Poetry | soft magic. & Questions for Ada

Hey everyone! At the end of my review of salt. by Nayyirah Waheed, I listed a bunch of contemporary poets and expressed my keen interest in reading their work in the near future. Poets – Upile Chisala and Ijeoma Umebinyuo were on that list and I finally purchased their collections (for my birthday last year) and enjoyed them at the beginning of this year. Below are mini reviews of their respective poetry collections.

(this is African Book Addict!’s 100th post by the way!)

soft magic. by Upile Chisala

Date Read: January 7th 2017

Published: September 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 122

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

soft magic. is the debut collection of prose and poetry by Malawian writer, Upile Chisala. This book explores the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of Diaspora, spirituality and most of all, how we survive. soft magic. is a shared healing journey.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

soft magic. is a decent collection, Upile (who is a young storyteller and ‘artivist’ from Malawi) has done well. I liked that soft magic. was healing and self-helpish, but this collection is more of a 2.5 stars rating, for me. It’s hard to rate and review a poetry collection you aren’t really fond of, because poetry is so personal to the poet and his/her journey – who am I to have an opinion on anyone’s journey?

This collection could have benefitted from more editing- the typos were quite annoying to spot. I hate to compare (especially since Upile recently went on a rant on Twitter about how discouraging it can be when people compare African writers to Chimamanda Adichie) but in my opinion, some of the poems felt like a knock-off from ‘salt.’ Also, I felt Upile overused the word ‘darling’ in this collection. I rolled by eyes so hard at every poem (which is about 80% of them) where ‘darling’ appeared; there are so many other words of endearment that could have been used in this collection. On a lighter note, I do appreciate how pro-black this collection is. The poems that expressed Upile’s unapologetic pride for her heritage and blackness were the most powerful.

My favorite poems:

being this ebony.
having this name.
carrying this language in my mouth.
there were times when I only wanted
to blend in
to sit unnoticed,
un-special,
but blending in is fading out

 

here we are,
black and in love with ourselves
and they spite us for it

Even though this short poetry collection is very pro-black, I wouldn’t highly recommend it. I just didn’t find the poems compelling or wholesome. Like I stated before – it is difficult to rate and review a poetry collection, because poetry is very personal to the poet and his/her journey. But you never know – give this collection a try, we all have different tastes! Upile recently published a new collection called Nectar, which I hope is a bit more polished than soft magic. I might purchase Nectar in the near future but until then, I will continue to enjoy Upile’s thoughtful commentary on Twitter and her lovely photos on Instagram.

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

Purchase soft magic. on Amazon


Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Date Read: January 27th 2017

Published: August 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Pages: 216

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

The artistry of Questions for Ada defies words, embodying the pain, the passion, and the power of love rising from the depths of our souls.  Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poetry is a flower that will blossom in the spirit of every reader as she shares her heart with raw candor.  From lyrical lushness to smoky sensuality to raw truths, this tome of transforming verse is the book every woman wants to write but can’t until the broken mirrors of their lives have healed. In this gifted author’s own words—“I am too full of life to be half-loved.”  A bold celebration of womanhood.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

THIS collection right here is pure gold. Questions for Ada by Nigerian poet – Ijeoma Umebinyuo, is full of strength, vulnerability and pride. Every word in these poems is heavy with meaning and purpose. These poems show you that all your emotions are valid and must be felt. Many poetry collections published nowadays feel lazy and words just seem to be thrown onto the pages. But Questions for Ada is a collection that was carefully crafted with love and full awareness of self. I’ve dog-eared sooo many of the pages in this book because the poems truly resonated with me. I found myself reflecting after reading a couple of poems at a time. I love when a piece of writing makes you reflect on your life and society and allows you to think about them critically. Ijeoma did the damn thing with this poetry collection!

My favorite poems:

Your mother was your first mirror.
tell me,
didn’t she carry herself well enough
to make you feel like a God?
(pg. 16)

Freedom-

Your feminism
wears a wrapper,
cooks for her husband
changed her surname
(pg 33)

you are not alive
to please the aesthetic
of colonized eye
(pg. 117)

You asked your father
how you should say your name.
He said if they cannot say your name
then they must try,
but you will not soften it,
you will not break the magic apart,
you will not be ashamed of it.
(pg. 160)

 

Questions for Ada –

Ada, are you in love? Yes.

Is being in a relationship hard work? Yes

Do you write love poems for your lover?

Every day.

Does you lover believe in you?

Yes, but sometimes I fear my lover does not

comprehend her light.

What do you do on those days?

I bathe her, I play some Jazz,

I fed her, I weep for her.

Describe her in a sentence.

Her eyes carry strength,

her words scratch, she speaks love.

Ada, are you in love? Yes.

Is being in a relationship hard work? Yes.

Who is your lover? Myself.

(pg. 78)

If I could quote all the poems in this collection, I would – but I have to respect the writer’s copyright terms! Please purchase the book to enjoy the rest! A couple of weeks ago, AFREADA featured Questions for Ada in their weekly #AFREADS recommendations on Instagram and used my short review from Goodreads as the caption for the post. I was elated to see that Ijeoma appreciated my words (which don’t even do this collection’s excellence justice).

I had to screenshot this before it got deleted 🙂

Questions for Ada by Ijeoma Umebinyuo is beautiful work. I like to believe her target audience is women of color/ black women in Africa and the Diaspora; the poems speak on blackness, womanhood, relationships, brokenness, Africa, Diaspora, heritage, loving thyself and others. But I wholeheartedly recommend this collection for everyone to experience these poems, even if you aren’t a woman or a person of color – you would still appreciate Ijeoma’s artistry and even learn something about yourself. We’re only in the month of May and I’ve already re-read the whole collection for a second time; I plan on re-visiting and mulling over certain poems throughout the year.

If you don’t plan on reading many poetry this year, please endeavor to add Questions for Ada to your 2017 reads! And if you’re not really a fan of poetry, be assured that this collection will make you understand the beauty of poetry, as a pure literary form.

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

Purchase Questions for Ada on Amazon

#NonFictionNovember currently reading + GIVEAWAY!

Hey everyone!

What are you all currently reading? At the moment, I’m reading Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays by the great Chinua Achebe and Bettah Days by Veronica Wells.

I haven’t really seen many African #NonFictionNovember suggestions on social media, so I’d like to share my enjoyment of Achebe’s work with you all! I reviewed The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe last year and I was blown away by the boldness of Achebe’s words and his brave stances on various Nigerian and African social, cultural and political issues. In Hopes and Impedicimets: Selected Essays, I’m already enjoying Achebe’s candid writing style and his sharp wit, with regards to short essays/chapters like: ‘An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness‘ ; ‘The Truth of Fiction’ ; ‘Thoughts on the African Novel’ ; ‘The Writer and His Community’; ‘Names for Victoria, Queen of England’; ‘James Baldwin (1924 – 1987)’ and so much more.

Check out the blurb:

“One of the most provocative and original voices in contemporary literature, Chinua Achebe – author of the iconic novel Things Fall Apart – here considers the place of literature and art in our society. This collection of essays spans his writing and lectures over the course of his career, from his ground-breaking and provocative essay on Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness to his assessments of the novel’s role as a teacher and of the truths of fiction. Achebe reveals the impediments that still stand in the way of open, equal dialogue between Africans and Europeans, between blacks and whites, but also instills us with hope that they will soon be overcome.”

I will be coupling this book prize with the amazing African City tote bag by APiF (African Prints in Fashion). “It’s a 100 % cotton tote bag in black with white handles – 22 African city names printed on both sides. This tote bag is huge and you can fit anything from your laptop, your trainers, books to groceries in it. And actually also all of these items together!” Check out more products from the APiF website – here. (No, this is not a sponsored giveaway).

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And as promised from the Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi review, I will be giving away a brand new copy of her debut (by itself) as well – as a second prize!

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Tell a friend to tell a friend! I encourage everyone to enter the giveaway raffle multiple times to increase the chances of enjoying either Achebe’s gems from the essay collection + the awesome African City tote bag or Panashe’s great debut, Sweet Medicine. You have about 9 days to try your luck!

Expect a review of Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays by Chinua Achebe early next year.

Click to enter > the Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Giveaway TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • The giveaway starts November 13th 2016 at 12am GMT and ends November 23rd 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 winners will be selected by Random.org, through Rafflecopter and will be notified by email.
  • The winners will have 48 hours to respond to the email before new winners are selected.
  • If you are lucky winners of the prizes, Darkowaa will be shipping your prizes via DHL directly to you.
  • Once the winners are notified via email, providing shipping details will go to Darkowaa only and will only be used for the purpose of shipping the prizes to the winners.
  • This is NOT a sponsored giveaway. Items offered in this giveaway are free of charge, no purchase is necessary.
  • If there are any questions and concerns about this giveaway, please contact at: africanbookaddict@gmail.com

Good luck, everyone!

Check out the previous giveaway from February – here.

Summer in Igboland (ebook) by Ifeanyi Awachie

AwachieDate Read: January 4th 2016

Published: July 1st 2015

Publisher: Pronoun

Pages: 73

 

The Blurb

Ifeanyi Awachie, a Nigerian-American Yale University student, was tired of images of terrorism, corruption, and poverty– the only images Western media seemed to use to portray her birth country. So she went back to Nigeria for the first time in nineteen years to change the narrative.
Through Awachie’s vivid photos and honest, poetic writing, Summer in Igboland presents contemporary Nigeria from a unique perspective. The book takes on everything from Nigerian nightlife to the politics of hair to vibrant foods to meeting extended family for the first time as an adult.
As intimate as a diary and as informative as a travel blog, Summer in Igboland is a story of finding fun, personal struggle, and most importantly, one’s roots in a country whose negative stories are often the most prominent. Explore it, and discover modern Nigeria through the eyes and voice of an adventurous, passionate first-generation Nigerian.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Ifeanyi Awachie, a rising senior of Yale at the time won a fellowship to conduct an independent study in Nigeria. The aim of the study was to use photography to challenge the negative stereotypes associated with Nigeria. Ifeanyi was born in Nigeria, left when she was eighteen months old and was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She had never been back to Nigeria since her move to the United States, so this summer project was supposed to be a great way to connect with her heritage.

Summer in Igboland is a travelogue where Ifeanyi takes readers to different towns in Nigeria and discusses random happenings of the places she visits, while trying to gain a sense of belonging at the place of her birth. This was a fast and easy read! I enjoyed how the travelogue was written with a personal diary feel and that it wasn’t heavy with historical facts about Nigeria.

As Ifeanyi interacts with Nigeria natives and some relatives, she begins to feel her ‘Americanness’ is a flaw, as her differences are very apparent, like: her American accent, her natural hair (she did not wear a weave as most young Nigerian women did), being a vegetarian (even though she hides this from her family) and her inability to speak the language – Igbo. She poses a lot of thought provoking questions with respect to her identity as she navigates her way through Nigeria. When people call her oyibo (which means ‘white person’) or make a fuss about her not speaking the language, she found that her own people tended to relegate her and made her feel less Nigerian. I could completely understand Ifeanyi feeling her Americanness was a flaw, especially with respect to sounding American and not being very fluent in the native language. Why is it that whenever people find that you are different from them, they tend to make you feel guilty for being different? Will we ever live in a world where differences are appreciated?

I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes on Ifeanyi’s new love for fufu*. Before her trip to Nigeria, she detested fufu. Whenever she was forced to eat fufu as a young girl, she would take bites of it with a fork. Fork? WHO EATS FUFU WITH A FORK? is what I asked myself as I read this. In Ghana, when you don’t use your fingers to eat fufu, you simply use a spoon! But then it occurred to me that Nigerians eat fufu differently from Ghanaians – Ghanaian fufu is usually embedded in bowl of soup. Whereas, the dense pounded yam of Nigerian fufu is usually in a separate bowl from the preferred soup. Once I remembered these differences, I was able to understand why Ifeanyi used to eat fufu with a fork, I guess. Check out what Nigerian fufu looks like – here ; Check out what Ghanaian fufu looks like – here. (Nigerian readers, please correct me if I’m wrong with the fufu comparisons!)

Throughout her exploration of different types of fufu and soups, Ifeanyi even states some fufu facts she learned while in Nigeria:

  1. One does not eat fufu with utensils.
  2. One does not chew fufu – one simply swallows.

With respect to the latter, lots of people chew fufu – myself included! *sigh* I can write a whole thesis on this swallowing of fufu phenomenon but I’ll save that for another day. But it was cute to read on Ifeanyi’s love for a dish she initially disliked as I could completely relate to her fufu-eating experience.

I’m glad I read this ebook. I just wish some of the anecdotes were concluded in a more cohesive way. From the blurb, Ifeanyi wanted to change the negative stereotypes associated with Nigeria, but I didn’t really get that from this short ebook. Nevertheless, Summer in Igboland made me think back to the time when I first arrived in Accra at the age of 10 and how I now identify as Ghanaian as well as American. Reading books like Summer in Igboland affirm my love of reading books written by people of African descent / people of the Diaspora because you see yourself in these stories! You start to see and feel that your experience as African, African-American, Caribbean, Black – whatever your heritage or (bi-)cultural upbringing, are all valid. Please consider reading this book, I’d love to discuss it with other readers!

 

  • 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.

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

Purchase Summer in Igboland on Amazon

Ankara Press: A New Kind of Romance – Two NEW stories!

I’d like to give a special thank you to the lovely ladies over at Ankara Press for reaching out to me and sending me two e-copies of the new additions to their African romance fiction collection. Ever since they launched as an imprint of Cassava Republic Press (Nigeria) in 2014, I’ve always wanted to read some of the stories so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

Ankara Press aims at publishing a new kind of romance, for the modern African woman where stories are more grounded with a healthy thrill of fantasy. Stories published by Ankara Press feature young, independent, ambitious African women who are unafraid to love, in African cities from Lagos to Cape Town. Their books challenge African romance stereotypes by portraying women who embrace their sexuality and are open to finding true love.

Mini reviews of the two ebooks are below:

The Seeing Place by Aziza Eden Walker

Date Read: March 1st 2016The Seeing Place

Published: February 14th 2016

Publisher: Ankara Press

Pages: 171

 

 

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

I enjoyed this African romance/chic lit novel. The story takes place in Cape Town and Johannesburg and follows the growing relationship between caramel-colored beauty, Thuli and dark chocolate hunk, Andile. Andile works as a barman but is actually a talented actor, waiting for his next gig; Thuli works as a TV/Film producer. They meet at Andile’s workplace – a bar, when Thuli sought refuge there after she twisted her ankle, trying to evade the rowdiness of a wild street party in Cape Town. They are instantly attracted to one another when their eyes meet and the story takes readers on a rollercoaster of incidents and emotions these characters endure.

The sex scenes in this story were surprisingly quite explicit (I ain’t complaining, haha) and I think readers should be 18 years or older to read this. The storyline was very fairytale-ish, as most romance books are. I don’t know if the average South African woman would identify with Thuli, since her life seemed perfect, despite the ‘hardships’ she faced as a child – does the average 28 year old South African woman drive a matte black Mercedes-Benz and own her own film producing company? All in all, I liked that I learned something from this novel (the importance of communication and being honest) at the end and it wasn’t a flippant tale – as most perceive romance novels to be. Aziza Eden Walker is a great writer! Her writing style was clear and vivid and I enjoyed her way with words. I give The Seeing Place 3.5 stars!

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


Love Next Door by Amina Thula

Love Next DoorDate Read: March 6th 2016

Published: February 14th 2016

Publisher: Ankara Press

Pages: 152

 

 

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Love Next Door is a cute story about Abongile (or Abby) and Kopano in Johannesburg, South Africa. Abby, an ambitious business analyst is finally independent and has moved into her new apartment in Johannesburg. Next door to her new apartment is school teacher and artist, Kopano. Once they meet outside Abby’s door as she struggles with hauling groceries into her new home, it is like at first sight and readers follow the blooming love affair between Abby and Kopano.

This was a quick read and I loved how the author incorporated a lot of South African culture into the story, for example: Amina Thula enlightens readers on the negative and positive stereotypes surrounding Xhosa women and the Xhosa language peppered throughout the novel gave the story an authentic feel. I didn’t even need a glossary at the end of the book as it was easy to infer the meanings of the various foreign words. The intimate moments between the main characters were milder than that of The Seeing Place, so I guess readers of all ages could enjoy this book. But the writing style wasn’t as vivid as I had liked and the book could have been edited a little more closely. The ending was quite abrupt for me… or maybe I just didn’t agree with how the characters seamlessly reconciled their love after all the ups and downs they endured. Perhaps Love Next Door targets a younger, teenage audience as the tale was quite juvenile… or maybe the characters were a bit juvenile to me. On the whole, this book was well thought-out and I commend Amina Thula for writing this modern love story.

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

 

Ankara Press Cover Artt

Image via http://www.ankarapress.com

How amazingly chic is the cover art? Onyinye Iwu (@only_onyi) designed the cover art for the novels published by Ankara Press and she does a lovely job at highlighting the vibrant colors of the Vlisco cloth, as well as portraying African women of all skin tones, shapes and sizes.

I’m fairly new to the African romance genre, but it would be cool for Ankara Press to explore:

  • Maybe having some stories written by men? Men write romance tales too! In the Valentine’s Day Anthology 2015, (an anthology Ankara Press published last year, featuring writers like: Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, Eghosa Imasuen, Chuma Nwokolo and my favorite- Binyavanga Wainaina) men penned a good number of the stories. I’d love to read a romance novel from a man’s perspective and also see men on the book covers wearing amazing ankara fabric shirts!
  • It would also be cool to read a romance novel featuring characters in a same-sex relationship.
  • Do all romance novels have to end happily-ever-after? It would be interesting to read a tragic African love tale too.

Thank you again to Ankara Press for the ebooks. I enjoyed the stories and look forward to reading more soon! Please do check out blurbs of the various stories published by Ankara Press at www.ankarapress.com.

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! 

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

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

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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

Published: January 2010 (originally published in 1958)

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 152

 

The Blurb

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

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

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

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

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

Purchase Things Fall Apart from Amazon

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Matigari by Ngūgī wa Thiong’o

MatigariDate Read: August 11th 2015

Published: June 1989 (originally published in 1986)

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 175

The Blurb

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

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

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

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

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

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

Favorite quotes:

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

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

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

Purchase Matigari from Amazon

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Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala… the film?

Yes, yes, yes! Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel, Beasts of No Nation: A Novel (2005) is being adapted for the big screen and will be showing in select theaters (in the U.S) and available worldwide on Netflix next month – October 16th 2015! Beasts of No Nation: A novel (which is a title adopted from Fela Kuti’s 1989 album) was released 10 years ago, but the haunting novel is still on the minds of readers who’ve enjoyed the book! Have you read Beasts of No Nation: A novel yet?
Beasts of No Nation 

Check out the synopsis: 

In this stunning debut novel, Agu, a young boy in an unnamed West African nation, is recruited into a unit of guerrilla fighters as civil war engulfs his country. Haunted by his father’s own death at the hands of militants, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander. While the war rages on, Agu becomes increasingly divorced from the life he had known before the conflict started—a life of school friends, church services, and time with his family still intact.

In a powerful, strikingly original voice that vividly captures Agu’s youth and confusion, Uzodinma Iweala has produced a harrowing, inventive, and deeply affecting novel.

Beasts of No Nation: A Novel has been required reading for a Political Science class: African Politics (PSCI 0202) at my alma mater, Middlebury College. I never registered for that class but I decided to start reading the book on my own back in 2011, and never finished it as I was busy with finals at the time. When I was the President of the African Students’ Association at Middlebury – UMOJA, we invited Iweala to our ‘Touch of Africa Week’ where he gave an enlightening talk on “What, Who is an ‘Authentic’ African?” After the talk we discussed his novel Beasts of No Nation, African identity and other topics pertaining to our beloved continent over dinner at a professor’s house. Check out the (grainy) pictures below:


I’m excited and proud of Uzo! It must be every author’s dream to have their novel made into a film – it’s a big deal! I’m still fascinated at Iweala’s ability to embody the sentiments of a child soldier in the novel, since his background of being a Harvard graduate seems far from the unfortunate struggle of being a child victim of civil war. That takes real talent and a vivid imagination! I will definitely finish reading Beasts of No Nation: A Novel before I watch the film. Films don’t usually capture the essence of the books they are based on. However, I’m confident this film adaptation will do Beasts of No Nation: A Novel justice. The film is set in the Eastern Region of Ghana and is directed by Emmy Award winner Cary FukunagaGolden Globe Award winning actor, Idris Elba plays the main warlord in the film and the talented Ghanaian actress, Ama K. Abebrese plays the child soldier – Agu’s mother. With all that talent in one film, I have faith that it will be superb!

Check out the trailer for the film below:

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Purchase Beasts of No Nation: A Novel on Amazon

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The FishermenDate Read: June 4th 2015

Published: April 2015

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Pages: 304

The Blurb

In a Nigerian town in the mid-1990’s, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family.

Told from the point of view of nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of the unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the omnious, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings.

What happens next is an almost mythic even whose impact – both tragic and redemptive – will transcend the lives and imaginations of the book’s characters and its readers.

Review– ★★★★★ (5 stars)

The Fishermen is a dark, haunting, mythical story about brotherhood, love and madness. Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Ben are four of six children of the Agwu family in Akure, Nigeria. Ikenna, who is 15 years old is the leader of the pack. Boja is the adventurous 14-year-old, Obembe is the book smart 11-year-old and Ben – who is the innocent narrator of this lyrical tale, is 9 years old. Once their father is assigned to work at a new location of the Central Bank of Nigeria, quite far away from his home, disorder slowly overtakes this family. I believe the absence of the boys’ father is the root of all the evil things that occur in this story. How crazy is it that the prophecy of the neighborhood madman Abulu, who the boys encounter on one of their forbidden fishing adventures to the Omi-Ala river, could be the catalyst for all the twists and turns that the Agwu family endures?

When you think things are getting better and the craziness of this story plateaus, something pops up! I feel like I know/knew Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Ben – their love and brotherhood are so dear to me, I don’t know why! I felt helpless during many parts of this story. At certain parts I just had to close the book, sit still… and pray. I desperately wanted to help Ikenna. I wanted to whisper into his ear and reassure him that his brothers loved him so much and that nobody was out to kill him. I wanted to goad Boja to have more patience with Ikenna since he (Ikenna) was going through a dark, miserable phase in his life where his faith and confidence were shaken.

Chigozie Obioma wrote about these boys in such a tender way that evoked lots of emotions in me. Obioma actually wrote this novel as a tribute to his own brothers and he discusses this more in interviews with Michigan Quarterly Review and Bookanista. I believe Obioma does a great job at painting the picture of a typical Nigerian household in The Fishermen. He captures classic Nigerian idiosyncrasies through the characters, for example: the way the boys’ mother would shout ‘Chineke!’ (which is an Igbo word that means ‘God!’) whenever she was startled; or how she would vigorously tie her wrapper whenever she was frustrated with the boys; or how their chauvinistic father would shout ‘my friend!’ whenever he was irritated and demanded quick responses from the boys and their mother. If you’ve ever watched a Nollywood film, you would definitely appreciate these entertaining gestures!

The power of Obioma’s lyrical writing style is augmented by his metaphors, which are mostly rooted in animism. This may seem corny, but trust me – it certainly works in making the characters and different incidents in the story feel too real… and every word counts! References to Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, M.K.O Abiola – a popular Nigerian political figure, alongside other contemporary happenings (during 1997) made this all the more a satisfying and realistic read. I’m super proud of this author and I wish him nothing but more success! This has been the best book I’ve read all summer and maybe even this year.

Side note: After reading this book, I’ve had second thoughts about my desire to give birth to only boys – as if I even have a choice, am I God? haha. But I’ve come to the realization that raising boys (and children in general) is truly a challenge. Parental guidance is needed at all times!

The Fishermen needs more attention in the blogosphere! I’m still trying to digest some stuff from the book and I would love to discuss The Fishermen in detail with anyone who has already read it. I’m waiting for my Mom to finish reading the book so we can discuss the ending which slightly threw me off. I hope bookworms around the world catch on and rave about this book as much as they did Adichie’s Americanah. I expect The Fishermen to win some literary awards soon.

Chigozie Obioma definitely took fiction to another level with this book. Please, please pick this up if you get a chance!

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

Purchase The Fishermen on Amazon

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And the 2015 Caine Prize winner is…

Its that time of year again! In about two weeks, the 2015 Caine Prize winner will be announced!

For those who are not familiar, the Caine Prize for African Writing, which was first awarded in 2000 is an award “open to writers from anywhere in Africa for work published in English. Its focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition” (source).

Some notable winners of the Caine Prize include:

  • Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000)– author of novels Minaret, Lyrics Alley amongst other works. 
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002)– founding editor of Kwani?, author of novel, One Day I Will Write About This Place and the essay “How To Write About Africa” found in various literary magazines.
  • Yvonne A. Owuor, from Kenya (2003)– author of the novel, Dust.
  • E.C Osondu, from Nigeria (2009) – author of the novel, Voice of America: stories.
  • NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of the novel, We Need New Names

This year, the Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five talented young writers with unique short stories (left to right):

caine prize for african writing 2015

  • Elnathan John (Nigeria) for “Flying” in Per Contra (Per Contra, International, 2014)
    Shortlisted in 2013 for “Bayan Layi”
    Read “Flying”
  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) for “Space” in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014)
    Read “Space”
  • Namwali Serpell (Zambia) for “The Sack” in Africa39 (Bloomsbury, London, 2014)
    Shortlisted in 2010 for “Muzungu”
    Read “The Sack”
  • Segun Afolabi (Nigeria) for “The Folded Leaf” in Wasafiri (Wasafiri, London, 2014)
    Caine Prize winner 2005 for “Monday Morning”
    Read “The Folded Leaf”

(The biographies for the shortlisted candidates can be found – here).

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that this year’s countries shortlist was more of a dichotomy between Nigeria and South Africa. I expected a more diverse pool of stories to enjoy. But hey! Its the stories that matter, right?

I read Namwali Serpell’s story ‘The Sack‘, as it is one of the short stories in the Africa39 anthology that I own. I don’t know how I feel about her story…It’s a little confusing to me! From what I gather, the story is about the protagonist (I don’t know if this is a boy or girl) having nightmares about being killed, while the men he/she lives with use a young black orphan to go fishing and later debate whether the orphan should live with them or not. There also seems to be a feud between the men in the house, as one is elderly and seems to be sick and grumpy. Humph! If anyone has read the story and understands it, please do explain!

My favorite story so far is ‘Flying’ by Elnathan John. ‘Flying’ is how a short story should be: simple yet moving. The story is about Tachio – a JSS3 (9th grade) dorm leader of a refuge home/school, who believes he can fly once he falls asleep. This feeling of flying brings him peace and joy. He shares his joy of flying with his friend Samson, but is deemed mad. Once Tachio tells foul-mouthed Aunty Ketura, who is the founder of Kachiro Refuge Home, she appreciates his belief of flying and assumes Tachio was a bat, vulture or eagle in his past life. Since Tachio is the dorm leader, he frequently cleans Aunty Ketura’s office and later finds the drawer where she keeps all the records of the boys and girls in the home. Finding out that some of his friends were initially found near trash cans, in market places and in toilets, makes Tachio (who was born in a hospital) feel like he has an edge over his classmates who have no idea of their origins. The story ends with the sudden death of Aunty Ketura, which shocks the whole school, especially Tachio. But the strange presence of a big brown chicken with a limp on their school compound gives Tachio solace, as he believes Aunty Ketura has been incarnated into this bird.

Elnathan’s use of metaphors in comparing human appearances to animals gave the story some spice. I mostly appreciated how readers can get the full scope of Tachio’s wavering feelings of being a dorm leader, wanting to be mischievous with his friends, to wanting to please Aunty Ketura, seeking advice and comfort from Aunty Ketura etc. I’m yet to read the last three stories on the shortlist, but ‘Flying’ is the most enjoyable story to me thus far. It’s simple, understandable and moving.

Which story is your favorite? Who do you think will win the Caine Prize this year?

The winner will be announced on the 6th of July at the Weston Library, Oxford, England. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!

The Trouble with Nigeria by Chinua Achebe

Chinua AchebeDate Read: April 5th 2015

Published: 1983

Publisher: Heinemann

Pages: 68

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

The eminent African novelist and critic, here addresses Nigeria’s problems, aiming to challenge the resignation of Nigerians and inspire them to reject old habits which inhibit Nigeria from becoming a modern and attractive country. In this famous book now reprinted, he professes that the only trouble with Nigeria is the failure of leadership, because with good leaders Nigeria could resolve its inherent problems such as tribalism; lack of patriotism; social injustice and the cult of mediocrity; indiscipline; and corruption.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

“The trouble with Nigeria is simply a failure of leadership…The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” pg. 1

The title, The Trouble with Nigeria should actually be called ‘The Trouble with Africa’. In this short book, Achebe questions the motives of the leaders and citizens of Nigeria. Achebe systematically breaks this book into ten chapters, where he discusses the various problems Nigeria was facing in 1983. Some of these chapters are entitled: Tribalism, Indiscipline, Corruption, False Image of Ourselves, Social Injustice and the Cult of Mediocrity, amongst others.

This book is simply brilliant. It is short and straight to the point! Everyone should read this, especially African politicians and people in positions of power. But do African politicians read? A myriad of books in the African Literature genre mirror the happenings of society. Authors use their amazing talent and writing abilities to articulate the faults of our leaders and societies through their stories/fictitious characters. Do the leaders of our societies read these books to hear how the layman feels about the conditions of their nations? Do they care? Even though this book was written in 1983, most of the issues Achebe discusses hold true to Ghana, and other African countries as well- even in present day 2015. Corruption, indiscipline, tribalism, lack of patriotism, illiteracy and greed are killing administrations in several African nations. We honestly need to do better as a people and this book explains why with boldness, style and sharp wit. I loved this! Thank you Chinua Achebe.

My favorite quotes from The Trouble with Nigeria:

“Nigerians are what they are only because their leaders are not what they should be.” pg. 10

“A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people. He will be outspoken in condemnation of their short-coming without giving way to superiority, despair or cynicism. That is my idea of a patriot.” pg. 16

“Look at our collapsing public utilities, our inefficient and wasteful parastatals and state-owned companies… If you want electricity, you buy your own generator; if you want water, you sink your own bore-hole; if you want to travel, you set up your own airline. One day soon, said a friend of mine, you will have to build your own post office to send your letters!” pg. 20 (Yes, this holds true to Ghana as well, especially issues of electricity *sigh*).

“I must now touch, however briefly, on the grace undermining of national discipline which the siren mentality of Nigerian leaders fosters. In all civilized countries the siren is used in grave emergencies by fire engines, ambulances and the police in actual pursuit of crime. Nigeria, with its remarkable genius of travesty, has found a way to turn yet another useful invention by serious-minded people elsewhere into a childish and cacophonous instrument for the celebration of status.” pg. 34 (Sadly, this is a daily occurrence in Ghana as well. Especially during rush hour).

“My frank and honest opinion is that anybody who can say that corruption in Nigeria has not yet become alarming is either a fool, a crook or else does not live in this country.” pg. 37 (This guy was bold, sheesh!)

“Knowledgeable observers have estimated that as much as 60 percent of the wealth of its nation is regularly consumed by corruption. I have no doubt that defenders of our system would retort: Mere rumor! Where is the proof? No one can offer ‘satisfactory’ proof for the simple reason that nobody issues a receipt for a bribe or for money stolen from the public till.” pg. 41

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

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Purchase The Trouble With Nigeria on Amazon