations, or any good music you think goes well with reading!

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Book-Music Pairings feat. Dandano (Part 1)

Hey everyone!

Do you listen to music when you read? If you do, what kind of music goes well with the books you read?

I like many different genres of music – Neo-soul / Soul (think Raphael Saadiq, Georgia Muldrow, Jill Scott, Bilal, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Sade etc), Jazz (think Robert Glasper, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane etc), Rap/Hip hop (think The Roots, J-Hus, Kendrick Lamar, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Sa-Ra, J Dilla etc), R&B (think Faith Evans, The Internet, Moonchild, Res, SZA, The Foreign Exchange etc), Highlife (think Ebo Taylor, Osibisa, Kwadwo Antwi), Afrobeats (think Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, R2Bees, KiDi, Davido, Simi), I could go on and on!

 

I prefer reading in silence, but when I listen to music while reading, I like to listen to music without any words (especially not Rap), just so the words being sung don’t jumble with the words I read. Music has always been a form of storytelling. I love vibing to the beats and rhythms of music, but once I pay close attention to the lyrics of a song, I’m opened up to a new world.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what songs or albums would go well with some of the great novels, short story collections, magazines, poems I’ve read in recent years. I asked Hakeem Adam (who’s knowledge in ALL things Black culture and the arts is vast!), the founder of Dandano – a Digital platform dedicated to the distilled love of African Film and Music, to help me pair some great songs and albums to great literature.

Enjoy our pairings below and stay tuned for Part 2!


  • Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – Immigrant Chronicles by M.anifest & Green Card by Wanlov the Kubolor

The African immigrant story is dominant in 21st century African fiction, manifesting in different ways, but mostly pointing towards the American Dream. In Behold The Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue looks to center the disillusionment of the American Dream among African immigrants. The novel asks the dreamer to wake up and think of home. 

Ghanaian rappers M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor were both dreamers and like the characters in Behold The Dreamers, they were also forced to think of home after being sold a dream. On both their debut albums, Immigrant Chronicles and Green Card, they chronicle such experiences.

Both albums speak strongly to the hefty emotional and psychological cost involved in buying into the American Dream. Smallest Time, off Green Card for instance, could easily make the score for the novel as the song oozes with a yearning for a familiar home. M.anifest also does similar on Coming To America on his album. Despite the glaring threads that link these works of art, what makes them perfect companions is how thematically they do try to present an honest perspective, without being irresponsible in those narratives – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Check out the book review for Behold the Dreamers

Listen to snippets of the debut albums for M.anifest’s Immigrant Chronicles & Wanlov’s Green Card

 


  • Period Pain by Kopano Matlwa  – A Seat at the Table (more specifically the songs ‘Cranes in the Sky’ and ‘Weary’) by Solange

In Period Pain (the UK edition is called Evening Primrose), we follow Chaba – a junior doctor in South Africa who is struggling to work in under-resourced hospital conditions; but she’s also dealing with family troubles and her own health issues (severe menorrhagia, depression, sexual abuse) while trying to aid in the fight against xenophobia in the nation. South African writer – Kopano Matlwa’s writing in this superb novel reminded me of Solange’s songs Weary and Cranes in the Sky from the album, A Seat at the Table:

‘I’m weary of the ways of the world
Be weary of the ways of the world’

‘I tried to let go my lover
Thought if I was alone then maybe I could recover
To write it away or cry it away
Don’t you cry baby
Away’

While Period Pain may seem depressing with Chaba constantly feeling weary about her new life as a doctor, it’s actually a very humorous, enjoyable book! It was refreshing to be able to relate to Chaba’s experiences in the hospital, as some of them mirrored mine during my medical and surgery rotations at school. In the same vein, while Solange’s A Seat at the Table is an album that boldly speaks on the despair, self-care, fury and pride of Black folk in America (especially in the interludes), there is light and hope by the end of the album – by Darkowaa.

I read Period Pain back in January and will post the review soon!

Listen to A Seat at the Table

 


  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri – Water No Get Enemy by Fela Kuti

Ben Okri’s The Famished Road is a bewitchingly brilliant novel, blurring the spiritual boundary of African realities. Very few pieces of music can touch it terms of stylistic and thematic quality, but Fela Kuti’s Water No Get Enemy comes close.

With rousing horns complementing the temperate drum loops and eerie mellow piano scales, the song feels mystical in its energy yet, it’s one of the few calm cuts from Fela’s discography. The lengthy instrumental intro is also a great way to set the mood as you wade into The Famished Road. Fela’s verse at the tail of the song about the power of water seems to mirror the power shown by Azaro, the spirit child in Ben Okri book – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Vibe out to Uncle Fela’s Water No Get Enemy

 


  • A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid  – Sor (more specifically the song ‘Afro Aid Problem’) by Kyekyeku

A Small Place is an important book and a wake up call. It reveals a lot of truth, exposes the unsatisfactory leadership of her native island (well, I don’t know if the government of Antigua has changed much today) and ties all the complex issues Antigua faces to our imperfect human nature.

Kincaid’s small book pairs excellently with the song, Afro Aid Problem from the album Sor, by my favorite Ghanaian highlife & folk artist – Kyekyeku. Kyekyeku playfully laments over the many economic problems we Africans face, over harmonious sounds of trumpets, guitar strings, bass guitar, the keyboard & background vocals from his band – by Darkowaa.

‘They take your money and give it back to you and then they call it aid.

They take your money and give it back to you and then they call it grant.

Calculate the money, non-refundable.

Visa processing fee, non-refundable’

Check out the book review for A Small Place

Listen to Kyekyeku’s Afro Aid Problem

 


  • Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi – Afropolitan Dreams by Blitz the Ambassador

The concept of an ‘Afropolitan’ is not without its flaws. In some sense, it represents the idea of floating in no definite space with not a single identity as an African. In Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi uses certain characters to expand on this philosophy of ‘Afropolitanism,’ which she herself practices.

On Afropolitan Dreams by Blitz the Ambassador, he attempts to construct a scope of the range of sonic identities that an ‘Afropolitan’ can identify with. Blitz takes you through his experiences between Africa and the diasporas showing how his African identity can manifest in different ways. In some ways, this album could be a loosely-knit b-side to Ghana Must Go, presenting you with the thoughts and emotions that Taiye Selasi and her characters do not speak of directly – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Listen to Blitz the Ambassador’s Afropolitan Dreams

 


What are some of your favorite book-music pairings?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Book-Music Pairings feat. Dandano!

Book Chat | Tampered Press – A Ghanaian literary & Arts magazine

According to the dictionary, to tamper is to ‘interfere with (something) in order to cause damage or make unauthorized alterations,’ and that’s exactly what Tampered Press is here to do!

[image via Tampered Press]

Tampered Press is a new Ghanaian literary and arts magazine with the goal of publishing the work of emerging and practicing writers and visual artists – with a bias for Ghana, and Africa. The magazine launched during the summer – July 14th, with it’s first issue: The Future Present. I wasn’t able to attend the launch, but I did buy two copies of the first issue and fell in love with the overall stellar quality of the magazine.

What I enjoyed most about the first edition is how unapologetically Ghanaian it is: from the illustrations, to the poetry, short stories and the essays – it’s just really exciting to witness great work being produced by creatives in Accra.

I simply love the overt advocacy for the arts ingrained into every page of this magazine and had to catch up with the editor & creative director – Ama Asantewa Diaka, also known as ‘Poetra Asantewa.’ In this book chat, Poetra Asantewa gives the gist on Tampered Press’s conception, the magazine’s intended audience and more. Enjoy the mini conversation I had with her below!

(note – ‘PA’ represents Poetra Asantewa’s responses)

 

•••

  • Before we get into talking about Tampered Press – Poetra Asantewa, what are you known for? What is your passion?

PA: I am known widely for poetry. But I am passionate about writing – which takes the form of poetry, fiction or non-fiction.

 


  • How did the idea to create this Ghanaian literary & arts magazine come about? Who was involved in the process? Why the name – Tampered Press?

PA: I think books (writing) are a necessity in every community. But the process of getting published in the Ghanaian community, to the best of my knowledge, is so few and far in between that Ghanaian authored books are either largely independent (and thus limited reach), or so rare when it is traditionally published. The publishing industry is a deep dark hole that deserves a ranting of its own, but I strongly believe that the best way to attempt to dismantle the vastness of it, is to create our own platforms – no matter how small and in which ever form. That is what birthed the idea for Tampered – the name was decided on because in as much as it is small – its aim is to stir the norm, – to disturb. Tampered was a very collaborative process. I may have spearheaded it but a community of writers, poets, designers, and editors brought it altogether.

 


  • From the About section of the magazine’s website – The goal is to publish the work of emerging and practicing writers and visual artists, with a bias for Ghana, and Africa.’ So is it safe to assume that the magazine’s intended audiences are Ghanaians and other Africans?

PA: YES. The magazine’s intended audiences are Ghanaians and other Africans.

 


  • Sounds good to me! The quality of the first issue – The Future Present, is very impressive. What do you look out for in the visual arts, short stories, fiction/ non-fiction pieces and poems you accept for publication? What would you like to see more/less of in the submissions?

PA: In the spirit of collaboration – I think marrying the arts together increases its individual reach, and especially for a country that is not privileged to have an industry for each of the arts, it makes more sense to pair up visual artists with writers, or essayists with musicians – or any other pairing that widens the audience reach.

So every submission is going to have these markers – a combination of different genres and art.

 


  • I hope Tampered Press receives lots of submissions in the future, so that forthcoming issues are thicker! I know it’s quite early, but what’s in store for the future?

PA: Consistency in both quantity and quality is my first goal – to be able to create enough interest so artists submit for every issue – both digital and print. To create a reliable platform that also serves not only as a publishing hub but an archive for Ghanaian artists.

 

Guidelines for submissions to the magazine are – here.

 


My favorite pieces from the magazine are:

 

If you’re in Accra, purchase a copy of the magazine from ANO Ghana’s office in Osu. If you’re outside of Ghana and would love to indulge in the work of Ghanaian creatives in this magazine, download Issue 1 via Tampered Press‘s website and stay tuned for the other issues in the coming year.

 

Familiarize yourself with Poetra Asantewa’s work via her YouTube channel; listen to her EXCELLENT 2015 Spoken Word EP – Motherfuckitude & listen to her other projects on Soundcloud as well!

#ReadGhanaian

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Date Read: September 10th 2018

Published: September 2018

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Pages: 312

The Blurb

Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.

Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Prior to reading She Would Be King, I was a newbie when it came Liberian literature – I still am! I only knew about Nobel Peace Prize winner and writer – Leymah Gbowee, and her feature in the amazing documentary film – Pray the Devil Back to Hell (which I watched and deeply enjoyed for a Women’s Studies class in college). This debut had me wanting to know more about Liberia and the work of Liberian writers, such as – Helene Cooper, Hawa Jande Golakai, Vamba Sherif, Leymah Gbowee, Bilphena Yahwon (Gold Womyn) and others. While reading, I actually found a YouTube video where Liberian writer- Vamba Sherif, talks about Liberian literature in an interview. Enjoy!

She Would Be King is a beautiful mélange of historical fiction, magical realism and coming-of-age. Moore skillfully develops the three main characters of this novel: Gbessa – a Vai girl who is cursed and exiled to the forest; June Dey – the child of the strongest rebel on the Emerson plantation in Virginia; Norman Aragon – the child of Nani who was a gifted Jamaican Maroon and a British anthropologist/colonizer (such a terrible man!) . These three characters are guided by the wind and use their gifts – which are considered curses to ordinary people, to save present-day Liberia from its many hidden troubles. I always knew Liberia was the land where some freed slaves and freeborn African Americans made a living, but I had no idea freed slaves from the Caribbean also settled in present-day Liberia, making the nation a flavorful melting pot of indigenous and Diaspora folk.

The first three chapters of this debut explore these three main characters. I loved delving into the characters’ storylines and witnessing their evolution through the years. While African-American June Dey and Jamaican Norman play key roles in the establishment of Liberia through their gifts, Gbessa is the shero of this novel (this is not a spoiler, relax!) . Gbessa, who is described as a dark-skinned woman with wild red long hair, grows immensely in this story, to the point where her layered identities begin to haunt her. I’m itching to discuss Gbessa’s evolution, but unfortunately it would require divulging spoilers – and that wouldn’t be right!

[Images via Wayétu Moore’s Instagram for her US book tour dates; illustrations by Art Therapy Houston, PLLC]

Wayétu Moore’s writing felt light and magical in this debut. While reading, my heart raced as I could feel Gbessa’s loneliness and isolation, June Dey’s anger and power, Norman’s intelligence and bravery. The many issues in this story come together beautifully as Moore explores the legacies of slavery and colonialism as well as love, friendship, womanhood and independence. The sisterhood between Gbessa and Maisy – the wonderful woman who plays an immense role in Gbessa’s ‘civilization’ was so heartfelt!

I enjoyed the brotherhood between June Dey and Norman, but I wished their relationship was explored more. These men spent most of their time fighting invaders so there wasn’t enough dialogue between them. Also, it took me a while to finish this book thanks to school work, but also because I got bored of June Dey and Norman’s chapters, which were heavy with magical realism and lots of action. It wasn’t easy keeping up with the wordiness of their fighting scenes which required me to imagine all of their complex, superhero stunts. I really just desired some more depth to June Dey and Norman’s relationship and their connection to the settlement of Monrovia.

What I loved most about this novel was reading about the tensions between members of the indigenous tribes and former enslaved African Americans/ free-borns from the United States. I always knew these two groups had difficulty in seeing eye-to-eye, even in present day Liberia, but I didn’t realize how deep that tension was.

“But… some of them don’t think all of us the same. Some of them think… some of then think they smarter and better fit to lead than those who were already here” pg. 173.

The phrase ‘All My Skinfolk ain’t Kinfolk’ gnawed at me as I read how the African American settlers blatantly disregarded indigenous Liberians. It was eye-opening (and disappointing) to witness how settlers from the US treated indigenous folk similar to the ways slave masters treated them back in the US. Imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy emigrated with the African American settlers to Monrovia, where they imposed their power and discriminated against the natives. Indigenous folk had little say in the governing of their land, as the mayors and key thinkers of Monrovia were predominently the African American settlers. I had to do quite a bit of outside reading on Liberian history and the role of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in Monrovia’s complete independence. It was so intriguing to read on the motives of this society and I think I now understand why the election of Liberia’s current president- George Weah, was such a big deal.

There’s so much to say about this book! While I’d like some clarity on the use of language (pidgin) in the novel and Gbessa’s (unrealistic) infatuation with her childhood friend – Safua, this debut is pretty solid. I’d love to know what Liberians and Liberian-Americans think of this novel, as they would probably better understand the nuances of the story. I can confidently say I will read anything by Wayétu Moore, and that this debut is a lovely ode to the country of Liberia and Liberian womanhood, through Gbessa’s complex characterization.

[Today is pub day! Special thanks to Graywolf Press and Wayétu Moore for an Advanced Review Copy of this debut]

★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!

Purchase She Would Be King on Amazon

The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah

Date Read: June 23rd 2018

Published: May 2018

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Pages: 234

The Blurb

Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that turns her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father’s court. These two women’s lives converge as infighting among Wurche’s people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the 19th century.

Set in pre-colonial Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga is a story of courage, forgiveness, love and freedom. Through the experiences of Aminah and Wurche, it offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I would rate The Hundred Wells of Salaga 4.5 stars in a heartbeat, but I’m rounding up my rating to 5 stars. Ayesha Harruna Attah has grown soooo much as a writer and this third novel is proof of her wonderful growth. The Hundred Wells of Salaga is very well researched and I’m ashamed at how little I knew about the internal slavery within the continent during the 1800’s. It’s amazing how we Ghanaians know very little about our country – I had no idea what or where Salaga was. While I was reading, I fervently looked for more information on Salaga and slavery of Northern Ghana and came across this video on YouTube – SALAGA: An Ancient Slave Trade Center. It’s an excellent 19 minute, short documentary on the ancient slave trade center. Enjoy!

I just love that this historical novel opens up conversation around – internal, trans-Saharan & trans-Atlantic slave trade, amongst readers. This novel opens up the wounds of our past and shows how complicit we were the in our greed for power through the fragmenting of families. The Hundred Wells of Salaga forced me to examine how many families in Africa (and Asia) currently practice modern forms of ‘slavery’ through the use of ‘house helps’ or ‘house girls’ and the effects of this modern practice.

All of Ayesha’s novels have been great reads for me because she creates well-rounded characters. Typically, the chapters of her books are dedicated to the characters, so the storyline is propelled through the lens of the different characters of her books; I was excited to see this technique used in The Hundred Wells of Salaga.

Aminah and Wurche’s characters were great contrasts – while Aminah’s character was calm, kind and obedient; Wurche was confident, pleasantly arrogant and ambitious – my type of gal, to be honest! Ayesha gets readers acquainted with Aminah and her family to the point where it feels like Aminah’s family is our own. Reading Aminah’s chapters felt a bit grime and I had this feeling of doom and fear as the story progressed. Ayesha manages to personalize slavery through Aminah’s character, and readers feel the hurt and vulnerability it caused ordinary folk.

Wurche’s chapters were the vehicle that drove the feminist narrative in this novel. Readers see first-hand how women (more so Wurche) were used to push the agendas of domination, through arranged marriages and other acts of coercion; and the various acts of rebellion the brave women took. Readers start to understand the legacies of slavery in Ghana through Aminah and Wurche, and get acquainted with other characters like – a German, who ideally would be seen as the big, bad colonizer, an Ashanti slave owner (Wofa Sarpong) and many other personalities who challenge our values. Islam plays an interesting role in this novel – I loved the dichotomy of how it was used to teach values, but also regulated the lives of women, which affect Wurche’s headstrong nature.

Ayesha did an excellent job with The Hundred Wells of Salaga! I truly hope this book is sold in Salaga or bookshops, museums and historical sites in Northern Ghana. It’s a necessary resource.


The Hundred Wells of Salaga has been acquired by Other Press (USA) and will be published February of next year (image on the right – how beautiful is the book cover?! It was illustrated by the talented Loveis Wise). The book also has translation rights in Dutch (bottom left image), French, German, Italian and Turkish!

 

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase The Hundred Wells of Salaga on Amazon

 

Check out my book reviews of Ayesha H. Attah’s other novels:

Mini Reviews | Audiobooks

Hey everyone!

I’ve been listening to quite a few audiobooks lately. As an avid consumer of numerous podcasts, audiobooks – especially essay collections and non-fiction (read by the author), act as extended podcast episodes for me! Below are 4 mini reviews of the audiobooks I’ve enjoyed thus far.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

Date Read: April 28th 2018

Published: 2018

Narrated by: Brittney Cooper

Length: 6hrs 57mins

 

 

The Blurb

So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting.

Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon.

Eloquent Rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. When Cooper learned of her grandmother’s eloquent rage about love, sex, and marriage in an epic and hilarious front-porch confrontation, her life was changed. And it took another intervention, this time staged by one of her homegirls, to turn Brittney into the fierce feminist she is today. In Brittney Cooper’s world, neither mean girls nor fuckboys ever win. But homegirls emerge as heroes. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I honestly don’t know how to review this book. There are updates I shared on Goodreads of my rough thoughts after some of the chapters I enjoyed. All I can say is: Dr. Brittney Cooper is my shero! That is all.

Purchase Eloquent Rage on Amazon

 


Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson

Date Read: May 16th 2017

Published: 2017

Narrated by: Michael Eric Dyson

Length: 5hrs 32mins

 

 

The Blurb

Short, emotional, literary, powerful—Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.

As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man’s voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece “Death in Black and White,” Michael Eric Dyson moved a nation. Now he continues to speak out in Tears We Cannot Stopa provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Excellent, excellent, excellent – from beginning to end! I love how Prof. Dyson takes his time to break everything down to white folk – who are the target audience of this book. I’m glad I listened to this via audiobook, because Dyson was very entertaining while performing his words. He has a wonderful, melodic (and sometimes superfluous) way with words that made this an excellent listen. This book is in the form of a sermon and almost every other sentence is quotable; so it was challenging to listen to this book while driving, because I’d always want to add a note to certain clips of chapters as reminders to transcribe the quotes when writing a review (one disadvantage of audiobooks). But I loved Dyson’s bold, fearless approach to enlightening white America of ALL the mess they’ve caused and still remain silent about.

When I started listening, I wondered if Dyson would address the ways white America relates to Black Americans and Black immigrants – i.e: folks from Africa and the Caribbean, and he indeed addresses this towards the end of the book. While Black people from Africa and the Caribbean don’t carry the same intricate baggage of slavery as Black Americans, in the United States, we are all just Black to the white man. Dyson addressing these facts in the book made me think of how divisive we (Black people) tend to be in our communities, and how it only hurts us.

Towards the end of the book, Dyson gives a plethora of recommendations for readers to educate themselves on race in America. Some of his recommendations of writers to read include – Classics: Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, bell hooks, Michelle Wallace, Kimberly Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Barack Obama; Gifted Black Voices In Media: Ta’Nehisi Coates, Clint Smith, Henry Louis Gates Jr, Brittney Cooper, Eve Ewing, Wesley Lowrey; Ambassadors Of Truth: Peggy McIntosh (she came to my college to speak when I was in my junior year. It was such an honor to be in her presence!), Tim Wise and many more!

I really hope white folks are purchasing and reading this book, because it was carefully written for them.

Purchase Tear We Cannot Stop on Amazon

 


Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Date Read: January 17th 2018

Published: 2016

Narrated by: Trevor Noah

Length: 8hrs 44mins

 

 

The Blurb

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

What more can be said about Born A Crime? Everybody and their grandmother has read this book.

I started the book in November (2017) but got side tracked. If I had listened to this book in 3 sittings, I might have given the book 5 stars because it was really enjoyable when I first started. Nevertheless, Trevor Noah is a very compelling storyteller – listening to him re-enact South African accents/languages and imitate various characters was such a treat. But what a stubborn child this boy was!

To me, this book is an ode to his phenomenal mother, who I truly admire. The ending of this book was deeply emotional and brought me to tears… Born A Crime had the right blend of South African racial history, humor and life lessons.

Purchase Born A Crime on Amazon

 


What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Date Read: July 31st 2017 & (re-read) June 23rd 2018

Published: 2014

Narrated by: Oprah Winfrey

Length: 3hrs 53mins

 

The Blurb

As a creative force, student of the human heart and soul, and champion of living the life you want, Oprah Winfrey stands alone. Over the years, she has made history with a legendary talk show – the highest-rated program of its kind, launched her own television network, become the nation’s only African-American billionaire, and been awarded both an honorary degree by Harvard University and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. From all her experiences, she has gleaned life lessons―which, for fourteen years, she’s shared in O, The Oprah Magazine’s widely popular “What I Know For Sure” column, a monthly source of inspiration and revelation.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Listening to Oprah is probably the best way you can consume this candid, uplifting book. I grew up watching & hearing Oprah’s voice on television, so obviously it didn’t take much for me to decide to experience this collection full of wisdom, via audio.

Hearing Oprah read her words gives you so much clarity and seriously puts things into perspective. I think I’ll make it a point to re-listen to this book at the beginning of every new year. It’ll help get my mind right and remind me of the things I NEED to fall back on, like – praying, taking the time to be present and feel myself breathe, making a conscious effort to see the good in everything, enjoying life, being full of gratitude and doing unto others as I would have them do unto me. What I Know For Sure reminds you that life isn’t as difficult as we make it seem, if we choose to live life full of gratitude.

Purchase What I Know For Sure on Amazon

 


Other excellent audiobooks I’ve enjoyed so far:

My thoughts of these books are on Goodreads (they do not cohere to the Black focus of this blog, so reviews won’t be posted here). Kindly click on the titles to be redirected to my thoughts on them.

The next audiobook I have lined up is – Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. I hope to read along with the physical copy of the book (which was actually a gift to my Dad, from 9 years ago).

 

I’d love more recommendations! Which audiobooks have you enjoyed thus far?

Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

Date Read: July 28th 2017

Published: February 1999

Publisher: One World / Ballantine

Pages: 288

The Blurb 

This moving memoir of an African-American woman’s lifelong fight to identify and overcome depression offers an inspirational story of healing and emergence. Wrapped within Danquah’s engaging account of this universal affliction is rare and insightful testimony about what it means to be black, female, and battling depression in a society that often idealizes black women as strong, nurturing caregivers. A startlingly honest, elegantly rendered depiction of depression, Willow Weep for Me calls out to all women who suffer in silence with a life-affirming message of recovery. Meri Danquah rises from the pages, a true survivor, departing a world of darkness and reclaiming her life.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I read Willow Weep for Me last year around this time. After reading, I just wanted the memoir to sit with me for awhile before discussing my thoughts! I learned a lot from this book, but one thing that stuck with me is: Black women are not immune to clinical depression. We need to stop contending with the stereotypic image of strength. This image encourages stoicism while several black women live in denial by denying their pain. And it’s harmful.

The illusion of strength has been and continues to be of major significance to me as a black woman. The one myth that I have had to endure my entire life is that of my supposed birthright to strength. Black women are supposed to be strong – caretakers, nurtures, healers of other people – any of the twelve dozen variations of Mammy. Emotional hardship is supposed to be built into the structure of our lives. It went along with the territory of being both black and female in a society that completely undervalues the lives of black people and regards all women as second-class citizens. It seemed that suffering, for a black woman, was part of the package.

Or so I thought. (pg. 19)

Willow Weep For Me, which was published back in 1999, is a deeply personal memoir on Ghanaian-American writer – Meri Nana-Ama Danquah’s journey through depression. What makes this book truly special is the clarity of Danquah’s writing. This memoir is beautifully laced with poetic phrases and visceral descriptions, giving readers the full experience of various anecdotes and incidences that occurred in her life. I loved how Danquah incorporated the stories of other (black) women’s journeys through depression into this memoir, allowing readers to resonate with the many variations of mental illness. Through other women’s experiences highlighted in this book, I was enlightened on the force of suicidal ideation, seasonal depression and some side-effects of anti-depressants (which varies from person to person).

 

Some of my favorite quotes from the memoir:

White women who suffer from mental illness are depicted as idle, spoiled, or just plain hysterical. Black men are demonized and pathologized. Black women with psychological problems are certainly not seen as geniuses; we are generally not labeled ‘hysterical’ or ‘eccentric’ or even ‘pathological’. When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the overwhelming opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable. (pg. 20)


I’ve frequently been told things like: “Girl, you’ve been hanging out with too many white folk” ; “What do you have to be depressed about? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything” ; “Take your troubles to Jesus, not no damn psychiatrist.” (pg. 21)


From the beginning, our relationship was formula for disaster. Depressed people often attract unhealthy relationships and inadvertently subject themselves and their already battered self-image, to additional abuse… You feel as if you are worthless so you attach yourself to someone who you think will give your life some meaning, be a safe harbor for your souls. But only you can protect what’s inside. (pg. 41)


I despise the way blackness in the English language, symbolizes death and negativity. Because I believe that the absorption of these connotations contributes to self-hate, I avoid them at all cost (pg 182).


We sat in an awkward silence for some time. I wondered why, after all he had been through with his mother, Eugene welcomed another depressive into his life. Wasn’t he afraid of the consequences? How did he escape the contagious effects of mental illness? (pg. 217)


“Why do you give people so much power over you? That M.D. behind his name just means that he’s trained to facilitate your healing. You’re the one who’s actually got to make it happen. Therapy doesn’t work unless you know what you want out of it. You’re the one who has the power to change things.” (pg. 220)


Racism is definitely in the eye of the beholder. White people have at hand the privilege of choosing whether to see or not see the racism that takes place around them. If Dr. Fitzgerald could not ‘fathom’ my reality as a black person, how would he be able to assess or address the rage, the fear and the host of other complex emotions that go hand-in-hand with being black in a racist society? For whatever reasons, seeing a black therapist had never crossed my mind, until then. (pg. 224)


I love that this memoir ended on a hopeful note and allows readers to view life and it’s challenges from a practical angle. We often forget that going to therapy & support groups, asking questions, talking to family/friends and taking control of your healing by being a partner in your healing process instead of being a mere patient who is being treated, is paramount and empowering.

Now with the importance of mental health getting the attention it needs in the media, I hope more people will discover this timeless memoir. Willow Weep For Me was written almost 20 years ago, and all of Danquah’s experiences and commentary on depression in this memoir are being reiterated in countless articles, think-pieces and seminars on mental health today. Danquah’s daughter (who plays a key role in this memoir!) – Korama (who was a year behind me in high school – GIS) must be SUPER proud of her mother for writing this important, brave, empowering memoir. I’m still in awe and will continue to re-read some of the quotes I highlighted again and again and again. More people NEED to read this memoir.

Before, I used to wonder what my life would have been like had I not gone through my depressions; now, I don’t know if I would trade those experiences. I love who I am. And without those past depressions, I wouldn’t be the same person. (pg. 266)

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression on Amazon

We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks

Date Read: February 23rd 2017

Published: 2003

Publisher: Routledge

Pages: 168

The Blurb 

“When women get together and talk about men, the news is almost always bad news,” writes bell hooks. “If the topic gets specific and the focus is on black men, the news is even worse.”

In this powerful new book, bell hooks arrests our attention from the first page. Her title – We Real Cool, her subject–the way in which both white society and weak black leaders are failing black men and youth. Her subject is taboo: “this is a culture that does not love black males:” “they are not loved by white men, white women, black women, girls or boys. And especially, black men do not love themselves. How could they? How could they be expected to love, surrounded by so much envy, desire, and hate?”

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I’m glad I’ve finally been able to complete a full body of hooks’s work instead of the select essays I was assigned to read in my college Sociology classes. Even though We Real Cool speaks predominantly about Black men, bell hooks definitely wrote this with feminism soaked into every single chapter.

We Real Cool (the title is taken from the Gwendolyn Brooks poem!) is an important, critical take on how the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy (yes, it’s a mouthful) affects the souls of Black boys & men – and by extension Black girls & women. Layered with many pop culture references and voices of various Black authors and social workers, bell hooks unapologetically asserts that Black masculinity is a reflection of white domination and provides some alternative ways/solutions Black men AND women can work together to overcome the damage and hurt, with love.

At times I couldn’t differentiate hooks’s (sometimes harsh) opinions from actual facts and some examples and stances she made seemed a bit outdated. But I really appreciated the personal examples of hurt and pain she provides, based off of her family life, while growing up.

I read We Real Cool last year as an e-book (as a pdf document, actually), and highlighted LOTS of quotes while reading; but they all disappeared when I rebooted my tablet *sigh*. Perhaps when I re-read this book, I’ll share the quotes I gathered, for those who still doubt the importance of hooks’s racial & gender analysis of our society today.

I came across an article by Derek Owusu, who is one-third of the literary podcast – MostlyLit: Black men are made to feel ugly, and we need to talk about it and immediately thought of hooks’s We Real Cool. Owusu’s article further echoes hooks’s stance on how imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy affects the souls of Black boys & men – only that, he doesn’t mention how Black girls and women are affected by extension. The article tackles the emotional challenges faced by Black British men when it comes to white standards of beauty and hyper-masculinity. I love a solution he brings forth, which encourages vulnerability among men (a state of being hooks also encourages, as a solution in We Real Cool)  –

But I feel if we are able to talk sincerely about the days when we feel undesirable, a whole new world of expression will open up thereafter and we’ll be on course for a healthier emotional life.  

There’s so much to say about this dense, complex book which ultimately aims at critiquing, loving and attempting to heal the hurts of Black men from a Black feminist lens. It’s a lot to absorb, but it’s important. Feed your soul and read some hooks!

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!

Purchase We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity on Amazon