Mini Reviews | Houseboy & Tropical Fish

Hey everyone!

In an effort to reduce the growing backlog of book reviews I owe this platform, below are mini reviews of two excellent books I read a couple of years ago.

Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono

Date Read: September 22nd 2017

Published: 1991

Publisher: Heinemann

Pages: 122

The Blurb

This book is written in the form of a diary kept by Toundi, an innocent Cameroonian houseboy who is fascinated and awed by the white world, the world of his masters.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

*sigh* Oyono’s Houseboy is such a painful, humorous, tragic tale.


Toundi – the main character (the houseboy), is naïve of the realities of his world in the French colony of Cameroon. While he’s is a good natured boy with a pure heart, the French exploitation of native Cameroonians cause the demise of Toundi (this isn’t a spoiler, trust me!).

This book really highlighted how fearful French colonialists were of native Cameroonians and Black Africans, in general. They were so fearful, insecure, ignorant and mentally fragile that they constantly exerted their supposed superiority over natives with hateful, brutal abuse. Toundi’s innocence gave this novel so much humor. The ways he misunderstood the lifestyle of white people was hilarious and sad at the same time. The ways the natives spoke about the French gave me some good laughs as well.

No, it can’t be true, I told myself, I couldn’t have seen properly. A great chief like the Commandant uncircumcised… I was relieved by this discovery. It killed something inside me… I knew I should never be frightened of this Commandant again. (pg. 28)

This was actually the 1st African novel I’ve ever read (I was initially in love with African-American fiction before I ever started reading books by African writers… well, besides Anansi stories). My Mom encouraged (or forced?) me to read Houseboy back when I was about thirteen years old. Back then, I didn’t enjoy this book at all and found it difficult to understand the myriad of proverbial phrases this story is blessed with. Today, I finally appreciate this novel as a superb, underrated classic within the African Writer’s Series.

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

Purchase Houseboy on Amazon

 


Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana

Date Read: September 16th 2016

Published: 2008

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Pages: 158

 

The Blurb

In her fiction debut, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe with stops in the cities Kampala and Los Angeles, Tropical Fish depicts the reality of life for Christine Mugisha and her family after Idi Amin’s dictatorship.

Three of the eight chapters are told from the point of view of Christine’s two older sisters, Patti, a born-again Christian who finds herself starving at her boarding school, and Rosa, a free spirit who tries to “magically” seduce one of her teachers. But the star of Tropical Fish is Christine, whom we accompany from her first wobbly steps in high heels, to her encounters with the first-world conveniences and alienation of America, to her return home to Uganda.

As the Mugishas cope with Uganda’s collapsing infrastructure, they also contend with the universal themes of family cohesion, sex and relationships, disease, betrayal, and spirituality. Anyone dipping into Baingana’s incandescent, widely acclaimed novel will enjoy their immersion in the world of this talented newcomer.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

After reading Doreen Baingana’s short story entitled ‘Tropical Fish’ in African Love Stories: An Anthology at the beginning of 2016, I knew I had to find her book.

I loved how nuanced this collection of interlocking stories were. Readers get a good feel of life in Entebbe, Uganda during Idi Amin’s ruling. I enjoyed the three sisters: Patti, Rosa and Christine Mugisha. I had wanted more insight into Patti’s life; she had a gentle, holier-than-thou demeanor that I wished was explored more. Rosa’s chapters were quite hilarious and poetic. I admired Baingana’s uncommon perspective on HIV/AIDS and sex through Rosa’s promiscuous lifestyle. Christine’s life (the youngest sister) is more closely followed in this book – from her days as a little girl playing in her parents’ bedroom to when she is twenty-nine years old and a recent ‘returnee’ from the States.

Baingana’s attention to the littlest things/feelings/observations we overlook in our daily lives made me love this collection. The writing was not overly descriptive; the commentary was witty, clever and overall, the exploration of life in Entebbe and the US was just heartfelt. I’m very fond of Baingana’s writing and it’s no wonder she was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in the Africa region and has garnered other literary awards for her writing. I hope she writes a new novel very soon.

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

Purchase Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe on Amazon

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2019 READING INTENTIONS

New year, new set of reading intentions!

Instead of using the word ‘goals’, I’ll use the word ‘intentions’. Goals are focused on a specific achievement, while intentions are lived on a daily basis – which is how I intend my reading experience to be every year. My past reading intentions have been tough to adhere to, so this year I hope to set some reasonable ones.

I’ll continue to read what my mood calls for. I don’t have a set number of African, Caribbean or African-American books to read nor do I have a specific number of books written by women or men I’d like to read either. I like to track books read each year via Goodreads, so entering the Goodreads Reading Challenge helps me do that. Every year I like to declare a goal of at least 18 books as a set point, just to help me gauge my reading experience for the year. I’ll probably read a fewer number of books this year as DENTAL SCHOOL life is very real at the moment. I’ll just be going with the flow – no need to make reading stressful. Reading isn’t a race or competition – at least not for me.

Below are some intentions I’ll be considering during the year:

[Some books I plan to (re)read during the first quarter of the year]

 

  • To READ MORE GHANAIAN LITERATURE. 2 years ago during Ghana’s 60th Independence Anniversary, I showcased over 75 Ghanaian writers and their books. It was a daunting, yet fulfilling mini project that I’m very proud of! As I was researching the writers and books for the project, I realized I had read just a handful of the books highlighted.

As a Ghanaian, its important for me to read and celebrate the work of writers from my homeland. I recently decided (on Twitter) to start the #ReadGhanaian Book Challenge. Ever since I announced the book challenge with the guidelines (below), many other readers seem to be participating as well! I hope to read at least 5 books by Ghanaian writers this year. Please join me in this challenge, if you can! Ghanaian literature is so underrated.

••

  • To RE-READ BOOKS I LOVED IN THE PAST. Some readers don’t believe in re-reading books. We live in an age where the hype of new releases makes us forget the phenomenal books of earlier years. I personally don’t think books are meant to be read and forgotten. Books should be read, meditated on and read AGAIN whenever the need arises. So this year, I want to try and re-read at least 3 books I loved in the past (that haven’t been reviewed on this platform). I’m currently re-reading Americanah. The first time I read Adichie’s masterpiece was back in 2013, in October – a whole year before the concept of African Book Addict! was even conceived. So far, this re-read is triggering, but still a glorious experience!

••

  • To CATCH UP ON MY BOOK REVIEWS. I’ve incorporated interesting book chats and discussions onto this platform. I plan on continuing the book chats, but I must stay true to the essence of this book blog – which was initially (and still is) a book reviewing / book recommendations space. I have a growing backlog of book reviews from previous years that I plan on posting throughout this year.

••

I think Bookstagram has been quite distracting for me. While I’ll always value excellent (book) blogs over Bookstagram (this is just my preference – don’t come for me!), it’s a bit easier interacting with other readers and posts on that platform especially since it’s photo-based with less text. Regardless, community is very important to me and I’d like to get back to interacting with other bloggers and writers on their various blogs/websites. I miss the camaraderie and recommendations (of books, TV shows, movies, podcasts) I used to receive from these interactions.

••

  • To LISTEN TO AT LEAST 3 AUDIOBOOKS. Back in August, I reviewed 4 excellent audiobooks. 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. I’d love to indulge in Michelle Obama’s memoir via audiobook this year, as well as two other gems. I’m open to any great recommendations!

••

  • To continue to READ FOR AT LEAST 40 MINUTES A DAY. I’m a 5th year dental student (I’m in a 6-year program) so my nose always has to be in a textbook, in group-study discussions or in the lab/clinic completing requirements and attending to patients. But if I’m able to continue to dedicate 40 minutes a day to just reading leisurely, I think that would keep me sane.

 

I have other intentions – like, collaborating with other creatives, donating to more literary causes, planning events etc. But these intentions are a bit more personal and will be shared if/when the time is right!

 

Here’s to a successful year of reading (with few reading slumps), for all of us!

It’s almost the end of the 1st month of 2019, have you figured out your reading intentions/goals yet? Please do share some!

2019 NEW RELEASES TO ANTICIPATE!

Happy New Year, everyone!

What books are you excited to read this year? Below are 80 new African, African-American and Caribbean books that look very promising. This is just a snippet of the books 2019 has to offer!

Please click on the images to read the blurbs and/or to purchase the books.

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

MORE books to look out for in 2019:

Image via Twitter

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Blurb

Fiercely told, this is a timely coming-of-age story, told in verse about the journey to self-acceptance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Poet X and Orangeboy.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

To be published August 2019

 


Image via Ayana Mathis

A Violent Woman by Ayana Mathis

The Blurb

The story of an estranged mother and daughter separated by a thousand miles, the mother’s shadowy past as an itinerant blues singer, and her daughter’s mental illness and recruitment into a radical political group.

Check out my book review of Mathis’s debut novel – The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. I’m really looking forward to this new novel!!

To be published September 2019

 


Image via Elise Dillsworth Agency

Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie 

The Blurb

Nudibranch is Irenosen Okojie’s second collection of short stories, a follow up to Speak Gigantular which was shortlisted for the 2016 Jhalak Prize and 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize.

The collection focuses on offbeat characters caught up in extraordinary situations – a mysterious woman of the sea in search of love arrives on an island inhabited by eunuchs; dimensional-hopping monks navigating a season of silence face a bloody reckoning in the ruins of an abbey; an aspiring journalist returning from a failed excursion in Sydney becomes what she eats and a darker, Orwellian future is imagined where oddly detached children arrive in cycles and prove to be dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings.

To be published October 2019

 


Image via The New York Review of Books

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

Synopsis

The Fraud is inspired by the real events on North West London (Smith’s childhood home that she has chronicled in most of her novels, most notably NW) from the 1830s to the 1870s.


Also look out for work from: Akwaeke Emezi, Petina Gappah, Talib Kweli, Maaza Mengiste, Rivers Solomon, Binyavanga Wainaina

 

What new releases are you excited about? Please do share!

2018 Christmas Wish List

Hey everyone!

Christmas is right around the corner and I have some new wishes for Santa! Incase you were wondering, I acquired two of the books from my 2017 wish listBlack Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness edited by Rebecca Walker and Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang (which I’m currently reading). Below are books on my 2018 Christmas wish list:

(not in order of preference; click titles to read the blurbs on Goodreads)

 

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves edited by Glory Edim

I’ve already ordered by copy of Glory Edim’s Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, so this is definitely a Christmas treat to myself. We all love and relate to stories that specifically speak to us – us, black women; and this anthology prides itself on discussing the importance of recognizing ourselves in literature. I’m ready to be inspired by the contributors of this anthology and especially look forward to the pieces by Zinzi Clemmons, Gabourey Sidibe and Glory Edim! If you’ve already indulged in this anthology, how did you like it?


Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry edited by Nii Ayikwei Parkes + preface by Professor Dorothy Wang

 

Filigree typically refers to the finer elements of craftwork, the parts that are subtle; our Filigree anthology contains work that plays with the possibilities that the word suggests, work that is delicate, that responds to the idea of edging, to a comment on the marginalization of the darker voice. Filigree includes work from established Black British poets residing inside and outside the UK; new and younger emerging voices of Black Britain and Black poets who have made it their home as well as a selection of poets the Inscribe project has nurtured and continue to support

This anthology is fairly new – it was published November of this year. I hope to indulge in it soon and I especially look forward to the poems by the poets of Ghanaian descent: Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Nana-Essi Casely-Hayford, Louisa Adjoa Parker, as well as the other contributors! The collection is edited by Ghanaian-Brit writer/poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes (with a preface by Professor Dorothy Wang), so I know this anthology will be worth the read.


Talk Stories by Jamaica Kincaid

I’m a huge Jamaica Kincaid fan. I’ve read a good number of her work and still have a couple of books to finish before I can confidently declare that I’m an OG fan. Talk Stories (how chic is the book cover?!) is a book I’d love to add to my collection. It’s a collection of her original writing for the New Yorker’s ‘Talk of the Town’ column, where the young Kincaid (fresh from Antigua) wrote on her experiences in New York back in the late 1970’s – early 1980’s. I expect these stories to be humorous, thoughtful, slightly miserable and sensitive – in good ol’ Kincaid style!

Check out Jamaica Kincaid’s pieces from the 1970’s to the early 2000’s – The New Yorker


Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Everyone has been raving about this short story collection! I’m seriously out of the loop. Some of my online bookish-friends describe this collection as intense, raw, too much – the list goes on. According to the blurb:

Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day. These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world.’

Another thing that attracts me to this collection is that fact that Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is of Ghanaian descent. If you follow me on social media (Bookstagram & Twitter), you’d know I’m all for supporting Ghanaian literature/Ghanaian writers, hence I created the #ReadGhanaian hashtag where readers can explore the plethora of books by Ghanaian writers out there. Friday Black is at the top of my TBR!


The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

I’ve read very few books by writers from Northern Africa. A couple of my friends claim The Moor’s Account is one of the best books they’ve ever read! I recently read an article where Gary Younge also praised Laila Lalami’s work, after reading a bunch of books by African women writers this year. It’s time for me to experience this brilliant novel as well! Lalami has a new novel coming out next year and I’d love to read The Moor’s Account first, as a great introduction to her work.


The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 by Lucille Clifton

This collection is 720 pages! I’ve only read a few of Clifton’s poems online, or quotes from friends who are fans of her work. Her poem – won’t you celebrate with me is pure brilliance:

 

won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

[Source: Poetry Foundation]

 

These are the types of poems that speak to me directly. Poems like this are comforting and unforgettable. It’s written so eloquently, but echoes loudly. I’d be privileged to own any of Lucille Clifton’s work and the generations after me would benefit from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 as part of my collection of books as well.


What books are on your Christmas wish list? Please share some titles!

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

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!

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