African Love Stories: An Anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo + GIVEAWAY!

aidooDate Read: January 23rd 2016

Published: 2006

Publisher: Ayebia Publishing

Pages: 249

 

The Blurb

African love stories? Is that not some kind of anomaly? This radical collection of short stories, most published in this edition for the first time, aims to debunk the myth about African women as impoverished helpless victims. With origins that span the continent, it combines budding writers with award-winning authors; the result is a melting pot of narratives from intriguing and informed perspectives.

These twenty odd tales deal with challenging themes and represent some of the most complex of love stories. Many are at once heart breaking yet heart warming and even courageous. In Badoe’s hilarious ‘The Rival’, we encounter a 14 -year-old girl who is determined to capture her uncle’s heart. His wife, she decided would just have to go. Mr. Mensah the uncle is all of sixty years old.

Crafted by a stellar cast of authors that includes El Saadawi, Ogundipe, Magona, Tadjo, Krog, Aboulela, Adichie, Oyeyemi, wa Goro, Atta, Manyika and Baingana, there is hardly any aspect of women’s love life untouched. From labour pains to burials, teenagers to octogenarians, and not to mention race-fraught and same-sex relationships, the human heart is all out there: beleaguered and bleeding, or bold, and occasionally triumphant.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

I think I have a soft spot for anthologies. Anthologies help me discover new writers. African Love Stories: An Anthology is the second African women’s anthology I’ve enjoyed. In 2014, I reviewed Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999) and was thrilled by the diverse stories and cast of African women writers. I even took interest in the writers who were unfamiliar to me at the time, like Leila Aboulela and Lília Momplé.

I know what you were thinking when you saw the title, ‘African Love Stories’ – no, this is not a collection of sappy, romantic, unrealistic, happily-ever-after tales. African Love Stories: An Anthology is a collection of 21 contemporary short stories laden with breathtaking originality. The stories speak on: the issues inter-racial couples face, a woman’s wrath when she discovers her lover is married, the lengths a village boy goes to rescue his wife-to-be, domestic violence, a child born out-of-wedlock who is scorned at her father’s funeral, same-sex relationships, sisterhood, a mother’s love, sacrifice and so much more. There are layered complexities in all 21 stories and the writers skillfully consummate each short tale such that readers ponder and cherish them, even days after enjoying the stories.

The women writers and the stories of this anthology span across the African continent – from Egypt to South Africa. Well-known authors such as: Nawal El Saadawi, Veronique Tadjo, Chimamanda N. Adichie, Leila Aboulela, Sindiwe Magona, Sefi Atta, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Helen Oyeyemi amongst others, are featured in the anthology. But I expected more diversity with respect to the countries represented in this collection. I didn’t expect a lot of the stories (11 of them) to be written by Nigerian women – this is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! I just wish there was a better mix of countries represented, as was in Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera (1999). (I’m not comparing… but I’m comparing haha)

Anyways, I enjoyed all the stories from this collection (well, except two) and my faves were:

“Something Old, Something New” by Leila Aboulela (Sudan) – This is a story that chronicles the events that occur prior to a wedding between a young, muslim, dark-skinned Sudanese woman of the diaspora and a white, muslim man from Edinburgh. During their trip to Khartoum for the ceremony, several events occur that threaten their impending wedding. I really admire the calm manner of Aboulela’s storytelling, especially in this tale.

“The Rival” by Yaba Badoe (Ghana) – The Rival has got to be the most absurd story I’ve ever read! In this story, a wife tries her best to keep her marriage from falling apart by the twisted, affectionate love of her husband’s niece. Since when did nieces start falling for their uncles and dreaming of being the ‘madam’ of the house? How awkward! Yaba Badoe created a masterpiece with this strange story.

“Tropical Fish” by Doreen Baingana (Uganda) – University student – Christine, finds herself sleeping with a British expat who exports fish to the UK. The story takes us through the inner thoughts of Christine as she tries to find herself – because she truly seems lost. I was disgusted and at times mad at Christine for tolerating the intolerable in this story. I loved how Doreen Baingana kept me on the edge of my seat while reading this! (I have Doreen Baingana’s novel Tropical Fish which this story is an excerpt from, and I’m excited to read it soon!)

“Needles of the Heart” by Promise Ogochukwu (Nigeria) – I enjoyed the easy, simple nature in the writing of this story. A woman marries a man who she discovers is a chronic abuser. She constantly finds herself making excuses for her husband, even while she suffers on hospital beds from his fury. The ending of the story had me wondering if the author actually condones domestic violence… This story is pretty scary, but holds a great message if you read in-between the lines.

The editor, Ama Ata Aidoo urges readers to enjoy this collection slowly:

Dear reader, it is highly recommended that you take these stories one at a time, so that you meet these African women properly and individually, and listen to them and their hearts: whether Sudanese, Kenyan, Ghanaian, Nigerian or Zimbabwean… (pg. xiv)

and I totally concur with her. I read these stories slowly and savored them. Why rush through such a rich anthology? That’s no fun!

Even though this anthology was published in 2006 – about 10 years ago, I believe the content is ever so relevant to this day. I wholeheartedly recommend this collection to everyone. These contemporary stories may be set in countries in Africa, but the theme of love is universal to all!

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

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Purchase African Love Stories: An Anthology on Amazon


GIVEAWAY ALERT!

February is the month of love, and I’d like to give away one brand new copy of this lovely anthology! Enter the giveaway below to stand a chance at winning African Love Stories: An Anthology. The winner will be announced a day after Valentine’s Day – so you have about 10 days to try your luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Giveaway starts Feb 4th 2016 at 12am GMT & ends Feb 15th 2016 at 12am GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
  • This is an international giveaway – it is open to everyone, worldwide.
  • You must be 18 years and older to participate in this giveaway.
  • The winner will be selected by Random.org, through Rafflecopter and will be notified by email.
  • The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email before a new winner is selected.
  • If you are the lucky winner of the book, Darkowaa will be shipping your prize to you directly.
  • Once the winner is notified via email, providing shipping details will go to Darkowaa only and will only be used for the purpose of shipping the prize to the winner.
  • The item offered in this giveaway is free of charge, no purchase is necessary.
  • If there are any questions and concerns about this giveaway, please email: africanbookaddict@gmail.com

Good luck, everyone!

Update: This giveaway has ended. Thanks to those who participated! Congrats to the winner! 

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Olikoye by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Olikoye

This is a simple short story, packed with positive vibes! In Olikoye, Adichie writes on the importance of vaccinations. The story appeals to your emotions and gives hope on the future of health care in Africa. I had a constant smile on my face as I read this.

Olikoye is about a woman in labor, reminiscing and telling a nurse a story her father once told her on how the Minister of Health in Nigeria saved the lives of several babies by introducing vaccines into hospitals. I hope African health practitioners in Africa AND abroad are inspired by this story, as there is so much more they can do to continue to save lives of the people of Africa.

Moreover, I really appreciated the union of literature and health care in this story. I rarely see this cross over in African writing and I found it refreshing, especially as I am now in dental school. I hope African authors can temporarily ditch the usual colonization, post-colonialism, immigration, forbidden romance, poverty themes and maybe branch a little more into issues on health care.

Read Olikoye HERE.

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Date Read: April 2nd 2014

Published: June 1st 2010

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Pages: 240

The Blurb

In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.

Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

The Thing Around Your Neck is a pretty good collection of twelve short stories and a fast read. Adichie manifests her effortless artistry with words and I enjoyed the stories- hence my rating of 4 stars. Since most of my life experiences are American and Ghanaian, I could relate to a good number of the stories, as they are set in the US and Nigeria (Ghana’s anglophone West African brother nation).

But I was dissatisfied at how most of the stories had weak conclusions. I’ve read other short story collections and enjoyed them more, such as Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta. Despite my slight disappointment, my favorite stories were:

“A Private Experience” – a touching tale of two young women from different religious backgrounds who take temporary refuge in an empty shop during a riot in Kano, Nigeria.

“The Shivering” – a modern story set on the Princeton University campus where two African students form a strong friendship, despite their different beliefs and sexualities.

“The American Embassy” – a disheartening tale of a woman trying to seek asylum in America after witnessing the murder of her baby son by armed robbers.

The rest of the stories were good, but again, their conclusions were not that great to me. Also, because I read Americanah before this book (in October 2013), I found some of the characters from both novels a bit similar.

My favorite quotes from The Thing Around Your Neck:

 “It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.” pg. 26

 She dated married men before Obiora- what single girl in Lagos hadn’t?” pg. 31

 “I remember now that I once saw you on the shuttle. I knew you were African but I thought you might be from Ghana. You looked too gentle to be Nigerian.” pg. 151 (Hahaa!)

“I was happy when I saw your picture…you were light-skinned. I had to think about my children’s looks. Light-skinned blacks fare better in America.” pg. 185

 I could discuss these quotes till Thy kingdom come. There’s so much to analyze from them to keep a conversation going for a while!

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

Purchase The Thing Around Your Neck on Amazon

Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge!

Hellooo!

At the beginning of the year, I set out to read 12 books – one book a month. I’m currently on my 10th book, and its only June 21st! Hopefully, I’ll end up reading more than 12 books by the end of the year.

For this reading challenge, I plan on reading and reviewing novels from genres that excite me: African, African-American and Caribbean books. If I get my hands on any other genre, I would gladly add it to my challenge.

Thus far I’ve read (in chronological order) :

Currently Reading

Every Day Is For The Thief

I’m also keeping track of the books I read on Goodreads

I will have reviews for each book soon!