And the 2017 Caine Prize winner is…

YES, it’s that time of year again! In less than two weeks, the 2017 Caine Prize winner will be announced!

For those who are not familiar, 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. 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 Minaret, The 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.
  • 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

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

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


This year, the Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented writers with unique short stories (left to right):(Image via caineprize.com)

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) – Read her short story: Who Will Greet You At Home

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) – Read her short story: Bush Baby

Bushra al-Fadil (Sudan) – Read his short story: The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away 

Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) – Read his short story: God’s Children Are Little Broken Things

Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa) – Read her short story: The Virus


The Caine Prize shortlist wouldn’t be a shortlist if a previous shortlistee isn’t back on the list, right? I’m no longer shocked or disappointed when I see previous shortlistees and winners back on the shortlist – the Caine Prize is good for that.

I was happy to see Bushra al-Fadil, a writer of Sudanese heritage on the list! I think the last time a Sudanese writer was on the Caine Prize shortlist was back in year 2000, when Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize. But I wasn’t able to finish al-Fadil’s short story- The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t get it. The Virus by Makhene is 26 pages and I haven’t found the time to enjoy it yet. Maybe I’ll listen to the podcast/ audio of the story if I have 1 hour 11 minutes to spare. I found Lesley Nneka Arimah’s story – Who Will Greet You At Home, softly magical. I recently purchased her short story collection – What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky (which was the title of her last year’s shortlisted story) at it’s full price, so I hope it’s worth it. Hmm, I wonder if Arimah will compete to win next year’s prize as well, even with all the positive buzz around her new book.

Chikodili Emelumadu’s story – Bush Baby, is one hell of a rollercoaster! I was initially hesitant to read the story, as it’s a long read of 17 pages. But once I started reading, I just had to stay on the intense ride and endure every bit of it. I love Emelumadu’s succinct writing style. She manages to accurately capture the tiniest nuances which I found impressive. Bush Baby is a haunting story that follows adult siblings Ihuoma and Okwuchukwu (or Okwy) as they battle being tortured by an evil spirit that is out for Okwy. Ihuoma is back home in Nigeria from studying/living abroad and Okwy has resorted to satisfying the desires of his flesh – drugs, gambling, prostitutes and juju. YES- juju! Without giving too much away, just beware – there is black magic/ juju/ voodoo/ magical realism (however you choose to call ‘evil spirits’) in this story. Emelumadu’s palpable descriptions had be cringing and feeling deep sorrow for Okwy and his demise. I discovered Emelumadu’s blog, Igbophilia late last year and find her commentary/stories hilarious and very entertaining. I’m proud of her for making it on this year’s Caine Prize shortlist.

Arinze Ifeakandu’s story – God’s Children Are Little Broken Things MUST win the 2017 Caine Prize. Arinze is one heck of a writer! God’s Children Are Little Broken Things follows 2 university students, Lotanna and Kamsi. They are both young men and they become lovers. However, their relationship is very complicated. Lotanna is a soccer player and lover boy who is dating Rachael but he’s attracted to Kamsi – a piano player who’s small in stature. I don’t want to give too much away but I urge everyone to read the story – it’s the perfect short story for this month, which is considered LGBTQ Pride Month in the US. The story is deeply compelling and layered with many themes, such as – love, homosexuality, domestic violence, family, grief, illness, masculinity etc.

Reading God’s Children Are Little Broken Things got slightly confusing as it’s a second-person narrative, but I believe Arinze writing in this point of view made the story very personal and hence, powerful. I’m curious to know more about Arinze Ifeakandu and what compelled him to write this important story. I’d love to know how other readers feel about this story and the types of arguments/ conversations it will open up, especially among Africans who believe sexual fluidity and homosexuality are abominations. Arinze Ifeakandu must win this year’s Caine Prize and expand this riveting short story into a book! *fingers crossed.*

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

The winner will be announced in London at Senate House Library in partnership with SOAS, on the 3rd of July. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!

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

2014 | 2015  | 2016

GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books (part 3 – finale)

Welcome back to part 3 – the final installment of the series: GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books.

As a person of Ghanaian heritage, I enjoy discovering new Ghanaian writers and learning about our pioneer writers. Being a lover of African literature and literature of the diaspora, I find that Ghanaian authors and their work aren’t as popular as Kenyan, South African, Nigerian or Zimbabwean literature.

GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books is a series that highlights and celebrates various Ghanaian writers and their work. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will? I hope your TBR lists grow once you take the time to appreciate these writers and their work through the series. This is the final installment of the 3-part series and it’s NOT exhaustive by any means. The list is arranged in alphabetical order, of last names.

Note: Images were taken from Goodreads and the respective writers’ websites.

Ama Ata Aidoo

Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo is one of Africa’s foremost woman writers. She’s a feminist, poet, academic, playwright and novelist with many notable works under her belt! Her first play – The Dilemma of a Ghost was published back in 1966 and her debut novel – Our Sister Killjoy was published back in 1977. Aidoo received the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa) for her novel entitled Changes in 1992 and she’s the author of many more poetry collections, short stories collections and plays. Her works highlight women experiences like gender and power dynamics, Western influences on African women and women protagonists defying stereotypical gender roles in family and society. On March 16th of this year, the The African University College for Communication named its new creative writing center after this phenomenal woman- Ama Ata Aidoo Center for Creative Writing.


Kofi Anyidoho

Prof. Kofi Anyidoho is a prominent Ghanaian poet, literary scholar, cultural activist and educator. He’s published 5 collections of poetry and some of these collections are accompanied with audio of the poems in Ewe – his native language. Anyidoho has won many awards for his poetry like the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award, Davidson Nicol prize, the Langston Hughes award, Valco Fund Literary Award among others!


Ayi Kwei Armah

Ayi Kwei Armah is a highly acclaimed Ghanaian novelist, poet and pan-African. Armah’s work is known to critically examine moral integrity that exists between the past and present, with poetic energy. He’s best known for his debut novel – The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born which was published in 1968 as well as the epic historical novel – Two Thousand Seasons (published in 1973) which received mixed reviews and actually received harsh criticism from Chinua Achebe back in 1987. Last year I attended a talk that featured Ayi Kwei Armah and Ayesha Harruna Attah (who was featured in part 2 of this series) and he discussed his latest projects in hieroglyphics.


Kofi Awoonor

Kofi Awoonor was a phenomenal poet, literary critic and professor of comparative literature. He is the author of novels, plays, political essays, literary criticism, and several volumes of poetry like Rediscovery and Other Poems (1964), Night of My Blood (1971), The House By the Sea (1978), The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems (2014) just to name a few. Awoonor made it a point to bring his Ewe culture and ancestry as well as contemporary religious symbolism to depict Africa during the era of decolonization into his poems and other works. Awoonor passed away in the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya back in September 2013, but we (Ghanaians and other fans of his work) always make it a point to celebrate him and his great legacy during his birthday. This year on March 13th (his birthday) the hashtag – #Awoonor82 was dedicated to honoring the legend, who would have been 82 years old this year.


Joe de Graft

Joe de Graft was a well-known Ghanaian writer, poet playwright and educator. He’s best known for his play Sons and Daughters (1979) which encourages the youth to follow their dreams. He uses the play to inform Ghanaian youth that careers in medicine, business and law aren’t the only careers that lead to success and inspires them to find interest in the arts like music, dance, writing etc. De Graft is also known for his works Beneath the Jazz and Brass (1975) and Muntu (1977) and Through A Film Darkly (1979). He left a legacy with the launch of the Mfantsipim School (his alma mater) Drama festival.


Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-American novelist who’s debut – Homegoing, has been receiving well-deserved praise ever since it was published last year. I absolutely loved Homegoing and I explain why in a personal book review I posted last year. But we’re still waiting for Yaa Gyasi to grace Accra with her presence ohhh! Hopefully she’ll plan a trip soon, so that Ghanaians can engage with her and her book at a reading.


Kojo Laing

Kojo Laing is a poet, novelist and educator. Laing is the author of the novels Search Sweet Country (1986), Women of the Aeroplanes (1988)Major Gentl and the Achimota Wars (1992), Big Bishop Roko and the Altar Gangsters (2006) and the poetry collection Godhorse (1989). His poetry addresses the themes of identity and alienation while his novels combine magical realism with political commentary. Some readers have described his debut – Search Sweet Country as reading a dream with intense vivid imagery and humanization of inanimate objects. Laing’s work is an absorbing experience I hope to encounter soon when I indulge in his debut.


Atukwei Okai

Prof. Atukwei Okai is a prolific poet, cultural activist and academic with many accomplished works and honors. Some of his works include: Flowerfall (1969), Oath Of The Fontomfrom and Other Poems (1971), Lorgorligi: Logarithms and Other Poems (1974), Freedom Symphony: Selected and New Love Poems (2008), Mandela the Spear and Other Poems (2013) as well as children’s books like – The Anthill In the Sea: Verses and chants for children (1988), amongst others!


Taiye Selasi

Taiye Selasi is a writer and photographer of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent who popularized the term Afropolitan, thanks to her 2005 (controversial) essay – Bye-Bye, Babar. Selasi’s writing explores our relationships to our multiple identities – intersectionalities, if you will. She’s most popular for her debut novel – Ghana Must Go (2013). I particularly enjoyed her TEDGlobal talk (2014): Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.


Efua Sutherland

Efua Sutherland was a phenomenal Ghanaian writer, dramatist, teacher, scholar and cultural activist. For about 40 years, she was in the forefront of literary and theatrical movements in Ghana (from the 1950’s) and was a key player in pushing African performance to the university level. She was instrumental in founding various literary establishments like Ghana Society of Writers, the literary magazine Okyeame, the Ghana Drama Studio and the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture (which is still in great shape in Cantonments, Accra). She’s well known for her works: Foriwa (1962), Edufa (1967), and The Marriage of Anansewa (1975). Find out more about Sutherland at the Mmofra Foundation – where children and culture connect, for which she is the founder.


Below are some HONORARY MENTIONS comprising of both budding and established writers of Ghanaian descent who you should definitely keep an eye out for. Click on their names to check out their writing portfolios, publications and/or websites:

  • Other YA writers: Nana Yaa Amankwa, Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye, Adwoa Badoe, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, Manu Herbstein, CNN Lokko.

The end of March is finally here, so the Ghana at 60| Our Writers & Their Books series has come to an end. A TOTAL of 75 Ghanaian writers (including honorary mentions) have been highlighted, as well as some of their work. It has been a pleasure sharing with the world our accomplished Ghanaians writers.

Food for thought: While I feel much pride in highlighting our Ghanaian writers, I also worry that most Ghanaians will never get the chance to read some of these authors’ work. Books by writers of African descent are pretty scarce here in Accra – several titles are either not sold in bookstores or they are super expensive so the average Ghanaian can’t afford them. Readers living abroad can get easy access to all of the works mentioned in this series, thanks to various online bookstores and several well stocked bookstores with African/Black fiction. But how about readers living in Ghana? How can works by Ghanaian writers be accessible to everyone and at affordable prices?

With the plethora of Ghanaian writers and books highlighted in this series, there is no excuse if anyone claims they don’t know (m)any writers from Ghana! I’d love to know who I missed (there are many more writers out there!) – kindly share other writers in the comments. And be sure to share this loaded resource with others, so they can indulge in Ghanaian literature as well.

GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books (part 2)

Welcome back to part 2 of the series: GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books.

As a person of Ghanaian heritage, I enjoy discovering new Ghanaian writers and learning about our pioneer writers. Being a lover of African literature and literature of the diaspora, I find that Ghanaian authors and their work aren’t as popular as Kenyan, South African, Nigerian or Zimbabwean literature.

GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books is a series that highlights and celebrates various Ghanaian writers and their work. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will? I hope your TBR lists grow once you take the time to appreciate these writers and their work through the series. This is part 2 of a 3-part series and it’s NOT exhaustive by any means. The list is arranged in alphabetical order, of last names.

Kofi Akpabli

Kofi Akpabli is a journalist, writer and cultural activist. He is also a two-time winner of the CNN Multichoice African Journalist for Arts and Culture Awards. In partnership with Ghanaian writer – Nana A. Damoah (who was featured in part 1 of this series), they’ve been leading a campaign to promote reading for pleasure around the nation. I need to add their next event to my calendar!


Ayesha Harruna Attah

I’ve spoken a lot about Ayesha’s work and there are lots of photos from her readings on this platform. If you haven’t read Harmattan Rain (2008) or Saturday’s Shadows (2015) yet, please get on it!! I’m a huge fan of Ayesha’s work and I’m looking forward to her new novel – One Hundred Wells to be published this year.


Yaba Badoe

Yaba Badoe is a Ghanaian-British filmmaker and fiction writer (and actually the aunt of one of my besties, Ashorkor). In 2014, she launched a documentary film entitled: The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo, in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo who is one of Ghana’s foremost woman writers. Yaba Badoe was a contributor to an anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo – African Love Stories and her story – ‘The Rival was one of my favorites because it was totally absurd, but very entertaining! Her debut novel – True Murder was published back in 2009.


Yaba Blay

Dr. Yaba Blay is a Ghanaian-American professor, producer, writer and researcher. Her research is mostly centered on Black body politics with specific attention to skin color and hair. Her 2007 dissertation- Yellow Fever: Skin Bleaching and the Politics of Skin Color in Ghana, relies upon African-centered and African feminist methodologies to investigate the social practice of skin bleaching in Ghana. Her coffee table book – (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race (2013), explores the interconnected nuances of skin color politics, Black racial identity and challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness. Blay’s commentary has been featured on CNN, BET, MSNBC, NPR, O Magazine, Ebony Magazine, The Root, just to name a few!


Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Victoria is a British-born Ghanaian poet, writer and creative facilitator. Her work has been shortlisted for the Brunel University International African Poetry Prize, featured on BBC Radio 4, and has been commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts. Her debut chapbook, Girl B is forthcoming as part of the 2017 New-Generation African Poets series, edited by Kwame Dawes. I’m always down to read a chapbook, especially those in the African Poetry Book Fund collection, so I’m super excited for Girl B to be released! The cover art for Girl B hasn’t been released yet, but a glimpse of her work from the chapbook was shared on Twitter last month.


Efemia Chela

Efemia is a writer of both Ghanaian and Zambian descent. Her first published story – ‘Chicken’ was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2014 and she’s contributed to a number of anthology collections. She’s currently a fellow of the inaugural Short Story Day Africa / Worldreader Editing Mentorship Programme and one of the editors of the anthology – Migrations: New Short Stories from Africa which will be out September of this year!


Lawrence Darmani

Lawrence Darmani is a novelist and publisher. I’m very familiar with his daily devotional articles in Our Daily Bread – a popular Christian devotional, available worldwide. Aside Darmani’s devotionals, he’s popularly known in primary & secondary schools in Ghana for his novel – Grief Child (1991), which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1992 as best first book from Africa. Darmani is the CEO of Step Publishers, which aims at publishing and distributing quality Christian literature.


Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan was born and raised in Canada (Calgary, Alberta) to Ghanaian parents. She’s popularly known for her sophomore novel Half-Blood Blues (2011), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and many other prestigious literary awards. Half-Blood Blues won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize which was valued at $50,000. I hardly hear people talk about this book. I must get my hands on it!


Martin Egblewogbe

Martin Egblewogbe is a poet, editor, short story writer and Physics lecturer. He’s popularly known as the co-founder of the amazing organization – Writers Project of Ghana that I’ve spoken about on several occasions on this platform. Martin self-published his debut collection of stories entitled Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God & Other Stories in 2008. Ayebia – a publishing house in the UK that specializes in publishing quality African and Caribbean writing, republished his collection in 2012. Egblewogbe has also edited various anthologies of poetry such as According to Sources (2015) and Look Where You Have Gone to Sit (2010).


Ruby Yayra Goka

Ruby Yayra Goka is a dentist by profession and a well-known Ghanaian YA (young adult) writer with a myriad of great books for children and young adults. Her debut – The Mystery of the Haunted House (2011) as well as 4 other works, The Perfectly Imperfect (first prize winner in 2013), Lost Royal Treasure, Plain Yellowing (second prize winner for 2014) and When the Shackles Fall won the Burt Award for African Literature. I’m really curious to know, who does the amazing illustrations for Goka’s books? Books by Ruby Yayra Goka are easily accessible to Ghanaians – I always spot her books in bookshops I frequent!


Malaka Grant

Malaka Grant is a Ghanaian-American author and co-founder of the highly acclaimed blog – Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women. Her debut novel – The Daughters of Swallows (2013) is actually an adaptation of the blog and is a fictional account that follows 3 women in contemporary Ghana who try to adapt to challenging situations in their lives. Grant also writes children’s books and has published – Sally and the Butterfly, as well as Yaa Traps Death in a Basket. Her latest work – Madness & Tea (I love the green hue of the book cover!) was published in 2015. She has a blog on motherhood, marriage and madness (and everything in between!) at Mind of Malaka.


Ben Hinson

Ben Hinson is a Ghanaian-Nigerian author currently based in New York. He’s popularly known for his super ambitious, action packed historical thriller based on mercenary activity during the Cold War era in the 1990s called – Eteka: Rise of the Imamba (2016). This historical thriller seamlessly fuses Asian, African, American and European cultures and history into an unforgettable reading experience. From an interview I read featuring Hinson, it took him about 6 years (including research) to write this epic novel. From reviews, Eteka: Rise of the Imamba is worth all of its 557 pages. Definitely check it out!


Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson is a British author and journalist of Ghanaian descent. Her books mainly focus on relationships and families. She wrote her first novel (There’s A Thin Line Between Love And Hate) at the age of 13, but her debut, The Cupid Effect was published back in 2003. From then, 9 more of her books have been published! Out of her catalogue of books, I’m a huge fan of her 6th novel, The Ice Cream Girls and actually saw a television adaptation of the novel.


Lesley Lokko

Lesley Lokko is a Ghanaian-Scottish architect and novelist who lives simultaneously in Johannesburg, London, Accra and Edinburgh. She’s written about 8 books and I’ve been very eager to read Bitter Chocolate (2008) for a while now. Lokko has a pretty amazing book catalogue on her website. I definitely would like to read Bitter Chocolate and Sundowners soon!


Nana Malone

Nana Malone is a Ghanaian-American writer who is actually a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She’s the author of 3 series: The Love Match Series – which feature contemporary romance stories; The In Stilettos Series – which feature sexy, fun multicultural romantic comedies and The Protectors series – which feature dark, superhero romance stories. I haven’t spotted any of her books here in Accra, but I’m sure they are available wherever books are sold online.


Marilyn Heward Mills

Marilyn Heward Mills is a writer of Ghanaian and Swiss descent. Her debut, The Cloth Girl (2006) is set in the Gold Coast at the end of British rule. It follows 14 year old Matilda – an uneducated, humble ‘cloth girl’ who’s childhood is ended by her marriage to Robert – a lawyer who already has a wife and children. Matilda meets the wife of another white man (a colonial administrator) and the two have tremendous impact on each other. Mills’s second novel, The Association of Foreign Spouses (2011) is set in Ghana in the turbulent 80’s.


Celestine Nudanu

Celestine Nudanu is a poet and passionate reader. Last year I attended the book launch of her debut poetry anthology entitled Haiku Rhapsodies – Verses from Ghana (2016) which features wonderful Afriku – haiku of African origin. Celestine is also the creator of the literary blog- Reading Pleasure, which is home to her Afriku as well as book reviews. Celestine was actually one of the first people to visit and offer encouraging comments on my book reviews here on African Book Addict!, so she holds a dear spot in my heart! Check out her poet profile, which was recently added to the prestigious Haiku Foundation registry.


Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a poet, essayist, novelist, editor and literary advocate who was born in the UK and raised in Ghana. He also writes under the pseudonym K.P. Kojo and has published a children’s book – The Parade: A Stampede of Stories About Ananse, the Trickster Spider under the pseudonym. I’m yet to indulge in Parkes’s poetry, but his novel- Tail of a Blue Bird (2009) is definitely a must read!


Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is a Ghanaian feminist, writer, blogger and entrepreneur. She’s the curator of the highly acclaimed blog – Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women, which was created in 2009 as a space for African women to share experiences of sex and diverse sexualities. She has contributed to a number of anthologies like It Wasn’t Actually Love (2016) and The Pot & Other stories (2015).


Are you familiar with any of these Ghanaian authors? Have you read any of the books mentioned above? 

The month of March has been dedicated to honoring Ghanaian authors as it is Ghana’s month of Independence. More writers will be highlighted! Stay tuned for Part 3 – the final installment of the series.

 

Note: Images were taken from Goodreads and the respective writers’ websites.

GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books (part 1)

Happy Independence Day to all Ghanaians! Ghana is 60 years old today.

After about 113 years of British rule, Ghana gained independence on this day – March 6th, 1957. Our independence pioneered and encouraged other African nations to also fight for their independence from colonial rule. We’ve come a long way and still have a ways to go, but I’m proud to be a Ghanaian.

As a person of Ghanaian heritage, I enjoy discovering new Ghanaian writers and learning about our pioneer writers. Being a lover of African literature and literature of the diaspora, I find that Ghanaian authors and their work aren’t as popular as Kenyan, South African, Nigerian or Zimbabwean literature.

GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books is a series that highlights and celebrates various Ghanaian writers and their work. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will? I hope your TBR lists grow once you take the time to appreciate these writers and their work through the series. This is part 1 of a 3-part series and it’s NOT exhaustive by any means. The list is arranged in alphabetical order, of last names.

Sophia Acheampong

I think Sophia Acheampong’s books have the cutest book covers, ever! Acheampong is a Ghanaian-British author of YA (young adult) fiction. Growing Yams in London (2006) and iPods in Accra (2009) follow fourteen year old British-born Makeeda who’s trying to balance both Ghanaian and British identities in the ultra-modern world of social media and instant messaging.


G.A. Agambila

Dr. Gheysika Adombire Agambila is a native of Bolgatanga (in the Upper East Region of Ghana) and is the author of two novels – Journey (2006) and Emigrant (2016). I’m not really crazy about the cover art for Journey, but I’ve seen the book in quite a few bookshops here in Accra. Ann Morgan of blog – A Year of Reading the World chose to read Journey for her Ghana pick and her book review made me add it to my TBR.


Mohammed Naseehu Ali

Mohammed Nasheehu Ali is a Ghanaian writer based in New York City. I read a book review of Ali’s short stories collection – The Prophet of Zongo Street (2006) last year and was determined to purchase it once I spotted it in bookstores. If you would like to get a feel of his writing, check out two short stories: Mallam Sile & My Name is Not Cool Anymore, published in The New Yorker & The New York Times respectively.


Asabea Ashun

Asabea Ashun is the pseudonym of Dr. Mary Ashun who has published a good number of YA (young adult) fiction and adventure stories for children. Last year, I purchased her latest novel, Serwa Akoto’s Diary (2013) which follows a young lady, Serwa Akoto on her quest to blend her Ghanaian heritage and Canadian lifestyle.


Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is a Ghanaian-American writer who is the author of Powder Necklace (2010). Powder Necklace is a coming-of-age tale that follows Lila, who was born and raised in England. She’s later sent to Ghana to attend a local boarding school (mirrored off Mfantsiman Girls’ High School in Cape Coast, Ghana) and life takes a 360 degree turn for Lila with respect to her identity and the concept of home. I read the novel back in 2013 and deeply appreciated it as I could relate to the story on many levels. I hope Nana Ekua’s second novel is in the works!


Akosua Busia

If you’ve seen the film The Color Purple, Akosua Busia may look familiar as she played Nettie in it! Akosua Busia is an actress, author, song-writer and film director. The Seasons of Beento Blackbird: A Novel (1997) is Busia’s debut.


Nana Awere Damoah

Nana Awere Damoah is a chemical engineer and author of four non-fiction books. I’ve spotted his most recent book – Sebitically Speaking (2015) in bookshops here in Accra. His other works include I Speak of Ghana (2013), Through the Gates of Thought (2010), Excursions in my Mind (2008) and a collection of short stories called Tales from Different Tails (2011). Damoah’s writing draws readers’ attention to issues that plague the nation and its citizens, with a satirical flavor that will kick anyone into questioning their priorities. Damoah’s work will be reviewed on this platform soon!


Meri Nana-Ama Danquah

Meri Nana-Ama Danquah is a Ghanaian-American writer, editor and journalist. I purchased an anthology edited by Danquah – The Black Body, back in 2009 and found it compelling. Meri Nana-Ama Danquah is best known for her 1998 memoir Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression, which I MUST get my hands on soon. In these tumultuous times, her memoir would definitely be a timely read with discourse on mental health and self-care.


Amma Darko

Amma Darko is one of my favorite Ghanaian writers and I feel she is SERIOUSLY underrated. Her 1995 debut, Beyond the Horizon is a tragic masterpiece that I think all book lovers need to read! It’s an uncomfortable read, but important work of art on feminism, immigration, racism, chauvinism and so much more. I plan on reading her 2003 novel, Faceless at some point this year.


Amu Djoleto

Amu Djoleto is a writer and educator who’s novels are quite popular in Ghanaian primary and secondary schools (elementary, middle and high schools). He’s best known for his debut novel – The Strange Man, which is part of the African Writers Series.


Boakyewaa Glover

I met Boakyewaa Glover early last year and she was gracious enough to gift me with two of her novels – Tendai: Nature and Science Unleashed and The Justice: A Political Thriller! I finished reading Tendai last year and the novel was a good blend of sci-fi and mystery. Her latest novel – The Justice was published back in 2013 and is very high up on my TBR list. Apparently the sex scenes in The Justice are pretty spicy, which is rare for Africa fiction. I love that Glover’s books are available in many boutiques and shops, including Shell service station shops, making her work accessible to all Ghanaians.


Mamle Kabu

Mamle Kabu or Mamle Wolo are the pseudonyms of Martina Odonkor, who is a writer of Ghanaian and German ancestry. I was pleasantly surprised to find that her short story ‘The End of Skill’ was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2009 (the year E.C Osondu won!). Kabu’s YA (young adult) novel The Kaya-Girl won the Burt Award for African Literature in 2011. The cover art for The Kaya-Girl is stunning.


Benjamin Kwakye

Benjamin Kwakye is a lawyer and novelist with a couple of book awards under his belt. His debut novel, The Clothes of Nakedness (1998) won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Kwakye’s sophomore novel, The Sun By Night (which has awesomely eccentric cover art) rightfully won the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Africa Region). Out of Kwakye’s books catalogue, I think his debut and sophomore books have the best book covers!


Nana Prah

Nana Prah is a Ghanaian multicultural romance writer. She has about 8 books that have been published and most of them are available for purchase online. Does anyone know if her books are sold here in Accra? Last year I read 2 romance novels and I can’t wait to grab a book from Nana Prah’s collection next! Check out her blog: http://nanaprah.blogspot.com/


Kwei Quartey

Dr. Kwei Quartey is a Ghanaian crime fiction writer. His Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery series is pretty popular, and I love the cover art work for all the books in this series! Late 2014, I really enjoyed his reading that was held here in Accra. He currently resides in California and juggles being a physician and a writer. Book 5 of the series, Death by His Grace will be released August of this year.


Frances Mensah Williams

Frances Mensah Williams is an award-winning Ghanaian-British author of women’s fiction. If you’ve read any books published by the independent publishing house based in London – Jacaranda Books, Williams’s name and her books may look familiar. She created the light-hearted, contemporary series – From Pasta to Pigfoot (2015), which follows London born and bred Faye Bonsu, on her journey to understanding her native Ghanaian culture.



Are you familiar with any of these Ghanaian authors? Have you read any of the books mentioned above? 

The month of March will be dedicated to honoring Ghanaian authors as it is Ghana’s month of independence. Many more writers will be highlighted in this series! Stay tuned for Part 2 of GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books.

Note: Images were taken from Goodreads and the respective writers’ websites.

The January Children by Safia Elhillo

!important;margin:0!important;" />Date Read: December 14th 2016

Published: March 1st 2017

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press

Pages: 80

 

 

 

The Blurb

The January Children depicts displacement and longing while also questioning accepted truths about geography, history, nationhood, and home. The poems mythologize family histories until they break open, using them to explore aspects of Sudan’s history of colonial occupation, dictatorship, and diaspora. Several of the poems speak to the late Egyptian singer Abdelhalim Hafez, who addressed many of his songs to the asmarani—an Arabic term of endearment for a brown-skinned or dark-skinned person. Elhillo explores Arabness and Africanness and the tensions generated by a hyphenated identity in those two worlds.

No longer content to accept manmade borders, Elhillo navigates a new and reimagined world. Maintaining a sense of wonder in multiple landscapes and mindscapes of perpetually shifting values, she leads the reader through a postcolonial narrative that is equally terrifying and tender, melancholy and defiant.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Safia Elhillo is a Sudanese-American poet based in the U.S and I believe The January Children gives readers some insight into what it’s like to be Sudanese and an American. In this collection, the narrator is constantly grappling with her complex identities and it’s evident in poems like,

republic of the sudan ministry of interior passport & immigration general directorate alien from sudanese origin passcard‘ (yes, this is the title of the poem):

at the khartoum office a veiled woman made the card in microsoft paint told me my arabic was [not bad for a foreigner you can barely hear the accent] i board the plane with grandma’s voice crackling through the phone [come home again soon] my blue passport made me American place of birth maryland usa

& in the months since my last visit syrup settle back to coat my r’s i am ambiguous browngirl

i feel american

& in new york [but your english is so good you can barely hear the accent]

mama still speaks to me in arabic but we eat with fork & knife we play adbelhalim but mostly motown to remind mama of those swaying eighties nights in the garden before it turned to dust before the old country crumbles & mama came here to give me the blue passport & last time i was home a soldier stopped the car asked where i was from laughed when i said here

The narrator has conflicting ideas of home, belonging, family, immigration, perceptions of beauty and so much more. All of these issues are juxtaposed with the narrator’s obsession with Egyptian musician – Abdelhalim Hafez, and his provoking lyrics. For most of this collection, the narrator obsesses over Hafez’s skin color, his perceptions of beauty and his singing voice. I found it weird how the narrator was fascinated with this famous Arabic musician who has been dead since 1977; but she finds meaning in her fascination with Hafez and confides in him on the things that keep her up at night – like not feeling Sudanese enough and/or feeling lost.

The January Children is a very unique poetry collection. Most of the poems lack punctuations, so it takes a while to read each poem to decipher full sentences and the meanings of them. Every word (especially the few Arab words and their translations) in this collection gave the poems profound meaning – which was interesting, yet a bit overwhelming as it takes a while to understand what some of the poems are actually about. Hints of magical realism in some poems provided sprinkles surprise and added to the slightly daunting nature of the collection (for me).

What I appreciated most about this collection was that I got some insight into African-Arab life and how African-Arabs perceive other Africans and Arabs. When I read Minaret by Sudanese writer- Leila Aboulela, I yearned (but to no avail) for commentary on the realities of being African-Arab. I’m glad this collection shed some light into this complex, very unique identity through the tensions the narrator faces. Even though The January Children is complicated and not the easiest poetry collection to read, Elhillo shows immense talent of capturing emotion in a somewhat abstract way. I think I prefer seeing and listening to Safia Elhillo performing her poems. From all the YouTube videos I’ve watched of her performing at various events, it’s absolutely breathtaking and inspiring to see and hear Elhillo speak her words, with mighty conviction.

NOTE: Reading the Forward of this collection by Kwame Dawes is imperative if you want to totally understand and appreciate this collection.

Thanks to Netgalley via University of Nebraska Press for this e-ARC. The January Children will be published and in stores in 3 days! March 1st 2017 🙂

★★★ (3 stars) – Good book. I recommend it, I guess.

Purchase The January Children on Amazon