Mini Reviews | Houseboy & Tropical Fish

Hey everyone!

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

Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono

Date Read: September 22nd 2017

Published: 1991

Publisher: Heinemann

Pages: 122

The Blurb

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

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

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


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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Houseboy on Amazon

 


Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana

Date Read: September 16th 2016

Published: 2008

Publisher: Cassava Republic Press

Pages: 158

 

The Blurb

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

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

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

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

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

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

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

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

Purchase Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe on Amazon

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2019 NEW RELEASES TO ANTICIPATE!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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

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

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

MORE books to look out for in 2019:

Image via Twitter

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Blurb

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

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

To be published August 2019

 


Image via Ayana Mathis

A Violent Woman by Ayana Mathis

The Blurb

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

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

To be published September 2019

 


Image via Elise Dillsworth Agency

Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie 

The Blurb

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

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

To be published October 2019

 


Image via The New York Review of Books

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

Synopsis

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


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

 

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

2018 Christmas Wish List

Hey everyone!

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

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

 

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

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


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

 

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

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


Talk Stories by Jamaica Kincaid

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

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


Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

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

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

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


The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami

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


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

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

 

won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

[Source: Poetry Foundation]

 

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


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

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas, everyone!

 

Book-Music Pairings feat. Dandano (Part 1)

Hey everyone!

Do you listen to music when you read? If you do, what kind of music goes well with the books you read?

I like many different genres of music – Neo-soul / Soul (think Raphael Saadiq, Georgia Muldrow, Jill Scott, Bilal, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Sade etc), Jazz (think Robert Glasper, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane etc), Rap/Hip hop (think The Roots, J-Hus, Kendrick Lamar, A Tribe Called Quest, Noname, Sa-Ra, J Dilla etc), R&B (think Faith Evans, The Internet, Moonchild, Res, SZA, The Foreign Exchange etc), Highlife (think Ebo Taylor, Osibisa, Kwadwo Antwi), Afrobeats (think Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, R2Bees, KiDi, Davido, Simi), I could go on and on!

 

I prefer reading in silence, but when I listen to music while reading, I like to listen to music without any words (especially not Rap), just so the words being sung don’t jumble with the words I read. Music has always been a form of storytelling. I love vibing to the beats and rhythms of music, but once I pay close attention to the lyrics of a song, I’m opened up to a new world.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what songs or albums would go well with some of the great novels, short story collections, magazines, poems I’ve read in recent years. I asked Hakeem Adam (who’s knowledge in ALL things Black culture and the arts is vast!), the founder of Dandano – a Digital platform dedicated to the distilled love of African Film and Music, to help me pair some great songs and albums to great literature.

Enjoy our pairings below and stay tuned for Part 2!


  • Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – Immigrant Chronicles by M.anifest & Green Card by Wanlov the Kubolor

The African immigrant story is dominant in 21st century African fiction, manifesting in different ways, but mostly pointing towards the American Dream. In Behold The Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue looks to center the disillusionment of the American Dream among African immigrants. The novel asks the dreamer to wake up and think of home. 

Ghanaian rappers M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor were both dreamers and like the characters in Behold The Dreamers, they were also forced to think of home after being sold a dream. On both their debut albums, Immigrant Chronicles and Green Card, they chronicle such experiences.

Both albums speak strongly to the hefty emotional and psychological cost involved in buying into the American Dream. Smallest Time, off Green Card for instance, could easily make the score for the novel as the song oozes with a yearning for a familiar home. M.anifest also does similar on Coming To America on his album. Despite the glaring threads that link these works of art, what makes them perfect companions is how thematically they do try to present an honest perspective, without being irresponsible in those narratives – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Check out the book review for Behold the Dreamers

Listen to snippets of the debut albums for M.anifest’s Immigrant Chronicles & Wanlov’s Green Card

 


  • Period Pain by Kopano Matlwa  – A Seat at the Table (more specifically the songs ‘Cranes in the Sky’ and ‘Weary’) by Solange

In Period Pain (the UK edition is called Evening Primrose), we follow Chaba – a junior doctor in South Africa who is struggling to work in under-resourced hospital conditions; but she’s also dealing with family troubles and her own health issues (severe menorrhagia, depression, sexual abuse) while trying to aid in the fight against xenophobia in the nation. South African writer – Kopano Matlwa’s writing in this superb novel reminded me of Solange’s songs Weary and Cranes in the Sky from the album, A Seat at the Table:

‘I’m weary of the ways of the world
Be weary of the ways of the world’

‘I tried to let go my lover
Thought if I was alone then maybe I could recover
To write it away or cry it away
Don’t you cry baby
Away’

While Period Pain may seem depressing with Chaba constantly feeling weary about her new life as a doctor, it’s actually a very humorous, enjoyable book! It was refreshing to be able to relate to Chaba’s experiences in the hospital, as some of them mirrored mine during my medical and surgery rotations at school. In the same vein, while Solange’s A Seat at the Table is an album that boldly speaks on the despair, self-care, fury and pride of Black folk in America (especially in the interludes), there is light and hope by the end of the album – by Darkowaa.

I read Period Pain back in January and will post the review soon!

Listen to A Seat at the Table

 


  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri – Water No Get Enemy by Fela Kuti

Ben Okri’s The Famished Road is a bewitchingly brilliant novel, blurring the spiritual boundary of African realities. Very few pieces of music can touch it terms of stylistic and thematic quality, but Fela Kuti’s Water No Get Enemy comes close.

With rousing horns complementing the temperate drum loops and eerie mellow piano scales, the song feels mystical in its energy yet, it’s one of the few calm cuts from Fela’s discography. The lengthy instrumental intro is also a great way to set the mood as you wade into The Famished Road. Fela’s verse at the tail of the song about the power of water seems to mirror the power shown by Azaro, the spirit child in Ben Okri book – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Vibe out to Uncle Fela’s Water No Get Enemy

 


  • A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid  – Sor (more specifically the song ‘Afro Aid Problem’) by Kyekyeku

A Small Place is an important book and a wake up call. It reveals a lot of truth, exposes the unsatisfactory leadership of her native island (well, I don’t know if the government of Antigua has changed much today) and ties all the complex issues Antigua faces to our imperfect human nature.

Kincaid’s small book pairs excellently with the song, Afro Aid Problem from the album Sor, by my favorite Ghanaian highlife & folk artist – Kyekyeku. Kyekyeku playfully laments over the many economic problems we Africans face, over harmonious sounds of trumpets, guitar strings, bass guitar, the keyboard & background vocals from his band – by Darkowaa.

‘They take your money and give it back to you and then they call it aid.

They take your money and give it back to you and then they call it grant.

Calculate the money, non-refundable.

Visa processing fee, non-refundable’

Check out the book review for A Small Place

Listen to Kyekyeku’s Afro Aid Problem

 


  • Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi – Afropolitan Dreams by Blitz the Ambassador

The concept of an ‘Afropolitan’ is not without its flaws. In some sense, it represents the idea of floating in no definite space with not a single identity as an African. In Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi uses certain characters to expand on this philosophy of ‘Afropolitanism,’ which she herself practices.

On Afropolitan Dreams by Blitz the Ambassador, he attempts to construct a scope of the range of sonic identities that an ‘Afropolitan’ can identify with. Blitz takes you through his experiences between Africa and the diasporas showing how his African identity can manifest in different ways. In some ways, this album could be a loosely-knit b-side to Ghana Must Go, presenting you with the thoughts and emotions that Taiye Selasi and her characters do not speak of directly – by Hakeem Adam, founder of Dandano.

Listen to Blitz the Ambassador’s Afropolitan Dreams

 


What are some of your favorite book-music pairings?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Book-Music Pairings feat. Dandano!

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Date Read: September 10th 2018

Published: September 2018

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Pages: 312

The Blurb

Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.

Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Prior to reading She Would Be King, I was a newbie when it came Liberian literature – I still am! I only knew about Nobel Peace Prize winner and writer – Leymah Gbowee, and her feature in the amazing documentary film – Pray the Devil Back to Hell (which I watched and deeply enjoyed for a Women’s Studies class in college). This debut had me wanting to know more about Liberia and the work of Liberian writers, such as – Helene Cooper, Hawa Jande Golakai, Vamba Sherif, Leymah Gbowee, Bilphena Yahwon (Gold Womyn) and others. While reading, I actually found a YouTube video where Liberian writer- Vamba Sherif, talks about Liberian literature in an interview. Enjoy!

She Would Be King is a beautiful mélange of historical fiction, magical realism and coming-of-age. Moore skillfully develops the three main characters of this novel: Gbessa – a Vai girl who is cursed and exiled to the forest; June Dey – the child of the strongest rebel on the Emerson plantation in Virginia; Norman Aragon – the child of Nani who was a gifted Jamaican Maroon and a British anthropologist/colonizer (such a terrible man!) . These three characters are guided by the wind and use their gifts – which are considered curses to ordinary people, to save present-day Liberia from its many hidden troubles. I always knew Liberia was the land where some freed slaves and freeborn African Americans made a living, but I had no idea freed slaves from the Caribbean also settled in present-day Liberia, making the nation a flavorful melting pot of indigenous and Diaspora folk.

The first three chapters of this debut explore these three main characters. I loved delving into the characters’ storylines and witnessing their evolution through the years. While African-American June Dey and Jamaican Norman play key roles in the establishment of Liberia through their gifts, Gbessa is the shero of this novel (this is not a spoiler, relax!) . Gbessa, who is described as a dark-skinned woman with wild red long hair, grows immensely in this story, to the point where her layered identities begin to haunt her. I’m itching to discuss Gbessa’s evolution, but unfortunately it would require divulging spoilers – and that wouldn’t be right!

[Images via Wayétu Moore’s Instagram for her US book tour dates; illustrations by Art Therapy Houston, PLLC]

Wayétu Moore’s writing felt light and magical in this debut. While reading, my heart raced as I could feel Gbessa’s loneliness and isolation, June Dey’s anger and power, Norman’s intelligence and bravery. The many issues in this story come together beautifully as Moore explores the legacies of slavery and colonialism as well as love, friendship, womanhood and independence. The sisterhood between Gbessa and Maisy – the wonderful woman who plays an immense role in Gbessa’s ‘civilization’ was so heartfelt!

I enjoyed the brotherhood between June Dey and Norman, but I wished their relationship was explored more. These men spent most of their time fighting invaders so there wasn’t enough dialogue between them. Also, it took me a while to finish this book thanks to school work, but also because I got bored of June Dey and Norman’s chapters, which were heavy with magical realism and lots of action. It wasn’t easy keeping up with the wordiness of their fighting scenes which required me to imagine all of their complex, superhero stunts. I really just desired some more depth to June Dey and Norman’s relationship and their connection to the settlement of Monrovia.

What I loved most about this novel was reading about the tensions between members of the indigenous tribes and former enslaved African Americans/ free-borns from the United States. I always knew these two groups had difficulty in seeing eye-to-eye, even in present day Liberia, but I didn’t realize how deep that tension was.

“But… some of them don’t think all of us the same. Some of them think… some of then think they smarter and better fit to lead than those who were already here” pg. 173.

The phrase ‘All My Skinfolk ain’t Kinfolk’ gnawed at me as I read how the African American settlers blatantly disregarded indigenous Liberians. It was eye-opening (and disappointing) to witness how settlers from the US treated indigenous folk similar to the ways slave masters treated them back in the US. Imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy emigrated with the African American settlers to Monrovia, where they imposed their power and discriminated against the natives. Indigenous folk had little say in the governing of their land, as the mayors and key thinkers of Monrovia were predominently the African American settlers. I had to do quite a bit of outside reading on Liberian history and the role of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in Monrovia’s complete independence. It was so intriguing to read on the motives of this society and I think I now understand why the election of Liberia’s current president- George Weah, was such a big deal.

There’s so much to say about this book! While I’d like some clarity on the use of language (pidgin) in the novel and Gbessa’s (unrealistic) infatuation with her childhood friend – Safua, this debut is pretty solid. I’d love to know what Liberians and Liberian-Americans think of this novel, as they would probably better understand the nuances of the story. I can confidently say I will read anything by Wayétu Moore, and that this debut is a lovely ode to the country of Liberia and Liberian womanhood, through Gbessa’s complex characterization.

[Today is pub day! Special thanks to Graywolf Press and Wayétu Moore for an Advanced Review Copy of this debut]

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

Purchase She Would Be King on Amazon

Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean edited by Olive Senior

Date Read: November 10th 2017

Published: 2014

Publisher: Peekash Press / Akashic Books

Pages: 224

 

 

 

The Blurb

Akashic Books and Peepal Tree Press, two of the foremost publishers of Caribbean literature, launch a joint Caribbean-focused imprint, Peekash Press, with this anthology. Consisting entirely of brand-new stories by authors living in the region (not simply authors from the region), this collection gathers the very best entries to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including a mix of established and up-and-coming writers from islands throughout the Caribbean.

 

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

I always enjoy reading anthologies. It’s an opportunity for me to discover new writers and to get a taste of their writing styles through their short stories. I discovered a good number of new Caribbean writers from Pepperpot, especially as this anthology purposely featured stories by lesser-known Caribbean writers, mostly residing on the Islands. I absolutely love that these stories contain local dialect WITHOUT a glossary at the back of the book. If a reader wants to look-up a certain word or phrase, they can Google it! It’s almost as if this anthology was written for readers in the Caribbean and not necessarily Western readers/ the white gaze – which is awesome.

It was refreshing to read a Caribbean anthology free from Island tropes like the sandy beaches & blue skies, palm trees, coconuts, cliché Jamaican jargon – nope, not in this collection! The stories in Pepperpot explore a myriad of issues, such as: family secrets, violence, domestic abuse, infidelity, spirituality (Christianity), incest, death, homosexuality, fraught relationships, coming-of-age, poverty, grief, mental illness. Every story in this anthology had a different flavor – it’s as if the editor (Olive Senior) carefully selected these stories such that the flavor of this pepperpot (pun intended) wouldn’t be off balance.

Even though the 13 stories in this anthology were divided into 3 parts, I felt most of the stories had a cryptic, mysterious nature to them, and I really loved that. Among the 13 short stories – 5 stories are from Jamaica, 4 stories are from Trinidad & Tobago and 1 story each from Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and the Bahamas.

• •

My favorite stories were:

The Science of Salvation by Dwight Thompson (Jamaica) – This story had me at the edge of my seat. The threat of violence from a notorious gang member, coupled with the staunch Christian lifestyle of a family in a panic-struck neighborhood made for an intense tale. The evolution of the story was so heartless and unexpected. I loved it.

This Thing We Call Love by Ivory Kelly (Belize) – What I loved most about this story was the dialogue in local dialect and the mentions of popular Belizean dishes like Salbutes, Garnaches, Panades etc. This tale was a pretty hilarious take on a woman trying to prevent her husband from committing adultery.

A Good Friday by Barbara Jenkins (Trinidad & Tobago) – This story started off strange as hell! It’s Good Friday (the day Jesus was tortured and killed) and a woman walks into a bar from church, and starts crying. A fellow at the bar who had been admiring this woman from afar approaches her and a strange conversation ensues. The way this tale evolved was just so unpredictable and… had me in awe!

All the Secret Things No One Ever Knows by Sharon Leach (Jamaica) – “Ten years ago, I found out that I wasn’t my father’s only girlfriend” is the first line of this story. YES, it’s insane! This tale turned out to be pretty sick and twisted. I NEED to indulge in more of Sharon Leach’s work! Lord!

Amelia at Devil’s Bridge by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Antigua & Barbuda) – I was happy to see Joanne C. Hillhouse’s name as one of the contributors of this anthology, as she is a favorite of mine (and a reader of this book blog, which is how I got to know her! Last summer, I had a pretty popular book chat on Caribbean literature with Hillhouse). This story felt so light and read so smoothly. Hillhouse captured nuance in such a beautiful way. The tale follows a naked 13 year old girl – Amelia, who seems to be a ghost at Devil’s Bridge. It’s a layered, mysterious tale that explores Amelia’s family life.

Waywardness by Ezekel Alan (Jamaica) – Initially, I thought this story was brilliant. Alan writes with such force and he’s extremely vivid with his descriptions. But as the story progressed, I found the storyline quite ridiculous to the point where I was started to feel queasy and confused. This tale follows Brian, who is described as a deranged bisexual… he’s homeless, he’s a rapist, he sleeps with his cousin (consensual sex) and he seems poor. In short, I found this tale brutal, yucky, violent and impossible! The storyline felt too forced and I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a satire on homosexuality in Jamaica (?). But I commend Ezekel Alan. His imagination is WILD.

Mango Summer by Janice Lynn Mather (Bahamas) – *sigh* This tale follows 2 sisters – the younger sister is rude and nosy, while the older sister is hardworking and actively tries to protect her younger sister. The sisters quarrel from time to time, but they are quite close and it’s evident that they love one another. When the younger sister is kidnapped, the story progresses with the older sister feeling perplexed and lonely. This story was so poetic, so gentle and so innocent. Mangoes play a humorous role in the storyline as well. I LOVED it (Mather’s debut novel will be published this year! – June 2018).

I highly recommend this anthology and I will be re-reading this collection again.

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

Purchase Pepperpot on Amazon

LIT LINKS MÉLANGE V

Hey everyone!

I hope the month of February is treating everyone well. Over the weeks, I’ve been consuming great literature gems online. Below is a compilation of some of the LIT links I highly recommend you indulge in:

 

Raised by a single, independent mother, one young woman struggles with her familial inheritance and the relationship between self-sufficiency and social isolation.

(Image via Longreads via Klaus Vedfelt/Getty)

This isn’t the first time I’m mentioning Zoë’s name on this platform. In previous LIT Links posts, I highlighted her short story- Safe House, which was featured in AFREADA two years ago; she was also among the 75 Ghanaian writers highlighted in the GH at 60 | Our Writers & Their Books series, back in March.

Read My Secondhand Lonely and marvel at Zoë’s visceral, lucid writing. I hope she blesses us with a full novel or collection of short stories in the near future! Don’t be surprised when you see Zoë Gadegbeku’s name in lights soon.

 


  • AFREADA’s Valentine’s Day Short Story Collection – In case you’ve been living under a rock, AFREADA held a Valentine’s Day short story competition, where writers could submit love/romance-related stories for a chance to win £100! The competition is over now – as Valentine’s Day has passed (check out the winning story – HERE), but a bunch of the stories have been compiled into an ebook! Check out the breathtaking stories, for free – HERE.

 


  • Oldie but Goodie: Book review – African Love Stories: An Anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo. We’re still in the month of love! Two years ago, I reviewed this wonderful anthology on love stories, which was published in 2006. I gave the book 5 stars and encourage everyone to enjoy some love stories once in a while!

 


  •  Market FiftyFour is a new platform that publishes and markets affordable audio and e-books in African languages! Marthe van der Wolf and Melat G. Nigussie who are both Ethiopian, run Market FiftyFour.

Their first publication is entitled – Sheekadii Noloshayada (in English – The Story of Us), which is a a collection of short stories published in Somali by Hanna Ali. I recently had the opportunity to read the English version of the collection by Ali and I’m excited to review it soon. I look forward to the future projects Market FiftyFour will be publishing and hope more stories are from the Horn of Africa are published, as stories from that region of the continent aren’t really popular in the mainstream literary sphere!

(Image via Market FiftyFour)

 


  • Listen to episode 14 of The Sankofa Book Club, where I was joined Co-founder – Akua, to discussed their December book – Questions For Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo. The Sankofa Book Club was featured on this platform last year, and it’s still a popular post!

I had lots of fun recording with Akua over the Christmas break on this phenomenal poetry collection. I’ve spoken ad nauseam about this collection as it was the BEST book I read in 2017. If you’re still wondering whether you should purchase Questions For Ada, what are you waiting for? Enjoy the episode!


  • Libros Agency is an online bookstore and publishing agency based in Kenya, founded by Giovanni Patrick and Carly Gilbert. The aim of Libros Agency is ‘to have the unheard and unread stories of talented authors in the hands of  yearning readers.’ They have a good selection of books in their online bookstore, which delivers books digitally. Check them out if you want to enjoy the unread stories of talented writers!

(Image via Libros Agency)

 


  •  I hope Black History Month has been inspiring so far! If you’re active on social media (Twitter & Instagram), definitely follow the annual #ReadSoulLit photo challenge which was curated by Didi of Brown Girl Reading 4 years ago, with the aim of encouraging the love of books by African-American authors.

Check out Didi’s interview with Leslie Reese of blog – Folklore & Literacy, and read on how the #ReadSoulLit photo challenge begun and why it’s important. Its not too late to join the photo challenge- it’s running till the end of Black History Month!

 

·····

Check out:

LIT Links Mélange ILIT Links Mélange II

LIT Links Mélange IIILIT Links Mélange IV

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!