2017 New Releases to Anticipate!

Happy New Year, everyone!

What books are you excited to read this year? Below are some (this is just a snippet of books 2017 has to offer!) new African, African-American and Caribbean novels that look very promising.

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

(this post contains Amazon affiliate links)

Other books to look out for:

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

2016 Recap & My Top 5!

Hey everyone!

I hope the holiday season has been relaxing for you all. 2016 is almost over and it’s time for a recap of the year! I ended up reading 24 books this year. The break down of my 2016 reading experience is as follows:

Average books read per month: 2 books

e-books read: 11 books (wow! I didn’t realize this, even though I really dislike e-books) 

African literature: 17 books

Caribbean literature: 2 books

African-American literature: 3 books

Other: 2 books (these are non-African/non-diaspora books. I read books written by – Rupi Kaur and Tim LaHaye).

19 women writers ;  5 men writers


Top 5 favorite books of 2016

  1. Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman
  2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  3. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
  4. So The Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist
  5. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

These books took a toll on my emotions the most! If you’ve read my reviews for these books, you know exactly why they’re my top 5 of the year. Definitely look into reading these 5 books if you haven’t already!

Reviews for books read this year are in the Book Reviews section of the book blog. [Missing reviews (6 of them) will be posted in 2017].

What were your top 5 favorite books of 2016?


Favorite bookish events / images of the year:

Also:

  • African Book Addict! was featured on Mary Okeke Reviews and Brown Books & Green Tea for the blogger spotlight project and #DiverseBookBloggers feature, respectively.
  • In May, I joined the ladies of Not Your African Cliché podcast to discuss Somali-Brit writer – Warsan Shire, Beyonce’s album Lemonade, and the need for us (Africans) to support our art/artists more.

2016 Reading Goals round up:

At the beginning of the year, I set 4 reading goals and I believe I’ve achieved most of them!

  • I planned to read a wider array of African novels: I ended up reading wonderful books from 10 African countries: Botswana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Sudan, Ghana, Somalia, Nigeria, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Zimbabwe. (All reviews are in the book reviews section of the book blog)
  • I also set out to read more poetry: I wasn’t a big fan of poetry prior this goal, but I ended up reading 5 poetry collections and seriously enjoyed them! I hope to continue reading and feeling the words of many more great contemporary poets in the years ahead.
  • I wanted to broaden my horizon and read 1 African romance novel and/or 1 African thriller: Thanks to Ankara Press, I was sent 2 African romance novels in exchange for honest reviews. With regards to an African thriller, I read Tendai by Boakyewaa Glover which is actually of the science-fiction genre, but felt like a thriller to me! (watch out for the review in 2017). So maybe I kinda sorta missed the mark on the African thriller goal?
  • My final goal was to give back by hosting 2 or 3 giveaways this year: I achieved this by officially hosting 2 international giveaways and gave away 3 books in total (plus a cute African City tote bag to hold books!).

It’s truly rewarding to see that I have reached my goals, especially with my hectic (dental) school schedule. I always had these goals at the back of my mind and slowly tried to achieve them on a daily monthly basis. I’m proud of these achievements!

Were you able to achieve some of your 2016 Reading Goals? 

[Don’t beat yourself up if you weren’t able to – its definitely not that serious and you can still achieve them in 2017!]

Total books read in 2016

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 really appreciate the support and love shown here from you all. This year, I’ve enjoyed discovering lots of new book blogs + book lovers and hope to connect with more in the future! Here’s to more great years of reading ahead, for all of us. 🙂  

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird HillDate Read: June 14th 2016

Published: 2015

Publisher: Penguin Press

Pages: 304

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

After their mother can no longer care for them, young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados to live 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.

When the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

I bought The Star Side of Bird Hill late last year for 2 reasons: I absolutely adored the super chic, sassy cover art (designed by an amazing contemporary Caribbean artist from Barbados – Sheena Rose) and I just had to support Naomi Jackson, as she’s an alum of Williams College – Middlebury’s (my alma mater) sister liberal arts school!

The Star Side of Bird Hill is a decent coming-of-age story that focuses on Barbadian-American sisters – Dionne (16 years old) and Phaedra (10 years old) as they learn new things about their family, culture and even themselves during their summer vacation in Bird Hill, Barbados. I really appreciated Jackson’s easy-going and descriptive writing style in this novel. Her vivid descriptions of Barbados definitely made this a great summer read! I felt as if I was with the characters during the lively carnival and on the sandy, pristine beaches against the backdrop of the serene sunsets. I could even hear the voices of both Dionne and Phaedra during their dialogues – that’s how thorough Jackson’s descriptions were!

But I kept wondering if The Star Side of Bird Hill was considered a YA (Young Adult) novel because it was surprisingly a heavy read. Tough issues like depression, mental illness, death, divorce, suicide, homosexuality, bi-cultural upbringing, Christianity, voodoo etc are all tackled in this book. I must say, Dionne and Phaedra’s grandma – Hyacinth, is the real MVP of this novel. I was in awe of her strength, courage and emotional stability given the series of unexpected, unfortunate incidents that occur at Bird Hill. It seemed as if Naomi Jackson was paying homage to the women of Bird Hill by showcasing the amazing strength the Barbadian women possess.

While reading, I sensed some similarities in this storyline to Haitian writer,  Edwidge Danticat’s novel Breath, Eyes, Memory – even though Danticat takes the themes of mother-daughter relationships, depression, sexual assault and suicide up a notch! I wanted to gift one of my friends who is of Grenadian heritage with this book, as I initially thought she’d easily relate to Caribbean/Caribbean-American storyline, but I’ve been having second thoughts since the story becomes super depressing for a good 100 pages. I wasn’t really blown away by The Star Side of Bird Hill when I finished the book. I enjoyed how most incidents and issues were sort of resolved by the end, but The Star Side of Bird Hill is not more than 3.5 stars for me. I do look forward to whatever Naomi Jackson writes next though!

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

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Purchase The Star Side of Bird Hill on Amazon

#SummerReads 2016 – TBR

 

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Hey everyone! Summer break is finally here and there are a couple of books I’d like to read before the end of the break. 7 books on my Summer TBR (to-be-read list) – too many books, or nah?

Please click on the titles below to read more about the books on Goodreads.

sweet medicineSweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi 

Sweet Medicine is a book I had been trying so hard to get my hands on. I even double ordered it – by mistake, but I don’t regret it. One thing that drew me to this book was the chic book cover and the fact that Panashe Chigumadzi is only 25 and is doing amazing things for the continent! I finished Sweet Medicine about a week ago and it was an enjoyable read. Expect the review to go up at some point during the summer.

 

 

 


By the seaBy The Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah

I saw a review of By The Sea on fellow book blogger (and one of my faves!) – Mary Okeke’s book blog some years back and added it to my TBR. This story is set in Zanzibar, Tanzania – a place I REALLY would love to visit one day! From a series of Goodreads reviews I’ve seen, I hear its best to read this slowly to fully get the impact of the story. I plan on doing exactly that!

 

 

 


The Star Side of Bird HillThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird Hill may look familiar to some of you, as its been featured on quite a few of my posts – 2015 New Releases To Anticipate & the TBR Book Tag. Don’t you just love the book cover? Super sassy! Jackson actually wrote a piece about the book cover on the Literary Hub last year. I actually finished The Star Side of Bird Hill earlier this June. Expect a review soon!

 

 

 

 


pede hollistSo The Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist

The first time I heard about Pede Hollist was back in 2013, when he was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. So The Path Does Not Die was published back in 2014 and follows a young girl, Finaba (or Fina) from Sierra Leone. I haven’t read much from Sierra Leone, so I hope to learn a thing or two about the West African nation from this novel!

 

 

 

 


The justiceThe Justice: A Political Thriller by Boakyewaa Glover

Boakyewaa Glover was kind enough to gift me with this book, along with her sci-fi novel – Tendai (which I read and really enjoyed back in May – expect a review soon!). I’ve been looking forward to reading The Justice since the beginning of the year. I’m excited to read this political thriller 🙂

 

 

 

 


Earl LovelaceThe Wine of Astonishment by Earl Lovelace

I’m sure this book looks familiar to some of you. The Wine of Astonishment was featured in my 2015 Summer Book Haul. I hope I get a chance to finally read it this summer, as I hear its a Trinidadian classic!

 

 

 

 


born-on-a-tuesdayBorn on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

I purchased Born on a Tuesday back in March, after attending a reading by Elnathan John here in Accra. Elnathan John was also shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing – in 2013 and 2015. I really like Elnathan John’s writing (his satire blog is quite hilarious. Check out his blog: Elnathan’s Dark Cornerhere). I prefer this vibrant book cover by Cassava Press. The book covers for the American and British editions aren’t appealing to me at all. I like this Nigerian cover 🙂

 

 

 


We Are All BlueWe Are All Blue by Donald Molosi

In collaboration with the Writivism Book festival taking place in Kampala, Uganda – August 22-28, I shall be posting a review of We Are All Blue by Donald Molosi! This book was on my 2016 New Releases To Anticipate post. I’m especially excited that We Are All Blue is a collection of 2 plays that take place in Botswana. Indulging in a playwright from a country I’m not familiar with will be fun. Stay tuned for the review 🙂

 

 

 

 


 Last year I was able to knockout 8 books during the summer break. I’m not sure I’ll be able to read all 7 of these books before the end of the summer – as I don’t plan on reading my break away. We’ll see! If these aren’t read by the end of the summer, hopefully they’ll be read by the end of the year – no pressure here (its not that serious).

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Have you read any of these? What books are on your Summer TBR? Please share some of your summer reads! New recommendations are always welcome 🙂

LIT Links mélange

Hey everyone!

Here are links to some great resources, literature finds and gems I’ve been loving and just had to share. Enjoy!

Thanks to my 2016 Reading Goals, I’ve been slacking on my Carib reads this year – but that will be rectified very soon! The annual Bocas Lit Fest – Trinidad and Tobago’s Literary Festival took place about a week ago and some great Caribbean writers received prizes for their awesome works. The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is a major award for literary books by Caribbean writers. Books are classified in three categories: poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction. Below are the book covers of the works that made the OCM Bocas Prize Shortlist:

2016-ocm-bocas-prize-shortlist-covers

The winner of the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature was announced last weekend to be Jamaican writer, Olive Senior for her collection, The Pain Tree! Olive Senior has been on my TBR for a while and this win just reminded me to bump her up my TBR list. As one of the pioneer Caribbean writers, in my opinion I don’t think Olive Senior gets enough shine for her contribution to Caribbean Literature. Below is a showcase of some of her work from 1987 to present day:

Add Olive Senior to your TBR, maybe?

  • Self-published short stories collection: Flight

Fellow book blogger – Stephanie, of Steph Hearts Books (check out her blog!) published a collection of short stories called Flight back in December (2015) on Tumblr. From her blog, she describes the collection – ‘Flight is a multimedia collection of short stories that uses photo, film, and written text to explore themes of escapism for black women. The collection features 4 short stories, films, and photosets’.

I finally just finished reading the collection and I’m really impressed! The first story entitled ‘Thelma’ (which actually ties in well with present day police brutality in the U.S and the constant fear black mothers face for their sons) will reel you in to reading the rest of the stories in this great collection. Stephanie is a talented writer and a lot of emotions are accurately expressed in these stories! Please do check out Flight and share the collection with your friends once you finish reading! Stephanie is also a contributor for Blavity and I enjoy the content she produces there as well.

  • How Not To Talk About African Fiction by Ainehi Edoro

Ainehi Edoro of Brittle Paper wrote an important essay that was published in The Guardian, entitled How Not To Talk About African Fiction. The title of the essay reminded on me of Binyavanga Wainaina‘s satirical essay (2005) – How To Write About Africa which I thoroughly enjoyed in an Anthropology class I took junior year in college (2010/2011) – shoutout to Prof. Sheridan! Anyways, with regards to Ainehi Edoro’s essay – I wholeheartedly agree with everything that’s said. African fiction deserves to be seen as literary work of art instead of solely being appreciated for its ‘anthropological value’. It’s unfair to market African fiction around the social/political issues they address because there’s so much more to these stories that go unseen from how they are described by publishers and even reviewers of African fiction. I think book bloggers and reviewers should try and rectify this issue by adequately portraying the layered complexities of African fiction. What do you all think?

  • Big Belly Ache

Big Belly Ache is captivating artwork I discovered on Instagram months ago by New York based illustrator and writer, Elaine Musiwa. She showcases her work at @bigbellyache where she boldly portrays images that represent varied black women experiences. I enjoyed a conversation Elaine Musiwa had with LAMBB (Look At My Black Beauty)here. Key quotes I got from this interview were:

“The name Big Belly Ache came out of this idea; tackling the topics that are hard to stomach or admit. When I was growing up it took a long time for me to embrace having bold features like a wide nose, large lips, puffy hair, thick thighs, a large ass; all the things that were part of my genetics. This statement art is representative of my progress in self-acceptance”

“Words often leave a need for translation but the beauty of images is that they can be understood worldwide” (Yesss!)

“I hope my images are inspiring young black girls to tell their stories and support each other. As black women, one of our biggest challenges has always been to encourage each other and find our voices in mainstream dialogue”

(quotes taken from Elaine Musiwa’s insightful interview with LAMBB (Look At My Black Beauty)

Below are my favorite illustrations from Big Belly Ache. Enjoy!

Images via bigbellyache.com

  • More Short Stories!

Have y’all been keeping up with AFREADA? There are some really talented writers from the continent and in the diaspora who have been sending in brilliant stories which I have been enjoying! Some stories I really, really love are: The Disappearance of Self by Zainab Omaki (Nigeria), A House in the Sky by Mirette Bahgat (Egypt) and My Father’s Shadow by Kariuki WaKimuyu (Kenya). There are also photo-stories as well as book reviews (by yours truly) on AFREADA‘s website. Head on over there and indulge in great short fiction 🙂

Let me know which of these LIT links intrigued you the most and please share some interesting links you’ve been loving as well! 

2016 New Releases to Anticipate!

2015 was a great year for African and Black Literature. 2016 promises to be pretty amazing too! Some great books have already been released (late 2015) – like Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi, The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela, Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta just to name a few.

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

(this post contains some Amazon affiliate links)

Jowhor IleAnd After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

Release Date: February 16th 2016

An unforgettable debut novel about a boy who goes missing, a family that is torn apart, and a nation on the brink.

During the rainy season of 1995, in the bustling town of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, one family’s life is disrupted by the sudden disappearance of seventeen-year-old Paul Utu, beloved brother and son. As they grapple with the sudden loss of their darling boy…

…read more

 

In the meantime, enjoy one of Ile’s short stories here: “Somewhere Between The Borders: Supersonic Bus”


OyeymiWhat is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Release Date: March 8th 2016

From the award-winning author of Boy, Snow, Bird and Mr. Fox comes an enchanting collection of intertwined stories.
 
Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical…

…read more 

 

 


We Are All BlueWe Are All Blue by Donald Molosi

Release Date: January 2016

We Are All Blue (Botswana) is a collection of two plays – Motswana: Africa, Dream Again and Blue, Black and White – by the actor and playwright Donald Molosi, including an introduction by Quett Masire, former president of Botswana…

…read more

 

 

 


DanticatA Walk Through Carnival by Edwidge Danticat

Release Date: January 26th 2016

Growing up in Haiti, Edwidge Danticat kept well clear of carnival—terrified by the stories of danger and debauchery that her uncle told her. Decades later, a grown woman and accomplished author, she returns home to find out what she’s been missing…

…read more

 

 

 


 

AffluenzaAffluenza by Niq Mhlongo

Release Date: March 20th 2016

Niq Mhlongo returns with a collection of short stories that cover the span of our democracy – the euphoria of 1994, the AIDS pandemic, xenophobia, the madness of Marikana and the Zuma presidency. The stories have been published to critical acclaim in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the USA but remain largely unknown in South Africa. Affluenza offers us a chance to savour Niq Mhlongo’s take on the madness of the last twenty years…

…read more

 


Kiini SalaamWhen the World Wounds by Kiini Salaam

Release Date: August 9th 2016

Writing of the “other,” Kiini Ibura Salaam honed her perspective from growing up in an activist family eschewing TV, sugar, meat, convention, while centralizing self-worth, intellectual rigor, and the value, importance, and rights of black folk…

…read more

 

 

 


Here Comes the SunHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Release Date: July 19th 2016

In this radiant, highly anticipated debut, a cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village.

Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school…

…read more

 


born-on-a-tuesdayBorn on a Tuesday by Elnathan John

Release Date: May 3rd 2016 (this has already been released by Cassava Republic Press, late 2015)

From two-time Caine Prize finalist Elnathan John, a dynamic young voice from Nigeria, Born on a Tuesday is a stirring, starkly rendered first novel about a young boy struggling to find his place in a society that is fracturing along religious and political lines.

In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree…

…read more

 

In the meantime, check out Elnathan’s satirical blog here: Elnathan’s Dark Corner


Charcoal JoeCharcoal Joe: An Easy Rawling Mystery by Walter Mosley

Release Date: June 14th 2016

Walter Mosley’s indelible detective Easy Rawlins is back, with a new detective agency and a new mystery to solve.

Picking up where Rose Gold left off in L.A. in the late 1960s, Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins finds his life in transition. He’s ready to—finally—propose to his girlfriend, Bonnie Shay, and start a life together…

… read more

 


imbolo mbueBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Release Date: August 23rd 2016

For fans of Americanah and The Lowland comes a debut novel about an immigrant couple striving to get ahead as the Great Recession hits home. With profound empathy, keen insight, and sly wit, Imbolo Mbue has written a compulsively readable story about marriage, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream.

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son…

…read more


McMillanI Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

Release Date: June 7th 2016

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Waiting To Exhale is back with the inspiring story of a woman who shakes things up in her life to find greater meaning

In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless…

…read more

 


Kwei QuarteyGold of Our Fathers by Kwei Quartey

Release Date: April 26th 2016

Darko Dawson, Chief Inspector in the Ghana police service, returns in this atmospheric crime series often compared to Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels

Darko Dawson has just been promoted to Chief Inspector in the Ghana Police Service—the promotion even comes with a (rather modest) salary bump…

…read more

 

 


Greenidge_WeLoveYouCharlieFreeman_HC_jkt_FINAL_PRNT.inddWe Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Release Date: March 8th 2016

“Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel slips a very skillful knife under the skin of American life. This is a story about family, about language, about history and its profound echoes.” —Colum McCann

Frustrated by the limitations of cross-race communication in her predominantly white town, Laurel, a young African American girl, teaches herself to sign–a skill she later imparts to her two daughters…

…read more


The Shameful StateThe Shameful State by Sony Labou Tansi

Release Date: January 3rd 2016

Set in a fictitious African nation, this novel by the distinguished writer Sony Labou Tansi takes aim at the corruption, degeneracy, violence, and repression of political life in Africa. At the heart of The Shameful State is the story of Colonel Martillimi Lopez, the nation’s president, whose eccentricity and whims epitomize the “shameful situation in which humanity has elected to live.” Lopez stages a series of grotesque and barbaric events while his nation falls apart…

…read more

 


Yaa GyasiHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Release Date: June 7th 2016

A riveting, kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: a novel about race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America.

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different tribal villages in eighteenth-century Ghana…

…read more

 

In the meantime, enjoy a short story (which I loved!) by Gyasi here: “Inscape”


 Jazz Moon by Joe Okonkwo 

Jazz Moon

Release Date: May 31st 2016

In a lyrical, captivating debut set against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance and glittering Jazz Age Paris, Joe Okonkwo creates an evocative story of emotional and artistic awakening.

On a sweltering summer night in 1925, beauties in beaded dresses mingle with hepcats in dapper suits on the streets of Harlem. The air is thick with reefer smoke, and jazz pours out of speakeasy doorways. Ben Charles and his devoted wife, Angeline…

…read more

 


 Elizabeth NunezEven in Paradise by Elizabeth Nunez

Release Date: April 5th 2016

Peter Ducksworth, a Trinidadian widower of English ancestry, retires to Barbados, believing he will find an earthly paradise there. He decides to divide his land among his three daughters while he is alive, his intention not unlike that of King Lear’s who hoped, “That future strife / May be prevented now.” But Lear made the fatal mistake of confusing flattery with love, and so does Ducksworth…

…read more

 


 

MogosAmid the Chaos by Nathan H. Mogos

Release Date: January 9th 2016

Some people call Eritrea the “North Korea of Africa.” But to two friends Chenkelo and Misghe, it is home.

In the picturesque capital of Asmara, these two educated young men are forced to choose between poverty and hustle as they hide from a national service conscription that would send them to the front lines…

…read more


  • And finally, watch out for the much anticipated Maya Angelou DOCUMENTARY which will be released at some point this year!

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

2015 Recap & My Top 5!

Hey everyone!

I hope the holiday season has been relaxing thus far. 2015 is almost over! I ended up reading 26 books this year (and I turned 26 years old this year too, haha. It’s a coincidence, I promise). The break down of my 2015 reading experience is as follows:

Longest book read: A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story by Sister Souljah – 432 pages.

Shortest book read: We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda N. Adichie  – 32 pages.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.07.18 PMAfrican literature: 10 books

Caribbean literature: 2 books

African-American/Black literature: 11 books

Other: 3 books (these are non-African diaspora books. I read books written by – Mitch Albom, Lena Dunham, Jhumpa Lahiri)

14 women writers ; 6 men writers 

I read multiple books (two each) by the following authors: Amma Darko, Maya Angelou, Ngūgī wa Thiong’o, Alice Walker, Chinua Achebe and Nayyirah Waheed. 


Top 5 favorite books of 2015

  1. The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
  2. You Can’t Keep a Good Women Down by Alice Walker
  3. The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe
  4. salt. by Nayyirah Waheed
  5. Dreams In a Time of War by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o

These books took a toll on my emotions the most! If you’ve read my reviews for these 5 books, you know exactly why they are my top 5! And didn’t I say The Fishermen would win many awards? So far Obioma’s debut novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (this is a big deal!) alongside other nominations, and won the 2015 Emerging Voices Award. There are probably more awards it’s won that I’m missing out! I’m not surprised by the success of The Fishermen, it is well deserved – #iToldYouSo!

Reviews for all the books read this year are in the Book Reviews section of the book blog. [Some missing reviews (4 of them) will be posted in 2016].


I also attended quite a number of book readings, thanks to Writers Project of Ghana and some invitations I received to attend readings. Below are pictures of my favorite reading events this year:

In my 2014 recap, I mentioned that my favorite book for 2014 was Binyavanga Wainaina’s memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place. I was elated to finally meet him when he came to Accra! Unfortunately, Binyavanga recently suffered from a series of strokes and is receiving medical care in India. I pray he has a speedy recovery, so we can all enjoy his fun-loving spirit soon. Let’s keep him in our prayers!


Finally, this year I joined in a partnership with AFREADA !

AFREADA is an online literary magazine, featuring original stories from emerging writers across the Continent.”

If you write short stories or you love photography, definitely submit your work to AFREADA! And if you are a lover of original, African short stories – visit the website! There are some lovely stories written by talented writers from all over the continent, as well as photo stories AND book reviews by me! Visit http://www.afreada.com, and thank me later. 

It has been a fulfilling year! What were your favorite books of 2015? And what were some of your fave bookish events? Please do share!

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 also enjoyed commenting on various blogs as well! I really appreciate the support and love shown here from you all. I’m excited for all I have to share in 2016. God bless 🙂

Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit: A Culinary Memoir by Austin Clarke

Austin ClarkeDate Read: July 22nd 2015

Published: April 2000 (was re-released in 2014)

Publisher: The New Press

Pages: 248

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Praised as “masterful” by the New York Times and “uncommonly talented” by Publishers Weekly and winner of the 1999 Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, Austin Clarke has a distinguished reputation as one of the preeminent Caribbean writers of our time. In Pig Tails ’n Breadfruit, he has created a tantalizing “culinary memoir” of his childhood in Barbados. Clarke describes how he learned traditional Bajan cooking—food with origins in the days of slavery, hardship, and economic grief—by listening to this mother, aunts, and cousins talking in the kitchen as they prepared each meal.

Pig Tails ’n Breadfruit is not a recipe book; rather, 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. Cooking here, as in Clarke’s home, is based not on precise measurements, but on trial and error, taste and touch. As a result, the process becomes utterly sensual, and the author’s exquisite language artfully translates sense into words, creating a rich and intoxicating personal memoir.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Since today is Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S) and some of you will be feasting in honor of this day of giving thanks, I thought this would be the perfect time to post my review of the culinary memoir, Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit and talk about food!

Barbados born, scholar and writer Austin Clarke takes readers on a ride to explore different Barbadian (or Bajan) foods and aspects of Barbadian culture in Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit. It was insightful to read about the origins of various Bajan meals from the days of slavery and how people of different socio-economic backgrounds cooked differently with different ingredients (or as Clarke says ‘ingreasements’). Austin Clarke’s mother who was known to be a superb cook, is the real MVP of this memoir and she proudly cooked all the meals Clarke enjoyed sans measuring cup and cookbook:

Cooking food is not characterized by strict attention to ounces and grams, cups and liters. A pinch of this and a pinch of that added to a pot, at first by trial and error, and then perfected through history and constant usage, from one generation to the next, is the way I remember food being cooked… It is ironical to be suggesting a book about food cooked in Barbados, because in every self-respecting Barbadian household the woman (who does most of the cooking, whether she is wife, daughter or maid) would not be caught dead with a cookbook. To read a cookbook would suggest that she has not retained what her mother taught her; that she does not know how to cook; that she does not know how to take care of her man… (page 3).

Readers go back to Clarke’s childhood when he used to watch his mother and aunts cook meals like: Oxtails with mushrooms; ‘Priviledge’ (also known as ‘slave food’; contrived from a mixture of random foodstuff. Clarke actually had the privilege of eating this popular meal with the president of Barbados and other members of his cabinet during his stay at Duke University as a professor); ‘Cou-Cou’ (a doughy mélange of cornmeal, okra, fish, peppers); ‘Pepperpot’ (a stewed meat dish, spiced with cinnamon and peppers); ‘Swank’ (a molasses & water drink) and ‘Pelau’ (rice pilaf).

Meats like mutton, lamb, beef, chicken, flying fish and pork make up a large component of Bajan foods and every part of a pig is eaten – from the snout to the tail! Once Clarke moved to Canada to further his education (as a college student), and later to teach in various universities in the United States, he grew homesick and longed for these meals as well the Caribbean sun. From the way the scrumptious meals and the atmosphere of Barbados are described in this novel, who wouldn’t be homesick?

Clarke uses a lot of dialect in his writing as he expects readers to be familiar with the meanings of some dialect words. Even though this was a light read, the heavy use of dialect required me to concentrate in order to fully understand what Austin Clarke was writing, which was not easy as he usually went off on a tangent while he discussed the origins of foods. I think this book would have been more engaging for me if Clarke included pictures of the meals he discussed and maybe even some recipes. I found myself bugging some of my Caribbean friends with questions, as well as Googling and YouTubing most of the meals mentioned in this book. Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit is an insightful book but not as engaging as I had anticipated. This is more of a 2.75 stars rating for me.

But I have a question: do African culinary memoirs exist? If they do, please let me know of some good ones! I would absolutely love to read an engaging culinary memoir/novel on Kenyan, Malawian, Ghanaian, Eritrean, Rwandan, South African, Ivorian, Liberian, Zambian, Congolese, Moroccan… AFRICAN food! There are so many different foods available on the continent, and we all use different cooking techniques and ingredients! I wish our foods were showcased more. Maybe the more we write on our own foods, the more our foods would be recognized and cooked worldwide.

Every time I watch Top Chef, the chefs mostly cook Asian (Korean, Thai, Japanese, Chinese), Italian, Greek, French and of course various American dishes. Back in 2012, on an episode from Season 5 of Top Chef, one of the chefs (Chef Carla Hall) made fufu* and the meal turned out looking far from the fufu us West Africans know it as haha! It would be great to have our foods taken seriously. In Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit, Austin Clarke did an admirable job at revering the foods of his native land – Barbados. Maybe one day an African culinary memoir/novel (not just a recipe book) would be published and foods from the motherland would be put on a pedestal as well. I hope so. 

fufu* – Fufu is a West African dish that consists of pounded boiled yam, cassava, plantain or coco-yam tubers; usually pounded into a dough-like consistency and eaten with soup.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Eat an extra plate for me!

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

Purchase Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit on 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!

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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!