AND THE 2022 AKO CAINE PRIZE WINNER IS…

In exactly 1 week, the 2022 AKO Caine Prize winner will be announced!

For those who are not familiar, the AKO Caine Prize (formerly as the Caine Prize for African Writing), which was first awarded in year 2000, is an award open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. It’s focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.

The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is a registered charity whose aim is to bring African writing to a wider audience using the annual literary award (source).

Some notable winners of the Caine Prize include (click on links to my reviews):

  • Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000) – author of novels Minaret, The Translator, Lyrics Alley, among others. 
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002) – founding editor of Kwani?, author of memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place and the essay How To Write About Africa found in various literary magazines. *sigh* Rest In Power, Binya!
  • Yvonne A. Owuor, from Kenya (2003) – author of the novel, Dust.
  • E.C Osondu, from Nigeria (2009) – author of the novel This House is not For Sale and collection Voice of America: stories.
  • NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of the novel, We Need New Names
  • Tope Folarin, from Nigeria (2013) – author of novel, A Particular Kind of Black Man
  • Lesley Nneka Arimah, from Nigeria (2019) – author of short story collection, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky

Previously shortlisted writers include: (2001) Mia Couto from Mozambique, (2002) Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria, (2006) Laila Lalami from Morocco, (2013) Chinelo Okparanta from Nigeria, (2013) Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone, (2014) Tendai Huchu from Zimbabwe, (2013 & 2015) Elnathan John from Nigeria, (2021) Doreen Baingana from Uganda, among others!

The AKO Caine Prize and the shortlisted stories play huge roles in the authors I read from Africa and the Diaspora. Many AKO Caine Prize winners and shortlisted writers have found great success and I’ve reviewed a good number of these writers’ work here on African Book Addict!


This year, the AKO Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented writers with stories showcasing the “vibrancy, variety and splendor of creative talent among writers of African descent” – Okey Ndibe; (left to right):

(Image via caineprize.com)

Joshua Chizoma (Nigeria) – Read the story: Collector of Memories

Hannah Giorgis (Ethiopia) – Read the story: A Double-Edged Inheritance

Nana-Ama Danquah (Ghana) – Read the story: When a Man Loves a Woman

Idza Luhumyo (Kenya) – Read the story: Five Years Next Sunday

Billie McTernan (Ghana) – Read the story: The Labadi Sunshine Bar


Another year where women dominate the shortlist – I love to see it. And FINALLY, Ghana is well represented on the shortlist! I never thought I would see the day where Nigerians, Kenyans and South African stories did not dominate haha.

When A Man Loves A Women by Nana-Ama Danquah is a well-paced story that turns pretty dark by the end. I think this is expected, as the short story was originally published in the Accra Noir anthology (via Akashic). The story centers a loving Ghanaian couple from the US who later relocate to Cantonments, Accra. Kwame and Adwoa were high school sweethearts and are now well into their 50’s, dealing with various ailments that normally afflict the body in middle-age. Kwame is diagnosed with cancer and it seems the couple’s normal routine of coping with their marriage is disrupted. The story is quite simple… almost predictable, but not in a bad way. I’ve always found Danquah’s writing to be very accessible and digestible. If you remember my 2018 book review of her memoir – Willow Weep For Me, you’ll understand my love of her ability to aptly capture the realities of life.

A Double-Edged Inheritance by Hannah Giorgis was an enjoyable read for me! I’m pretty fond of Giorgis’s writing in The Atlantic, where she covers (pop)culture. I had no idea she wrote fiction as well, so it was a nice surprise to see her on this shortlist. A Double-Edged Inheritance was originally published in the Addis Ababa Noir anthology (via Akashic) so I expected some level of darkness in the story. The only issue I had with the story was that it had waaay too many characters and it was hard to track who was who sometimes. The story moves from Addis Ababa to the US and back to Addis, where readers are acquainted with a few heroines – Tigist, Almaz and Meskerem. Meskerem – who is the daughter of Tigist (now dead, thanks to the man she fell in love with) is an Ethiopian-American who is on a quest to find her roots in Addis. Her grandaunt – Almaz (who I think is the MVP of this story) is the glue that holds all the characters together, thanks to her wealth, social currency and resilience. The story turns dark when Meskerem is on holiday in Addis Ababa and she eventually meets her father, unintentionally. It’s hard to summarize this story, as it has so many characters and sub-plots. But I would love to see this story turn into a full-fleshed novel!

But ooooooooooh, my! Five Years Next Sunday by Idza Luhumyo will definitely win the AKO Caine Prize this year. What a beautifully magical story! I’m now a fan of the main character of Five Years Next Sunday and Idza, the writer! This mythical story follows a young girl, Pili, whose hair-which is in the form of luscious locs, is a god of the land. Her hair grows beautifully and attracts lots of attention to her poor family. Her family later becomes wealthy, thanks to her hair, as it attracts the likes of white people who fetishize it. But as her hair is growing and becoming a main attraction, the land is parched, as it hasn’t rained in five years. Cutting her hair would signal the clouds to finally let out rain; but cutting it would also banish her to “the quarter of witches, where all women who have the rain are sent”. Honey, white woman who is jealous of Pili’s attention, feigns connection with Pili, only for Pili to mistaken this connection for desire and later make the choice of cutting her locs.

My summary of this story does NOT do it justice. The beauty of the story is in the sublime, engaging, light writing! The story holds deeper meaning, depending on how intently it is read. On the surface, I loved how the nature of a Black woman’s hair was being revered. Hair was the source of life for a group of people – which is akin to water. On a deeper level, the story touches on themes such as – the environment, nature, womanhood, colonization, fetishization, desire, destiny and ancestral connections. Five Years Next Sunday was the winner of the Short Story Day Africa Prize in 2021. This story also deserves to win the 2022 AKO Caine Prize!

Which story is your favorite? Who do you think will win the AKO Caine Prize this year?

The winner will be announced on Monday 18th July 2022. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!

You can also check out my past commentary on the AKO Caine Prize below:

2014 | 2015  | 2016 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020

Harry Sylvester Bird by Chinelo Okparanta

Date Read: May 15th 2022

To be Published: July 12th 2022

Publisher: Mariner Books

Pages: 312

The Blurb

From the award-winning author of Under the Udala Trees and Happiness, Like Water comes a brilliant, provocative, up-to-the-minute novel about a young white man’s education and miseducation in contemporary America.

Harry Sylvester Bird grows up in Edward, Pennsylvania, with his parents, Wayne and Chevy, whom he greatly dislikes. They’re racist, xenophobic, financially incompetent, and they have quite a few secrets of their own. To Harry, they represent everything wrong with this country. And his small town isn’t any better. He witnesses racial profiling, graffitied swastikas, and White Power signs on his walk home from school. He can’t wait until he’s old enough to leave. When he finally is, he moves straight to New York City, where he feels he can finally live out his true inner self.

In the city, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. But when Maryam begins to pull away, Harry is forced to confront his identity as he never has before—if he can.

Brilliant, funny, original, and unflinching, Harry Sylvester Bird is a satire that speaks to all the most pressing tensions and anxieties of our time—and of the history that has shaped us and might continue to do so.

◊◊

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

Sigh. Where do I even begin with this book???? There are so many layers to this satire, and I have so many complaints and questions! Chinelo Okparanta really had the gall to portray the life of a white boy / man, as a Black African woman writer and I deeply admire her for that. Reading Harry Sylvester Bird was mind-boggling and mortifying as hell, but I’m always down for an original, chaotic read by an author I admire (my book review of Okparanta’s 2013 collection – Happiness, Like Water thoroughly celebrates my love for her storytelling).

Harry Sylvester Bird is a coming-of-age novel that takes readers from Edward Pennsylvania, Centralia Pennsylvania, New York City, Ghana (Cape Coast, Aburi, Afajato) and back to New York City, spanning the years of 2016 to 2026. Harry’s stalk is extremely racist, but he does everything in his power to distance himself from the burdens of his personal and racist family history.

Once I finished reading this book, I concluded that my dear Harry, is a sick man. I don’t know whether he has a white savior complex, body dysmorphia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or all three – but the man is… strange. I found Harry to be adorable yet repulsive, timid, lonely, calm, selfish, confused, weird and inherently racist as fuck – through no fault of his own.

While reading, I kept wondering whom Okparanta wrote this novel for. I can’t wait to attend her virtual book tour to hear her talk about this book! Surely, I can see sensitive white readers hating this novel. Harry loathing his whiteness will definitely make white readers uncomfortable. Black readers may be baffled and annoyed as hell at this novel, because Harry seems to be reminiscent of Rachel Dolezal – just Google her, if you’ve been living under a rock. Harry believes he is a Black man in a white body, but in my opinion, his belief holds no grounds! I wouldn’t even call him an ally… he’s just a lonely white person who is a product of his abandoned, white supremacist upbringing. Harry never engaged actively with Black culture or Black folks, besides Maryam – a Nigerian young woman at his college who he was deeply fond of. The only engagement Harry had with Black ‘culture’ was his family trip to Tanzania in 2016, which was the epitome of of micro-aggressions, fetishization and a weird admiration for the locals.

This book has a lot of great characters besides Harry. Maryam added a nice twist to Harry’s coming-of age-story. I was worried that the introduction of a Black African woman character would turn the book into a love story. But Maryam’s existence in the novel only unravels Harry’s true-blue being (pun intended). At certain points in the novel, I felt Maryam’s embarrassment, annoyance and shame for engaging with Harry, as she slowly realized the man he truly was. Okparanta did a good job portraying Chevy and Wayne as well. They are an insane pair with lots of depth with respect to their eroding relationship – you’d have to read the book to find out who these two are. And brace yourself!

Memory plays a huge role in Harry Sylvester Bird. Harry is the sole narrator of this coming-of-age novel, which is a first-person narrative. As readers go through his life in 10 years, we only rely on his flawed recollection of events. Many happenings in the book are hence exaggerations of reality/the truth, as we see life through Harry’s insecure, troubled lens. While I found it fascinating reading Harry’s voice and inner thoughts, again, I really wonder how other readers would take to this novel. Some happenings are far-fetched, some happenings are hilarious and others are simply perturbing. As we move passed 2022 and into the future, I loved Okparanta’s take on how the future – sans the pandemic would be. I especially liked her depiction of Ghana – it felt accurate and even hopeful (with respect to Ghana’s use of energy and transportation).

This satire aims at questioning the evolution and limitations of identity and race. Obviously, our identities are ever-evolving, as long as we are alive. But can our race evolve? Is it possible to be phenotypically white but feel as if you’re Black within? Black folks who pass as white may battle with this, but in Harry’s case, he’s genotypically and phenotypically a white boy/man who adamantly believes that he’s a Black man. Once you finish the novel, you begin to question whether dear Harry is actually well mentally, especially as his love for the Black race seems to originate from micro-aggresssions and terrible stereotypes.

While this book is hilarious, it explores various political stances that may be uncomfortable to imbibe. I just want to know why Okparanta chose to write this story. Authors are free to write what they like – duh. But was she trying to humanize racist white men? Was she trying to expose racist white people? Was she indirectly celebrating the gloriousness of our Black race? Was she trying to open up the dreadful trans-racial conversation? Was she trying to flip the white gaze? I have soooo many questions! Nevertheless, Okparanta did a damn good job with this original novel. Dear reader, please remember that this novel is a SATIRE – lighten up! Harry and this glorious mess of a novel will be on my mind for a long time.

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

Purchase Harry Sylvester Bird on Amazon

Thank you to the team over at Mariner Books / Harper Collins for the ARC!

2022 NEW RELEASES TO ANTICIPATE!

Happy New Year, everyone!

New year, new books to anticipate.

Below is my annual collage of new books to anticipate this year. This year I’m not doing the most by highlighting 99 books like I did last year. I’ve compiled just 69 new African, African-American, Black-Brit and Caribbean books that look very promising.

Please note – this list/collage is just a snippet of books by Black authors 2022 has to offer!

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

Check out the new books I highlighted in: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015


SUPPORT AFRICAN BOOK ADDICT!

To support the book blog with a one time contribution, kindly go to: paypal.me/africanbookaddict

So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ (re-read)

Date re-Read: 2011 & (re-read) April 22nd 2021

Published: 1979

Publisher: Heinemann Educational Books

Pages: 90

The Blurb

Written by award-winning African novelist Mariama Ba and translated from the original French, So Long a Letter has been recognized as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. The brief narrative, written as an extended letter, is a sequence of reminiscences—some wistful, some bitter—recounted by recently widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall. Addressed to a lifelong friend, Aissatou, it is a record of Ramatoulaye’s emotional struggle for survival after her husband betrayed their marriage by taking a second wife. This semi-autobiographical account is a perceptive testimony to the plight of educated and articulate Muslim women. Angered by the traditions that allow polygyny, they inhabit a social milieu dominated by attitudes and values that deny them status equal to men. Ramatoulaye hopes for a world where the best of old customs and new freedom can be combined.

Considered a classic of contemporary African women’s literature, So Long a Letter is a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and the passage from colonialism to modernism in a Muslim country.

 ◊◊

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Everybody and their grandma has read So Long A Letter. The first time I read this classic, it was assigned reading for an Anthropology class I took when I was a junior in college, back in 2011. I recently re-read this classic 10 years later and I still give the book the same rating this time around, because of the poignant writing.

Senegalese patriarchy, Islam, the male ego, mid-life crisis, greed, loneliness, mother-daughter relationships, feminism, sisterhood, courage vs cowardice, poverty, modernity vs tradition, colonialism, death, misogyny and family customs, all take center stage in So Long a Letter.

I looooved how Ramatoulaye’s mother judged her daughter’s suitors by their teeth! According to Ramatoulaye’s mother, the wide gap between Modou’s [who she ended up marrying] upper incisors was a sign of ‘the primacy of sensuality in the individual’; Closely set teeth (of Daouda, one of Ramatoulaye’s suitors) won her mother’s confidence. As a Dentist, these peculiarities in teeth alignment being equivalent to promiscuity and character of potential suitors was hilarious and fascinating to me!


After re-reading this classic, I’ve been over-thinking the friendship Ramatoulaye and Aissatou shared. They were best friends/basically sisters. They shared the same plight, but each dealt with the fragmenting of their family units differently – Ramatoulaye stayed and endured, while Aissatou moved towards complete independence and advanced in her career. I really wish Bâ gave Aissatou more of a voice in the novel – besides her brilliant, fierce break-up letter to Mawdo, her ex-husband. I wanted to know if Aissatou was okay with Ramatoulaye recounting her (Aissatou’s) difficult situation with her ex-husband, Mawdo – I personally hate when friends rehash my plight when they complain about their own; I wanted to know if Aissatou was actually not bothered with Ramatoulaye still having a relationship with Mawdo – Aissatou’s ex-husband, as he was still Ramatoulaye’s family doctor and he was still a part of her family’s life; I wanted to know if Aissatou felt frustrated and/or disappointed at Ramatoulaye’s decision to stay with Modou, who turned out to be scum of the Earth once he stepped out of his marriage. I can’t help but wonder all these things because I often feel frustrated and disappointed when a friend complains to me about a man who treats her badly and she chooses to endure nonsense. While I know Ramatoulaye wrote the long letter to Aissatou while in isolation when she was mourning her late husband, I just wish Aissatou’s voice was heard with regards to everything Ramatoulaye divulged in the letter.

The only issue I had with this classic was Ramatoulaye’s slight misogynistic views on women’s sexuality and pleasure. I wasn’t super surprised with her conservative views, especially given this character’s overall way of life and the setting/timing of the story, but I couldn’t help but feel that those sentiments were Bâ’s as well. Some of the conservative views on women’s sexuality had me wondering why So Long A Letter has been hailed a beacon in African feminist text… However, I now understand that the conservative stances Ramatoulaye wrestled with really portrayed how women during that time were grappling with the challenges modernity brought – and this is especially evident in contrasting Ramatoulaye and Daba’s (her eldest daughter) realities, with respect to marriage and gender roles.

There’s so much more that can be said about So Long A Letter! This classic is best enjoyed if you’re reading it for a class or book club, as there is so much that can be dissected and discussed. I had the privilege of re-reading it for a virtual book club discussion with The Harare Book Club, last month.

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

Purchase So Long A Letter on Amazon

2021 NEW RELEASES TO ANTICIPATE!

Happy New Year, everyone!

New year, new books to anticipate.

Below is my annual collage of new books to anticipate this year. I’ve compiled 99 new African, African-American, Black-Brit and Caribbean books that look very promising. Please note – this list/collage is just a snippet of books by Black authors 2021 has to offer!

Hover over the images to read the blurbs and/or to pre-order the books.

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

MORE books to look out for in 2021:

[image via Goodreads]

Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta

The Blurb

Fifteen-year-old Mack is a hopeless romantic – he blames the films he’s grown up watching. He has liked Karim for as long as he can remember, and is ecstatic when Karim becomes his boyfriend – it feels like love.

But when Mack’s dad gets a job on a film in Scotland, Mack has to move, and soon he discovers how painful love can be. It’s horrible being so far away from Karim, but the worst part is that Karim doesn’t make the effort to visit. Love shouldn’t be only on the weekends.

Then, when Mack meets actor Finlay on a film set, he experiences something powerful, a feeling like love at first sight. How long until he tells Karim – and when will his old life and new life collide?

To be published September 2021


[image via KT Literary]

No One Dies Yet by Kobby Ben Ben

The Blurb

An unsettling tale of murder in a country whose dead slaves are shackled with stories that must be heard.

The Year of Return, linked to the 400th anniversary of slaves landing in the US, memorialised the many who died during the slave trade in Ghana, particularly at Elmina Castle, while encouraging members of the African diaspora to visit.

As Black diasporans around the world make the pilgrimage to West Africa, three African-American friends join in the festivities to explore Ghana’s colonial past and its underground queer scene. They are thrust into the hands of two guides, Kobby and Nana, whose intentions aren’t clear, yet they are the narrators we have to trust. Kobby, a modern deviant according to Nana’s traditional and religious principles, offers a more upscale and privileged tour of Ghana and also becomes the friends’ link to Accra’s secret gay culture. Nana’s adherence to his pastor’s teachings against sin makes him hate Kobby enough to want to kill.

To be published Fall/Spring 2021


[image via Zeba Blay]

Carefree Black Girls by Zeba Blay

The Blurb

Carefree Black Girls is an exploration and celebration of black women’s identity and impact on pop culture, as well as the enduring stereotypes they face, from a film and culture critic for HuffPost.

In 2013, Zeba Blay was one of the first people to coin the viral term “carefreeblackgirls” on Twitter. It was, as she says, “a way to carve out a space of celebration and freedom for black women online.”

In this collection of essays, Blay expands on that initial idea by looking at the significance of influential black women throughout history, including Josephine Baker, Michelle Obama, Rihanna, and Cardi B. Incorporating her own personal experiences as well as astute analysis of these famous women, Blay presents an empowering and celebratory portrait of black women and their effect on American culture. She also examines the many stereotypes that have clung to black women throughout history, whether it is the Mammy, the Angry Black Woman, or more recently, the Thot.

To be published October 2021


[image via Goodreads]

The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola

The Blurb

Michael decides to flee to America and end his life once all his savings run out. JJ Bola’s second novel is a story of millennial existential angst told through the eyes of a young Londoner who seems to have it all – a promising future, a solid career, strong friendships, a blossoming love story – but it’s the unbearable weight of life that leads him to decide to take his own.

As he grapples with issues bigger than him – political conflict, environmental desecration, police brutality – Michael seeks to find his place within a world that is complicated and unwelcoming.

Although he finds solace in the people that surround him, he alone must decide if his life is worth living.

To be published October 2021


[image via Anchor]

Woman, Eat Me Whole by Ama Asantewa Diaka

Synopsis

Woman, Eat Me Whole is a collection of poetry focusing on subjects including womanhood, the body, consent and the author’s Ghanaian heritage.

To be published 2021


[image via Miles Morland Foundation]

VAGABONDS! by Eloghosa Osunde

Synopsis

Nigerian writer and visual artist Eloghosa Osunde’s VAGABONDS!, is a novel of oppression and defiance among the people and spirits of Lagos.

To be published 2021

 

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

Check out the new books I highlighted in: 2020 | 20192018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015


SUPPORT AFRICAN BOOK ADDICT!

To support the book blog with a one time contribution, kindly go to: paypal.me/africanbookaddict

Zikora by Chimamanda Adichie, transphobia and more

Long time, no blog! I was extremely busy back in September and October. I was taking my final Dental exams during those months, but I’m finally free now.

I started this book blog a couple of months before I started Dental school, back in 2014. By God’s grace, I’m finally done and I’m proud to announce that I’m finally a Dentist and no longer a dental student. My childhood dream has been fulfilled and I’m grateful that this book blog, the camaraderie it garnered and my reading habits over the years have helped to sustain me throughout the 6 years of Dental school.

I’m using this time to take it easy for now, while still trying to complete my 2020 reading goal of reading 10 books. Hopefully I can finish up before this hectic year ends.


Below is my mini book review of Zikora: A Short Story by Chimamanda Adichie and some awesome articles I’ve loved since my absence. Enjoy!

Date Read: November 3rd 2020

Published: October 27th 2020

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Pages: 35

The Blurb

The emotional storms weathered by a mother and daughter yield a profound new understanding in a moving short story by the bestselling, award-winning author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists.

When Zikora, a DC lawyer from Nigeria, tells her equally high-powered lover that she’s pregnant, he abandons her. But it’s Zikora’s demanding, self-possessed mother, in town for the birth, who makes Zikora feel like a lonely little girl all over again. Stunned by the speed with which her ideal life fell apart, she turns to reflecting on her mother’s painful past and struggle for dignity. Preparing for motherhood, Zikora begins to see more clearly what her own mother wants for her, for her new baby, and for herself.

◊◊

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

I’m glad Chimamanda is back to writing fiction because I was getting tired of her non-fiction pamphlets – Dear Ijeawele and We Should All Be Feminists. Zikora is a short story that’s essentially about womanhood – our loves, our bodies, our minds, our longings, our hurts, our strengths and our weaknesses. Themes such as fraught mother-daughter relationships, ageism, love, motherhood and more are explored in this short story.

I must say – Zikora and Kwame relationship’s demise (this is not a spoiler) had me feeling soooo depressed while reading. How can Kwame disgrace we Ghanaians like this? In true Chimamanda fashion, she adeptly develops the characters through the incorporation of past and present anecdotes, which simultaneously propel this emotional story forward.

In my opinion, Chimamanda isn’t the best short story writer. I wasn’t crazy about her short story collection- The Thing Around Her Neck because the conclusions of the short stories ended way too rudely and abruptly. But she definitely excels as a full-fledged novelist and I hope this Zikora is part of a forthcoming NOVEL! *fingers crossed*

I want more.

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

Purchase Zikora: A Short Story on Amazon



Below are pieces I found important to read:

4 Nigerian Authors to Read Who Haven’t Been Proudly Transphobic

image via Bitch Media

“We can recognize both Adichie’s talent as a writer and the cultural impact of her work, but her continued unwillingness to unlearn transphobia sullies her legacy and credentials when discussing gender politics. It’s disappointing—but it’s also an opportunity to continue investing in other Nigerian authors asking important questions of the culture and seeking to challenge some of Nigeria’s cultural norms while uplifting stories often relegated to the shadows”

This list is packed with a lot of references to J.K. Rowling and Chimamanda’s dismissal of Trans lives in the recent past. Take the time to read them all, if you can. It’s quite disappointing and I find myself wondering if I should still indulge in Chimamanda’s work… Trans women are WOMEN. Period.

Chinelo Okparanta, Chibundo Onuzo and Akwaeke Emezi and Chike Franke Edozien are the writers listed as actively rejecting transphobia. I’ve read and reviewed 3/4 of these writers!


Toni Morrison Taught Black Women, ‘You Are Your Best Thing’

image via Zora

“Ms. Morrison’s work had the courage to confront the U.S.’s historical amnesia of systemic violence and marginalization of Black folks in a nuanced and inevitably intersectional way by finding the balance between portraying intergenerational trauma and radical healing among Black American women in historically White American literary traditions”


Black Lives Matter, grandma and me: how our world changed during lockdown

image via The Guardian

“After months apart, Jade Bentil was reunited with her grandmother, in time to see the BLM protests unfold. She reflects on a history of repression”

This is a long read, but I really like Jade’s writing (and her tweets!) and look forward to her debut Rebel Citizen, out in 2022.


Beyoncé and the Heart of Darkness

“Few black thinkers and creatives in the United States seem able to grapple with the implications of their Americocentrism in relation to Africa”


Sharmaine Lovegrove: ‘You must spend a year in a bookshop before you get a job in publishing’

image via The Guardian

“Seeing the transformative experience of reading on customers’ faces is magic”

This piece by Lovegrove is short and sweet. But I couldn’t help but wonder if African readers on the continent of Africa were also part of the demographic she was writing about…


A Litany for Survival by Naomi Jackson

illustration by Diana Ejaita via Harper’s Magazine

“Giving birth as a black woman in America”

Whew! I left the best piece for last. I’m not new to Jackson’s work as I read, enjoyed and reviewed Naomi Jackson’s debut – The Star Side of Bird Hill, about 4 years ago. This piece is deeply heart-wrenching and it was beautifully written! Jackson held nothing back in this piece and I respect her a lot for this, even though it heightened my anxiety with regards to childbirth, significantly.


Happy reading!

The Deep Blue Between by Ayesha Harruna Attah

Date Read: July 29th 2020

(to be) Published: October 15th 2020

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 256

The Blurb

Twin sisters Hassana and Husseina’s home is in ruins after a brutal raid. But this is not the end but the beginning of their story, one that will take them to unfamiliar cities and cultures, where they will forge new families, ward off dangers and truly begin to know themselves.

As the twins pursue separate paths in Brazil and the Gold Coast of West Africa, they remain connected through shared dreams of water. But will their fates ever draw them back together?

A sweeping adventure with richly evocative historical settings, The Deep Blue Between is a moving story of the bonds that can endure even the most dramatic change.

◊◊

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

This has been a long journey, especially for readers of The Hundred Wells of Salaga, where we are first introduced to the twins – Hassana and Husseina. Imagine the deep annoyance I felt encountering Wofa Sarpong again, at the beginning of this novel. Does anyone hate him more than me?

The deep blue sea eventually separates Hassana and Husseina not only physically, but also spiritually and mentally. Hassana and Husseina (who later changes her name to Vitória) are separated by the sea after raiders destroy their village in Botu. By fate, Hassana remains in the Gold Coast and is sold into slavery, while Husseina is taken to Lagos and later to ‘greener pastures’ in Bahia, thanks to her godmother.

In true Ayesha H. Attah fashion, this novel is character-driven, with each character’s storyline alternating in the book’s chapters. Hassana and Husseina are both well-rounded characters and readers witness their growth from their painful separation, to the journey that leads them to realizing their full selves. The oldest twin – Hassana, reminded me of the bold, fearlessness of Akua-Afriyie in Harmattan Rain and Wurche in The Hundred Wells of Salaga. While I gravitate more towards these fearless women characters, I found myself really craving more of Husseina’s/Vitória’s chapters whenever I was reading Hassana’s. It was only when Hassana moved to Accra and befriended a vibrant Ga girl, that I started to enjoy her storyline – because who doesn’t love to see camaraderie between young black girls? Their sisterhood wasn’t free of conflict, but it felt so realistic and pure.

I was soooo fascinated by Vitória’s life in Brazil. It always escapes me that Brazil is part of the African diaspora; but this book reminded me of our extended family in South America, because of the expansiveness of slavery. Even the font style of Vitória’s chapter headings show how different and somewhat vibrant her life was. Her life in Bahia brought to light similarities in our foods, like – acarajé akin to Ghanaian koose; moqueca and feijoada akin to our seafood and beef stews, respectively. It was eye-opening to learn about Candomblé, Yemanja and other orixás and how Vitória wholeheartedly leaned into her newfound beliefs. Besides the constant Googling I was doing of Portuguese words, I was also refreshing my memory on Ghana’s pre-colonial history – especially the role of missionaries and the Anglo- Ashanti wars between 1824 and 1900.

I loved that Attah shed light on some of the (women-led) organizations that had been fighting for the rights of native Ghanaians during colonial times, like – Native Ladies of Cape Coast and Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society. Mainstream history will have anyone thinking that Ghanaian women activists did not exist, which is far from the truth. Introducing young readers to this fact is commendable.

What propels The Deep Blue Between forward is how each and every character Hassana and Vitória encounter help them draw closer to finding each other. It reminded me of how real life operates, in that, by Divine order things work out how they are supposed to (at least that’s what I believe). While I really loved reading and experiencing Hassana and Vitória’s journeys, I wanted the story to be a little more exciting. I wanted there to be more plot twists to keep me on the edge of my seat. I’ve read and enjoyed all of Ayesha H. Attah’s novels and I love that her writing style is primarily character-driven, but I’d also like to read a story with a different style.

Since this is Attah’s first YA novel, I thought it would be corny and rife with unrealistic happenings within the story – as some YA books are (this is my opinion, sorry). But this evenly-paced novel is really laden with so much history and wisdom! If anyone new to Ayesha Harruna Attah’s work is wondering which of her books to read first, The Deep Blue Between is a good place to start. Young Ghanaian readers will feel proud to read this novel, as they would see themselves reflected in the characters and smile at the great showcase of our history and culture within the book. I’ve already pre-ordered a copy for my little cousin who’ll be 12 years old in October, when The Deep Blue Between will be published!

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

Pre-order The Deep Blue Between on Amazon

Special thanks again to Elise Jackson, Poppy Stimpson and the rest of the team at Pushkin Press for the ARC!

In case you missed it, back in March I was privileged to be part of the cover reveal campaign for this forthcoming novel! Be sure to check out the Cover Reveal + Q&A with Ayesha Harruna Attah for The Deep Blue Between.


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

AND THE 2020 AKO CAINE PRIZE WINNER IS…

In less than a month, the 2020 AKO Caine Prize winner will be announced!

For those who are not familiar, the Caine Prize for African Writing (now known as the AKO Caine Prize), which was first awarded in year 2000, is an award “open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. Its focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition” (source).

Some notable winners of the Caine Prize include (click on links to my reviews):

  • Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000) – author of novels MinaretThe Translator, Lyrics Alley, among other works. 
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002) – founding editor of Kwani?, author of memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place and the essay How To Write About Africa found in various literary magazines. *sigh* Rest In Power, Binya!
  • Yvonne A. Owuor, from Kenya (2003) – author of the novel, Dust.
  • E.C Osondu, from Nigeria (2009) – author of the novel This House is not For Sale and collection Voice of America: stories.
  • NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of the novel, We Need New Names
  • Lesley Nneka Arimah, from Nigeria (2019) – author of short story collection, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky

Previously shortlisted writers include: (2001) Mia Couto from Mozambique, (2002) Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria, (2006) Laila Lalami from Morocco, (2013) Chinelo Okparanta from Nigeria, (2013) Pede Hollist from Sierra Leone, (2014) Tendai Huchu from Zimbabwe, (2013 & 2015) Elnathan John from Nigeria, among others!

The AKO Caine Prize and the shortlisted stories play huge roles in the authors I read from Africa and the Diaspora. Many AKO Caine Prize winners and shortlisted writers have found great success and I’ve reviewed a good number of these writers’ work here on African Book Addict!


This year, the AKO Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented writers with stories that ‘speak eloquently to the human condition’ (left to right):

(Image via caineprize.com)

Erica Sugo Anyadike (Tanzania) – Read her story: How to Marry An African President

Rémy Ngamije (Rwanda & Namibia) – Read his story: The Neighbourhood Watch

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria & UK) – Read her story: What To Do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata

Jowhor Ile (Nigeria) – Read his story: Fisherman’s Stew

Irenosen Okojie (Nigeria & UK) – Read her story: Grace Jones


Women dominate the shortlist again – I LOVE to see it! I’m still making my way through all the stories. So far I’ve read Erica Sugo Anyadike and Jowhor Ile’s stories; and skimmed through Chikodili Emelumadu and Irenosen Okojie’s stories.

Fisherman’s Stew by Ile is a calm story about Nimi, an elderly woman, who believes her dead husband comes home to her one night. It seems she frequently has encounters with this man who has long passed away, but when she mentions this to her daughter or her neighbor, they worry about her mental health. As the story progresses, readers get to decipher whether Nimi’s encounters are true or imagined. The story is quite simple, not mind-blowing. The writing is simple, yet beautiful. The descriptions of the market and it’s foodstuff, Nimi’s late night cooking of fish stew and even the opening scene (which caught me off-guard) where Nimi and her husband lay together, definitely showcased Ile’s lovely way with words. I’m not sure if the story is a prize-winning story, though.

How to Marry An African President is another good story that’s easy to read, but it wasn’t a story I hadn’t read before. I skimmed through What To Do When Your Child Brings Home a Mami Wata and I was reminded of Emelumadu’s humor! Her story Bush Baby was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2017, so I expected nothing less than her wonderful, sharp satire. I also skimmed through Grace Jones by Okojie (I really want to read her three books that have been published. But getting access to physical books is almost impossible now, thanks to the borders being close). It was a little hard for me to understand what was going on initially, but so far I’m captivated by the writing!

Sigh… To be honest, I’ve slowly lost interest in the Caine Prize over the years. I’m no longer excited about the shortlist or the stories, or who wins. I’m not sure if I’m fatigued at how repetitive everything is, or if I’m just fatigued in general.

Anyway, may the best story win. I won’t be shocked if Grace Jones is the winner. Okojie’s writing is known to be out of this world!

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Which story is your favorite? Who do you think will win the AKO Caine Prize this year?

The winner will be announced on 27th July 2020. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!

You can also check out my past commentary on the AKO Caine Prize below:

2014 | 2015  | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019