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

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

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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

Published: January 2010 (originally published in 1958)

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 152

 

The Blurb

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

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

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

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

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

Purchase Things Fall Apart from Amazon

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Matigari by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o

MatigariDate Read: August 11th 2015

Published: June 1989 (originally published in 1986)

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 175

The Blurb

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

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

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

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

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

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

Favorite quotes:

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

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

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

Purchase Matigari from Amazon

 

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

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Date Read: March 22nd 2015

Published: 2010

Publisher: Vintage Books

Pages: 256

 

The Blurb

Ngūgī wa Thiong’o is born the fifth child of his father’s third wife, in a family that includes twenty-four children to four different mothers. He spends his 1930s childhood as the apple of his mother’s eye, before attending school to slake what is considered a bizarre thirst for learning.

As he grows up, the wider political social changes occurring in Kenya begin to impinge on the boy’s life in both inspiring and frightening ways. Through the story of his grandparents and parents, and his brothers’ involvement in the violent Mau Mau uprising, Ngūgī deftly etches a tumultuous era, capturing the landscape, the people and their culture, and the social and political vicissitudes of life under colonialism and war.

Review  ★★★★ (4 stars)

I didn’t think this book would have such an impact on me. I was a bit emotional by the end of the novel. Every time I read a Kenyan novel, I’m hungry to learn more about the country’s past. This is a very touching memoir. Ngūgī wrote this with such love and care and I admire him a lot – especially his family, which was headed by his resilient mother.

Kenya’s history plays a large role in this book, for obvious reasons. It’s as if Kenya was a separate character on its own, being abused by colonial masters (the British) while tolerating several ethnic group divisions and tensions from its fellow citizens. Commentary on the civil war, Jomo Kenyatta – Kenya’s founding father, Mbiyu Koinange – a highly educated politician and Kenyatta’s right hand man, Mau Mau guerrillas, the politics of the Kenyan educational system, the role of the Indians in Limuru etc are all discussed at length in this memoir. If you are not familiar with Kenyan history, prior knowledge is not necessarily needed to enjoy this book because Ngūgī does a great job at thoroughly explaining various historical events. I was thrilled to read on how Black Americans like Booker T. Washington (through Tuskegee University), Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus Garvey supported and played vital roles in encouraging Kenyan independence. I loved how there was unity of all peoples of African descent in demanding their freedom from white rule.

Don’t worry- this memoir is not all about politics. Readers get insights into the dynamics of Ngūgī’s polygamous family and the effects the family structure had on him. Family members like his mother, Good Wallace (his older brother), Kabae (one of his half brothers who fought in World War II) were important in shaping Ngūgī into the man he is now, for various (polarizing) reasons. Family units play a huge role in the future of children and this memoir demonstrates this heavily.

Ngūgī’s dedication to following his dreams even during Kenya’s unstable state was truly admirable. He had a passion for learning and thanks to a pact he made with his mother, he vowed to pursue his education – even in the times of war. The vicissitudes of life Ngūgī and his family faced in Kenya during the 1940’s will encourage you to keep fighting to achieve any personal goals or dreams you have. It’s wonderfully inspiring.

I feel like I’m a member of Ngūgī’s family now that I’ve read this! The only problem I had with this book was that there were too many different names to keep up with. Try and read this book in a couple of days in order to keep track of all the names mentioned. If you haven’t read any of this great novelist’s books yet, this could be a great place to start. I absolutely recommend this. Please pick it up if you can!

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

Purchase Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir on Amazon

Challenge Update; Currently Reading

Hello everyone!

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Other books I’ve read from January till now:

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

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

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

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

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

February 16th 2015: Sula by Toni Morrison

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

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

March 31st 2015: Beyond the Horizon by Amma Darko

 

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

 

What are y’all currently reading?

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

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Date Read: April 16th 2014

Published: 2011

Publisher: Graywolf Press

Pages: 272

The Blurb 

Binyavanga Wainaina tumbled through his middle-class Kenyan childhood out of kilter with the world around him. This world came to him as a chaos of loud and colorful sounds: the hair dryers at his mother’s beauty parlor, black mamba bicycle bells, mechanics in Nairobi, the music of Michael Jackson—all punctuated by the infectious laughter of his brother and sister, Jimmy and Ciru. He could fall in with their patterns, but it would take him a while to carve out his own.

In this vivid and compelling debut memoir, Wainaina takes us through his school days, his mother’s religious period, his failed attempt to study in South Africa as a computer programmer, a moving family reunion in Uganda, and his travels around Kenya. The landscape in front of him always claims his main attention, but he also evokes the shifting political scene that unsettles his views on family, tribe, and nationhood.

Throughout, reading is his refuge and his solace. And when, in 2002, a writing prize comes through, the door is opened for him to pursue the career that perhaps had been beckoning all along. A series of fascinating international reporting assignments follow. Finally he circles back to a Kenya in the throes of post-election violence and finds he is not the only one questioning the old certainties.

Resolutely avoiding stereotype and cliché, Wainaina paints every scene in One Day I Will Write About This Place with a highly distinctive and hugely memorable brush.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

This is an amazing memoir. I loved every bit of it!! I’ve watched and listened to several interviews featuring Wainaina, so when I was reading this book I read it in his voice and it made my reading experience even more enjoyable! I loved how Wainaina took us through his life as a child, his secondary school years, university life to present day. I loved how he portrayed his relationship with his sister- Ciru to the point where I almost thought they were twins. I loved the grace of his mother. I appreciated the struggles he faced in finding himself while in university in South Africa. I loved the way he played with sounds and words throughout the book – ‘kimay’! I loved the pop culture references – from Lauryn Hill’s afro, to OutKast’s wardrobe, Lionel Richie’s teeth and Brenda Fassie’s tumultuous spotlight in the media.

Before reading One Day I Will Write About This Place, I scanned through Goodreads reviews and saw that readers found the memoir a bit choppy and overall, not an enjoyable read. In the beginning of the memoir, the writing style may seem ‘choppy’ because we are encountering the young, immature, happy-go-lucky, very jovial Binyavanga. The ‘choppy’ writing style is only symbolic, as we read through the mind of a young, somewhat scatter-brain, privileged boy who just enjoyed reading books, imagining random patterns in the sky and day-dreaming. Which youngster isn’t like this anyway? This memoir is anything but ‘choppy’ and once readers get passed encountering Wainaina’s hilarious boyhood antics, the reading experience gets better with every page.

I learned a lot about Kenya and the ethnic group issues they face, especially during election times. It was familiar to me, as Ghana and other African nations unfortunately face similar ethnic group discrimination as well. Overall, it was refreshing to learn about Kenya from a middle-class, male standpoint, instead of the village life stories many African novels are based on.

One Day I Will Write About This Place is an overall insightful, hilarious book. My love for Wainaina grew after he came out to the world earlier this year as being homosexual. I was proud of him, as one must live their truth! Wainaina was also recently honored in Times Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In January 2014, Wainaina wrote a Lost Chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place which is an essay where he tells his mother he is a homosexual. Check it out on Africa Is A Country here.

★★★★★ (5 stars) – Amazing book, I loved it. Absolutely recommend!
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Purchase One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir on Amazon