Classics: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe & Matigari by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o

Hey everyone! Below are mini reviews of two classics written by two, brilliant, African literature pioneer writers. I enjoyed these books over the summer 🙂

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall ApartDate re-Read: July 12th 2015 (previously read in 2007)

Published: January 2010 (originally published in 1958)

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 152

 

The Blurb

Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

What more can I say about this book? Everyone and their grandparents have read this classic. Most readers hated Okonkwo – the main character, for valid reasons. Who would have thought this true-blooded chauvinist would ultimately take his own life? Killing yourself is a cowardly, weak move, no? Despite Okonkwo’s brashness and overt disdain for females and all things ‘womanly’, I understood him, so I appreciated him.

It’s hard not to resent the British colonizers for the damage they caused Africa in the past. The British came with full force, masked in Christianity and denied natives of the African continent control over their own land. Change is never easy, but I guess sometimes it’s necessary? Many harmful indigenous practices which were revered prior colonization have been abolished for example – the killing of twins and thankfully, many other practices that were tagged with superstitious beliefs. Things Fall Apart gives readers a lot to think about: gender inequality, superstition, tradition versus modernity, masculinity versus femininity etc. I’m glad I re-read this during the summer. It was refreshing to reconnect with this masterpiece that Achebe wrote back in 1958. Things Fall Apart will always be a solid 4.5 stars for me.

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

Purchase Things Fall Apart from Amazon

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Matigari by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o

MatigariDate Read: August 11th 2015

Published: June 1989 (originally published in 1986)

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 175

The Blurb

Who is Matigari? Is he young or old; a man or fate; dead or living… or even a resurrection of Jesus Christ? These are the questions asked by the people of this unnamed country, when a man who has survived the war for independence emerges from the mountains and starts making strange claims and demands.

Matigari is in search of his family, to rebuild his home and start a new and peaceful future, but his search becomes a quest for truth and justice as he finds the people still dispossessed and the land he loves ruled by corruption, fear and misery. Rumors spring up that a man with superhuman qualities has risen to renew the freedom struggle. The novel races towards its climax as Matigari realizes that words alone cannot defeat the enemy. He vows to use the force of arms to achieve his true liberation.

Lyrical and hilarious in turn, Matigari is a memorable satire on the betrayal of human ideals and on the bitter experience of post-independence African society.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

Matigari is the ultimate African post-colonial, social justice novel. And of course, Ngūgī wa Thiong’o executes the storyline brilliantly with the strength and courage of character,  Matigari ma Njiruungi – a patriot who goes to great lengths to ensure there is justice for the oppressed in a (fictitious) nation. Matigari ensures there is justice for the oppressed with the help of an orphan and a former prostitute and readers follow this team on their brave, almost rebellious journey to peace and justice. Matigari is a satirical novel. Ngūgī wa Thiong’o uses some elements of magical realism and lots of Christian allegory which are very symbolic in this novel.

But I don’t think this book is for everyone. It can be quite dry and may be too ‘political’ for some readers. Matigari was not a fast/easy read for me: I started reading it in May and finished it in August. But if you appreciate African oral literature and post-colonial literary works – read this! It is indeed powerful.

Favorite quotes:

“The true seeker of truth never loses hope. The true seeker of real justice never tires. A farmer does not stop planting seeds just because of the failure of one crop. Success is born of trying and trying again. Truth must seek justice. Justice must seek the truth. When justice triumphs, truth will reign on earth” pg. 84 [one of Matigari’s many meditations].

“Pregnancies are the result of the evil and wild desires. I shall ask the government to ban dreams and desires of that kind for a period of about two years. Fucking among the poor should be stopped by a presidential decree!” (HILARIOUS!) pg. 120 [said a member of parliament – a typical man in power, guilty of squandering government money].

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

Purchase Matigari from Amazon

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TBR Book Tag!

Hey everyone. The lovely Zezee of book blog Zee With Books tagged me to participate in the TBR (to-be-read) tag. Below are my responses to the questions, enjoy!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

  • Goodreads has been quite helpful in keeping track of the books on my TBR. But some books on my bookshelf need to be read too. So just the sight of those books remind me of their existence.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?

  • PRINT! I prefer physical books. I like to believe I’m building a collection (for the next generation to enjoy as well). Plus, just seeing my (physical) books on the bookshelf makes me proud for some reason! Buying books is an investment and I like to make references to the books from time to time. I have a few e-books, but they usually aren’t books I’m truly passionate about OR they are not available in physical copy yet.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?

  • It depends on my mood and what is available to me at the time. Most of the books on my TBR on Goodreads haven’t even been purchased yet and some probably won’t ever be haha. I read whatever my heart/mood desires at the time and pick it off my bookshelf; it is random.

A book that has been on your TBR the longest?

  • I had to choose 4! I finally got a (signed) copy of Fine Boys this summer, as I mentioned in my 2015 Summer Book Haul post. Daughters Who Walk This Path, Baking Cakes in Kigali and No Telephone to Heaven have also been on my TBR for a while! I haven’t purchased any of them yet, so I don’t know when I’ll read them.

 A book you recently added to your TBR? 

A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?

  • I chose 4 books. The book cover for Hiding in Plain Sight looks so beautiful in print if you ever see it, I promise! I love the art work for the Ivorian graphic novel series, Aya of Yop City and I hope to purchase the series in the future. The painting of Nnedi Okorafor’s cover for Kabu Kabu is truly a piece of art- look at those strokes! And of course, the sassy covergirl on Naomi Jackson’s The Star Side of Bird Hill cover is everything (and so me)!

 

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?Mema

  • I randomly bought Mema by Daniel Mengara from my local bookstore last year. I thought it would be an interesting read, as the author is from Gabon- a country that’s more or less absent in the African Literature scene. But so far, I’ve found the first few pages of the book to be extremely dry. For all you know, this book will probably be quite amazing if I give it a chance, but I doubt I’ll ever read Mema anytime soon. Sorry, not sorry!

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

Frantz Fanon

A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

How many books are in your Goodreads TBR shelf?

  • I have 97 books in my Goodreads TBR shelf. But on my bookshelf at home, I have about 50 books I haven’t read yet. But who is counting? No pressure here!

This was a cool stress-reliever post for me! Thanks Zezee for including me in on the fun.

I tag:

and whoever else reads this post. Join in on the fun, you might spot new book recommendations!

Challenge Update (summer); Currently Reading

Hey everyone!

Summer is basically over (this year, the first day of Fall is Wednesday – September 23rd) and real life is back in full effect :(. In my last challenge update I stated that I planned on reading at least 15 books this year. As the summer rolled along I realized that I would surpass this goal, so I challenged myself to read 20 books this year…. and I ended up surpassing that as well! During the summer I read 9 books; some were light reads, others were more on the heavy side. I enjoyed most of my summer reads to the point where my reading-tank is quite full… and I may be experiencing a reading slump!

Books I read during the summer: 

May 23rd 2015: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

June 4th 2015: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

June 10th 2015: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

June 28th 2015: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

July 8th 2015: Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

July 12th 2015: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (re-read)

July 22nd 2015: Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit by Austin Clarke

August 5th 2015: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Aug 11th 2015: Matigari by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Reviews for the rest of the books will be posted as the months go by!

Interpreterofmaladiescover

I’m slowly reading my 22nd book of the year – Interpreter of Maladies by Indian-American author, Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m a mood-reader so I’m currently in the mood to enjoy a non-African literature novel this month, and so far, I like Lahiri’s work! I’m quite behind on the Lahiri bandwagon, but oh well! I recently found her books (Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake) at a used bookshop in Accra called Ghana Book Trust. There were so many gems in that bookshop and I ended up buying 15 books! Majority of the books I purchased are from my favorite genres (African Lit, African-American/ Black Lit, Caribbean Lit) and are classics. They were cheap too – 3 Ghana cedis (GHC) per book! Check them out below:

 

 

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[Books not shown in the picture above that I also bought are: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, To Be Young, Gifted and Black by Lorraine Hansberry and When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago]

Lots of good books added to my bookshelf :). Have you read any of them?

What books did you enjoy during the Summer? What are you currently reading? Please do share!

2015 Summer Book Haul!

IMG_0826Hey everyone! Since May of this year, I have received the bulk of my book orders from the mail and I’d love to share some of them with you. Please click on the title to go read more about the book on Goodreads.

Tendai HuchuThe Maestro, the Magistrate and the Mathematician by Tendai Huchu 

I’ve read the first 15 pages of this and its decent thus far! I love a book on African (in this case, Zimbabwean) immigrant experiences abroad. But the font in the book is small, so reading this might take a while.


Saturday's Shadows Saturday’s Shadows by Ayesha Harruna Attah

I’m glad this book is thick! I can’t wait to enjoy this story which focuses on the Avoka family. Hopefully I’ll read Saturday’s Shadows before the year ends. Recommendation: check out Ayesha’s first novel- Harmattan Rain.

 


 Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah Farah

Hiding in Plain Sight is my first novel from Somalia. Nuruddin Farah has written several books and I hope to read more of his work in the future. The cover art is lovely if you see the physical copy. I love the iridescent details! This is on my 2016 *TBR list.


Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime: stories by J. California Cooper 

J. California Cooper

I’ve heard and read nothing but great things about Ms Cooper. I hope I love her work as much as others do! Hopefully I can add her to my favorite African-American pioneer writers: Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, Richard Wright and Alice Walker.


 The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma The Fishermen

*sigh* This tale on love, brotherhood and madness has been the best book I’ve read this summer… and maybe all year (expect the book review soon)! Please pick this up if you get the chance. Obioma took fiction to another level with this book.

 

 


 nalo hopkinsonThe Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson

I’m not a huge fan of science-fiction, but Nalo Hopkinson seems pretty amazing from what I’ve read/heard. And her stories feature Afro-Caribbean folk, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this!


Love is Power or Something Like That by A. Igoni Barrett igoni

I enjoy short stories and I look forward to reading this collection by half-Jamaican & half-Nigerian – A. Igoni Barrett. His latest novel, Blackass was released about two weeks ago!


Samuelsson_Yes-Chef_pbYes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

This is a memoir that I’m excited to read! I love Chef Marcus Samuelsson from the Food Network on television and I’d love to read more about his life, especially since he is of Ethiopian heritage. Can’t wait.

 


 

Krik? Krak! by Edgwige Danticat Edwidge Danticat

I recently finished reading this short stories collection and I must say, it was a perfect summer read! Edwidge Danticat, who is well-known in the Caribbean Literature sphere ‘reps’ hard for Haiti – and I love it.


fine boysFine Boys by Eghosa Imasuen 

How cool is the book cover art? I was sooo glad when I finally got my hands on this book! I had been searching for the physical copy since 2013 since it is only available on Kindle (I don’t prefer e-books). So when Imasuen came to Accra last month for a reading hosted by Writers Project Ghana, I  did not hesitate to attend the event, purchase the book and stand in line for it to be signed. #winning!

 


 My Brother by Jamaica Kincaid My Brother Jamaica Kincaid

Well-known Caribbean writer – Kincaid’s work is always a joy to read as she writes with palpable emotion. This is the third Kincaid novel I own – her books Annie John and Lucy are must reads! I love her writing style and learning more about Antigua from the characters in her novels. Oh, and her books are usually in large fonts, so that’s always wonderful.


MabanckouTomorrowTomorrow I’ll be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou

The cover art of this book made me buy it! Alain Mabanckou is a renowned Congolese writer and I’m curious to read on the twists and turns in this memoir-esque novel. His books are usually written in French; Tomorrow I’ll be Twenty or Demain J’Aurais Vingt Ans originally in French, was translated to English by Helen Stevenson. This novel has been compared to J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye which I loved when I was 13, so I should enjoy this too! This is high up on my 2016 TBR list.


The Wine of Astonishment by Earl Lovelace Earl Lovelace

Trinidadian author, Earl Lovelace is another big name in Caribbean literature. The Wine of Astonishment is a classic and I’m glad I finally own it. This is the first novel I own from the Caribbean Writers Series.

 


Toni MorrisonGod Help the Child by Toni Morrison

This is ToMo’s latest baby. I’ve seen lots of mixed reviews of this book on Goodreads, so I don’t know when I’ll get to it. Maybe in 2016? (Sula is the only ToMo I’ve read thus far. Meh).

 

 


 

Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit by Austin Clarke Austin Clarke

Have you ever read a culinary memoir? Well, in Austin Clarke’s book Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit ‘each chapter is devoted to a detailed description of the ritual surrounding the preparation of a particular native dish—Oxtails with Mushrooms, Smoked Ham Hocks with Lima Beans, or Breadfruit Cou-Cou with Braising Beef.’ This is a (culinary) memoir of Austin Clarke’s childhood in Barbados. Clarke is a preeminent writer of the Caribbean and I’m ready to indulge – literally!



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Have you read any of these? What are you reading this summer? Please let me know!

*TBR : ‘to be read’

Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula

Date Read: February 16th 2015

Published: 1982

Publisher: Plume

Pages: 192

The Blurb

This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, to raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Toni Morrison is a brilliant writer. Some bits of this novel were a bit dry and uninteresting, but Sula is a lovely story.

Sula Peace and Nel Wright were childhood friends from the same (fictional) town – the Bottom, in Ohio in the 1930’s. Nel came from a stable, strict household, while Sula was from a less strict household that did not seriously abide by social conventions. Despite Nel’s mother’s warnings, Nel constantly spent her time with Sula. They were inseparable, shared deep secrets (Chicken Little’s death) and were sometimes mistaken as sisters.

After high school, Sula decided to attend college in Nashville, while Nel immersed herself into motherhood, devoting her life to her husband and her three sons. When Sula returns to the Bottom, 10 years after she graduated, it was obvious that her relationship with Nel was not as intimate as before. Commentary from residents of the Bottom suggested that Sula had become a promiscuous woman who had affairs with married men, but Nel disregarded the gossip and continued to believe in the sisterhood they shared.

I really disliked Sula Peace. She was a selfish, wicked soul. Nel Wright was a bit more innocent and didn’t live for herself – I feel she lived for her husband, her kids, and Sula. I found the demise of Nel and Sula’s sisterhood predictable- especially given their similar YET very different character traits. Other characters like Eva (Sula’s one-legged grandmother), Hannah (Sula’s mother) and Shadrack help consummate the storyline in a way where readers learn life lessons from them. I loved Eva’s character- she symbolized a strong, resilient and almost heartless matriarch in my eyes.

Overall, it is Morrison’s unique writing style that made me appreciate this novel. Sula was not an exciting or extremely intriguing read for me. I’ll rummage through my Mom’s bookshelves and read another Toni Morrison soon. Maybe I’ll read The Bluest Eye or Tar Baby next.

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

 

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Purchase Sula on Amazon

Challenge Update; Currently Reading

Hello everyone!

As I mentioned before, I’m participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2015. This year, I plan on reading 15 books (at least). I really admire those who read 40 plus books in a year! Being a dental student, I wonder if I can ever reach such goals…

Anyways, I recently finished reading the great Ngūgī wa Thiong’o ‘s childhood memoir: Dreams In A Time Of War and Amma Darko’s novel, Beyond the Horizon.

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Don’t you just love the book cover? Ngūgī wa Thiong’o ‘s book was a very touching memoir – Ngūgī is a man I truly respect. I plan on reading the second volume of his memoirs – In the House of the Interpreter: A Memoir later this year :).

 

 

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Beyond the Horizon by Amma Darko is a compulsory read for an African Studies class I’m currently taking. This book is laden with domestic violence and the main character- Mara, is extremely naive, so it was initially quite a frustrating read. Its a shame that Amma Darko does not get enough shine for her writing. Expect reviews soon!

 

 

Other books I’ve read from January till now:

January 12th 2015: We Should All Be Feminists (eBook) by Chimamanda N. Adichie

January 18th 2015: You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down by Alice Walker

January 28th 2015: A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story by Sister Souljah 

February 1st 2015: Wife Type: Her take on real love and healthy relationships (eBook) by Sheri Gaskins (on Goodreads)*

February 3rd 2015: The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola 

February 16th 2015: Sula by Toni Morrison

February 27th 2015: Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham (on Goodreads)*

March 22nd 2015: Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o

March 31st 2015: Beyond the Horizon by Amma Darko

 

I’m currently on my 10th book:  The Trouble with Nigeria which is a very short, almost history-like book by Chinua Achebe. Since Nigeria recently had their elections, which have been peaceful thus far (thank God!), I thought this would be a good read for the times.

 

What are y’all currently reading?

2015 New Releases To Anticipate!

2013 and 2014 were great years for African and Black Literature. 2015 promises to be pretty amazing as well! Some great books have already been released – like Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl ; Walter Mosley’s Inside A Silver Box ; Ayesha H. Attah’s Saturday’s Shadows, just to name a few!

Check out the blurbs of some African, Black (African-American) and Caribbean novels I’m really exited about:

UnderUnder the Udala Trees the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okapranta

(Release date: September 2015)

Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.

Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie. As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.  Acclaimed by Vogue, the Financial Times, and many others, Chinelo Okparanta continues to distill “experience into something crystalline, stark but lustrous” (New York Times Book Review).

[This will be her sophomore novel. Check out my book review of her debut short stories collection: Happiness, Like Water]

 

 The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips

(Release date: March 2015)

Caryl Phillips’s The Lost Child is a sweeping story of orphans and outcasts, haunted by the past and fighting to liberate themselves from it. At its center is Monica Johnson—cut off from her parents after falling in love with a foreigner—and her bitter struggle to raise her sons in the shadow of the wild moors of the north of England. Phillips intertwineThe Lost Childs her modern narrative with the childhood of one of literature’s most enigmatic lost boys, as he deftly conjures young Heathcliff, the anti-hero of Wuthering Heights, and his ragged existence before Mr. Earnshaw brought him home to his family.
The Lost Child is a multifaceted, deeply original response to Emily Bronte’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. A critically acclaimed and sublimely talented storyteller, Caryl Phillips is “in a league with Toni Morrison and V. S. Naipaul” (Booklist) and “his novels have a way of growing on you, staying with you long after you’ve closed the book.” (The New York Times Book Review) A true literary feat, The Lost Child recovers the mysteries of the past to illuminate the predicaments of the present, getting at the heart of alienation, exile, and family by transforming a classic into a profound story that is singularly its own.

[Phillips is a well-known British-Kittian writer. This book is already out on the shelves!]

 

The Book of PhoenixThe Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

(Release date: May 2015)

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.

 

Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett

(Release date: July 2015)

Furo Wariboko – born and bred in Lagos – wakes up on the morning of his job interview to discover he has turned into a white man. As he hits the streets of Lagos running, Furo finds the dead ends of his life open out wondrously before him. The world, it seems, is his oyster — except for one thing: despite his radical transformation, his ass remains robustly black…

Funny, fierce, inventive and daringly provocative — this is a very modern satire, with a sting in the tail.

[A. Igoni Barrett’s sophomore novel, Love is Power or Something Like That was quite popular in 2013! I’m excited for the book cover art of Blackass to be released soon!]

 

 

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

(Release date: August 2015)

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring) has been widely hailed as a highly significant voice in CaribbFalling In Love with Hominidsean and American fiction. She has been dubbed “one of our most important writers,” (Junot Diaz), with “an imagination that most of us would kill for” (Los Angeles Times), and her work has been called “stunning,” (New York Times) “rich in voice, humor, and dazzling imagery” (Kirkus), and “simply triumphant” (Dorothy Allison).

Falling in Love with Hominids presents over a dozen years of Hopkinson’s new, uncollected fiction, much of which has been unavailable in print. Her singular, vivid tales, which mix the modern with Afro-Carribean folklore, are occupied by creatures unpredictable and strange: chickens that breathe fire, adults who eat children, and spirits that haunt shopping malls.

How to be Drawn by Terrance Hayes

(Release date: March 2015)

A dazzling new collection of poetry by Terrance Hayes, the National Book Award–winning author of ‘Lighthead’How To Be Drawn

In How to Be Drawn, his daring fifth collection, Terrance Hayes explores how we see and are seen. While many of these poems bear the clearest imprint yet of Hayes’s background as a visual artist, they do not strive to describe art so much as inhabit it. Thus, one poem contemplates the
principle of blind contour drawing while others are inspired by maps, graphs, and assorted artists. The formal and emotional versatilities that distinguish Hayes’s award-winning poetry are unified by existential focus. Simultaneously complex and transparent, urgent and composed, How to Be Drawn is a mesmerizing achievement.

 

The Star Side of Bird Hill: A Novel by Naomi Jackson

(Release date: June 2015)

Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother, in this stunning debut novel.The Star Side of Bird Hill

This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.

Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother’s limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother’s mysterious life.

This tautly paced coming-of-age story builds to a crisis when the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.

Jackson’s Barbados and her characters are singular, especially the wise Hyacinth and the heartbreaking young Phaedra, who is coming into her own as a young woman amid the tumult of her family.

 

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

(Release date: April 2015)

In a Nigerian town in the mid 1990’s, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family. Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990’s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades thThe Fishermene oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of its characters and its readers. Dazzling and viscerally powerful, The Fishermen never leaves Akure but the story it tells has enormous universal appeal. Seen through the prism of one family’s destiny, this is an essential novel about Africa with all of its contradictions-economic, political, and religious-and the epic beauty of its own culture. With this bold debut, Chigozie Obioma emerges as one of the most original new voices of modern African literature, echoing its older generation’s masterful storytelling with a contemporary fearlessness and purpose.

*Chigozie Obioma also has a Tumblr campaign (Abulu Sightings) that is associated with this novel. On his Tumblr blog, photos of derelict and demented people throughout Africa are showcased, in the attempt to raise awareness of their predicament to the attention of African governments. Social change through literature – this is a very bold project! Check it out – HERE.*

What new releases are you anticipating? Please do share! 

Happy Black History Month! African-American Book Covers (showcase 4)

Why not celebrate Black History Month by admiring lovely book covers by 30 brilliant African-American/ Black authors?

Pick up a copy of one of these to commemorate Black Literature. Enjoy!

Check out more amazing book covers by African and Caribbean writers here.

And!! Check out (and join) #ReadSoulLit on social media (Twitter & Instagram) which was created by Didi of Brown Girl Reading (@FrenchieDeeDee). It’s a February Book Photo Challenge to celebrate Black History Month – her blog: http://browngirlreading.com

Happy Black History Month! 🙂

2014 Recap & My Top 5!

If you’ve been following my book blog for some time, you would know that I participated in the Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge and I pledged to read 12 books this year. Since I have a strong passion for African literature, as well as African-American and Caribbean literature, I challenged myself to indulge in books of those genres this year. I successfully surpassed my goal and ended up reading 15 books in 2014.

I started this blog because I needed to express my views on the books I read, especially with people around the world who have read some of these books. Over the years I’ve realized that simply discussing the issues of the books I read with friends doesn’t suffice for me, for many reasons. Writing reviews on this blog and expressing my opinions on the books I’ve read has beIMG_8741en fulfilling! It would be nice to actually discuss in detail the things I liked and disliked about the books, but I can’t include spoilers in my reviews – its always so tempting!

Check out all the books I read and reviewed this year in the Book Reviews section of the blog!

(note: I wasn’t able to finish reading Sozaboy: A novel in Rotten English by Ken Saro-Wiwa and The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola. I just wasn’t feeling them at the time… And I think my ‘Currently Reading’ posts were jinxing my reading progress 😦 )

 Top 5 faves of my 2014 Reading Challenge

1. One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir by Binyavanga Wainaina

2. Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta

3. The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo

4. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

5. Harmattan Rain by Ayesha Harruna Attah

I plan on participating in the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge as well. I’d like to read more Caribbean novels next year, so we’ll see how that goes!

What were your favorite books of 2014?

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Thanks for all the support! See you in 2015 🙂

Can We Talk and Other Stories by Shimmer Chinodya

shimmerDate Read: November 22nd 2014

Published: 2001 (originally published by Baobab Books in 1998)

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 154

The Blurb

Opening with the puzzled and innocent view of a boy looking in on the adult world from outside, this collection follows the transition from childhood to adult life. Youthful desires for prosperity, love and a purpose in life are undermined by experiences of humiliation, compromise and a failure to communicate, in a process that reflects a wider disillusionment and decline in post-independence Zimbabwe. In the final story, cynicism turns to anger as the narrator, facing the breakdown of his marriage, challenges his audience to confront the inaction that leads to disappointment and the deep-seated loneliness and alienated at the root of our estrangements.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

This is a refreshing collection of 11 short stories and I’m glad I randomly spotted this at the bookstore! People, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka are not the only legendary African Literature male novelists. Shimmer Chinodya is surely one of them- in my opinion! He is a wonderful poetic storyteller.

Can We Talk And Other Stories is a collection of stories that take readers through the transitions of boyhood to manhood. Various issues associated with coming-of-age such as confusion, fear, loneliness, depression, insecurity, alcoholism amongst others are tackled in these 11 short stories. It’s best to read these stories from the beginning to the end, as the stories are in chronological order with respect to the age of the main characters.

The novel starts off with a story of a precocious five year old boy, followed by tales of school life- in Zimbabwe and abroad, followed by stories of adult relationships and ends with a story of a forty-something year old man, lamenting his failed marriage called “Can We Talk”. “Can We Talk” was actually nominated for The Caine Prize for African Writing in year 2000- the year Leila Aboulela won the prize for her story “Museum”.

I enjoyed all the stories, mostly because they were different from the myriad of West African novels I usually read. I loved reading about Zimbabwe and admired Chinodya’s use of Shona (the principle language of Zimbabwe) in the text. The glossary at the back of the novel helped me translate some of the words used in the text, but even without the glossary I was able to understand the ideas conveyed in the stories. Chinoya’s use of alliteration, metaphors, repetition and other literature techniques were perfect in illustrating issues of love, confusion, guilt and loneliness. There is also a lot of humor in these stories- its not all depressing!

My favorite stories were:

“Brothers and Sisters” – A tale of a young man who suddenly becomes a staunch Christian and tries to convert everyone he interacts with to Christianity. He finally finds the love of this life, but when she finally reveals to him her true self, things take an interesting…exaggerated turn.

“Snow” – This is not a story per se…I wouldn’t call it a poem either. Its more like a collection of words. “Snow” more or less is a collection of words expressing different ideas and feelings about living in the West- from accents, to weather, food, international students, immigration etc. To get a gist of the text, here are two excerpts from pg. 59 & pg. 61:

‘White flesh white flesh. Blue eyes. Green eyes. Black eyes. Brown. Blonde hair. Brunette. Red. Black. Multivitamin smiles. Braced teeth. Sun-tan.

Food.

Foodfood foodfood foodfood.

French fried, fritters, frankfurters, fish, fillet, farina, falafels, figs, fennel, flax, Fanta, fruitbread.

Fat.

Fat fat fat.

Fudge-face, milk-nose, coke-lips, burger-bums, popcorn-belly, choc-cheeks, gum-teeth, cream-tongue, pizza-palate, Budweiser-chin, candy-kiss…’ (pg. 59)

‘Snow. Cold, loneliness. No legs, no laughter. Layers of loneliness packing into cakes of ice. The hard ice of longing. Cold and hard as pornography. Magazines splattered with blood-red flesh. Peep shows. Live.

Can the earth be so dead, so cruel? So white? Were shorts possible?

Oh, for a black face, for laughter, for warmth.’ (pg. 61)

I love this story because I’m currently obsessed with narratives on African life in the West/immigrant experiences. I especially love how “Snow” ends, because winter can truly get lonely and make any African miss home immensely! I simply understood and bonded with the collection of words and had fun reading it. Shimmer Chinodya is a wordsmith!

My only issue with this collection is that most of the stories were written from a male’s perspective. It would have been nice to have more than just one story (“Play Your Cards”) with a female voice.

But I will definitely be on the lookout for more Shimmer Chinodya books to purchase. I think I’d like to read his book- Chairman of Fools next.

My heart was glad after reading this novel. 🙂

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

Purchase Can We Talk and Other Stories on Amazon

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