The Africa Center: Blogger Spotlight + LIT links mélange III

Hey everyone!

The Africa Center – which is based in New York, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, multidisciplinary institution, provides a gateway for engagement with contemporary Africa. They’ve started a Bloggers Spotlight series that features African bloggers who have caught their eye. African Book Addict! is the first feature of the series.

Click the image below to check out the interview where I speak with Evelyn Owen about African Book Addict!, literature by writers of African descent, the literary scene in Accra and more:

Special thanks to Evelyn Owen and the team over at The Africa Center for the feature. I’m super grateful 🙂


Other interesting LIT links to indulge in:

  • Chigozie Obioma: who should I write for – Nigerians, Africans, or everyone? via The Guardian. I know a couple of Nigerians who weren’t crazy about Obioma’s debut – The Fishermen. They simply weren’t blown away by the storyline and some felt the text was laden with petty details – details that seem commonplace to the average Nigerian. I absolutely loved Obioma’s debut, but hearing a couple of readers’ complaints made me question his target audience. In this article, Obioma eloquently asserts that his writing is for everyone as he believes the best literature is accessibly to all.
  • Book bloggers are real readers via The Irish Times. Tunrayo of the blog Tunrayo’s Thoughts tweeted this AMAZING article to me last week. The article articulates and basically defends the role of book bloggers and the influence we hold. I loved it!
  •  We Can Be Heroes via Lenny Letter. In this very timely piece (Black History Month, duh!), black women writers pay homage to the women who’ve inspired them most. Featured writers include Zinzi Clemmons, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Jazmine Hughes and more!

Images via #ReadSoulLit Twitter hashtag timeline

I hope Black History Month 2017 has been inspiring so far! If you’re active on social media (Twitter & Instagram), definitely follow the annual #ReadSoulLit photo challenge (curated by Didi of Brown Girl Reading) to engage with other book lovers of African-American literature and discover many recommendations of books written by Black authors!

Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula

Date Read: February 16th 2015

Published: 1982

Publisher: Plume

Pages: 192

The Blurb

This rich and moving novel traces the lives of two black heroines from their close-knit childhood in a small Ohio town, through their sharply divergent paths of womanhood, to their ultimate confrontation and reconciliation.

Nel Wright has chosen to stay in the place where she was born, to marry, to raise a family, and become a pillar of the black community. Sula Peace has rejected the life Nel has embraced, escaping to college, submerging herself in city life. When she returns to her roots, it is as a rebel and a wanton seductress. Eventually, both women must face the consequences of their choices. Together, they create an unforgettable portrait of what it means and costs to be a black woman in America.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Toni Morrison is a brilliant writer. Some bits of this novel were a bit dry and uninteresting, but Sula is a lovely story.

Sula Peace and Nel Wright were childhood friends from the same (fictional) town – the Bottom, in Ohio in the 1930’s. Nel came from a stable, strict household, while Sula was from a less strict household that did not seriously abide by social conventions. Despite Nel’s mother’s warnings, Nel constantly spent her time with Sula. They were inseparable, shared deep secrets (Chicken Little’s death) and were sometimes mistaken as sisters.

After high school, Sula decided to attend college in Nashville, while Nel immersed herself into motherhood, devoting her life to her husband and her three sons. When Sula returns to the Bottom, 10 years after she graduated, it was obvious that her relationship with Nel was not as intimate as before. Commentary from residents of the Bottom suggested that Sula had become a promiscuous woman who had affairs with married men, but Nel disregarded the gossip and continued to believe in the sisterhood they shared.

I really disliked Sula Peace. She was a selfish, wicked soul. Nel Wright was a bit more innocent and didn’t live for herself – I feel she lived for her husband, her kids, and Sula. I found the demise of Nel and Sula’s sisterhood predictable- especially given their similar YET very different character traits. Other characters like Eva (Sula’s one-legged grandmother), Hannah (Sula’s mother) and Shadrack help consummate the storyline in a way where readers learn life lessons from them. I loved Eva’s character- she symbolized a strong, resilient and almost heartless matriarch in my eyes.

Overall, it is Morrison’s unique writing style that made me appreciate this novel. Sula was not an exciting or extremely intriguing read for me. I’ll rummage through my Mom’s bookshelves and read another Toni Morrison soon. Maybe I’ll read The Bluest Eye or Tar Baby next.

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

 

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Purchase Sula on Amazon

A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story by Sister Souljah

Sister Souljah porscheDate Read: January 28th 2015

Published: 2012

Publisher: Emily Bestler Books/ Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster, Inc)

Pages: 432

 

 

 

The Blurb

At last, mega-bestselling author Sister Souljah delivers the stunning sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever that fans have been eagerly waiting for. Frighteningly fierce, raw, and filled with completely unpredictability, this coming-of-age adventure is woven with emotional intensity.

A Deeper Love Inside is written in the words of Porsche Santiaga, Winter’s sharp-tongued, quick-witted younger sister. Porsche worships Winter. A natural born hustler, Porsche is also cut from the same cloth as her father, the infamous Ricky Santiaga.

Passionate and loyal to the extreme, Porsche refuses to accept her new life in group homes, foster care and juvenile detention after her wealthy family is torn apart. Porsche- unique, young and beautiful – cries as much as she fights and uses whatever she has to reclaim her status.

Unselfishly, she pushes to get back everything that ever belonged to her loving family. In A Deeper Love Inside, readers will encounter their favorite characters from The Coldest Winter Ever, including Winter and Midnight. Sister Souljah’s soulful writing will again move your heart and open your eyes to a shocking reality.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

This was a fun read! It was a bit slow in the beginning or first 150 pages, but it got better. I read The Coldest Winter Ever about 10 years ago and all I remember is that it was ahhh-mazing! With that said, A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story is not a sequel – this book has very little to do with Winter, Porsche’s older sister.

This book is a coming-of-age and cautionary tale that focuses on how ghetto-born, 10 year old Porsche Santiaga, coped with being sent to juvy (juvenile detention) after her family was separated by the arrest of her father- Ricky Santiaga who was a notorious drug lord from Brooklyn, New York. After spending about 2 years in juvy and forming some key friendships (The Diamond Needles) that positively influenced her life, she successfully escapes juvy with some members of the Diamond Needles and soon learns many, many, many lessons about love and life through her painful adventures.

Love is the reason behind all of Porsche’s actions- whether good or bad. She was striving to bring her separated family back together, only to realize that life outside of juvy had really changed and maybe the familial love disappeared…

Sister Souljah is the only urban fiction author I’ve read and I respect her writing sooo much. Unfortunately, books in the Urban Literature or Urban Fiction genre are not given the same respect as other literary genres. But these are stories that need to be read to possibly help end the sad cycles of drug abuse, senseless killings, alcoholism, teenage pregnancies, the spread of HIV/AIDS, etc in the Black community. There is so much to say about this book and I don’t want to give away any spoilers…but I’m glad it ends on a positive, uplifting note. I love the fact that Porsche heals and found real love in Elisha, who loved and appreciated her deeply- a love she had been craving and working hard for, to no avail from her sister and mother.

I gave this 4 stars because the beginning was quite slow and almost made me want to give up. Also, The Coldest Winter Ever and Souljah’s memoir, No Disrespect were more exciting reads compared to this book. But I highly recommend this! It’s a relevant narrative.

Other well-known Urban Fiction writers:

Sapphire (author of PUSH which was adopted into the film, ‘Precious’), Teri WoodsZane (her books are a blend of urban fiction & erotica), Nina FoxxKimberla RobyK’wanOmar Tyree (author of the popular book, Flyy Girl), Eric Jerome DickeyDonald Goines.

*Check out this great Youtube video by Tiffany (TiffReads) for an extensive discussion on Urban Fiction, for other recommendations and to learn more about the genre if you are interested – HERE(This video was part of the February #ReadSoulLit Photo/Booktube Challenge on social media, organized by Didi of Brown Girl Reading)*

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

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Purchase A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story on Amazon

You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down by Alice Walker

Alice WalkerDate Read: January 18th 2015

Published: 1981

Publisher: Harvest Books

Pages: 180

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

A natural evolution from the earlier, much acclaimed short story collection In Love & Trouble, these fourteen provocative and often humorous stories show women oppressed but not defeated. No longer do they excuse the aggression of others, no longer are they suspended in their unhappy condition. The women here claim every bit of space they make.

These are modern stories: about love, lust, fame and cultural thievery, the perils of pornography, abortion and rape; the delight of new lovers, and the rediscovery of old friends, affirmed even across self-imposed color lines.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Lovely, lovely, lovely collection of 14 short stories. If you want to think and learn something new, this is a must-read! You Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down is a classic. Most of the stories are pretty deep though. Alice Walker tackles issues from feminism/womanism to pornography to death to poverty to fame, abortion, the civil rights movement etc. All the women in these stories have some odds going against them, but find different ways of dealing with the prejudices. Even though these stories tug at your emotions, Walker ensures there are positive, humorous bits to all the stories allowing readers to see the light in the situations of each character in the stories.

I love how Walker makes references to Ida B. Wells, Audre Lorde and other prominent black women who have helped shape (black) American lives for the better. I also enjoyed Walker’s writing style in this collection. The sentence structures and style of writing leave room for various interpretations of her stories. When I re-read this, I will surely learn more things that I didn’t grasp from this first reading. Besides her critically acclaimed novel – The Color PurpleYou Can’t Keep A Good Woman Down is another great novel showcasing Alice Walker’s versatility as a writer.

Note: Prior knowledge on the Civil Rights Movement would help you thoroughly appreciate the stories in this book. Also, I think you must be 18 years or older to read this book – some descriptions are QUITE explicit!

My favorite stories were:

“How Did I Get Away With Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy” – This was a sad and crazy story from beginning to end. Some women are crazy…and dangerous! Loved it.

“Coming Apart” – I think every married couple should read this story- together. It’s sooo deep! It has you thinking about sex in such a different, non-flippant way. I’ll have to read it again to fully understand the concepts discussed in the story, but I learned how pornography has terrible consequences in relationships/marriages.

“The Abortion” – I just felt sick to my stomach reading this story. There weren’t many gory descriptions, but it was just miserable. I think I resented the main character. She was a selfish woman and expected her husband to make her happy, when happiness is really from within.

“A Sudden Trip Home In The Spring” – After the death of her father, Sarah – who is the only black girl in her school, questions whether she is in the right school as she sometimes feels out of place. I loved the calmness of this story. Some bits reminded me of my undergraduate experience at Middlebury College.

Like I said, if you want to think and learn something new, read this!

Oh! Today- February 9th, is Alice Walker’s 71st birthday! Happy Birthday Alice Walker!

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

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(This book belongs to my Mom; she purchased it many years ago from some bookshop in Boston. But its available on Amazon for purchase)

Happy Black History Month! African-American Book Covers (showcase 4)

Why not celebrate Black History Month by admiring lovely book covers by 30 brilliant African-American/ Black authors?

Pick up a copy of one of these to commemorate Black Literature. Enjoy!

Check out more amazing book covers by African and Caribbean writers here.

And!! Check out (and join) #ReadSoulLit on social media (Twitter & Instagram) which was created by Didi of Brown Girl Reading (@FrenchieDeeDee). It’s a February Book Photo Challenge to celebrate Black History Month – her blog: http://browngirlreading.com

Happy Black History Month! 🙂