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

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!

Ghanaian Writers | Book Chat :: with Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Once again, the month of March is here! Ghana gained independence in March, so I like to dedicate this month to celebrating Ghanaian writers and their work. In the African literature scene, Ghanaian writers and their books are seriously underrated. As a reader of Ghanaian heritage, I enjoy discovering new Ghanaian writers and learning about our pioneer writers. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will?

Last year on African Book Addict! we celebrated 75 Ghanaian writers and their books in a 3-part series. This month, (more like this month), I’ll be in conversation with some of the writers highlighted in last year’s series! This week is the last installment of the conversations I have with writers of Ghanaian descent.


 

This week, I chat with Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond – author of Powder Necklace, which was published in 2010. I enjoyed Powder Necklace back in 2013, before the creation of this book blog (hence no book review on the site). Since my 2018 reading intentions are to re-read some novels and indulge in more work by Ghanaian writers, I shall be re-reading and reviewing Nana Ekua’s coming-of-age debut this year. Enjoy this fun book chat where Nana Ekua talks about what she learned about herself while writing her debut, how she feels about the future of Ghanaian literature, the Black writers who influence her work, new projects that will be published soon & more!

(note – ‘NEBH’ represents Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond’s responses)

••

Check out the synopsis for Powder Necklace below:

To protect her daughter from the fast life and bad influences of London, her mother sent her to school in rural Ghana. The move was for the girl’s own good, in her mother’s mind, but for the daughter, the reality of being the new girl, the foreigner-among-your-own-people, was even worse than the idea. 

During her time at school, she would learn that Ghana was much more complicated than her fellow ex-pats had ever told her, including how much a London-raised child takes something like water for granted. In Ghana, water “became a symbol of who had and who didn’t, who believed in God and who didn’t. If you didn’t have water to bathe, you were poor because no one had sent you some.”

After six years in Ghana, her mother summons her home to London to meet the new man in her mother’s life—and his daughter. The reunion is bittersweet and short-lived as her parents decide it’s time that she get to know her father. So once again, she’s sent off, this time to live with her father, his new wife, and their young children in New York—but not before a family trip to Disney World.

  • I remember reading your debut novel, Powder Necklace back in 2013 and resonating with it on so many levels. At the time, I hadn’t read a book that accurately articulated the many issues I had with myself and others (mostly Ghanaians) after I moved to Ghana at the age of 10, so I thank you! Why was it important for you to write the story?

NEBH: Thank you! I’m so glad to know Powder Necklace resonated with you. It was important to me to write Powder Necklace because I had so many misconceptions about Ghana before I went to live and school there at 12.

My parents had pumped it up as this utopia where kids never misbehaved, and would threaten to send my siblings and me there whenever we didn’t act right. Meanwhile, it felt like American news programs of the early ‘80s were conflating the Ethiopian famine with all of Africa. Add that to the Save the Children commercials starring Sally Struthers that were repeatedly on air, and it seemed as if Africa was a Land of Flies and Kwashiorkor-Stricken Children. No wonder some of my classmates in the States thought anyone from Africa was a “Booty Scratcher.”

With Powder Necklace, I wanted to share the slice of Africa I experienced in Ghana. Yes, there was poverty, but there was also wealth and both stations were far more complicated than depicted in American media or even by family. Everything and everyone I encountered was far more nuanced.

I also felt like there weren’t many contemporary books for Black kids who weren’t African-American—at least I hadn’t come across many growing up. In the ‘90s, when Black literature was experiencing a wave with books by Terry McMillan, E. Lynn Harris, Bebe Moore Campbell, J. California Cooper, April Sinclair, et al, most centered on the African-American experience. I wanted Powder Necklace to speak to the experience of being Black and African in the diaspora.


  • Did you learn anything about yourself while writing Powder Necklace?

NEBH: I did. Powder Necklace was inspired by my experience getting sent to school in Ghana at 12. It fundamentally changed my personality and intensified my faith in God, but I had not fully dealt with the resentment and anger I felt from being tricked into staying in Ghana. As I began to write the book, I realized how much I had suppressed about the experience. I was surprised by how painful it was to revisit the isolation and fear I felt as a kid when it sunk in that I would be in Ghana without my parents for years, at a boarding school two hours’ drive from my home in Accra.

I had also been hazed by many of my schoolmates during my time at school. In my mind they were all villains, but as I wrote, and had the distance to see myself as a character in a bigger story, I could see the cultural chauvinism I brought to my interactions with my fellow students and still held in some ways.


  • Three years ago, I read a compelling essay of yours in Mosaic Literary Magazine – ‘The African Renaissance’, where you discussed the trajectory of African literature over the years and the interrogation of ‘authentic’ African identity tagged to stories and writers. Some writers dislike being ‘pigeon-holed’ and labeled as ‘African writer’ or ‘Black writer.’ How do you prefer to be identified as a writer?

NEBH: I appreciate being identified as an “African writer” or “Black writer” because I am proud of my Africanness and my Blackness. It took me a long time to get here. I had to get over years of cultural indoctrination designed to make me feel ashamed of my dark skin, and my Ghanaian name and origin—and now that I have, I refuse to have my identity erased or downgraded by anyone, including myself.

The only reason being labeled an “African” or a “Black” writer can pigeonhole is because mainstream culture is infected with racist notions about what it means to be African and Black, and the powers that be have a track record of allowing only certain types of narratives by Black people to see the light of day. By standing proudly in my identity and working to tell authentic stories, I am defying the idea that we should be ashamed of who we are and forcing people to see that no race or ethnicity can be narrowed down to one story or experience.


  • Do you remember the first book you read by a Ghanaian writer? If so, what book was it and how was the experience? After working on the #GHat60 project last year, I was amazed at the great number of Ghanaian writers doing amazing work. How do you feel about the future of Ghanaian literature?

NEBH: The first book I read by a Ghanaian writer was a play—Ama Ata Aidoo’s The Dilemma of a Ghost. I immediately connected with her story of a Ghanaian man bringing his African-American wife home to Ghana and the clash they were dealing with because I was going through a similar experience as I read it at school in Ghana.

I think the future of Ghanaian literature is limitless. Writers like Kofi Akpabli, Nana-Ama Danquah, Nana Awere Damoah, Esi Edugyan, Martin Egblewogbe, Boakyewaa Glover, Yaa Gyasi, Ayesha Harruna Attah, Lesley Lokko, Cheryl Ntumy, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Kwei Quartey, Taiye Selasi, and yourself are not only writing a diversity of stories, but many are creating opportunities and support systems for other writers.

Nana Awere Damoah has started the Ghana-based online bookstore BookNook, which should make it easier for readers in Ghana to get their hands on books by Ghanaian authors. Together with Kofi Akpabli, Nana Awere Damoah also goes around Ghana producing open mic nights. Martin Egblewogbe co-founded Writers Project Ghana and co-hosts a radio show on Ghana’s Citi FM that features Ghanaian writers as well as writers from all over the continent.

(all these Ghanaian writers were featured in the #GHat60 3-part series, last year)

You have your blog, which promotes African authors, and there are other sites focused on African literature too like Nana-Ama Kyerematen’s AfriDiaspora and Ainehi Edoro’s Brittle Paper. Plus, there are writing contests geared toward young Ghanaians like the #360WritersChallenge, which is aimed at university students and the Blooming Minds Young Writers Award for children, not to mention the proliferation of prizes that have cropped up in the last five years geared toward African writers including the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship.

Right now, Ghanaian writers of any age and stage can find encouragement, support, and inspiration among peers and promoters. If this continues—and I believe it will if we as writers and lovers of literature remain vigilant about creating and supporting individuals, initiatives, and institutions that support us—there’s no reason Ghana can’t be home to a proliferation of powerful literary voices generation after generation.


  • What have you been reading and loving lately? And who are some of your favorite Black writers and influencers of your work?

NEBH: I recently devoured Baruch Sterman’s The Rarest Blue. I know I’m so so late on The Life of Pi, but I finally read it and absolutely loved it. Currently, I’m in the middle of Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen.

My favorite Black writer is Buchi Emecheta. Reading her work, it’s clear how much empathy she had for her characters, and she had a gift for pacing. In addition to Ms. Emecheta, there are so many Black writers I aspire to be as honest and fearless as in my writing, including Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Both women are such astute and commanding storytellers.

I love the care Ayesha Harruna Attah gives to the tiniest details. NoViolet Buluwayo has a fierce way with words that I deeply admire. I so appreciate the poetry of Taiye Selasi’s style. And Ama Ata Aidoo is a legend. Her commitment to telling nuanced stories of Ghanaian lives, particularly Ghanaian women’s lives, has set the benchmark for contemporary Ghanaian writers.


  • I enjoyed your short story – Mama Africa, which was published in the Africa39 Anthology (2014) and I’m excited to see that you’ll be featured in Everyday People: The Color of Life – a Short Story Anthology this summer (August 2018). Do you have a new novel or collection of stories currently in the works to be published soon?

NEBH: Thank you for reading and following my work! I have finished a second novel that I’m really eager to get out into the world. I don’t have a publication date yet, or a publisher, but I’m confident I will soon. In the meantime, I’m working on another novel, a children’s book series, and a literary project for Ghanaian writers. I also have a short story in the forthcoming anthology Accra Noir.


  • Thanks so much for taking the time to participate in this book chat!

NEBH: Thank YOU for all of your support.

Purchase Powder Necklace on Amazon

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Ayesha Harruna Attah and Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond for participating in this fun miniseries of book chats! Also, thank you to all the readers of the book blog who have enjoyed these book chats with writers of Ghanaian descent. #ReadGhanaian!


Check out the 75 Ghanaian writers that were highlighted in last year’s 3-part series below:

Ghanaian Writers | Book Chat :: with Ayesha Harruna Attah

Once again, the month of March is here! Ghana gained independence in March (TODAY, March 6th 1957), so I like to dedicate this month to celebrating Ghanaian writers and their work. In the African literature scene, Ghanaian writers and their books are seriously underrated. As a reader of Ghanaian heritage, I enjoy discovering new Ghanaian writers and learning about our pioneer writers. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will?

Last year on African Book Addict! we celebrated 75 Ghanaian writers and their books in a 3-part series. This year (more like this month), I’ll be in conversation with some of the writers highlighted in last year’s series!


First up is Ayesha Harruna Attah – author of Harmattan Rain, Saturday’s Shadows and forthcoming The Hundred Wells of Salaga, which will be published by Cassava Republic Press in May! Enjoy this fun book chat where Ayesha talks about the inspirations for her forthcoming novel, the first book she read by a Ghanaian writer & the future of Ghanaian literature, the Black writers who influence her work and why we should indulge in The Hundred Wells of Salaga.

(note – ‘AHA’ represents Ayesha Harruna Attah’s responses)

••

Check out the synopsis for The Hundred Wells of Salaga below:

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

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

  • The Hundred Wells of Salaga is your 3rd forthcoming novel, congratulations on this achievement! When did you first get ideas on the story and how long did it take you to write the novel?

AHA: Thank you! About ten years ago, I found out that my great-great grandmother was enslaved. I wanted to know more. Who was she? Where had she come from? What were her desires before her dreams were snatched away? To unearth more, I made a trip to Salaga, in northern Ghana, where there was an infamous slave market. But I kept hitting walls – either people didn’t want to talk or they didn’t know enough. So in 2012, I decided to research how people ended up in Salaga and to also put my imagination to work. I officially started writing in 2014.


  • Did you learn anything about yourself while writing The Hundred Wells of Salaga?

AHA: I learned just how much I didn’t know about African history. For instance, it was a big surprise to me that in the 19th century in the Sokoto Caliphate, there were women teachers, jajis, who taught other women and they used poetry as a way of disseminating values.


  • While reading Harmattan Rain, I saw bits of my life reflected in Sugri’s character and in Saturday’s Shadows, Kojo’s character mirrored a lot of my life as well! How much of your personal life seeps into your stories?

AHA: I don’t consciously set out to put my lived experiences into my writing, but it would be almost impossible to divorce myself from my characters. Even if I were writing the vilest character on earth, it would be with my flavor and through my eyes. Of course, there are certain moments in life that are too good to keep to oneself and, those, I very intentionally put into my stories. For instance, the anecdote in Saturday’s Shadows, where a man cuts himself with a blade to prove he’s invincible—that was a real life scene I witnessed.


  • Do you remember the first book you read by a Ghanaian writer? If so, what book was it and how was the experience? After working on the #GHat60 project last year, I was amazed at the great number of Ghanaian writers doing amazing work. How do you feel about the future of Ghanaian literature?

AHA: I think it was The Anthill in the Sea, an illustrated poetry book by Atukwei Okai. I don’t even remember how old I was. Maybe seven. I loved it.

On the future of Ghanaian literature, there is so much potential and possibility brimming, which I find really exciting. I think the work the Writers Project of Ghana is doing is commendable and writers such as Ruby Goka, Nana Awere Damoah, Mohammed Naseehu Ali, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Boakyewaa Glover give me hope for our generation of writers. What we desperately need are publishing houses with serious distribution networks.

(all these Ghanaian writers were featured in the #GHat60 3-part series, last year)


  • What have you been reading and loving lately? And who are some of your favorite Black writers and influencers of your work?

AHA: After almost a year and a half of new mummy duties, I have started reading again. Since January, I have read Akwaeke Emezi, JJ Bola, Ayobami Adebayo, all debut novelists and I have loved all their books.

I devour work by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Bessie Head, Ama Ata Aidoo, Lucille Clifton, and of course, Ayi Kwei Armah, who gave me the push I needed to write my first novel.


  • Finally, why would you like readers to indulge in your forthcoming, The Hundred Wells of Salaga? What would you like us to take away from the story?

AHA: The involvement of Africans in the slave trade is a part of history that I feel hasn’t been confronted or dealt with enough. There were entire villages built in rocks to prevent slave raiders from attacking. It was a traumatic moment we suffered on the continent, and if trauma isn’t healed it manifests itself in disease, passiveness, self-harm… The list is endless. My impression is that most African countries do not want to deal with this past. Just recently, the world learned of slave auctions in Libya. I was ashamed and appalled that Ghanaians and Nigerians were involved, once again as middlemen. I hope that this book will wake us up to the role that we played in the slave trade, and begin us on the path of forgiveness and healing.

Pre-order The Hundred Wells of Salaga on Amazon

Check out my thoughts on Ayesha Harruna Attah’s novels:

Harmattan Rain  |  Saturday’s Shadows


Check out the 75 Ghanaian writers that were highlighted in last year’s 3-part series below:

2018 NEW RELEASES TO ANTICIPATE!

Happy New Year, everyone!

What books are you excited to read this year? Below are 56 new African, African-American and Caribbean books that look very promising. This is just a snippet of the books 2018 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 2018:

Image via Nylon

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves

Yes! Glory Edim, aka – Well-Read Black Girl, is working on an anthology that will feature black women writers like – Zinzi Clemons, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Marita Golden, and Tayari Jones as they highlight the first time they saw themselves represented in literature. To be published by Random House.

 


Image via Simon & Schuster

I first encountered Bahamian writer – Janice Lynn Mather’s writing in the 2014 anthology, Pepperpot: Best New Stories From The Caribbean. Her short story- ‘Mango Summer’ was such a poetic, gentle and innocent tale on sisterhood and loneliness; with the abundance of mangoes being a humorous distraction to the heartfelt tale.

I loved her writing in ‘Mango Summer’ and eagerly look forward to this debut! To be published by Simon & Schuster, June 2018.

 


Image via Reader’s Digest 

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Wayétu Moore is a writer of Liberian heritage and is the founder of One Moore Book, which is a children’s book publishing company that focuses on providing culturally sensitive and educational stories for children living in regions with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures. Her debut – She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three characters who share an uncommon bond. I can’t wait for the book cover to be revealed soon!! To be published by Graywolf Press, September 2018.

 


Image via Anissa Photography 

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

If you loved The Hate You Give, you’ll probably love Angie Thomas’ second novel – On The Come Up! I hope the book cover is revealed soon. To be published by Balzer + Bray, May 2018.

 


Image via Ibi Zoboi

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Haitian writer – Ibi Zoboi’s second novel, Pride is a love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set in Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY). To be published by Balzer + Bray, September 2018.

 

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

2017 Recap & My Top 5!

Hey everyone!

I hope the holiday season has been relaxing for you all. 2017 is almost over and it’s time for a recap of the year! I ended up reading 28 books this year. The break down of my 2017 reading experience is as follows:

Average books read per month: 2 books 

Anthologies read: 3 books

Audiobooks ‘read’: 3 books

African literature: 10 books

Caribbean literature: 4 books

African-American literature: 13 books

Others: 1 book (this is a non-African/non-Diaspora book. Written by Cheryl Strayed).

20 women writers 5 men writers


Top 5 favorite books of 2017

  1. Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo
  2. Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo
  3. Born On A Tuesday by Elnathan John
  4. Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono
  5. Now We Will Be Happy by Amina Gautier

These were the most insightful, affirming and enjoyable books for me this year! School/life has been quite hectic this year, so I’m behind on book reviews. Expect the remaining book reviews in 2018, but in the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend these 5 books!

Reviews for books read this year are in the Book Reviews section of the book blog.

What were your top 5 favorite books of 2017?


Favorite bookish events / images of the year:


African Book Addict! FEATURES:

It’s been both overwhelming and exciting being recognized for all the hard work that goes into creating content for this book blog. Book blogging here at African Book Addict! is purely a hobby (as I’m currently a 4th year Dental Student – its a 6 year program), so receiving recognition and praise is always affirming and such a blessing.

Below is a list of the features and recognitions African Book Addict! has gained this year:

Also, special thanks to the authors who’ve contacted me to show their appreciation for reviews of their books that have been posted on this platform and/or AFREADA.

Image via novelscript Instagram stories


2017 Reading Intentions round up:

At the beginning of the year, I set 3 reading intentions. But I don’t think I’ve successfully achieved them all…

  • My first reading intention was to READ MY OWN DAMN BOOKS. Only 9 of the books I read this year had been on my bookshelf for a while. The rest of the books I’ve enjoyed were acquired THIS year! Is it possible for a moody book lover to restrict him/herself to just the books sitting on one’s bookshelf? It’s tough y’all!

 

  • The second reading intention was to PURCHASE LESS books this year. Well… I ended up purchasing about 30 books (discounted/ used books – chill out!) over the summer and many, many more for friends & family as gifts. I might have jinxed myself by setting this goal/intention for myself!  *shrug*

 

  • Lastly, I set out to buddy-read some novels with other book bloggers/ book lovers. I successfully read Behold The Dreamers with Ifeyinwa Arinze and we had a great conversation on the book as well! I had planned to read books with other bloggers – Osondu (of Incessant Scribble), Didi (of Brown Girl Reading) and Afoma (of Afoma Umesi). Osondu and I weren’t excited about the book we set out to read, so our buddy-read was unsuccessful; Didi and I were to read a debut that a writer had sent us – but we couldn’t get passed the first 50 pages, so we quit; Afoma and I also tried to read an ARC together this month, but the book is super slow… maybe we’ll continue to read it together in the new year. Buddy-reading has been challenging! I think I’ll talk more about this in the new year.

Were you able to achieve some of your 2017 Reading Intentions? 

[Don’t beat yourself up if you weren’t able to – its definitely not that serious and you can still achieve them in 2018!]

Total books read in 2017

I’m TRULY grateful to everyone who frequents this book blog and for the great discussions (agreements, disagreements and recommendations) we have in the comments section. I always appreciate the support and love shown here, from you all. This year, I’ve enjoyed discovering new book blogs, book lovers & Bookstagram accounts (Book Instagram) and I hope to connect with more in the future! Here’s to more great years of reading ahead, for all of us. 🙂