Lizard & Other Stories by Marcelle Mateki Akita

Date Read: December 27th 2016

Published: December 18th 2016

Publisher: Marcelle Mateki Akita

Pages: 63

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Follow the stories of five young characters who try to make sense of loss, sex and sexuality in Lizard & Other Stories. Marcelle Mateki Akita explores how topics such as broken family and romantic relationships, sexual violence and masturbation impact a young girl and woman’s development. The collection’s short stories and flash fiction focus on girls and women of Ghanaian and mixed heritage. Written in an imaginative and sobering style, Lizard & Other Stories will unsettle and surprise you.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

How cute is the cover art of Lizard & Other Stories? The beads are truly attractive! Lizard & Other Stories is the good debut of short stories by reader, researcher and co-founder of Afrikult. (a literary platform that discusses, explores and celebrates the diversity of African literature) – Marcelle Mateki Akita. The collection consists of five stories that focus mainly on girls and women of Ghanaian or mixed heritage. The stories in this collection are vivid, bold and told in a calm manner. Once I started reading, I was drawn into Marcelle’s comfy, calm writing style, which allowed me to get to know the characters at relatively good paces. Some issues explored in this collection are: coming of age, religion, family, sexuality, (domestic) violence, naivety and betrayal.

What makes this collection special is the ambiguous nature of all the stories. If you read this collection more than once – which I highly encourage, you will realize that there are various interpretations and extra, juicy details you probably missed during the first reading. When I got the chance to discuss Lizard & Other Stories with Marcelle during Christmas break, I realized I interpreted the stories, especially the final one, entitled Kwesi, in a completely different way than she did. It takes talent to pull that off, even if it’s never a writers’ intention to give stories various meanings. Another thing that’s great about this collection is the unpredictability of the stories. I felt really cozy while reading the first story, entitled Ama, until the story took an unexpected turn and left a sour taste in my mouth. From the way the stories commence to their finality are polar opposites, which was refreshing!

I would’ve been more satisfied with these stories if the characters were developed a little further for readers to fully understand their actions. Also, some passages in this collection seemed overly descriptive, which isn’t my preference when reading short stories and flash fiction. But I must say, the vivid descriptions certainly allow one to picture exactly what is being observed, which was appreciated.

If you want to indulge in bold, unpredictable stories written in a calm voice, definitely look into reading this collection! I eagerly look forward to Marcelle’s future projects – a novel soon, maybe? Pretty please?

Special thanks to Marcelle, for the free copy of Lizards & Other Stories, in exchange for an honest review 🙂


To get a feel of her writing, check out Marcelle’s story that was published by AFREADA last year – Cassava’s Finest

Read more of Marcelle’s work on her websiteShe posts wonderful musings of the mind and soul every Monday and 100 word stories every Wednesday.

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

Purchase Lizard & Other Stories on Amazon

Mini Reviews | Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime & Letter to My Daughter

Hey everyone!

Last year, thanks to finals week, I wasn’t able to review the books I read by legendary mothers – J. California Cooper and Maya Angelou. Below are mini reviews of two books written by two brilliant, African-American literature pioneer writers.

Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime: stories by J. California Cooper

J. California CooperDate Read: December 26th 2015

Published: 1996

Publisher: Anchor Books / Doubleday

Pages: 273

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Whether through her stories or her legendary readings, J. California Cooper has an uncanny ability to reach out to readers like an old and dear friend. Her characters are plain-spoken and direct: simple people for whom life, despite its ever-present struggles, is always worth the journey.

In Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime, Cooper’s characteristic themes of romance, heartbreak, struggle and faith resonate. We meet Darlin, a self-proclaimed femme fatale who uses her wiles to try to find a husband; MLee, whose life seems to be coming to an end at the age of forty until she decides to set out and see if she can make a new life for herself; Kissy and Buddy, both trying and failing to find them until they finally meet each other; and Aberdeen, whose daughter Uniqua shows her how to educate herself and move up in the world.

These characters and others offer inspiration, laughter, instruction and pure enjoyment in what is one of J. California Cooper’s finest story collections.

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

I discovered J. California Cooper back in 2013. But the announcement of her passing in 2014 had me wishing I’d read her work earlier. After reading Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime, I realized I had really been missing out on Ms. Cooper’s yummy ways of storytelling! As I was reading the stories in this collection, I felt as if I was chatting with a good friend in my living room. Cooper’s stories have a juicy, gossipy-feel that make for an exciting, yet comforting read!

My favorite stories were:

‘Femme Fatale’ – In this story, readers are invited into Darlin’s life as she tries to find herself. After losing both parents and her beloved grandmother, Darlin does all she can to be happy and to be loved by a good man, while in the process grooming herself to be a ‘femme fatale’. This story was an emotional rollercoaster and I loved how it ended. J. California Cooper puts a lot of sass into this story!

‘Sure Is a Shame’ 

You know, it’s a fact and I seen it, sometimes when you think you taking a bite out of life, chewing hard on it, life be done taken a bite out of you and done already swallowed. Sho is a shame, sho is (pg. 159)

This is a cautionary tale on the consequences of taking the little things and good people for granted. It was a long-winded story, but also a wake up call and good reminder to appreciate each day in life, as well as the people placed in it.

Most of the characters in Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime are either 50 years and older or they grow well into old age as they recollect different events of their lives. All the stories have an element of self-help to them, as J. California Cooper drops lots of wisdom on how to live a fulfilling life, through the characters in the stories. But I wished some of the protagonists were younger and that there was more variety to the stories in this collection. Honestly, I can only remember about 3 stories out of this collection. I found the rest of the stories redundant, predictable and quite simple – without much depth. With that said, I still look forward to reading some of J. California Cooper’s full novels – like Family and The Wake of The Wind in the near future. Definitely read this if you’re in the mood for a chatty, comforting collection of stories!

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

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Purchase Some Love, Some Pain, Sometime on Amazon


Letter to My Daughter (ebook) by Maya Angelou

Letter_to_My_DaughterDate Read: November 27th 2015

Published: September 2008

Publisher: Random House

Pages: 166

 

 

The Blurb

Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter reveals Maya Angelou’s path to living well and living a life with meaning. Told in her own inimitable style, this book transcends genres and categories: guidebook, memoir, poetry, and pure delight.

Here in short spellbinding essays are glimpses of the tumultuous life that led Angelou to an exalted place in American letters and taught her lessons in compassion and fortitude: how she was brought up by her indomitable grandmother in segregated Arkansas, taken in at thirteen by her more worldly and less religious mother, and grew to be an awkward, six-foot-tall teenager whose first experience of loveless sex paradoxically left her with her greatest gift, a son.

Whether she is recalling such lost friends as Coretta Scott King and Ossie Davis, extolling honesty, decrying vulgarity, explaining why becoming a Christian is a “lifelong endeavor,” or simply singing the praises of a meal of red rice–Maya Angelou writes from the heart to millions of women she considers her extended family.

Like the rest of her remarkable work, Letter to My Daughter entertains and teaches; it is a book to cherish, savor, re-read, and share.

Review –★★★★ (4 stars)

Maya Angelou is one of the writers who got me truly interested in African-American literature and reading in general, back when I was 13 years old. When I was younger, I wasn’t particularly excited about the ‘classics’ I was forced to read, like – Black Beauty, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, To Kill A Mockingbird, Little Women, The Catcher in the RyeAnn of Green Gables, just to name a few. I appreciated those books, but I didn’t deeply connect with the characters of the novels. When my mother suggested for me to start reading Maya Angelou’s autobiography series which she owned in her bookshelf (my mother is an original bookworm. Me and my siblings will inherit a whooole library of books!), I started with – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Angelou’s storytelling grasps all of your attention with her vivid descriptions, poetic writing style and punches of wisdom in each chapter of her work. *sigh* I’m still bitter that she passed away on my birthday in 2014. I really wanted to meet her or just be in her presence at a literary event.

Letter to My Daughter is my sixth read from Maya Angelou’s work and I believe it’s a timeless gem of essays!

My favorite essays were:

‘Accident, Coincident, or Answered Prayer’ – This story was very familiar, as I’ve read a similar version of the account in Angelou’s final book in her autobiography series – Mom & Me & Mom (2013). In ‘Accident, Coincident, or Answered Prayer,’ Maya Angelou takes readers back to when she dated a physically abusive man and the (emotional, physical) pain it caused her life as a young woman. To think Angelou could have died in the serious brawl she describes in this essay is horrifying. However her fierce mother – Vivian Baxter, is the real MVP of this account as her love and fearless nature save Angelou. In this account, readers ultimately learn that Maya Angelou believed in the power of prayer.

‘Violence’

Too many sociologist and social scientists have declared that the act of rape is not a sexual act at all, but rather a need to feel powerful… The sounds of the premeditated rape, the grunts and gurgles, the sputtering and spitting, which commences when the predator spots and then targets the victim, is sexual. The stalking becomes, in the rapist’s mind, a private courtship, where the courted is unaware of her suitor, but the suitor is obsessed with the object of desire. He follows, observes, and is the excited protagonist in his sexual drama… I am concerned that the pundits, who wish to shape our thinking and, subsequently, our laws, too often make rape an acceptable and even explainable social occurrence… We must call the ravening act of rape, the bloody, heart-stopping, breath-snatching, bone-crushing act of violence, which it is. The threat makes some female and male victims unable to open their front doors, unable to venture into streets in which they grew up, unable to trust other human beings and even themselves. Let us call it a violent unredeemable sexual act… (pages 39-41).

This is an excerpt from ‘Violence,’ one of the powerful (and self-explanatory) essays from this collection which is ever so relevant to us today in 2016. I wonder what Maya Angelou would make of the several, deeply upsetting rape cases that seem to be pushed under the rug today – especially the terrible Stanford rape case. Angelou picks readers’ brains and questions society’s complacency in combatting violent acts against women. This was a compelling, necessary essay.

Mother Maya Angelou can do no wrong in my eyes! This collection of essays is uplifting and familiar if you’ve read any of her autobiographies. Even if you aren’t familiar with her work, this is nevertheless a riveting collection to start with, as readers can get a feel of her storytelling, essays and poetry. Maya Angelou was a well of wisdom who touched many lives through her wonderful words – she will always be one of my favorites!

P.S: Has anyone seen the Maya Angelou Documentary yet – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise ? It was released June 7th of this year!

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

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I hope to purchase the physical copy of Letter to My Daughter soon! Above is my Mom’s super old Maya Angelou collection from our personal library. I have two books left to read from this pile 🙂

Purchase Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou on Amazon

And the 2016 Caine Prize winner is…

Yes, it’s that time of year again! In about two weeks, the 2016 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 (click on links to my reviews):

  • Leila Aboulela, from Sudan (2000) – author of novels Minaret, The Translator, Lyrics Alley among other works. 
  • Binyavanga Wainaina, from Kenya (2002) – founding editor of Kwani?, author of memoir 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

Previously shortlisted authors include: Mia Couto from Mozambique (2001), Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria (2002), Laila Lalami from Morocco (2006), Chinelo Okparanta from Nigeria (2013), Tendai Huchu from Zimbabwe (2014), Elnathan John from Nigeria (2013 & 2015), among others!

The Caine Prize and its shortlisted stories play a huge role in the authors I read from the continent. Many Caine Prize winners and shortlisted writers have found great success and I’ve reviewed a good number of these writers’ works here on African Book Addict!


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

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(Images via caineprize.com ; collage created by African Book Addict!)

Tope Folarin (Nigeria) – Read his short story: Genesis

Bongani Kona (Zimbabwe) – Read his short story: At Your Requiem

Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya) – Read his short story: The Lifebloom Gift

Lidudumalingani (South Africa) – Read his short story: Memories We Lost 

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) – Read her short story: What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky

 

I was surprised to see Tope Folarin shortlisted AGAIN, since he won the Caine Prize back in 2013 for his moving story – Miracle. Why does the Caine Prize always shortlist past shortlistees and winners? Every year, many writers submit stories in hopes of being shortlisted – they couldn’t give someone else a chance to compete to win?

Anyways, Folarin’s Genesis reminded me of his Africa39 story, New MomGenesis is a semi-autobiographical story on Folarin’s family – more specifically on his mother’s mental illness and how it affected him as a child. Genesis made me uncomfortable. I felt stressed reading the story as Folarin freely shares with the world his mother’s plight. The story is an easy read and quite engrossing which I expected, since Folarin’s strength is in his ability to write moving stories – as seen in Miracle. I appreciate Folarin shedding light on mental illness and depression – topics we Africans usually shy away from. But for some reason, I’m not okay with his mother’s illness and antics are being shared with the world (MY opinion!). If he wins the Caine Prize again, I anticipate some uproar from readers and critics.

Lesley Nneka Arimah’s story, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky was an engaging story. This is a story about Nneoma who is a Mathematician that can detect grief and sadness from fellow Nigerians and has the power to heal them. She seems to be searching to find the next genius mathematician to train with healing powers as well. The ending had me a bit confused… But this was an enjoyable read. I’m not a big fan of science fiction but I loved the afrofuturism vibes I got from this story!

Abdul Adan’s story The Lifebloom Gift is my favorite! This story is sooo bizarre. The Lifebloom Gift is a story about a TSA officer who has an encounter with Ted Lifebloom – a 30 year old man who seems to thrive off touching moles on other peoples’ bodies. Once Ted Lifebloom touches another person’s mole, the person he’s touching is transported into a land of “green pastures where they hear the song of birds and sneezes of horses, smell the fur of dogs, feel a twitch in one of their nipples which, in turn, transforms into a brown lactating nipple…” or in short, the person understands the meaning of love (whaaat?!). The TSA officer later conducts a case study on Ted Lifebloom and goes on an adventure to find other Lifebloomers, by accessing moles on the backs of potential Lifebloomers. The story starts off a bit confusing, as it’s hard to picture what Abdul Adan is describing. But as the story unfolds, it all starts to make sense even though its still very strange. It’s actually hard to explain this story. But it was hilarious to read and oh so weird! If you don’t read any of these stories at all, at least read The Lifebloom Gift! It’s truly an original and creative story. I hope Abdul Adan wins the 2016 Caine Prize!

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

The winner will be announced on the 4th of July at the Weston Library, Oxford, England. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!

You can also check out my commentary on the Caine Prize from 2014 – here & 2015 – here :).

LIT Links mélange

Hey everyone!

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

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

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

Add Olive Senior to your TBR, maybe?

  • Self-published short stories collection: Flight

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

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

  • How Not To Talk About African Fiction by Ainehi Edoro

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

  • Big Belly Ache

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images via bigbellyache.com

  • More Short Stories!

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

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

Fairytales For Lost Children by Diriye Osman

Diriye OsmanDate Read: January 7th 2016

Published: September 2013

Publisher: Team Angelica Press

Pages: 156

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Fairytales For Lost Children is narrated by people constantly on the verge of self-revelation. These characters – young, gay and lesbian Somalis – must navigate the complexities of family, identity and the immigrant experience as they tumble towards freedom. Using a unique idiom rooted in hip-hop, graphic illustrations, Arabic calligraphy and folklore studded with Kiswahili and Somali slang, these stories mark the arrival of a singular new voice in contemporary fiction.

 

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

*sigh*

Is it too early to already know my favorite book of the year? Fairytales For Lost Children just might be the best book I’ve read this year. I read two stories a day from this collection, to adequately absorb everything in little bits. I even smoothed the velvet-textured book cover against my cheeks after reading some of the stories (no, I’m not a weirdo… maybe a little haha). And when I was done reading Fairytales For Lost Children, I wanted more. I need Diriye Osman to write a full novel soon!

This collection of short stories is raw, erotic, sassy, vivid, devastating and most importantly, liberating. These stories are set in modern day Somalia, Kenya and London. The characters of these stories just want to be loved for who they are. They desire to live their lives free from hate, criticism, and scrutiny, while trying to understand the intersectionalities of their own identities.

There are eleven stories in this collection and I loved how Diriye Osman precedes each story with his beautiful artwork, which visually summarizes each tale. Osman also incorporates lots of Neo-Soul (my ultimate favorite music genre) and old school Hip-Hop music into the stories. He refers to Meshell Ndegeocello’s 2002 soul album, Comfort Woman in about three of the stories, so I just had to purchase that album after I read this collection! Osman also blends languages like Somali, Arabic and Swahili into these stories, which make them feel authentic. I deeply enjoyed each and every one of the stories (which is rare for a short stories collection – there are always one or two stories I don’t care for) but my faves were:

Shoga‘ – This tale was pretty explicit but entertaining and heartbreaking at the same time. A displaced seventeen year old Somali boy lives with his grandmother, Ayeeyo, in Kenya. He falls in love with Boniface – the domestic help who is a refugee from Burundi. After enjoying many nights of listening to Bob Marley, smoking marijuana and sleeping with Boniface in his quarters, this seventeen year old later has to deal with the consequences of his pleasures by facing his grandmother – before her time is up.

Earthling‘ – This is a story that follows Somali-Brit – Zeytun, who suffers from psychosis and deeply desires love from her family – more so, from her sister. Her only family and support system is her girlfriend, Mari, who admirably stands by Zeytun and aids in her mental and emotional healing. The love exhibited between this lesbian couple was eye-opening and comforting to me.

Your Silence Will Not Protect You‘ – This story is preceded by Diriye Osman’s artwork that actually looks like a portrait of himself (he’s the man on the book cover by the way!), so I’m assuming this tale is loosely based on his personal story. Osman boldly narrates the series of events that lead to him coming out to his family, and how he boldly deals with the pain of rejection.

The Other (Wo)man‘ – I’ve never read a story like this before. Yassin is a young, twenty-two year old Somali man living in London, pursuing his art degree and is ready to start dating. He meets a middle-aged, British-Jamaican man who works as an army pilot on a dating website (Gaydar) and they go on a couple of dates. But one night, Yassin realizes that the British-Jamaican man’s fetishes not only offend him, but actually push him to maybe trying something he never thought he’d consider. This coming-of-age tale had me sooo worried. But I loved observing Yassin as he strived to understand his ever evolving identities.

My favorite quote from ‘The Other (Wo)man‘ as Yassin takes a walk towards Peckham Rye:

He felt his sense of Somaliness slipping away from him and he was afraid of letting it go, afraid of the moral, psychological and social anarchy its loss threatened to create within him. But at the same time, what was he really hanging onto? A sense of social allegiance? But wouldn’t he be automatically excluded from his community because of his sexual orientation wherever his own allegiance lay? He didn’t belong to just one society: he was gay, Somali, Muslim, and yet all these cultural positions left him excluded… He was Somali first, Muslim second, gay third. But perhaps that hierarchy was only a matter of timing: born Somali, raised Muslim, discovered gay. And now he was venturing out into the world without a sense of his place within it and this frightened him. Yet he realized that he couldn’t mourn what was lost but instead had to consider what was to be gained. He knew he would never belong but did he really want to? (pg. 137)

This collection of short stories is probably the best LGBTQ-themed African fiction out there. I totally understand why Diriye Osman won The Polari First Book Prize back in 2014. Osman’s writing style is bold and fearless and I believe this collection is a priceless gem among the myriad of African fiction novels around. Please read this if you get the chance! And try not to judge the characters in the stories; just immerse yourself in the different happenings of the tales and learn from them. These stories speak volumes on being true to yourself, following your heart and the universal human need to love one another, regardless of sexual orientation, race, occupation, religion. Fairytales For Lost Children must have been liberating to write and I truly admire Diriye Osman as a storyteller and visual artist. Readers around the world will find solace in this work of art – I definitely did! I look forward to reading more of Osman’s work in the future. I’m sure whatever he writes next would be as fierce as this collection.

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

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  • Also!! Read Diriye Osman’s essay published in The Huffington Post (2014): To Be Young, Gay and African
  • I really enjoyed this conversation between Diriye Osman and Another Africa, where they discuss Osman’s background, musical influences and his creative process, difficulties he faced in writing this collection, future projects and so much more!

Other Somali writers I plan on reading in the future (click on their names to check out their Goodreads profiles and their collection of work): Nuruddin FarahAyaan Hirsi Ali, Warsan Shire (Somali-British), Ladan Osman (Somali-American), Nadifa Mohamed (Somali-British).

 

Purchase Fairytales For Lost Children on Amazon

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! 

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge DanticatDate Read: July 8th 2015

Published: 1996

Publisher: Vintage Books

Pages: 224

 

 

 

The Blurb

At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become one of our most celebrated new writers. She is an artist who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti – and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women – with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffereing and courage.

When Haitians tell a story, they say “Krik?” and the eager listeners answer “Krak!” In Krik? Krak! Danticat establishes herself as the latest heir to that narrative tradition with nine stories that encompass both the cruelties and the high ideals of Haitian life. They tell of women who continue loving behind prison walls and in the face of unfathomable loss; of a people who resist the brutality of their rulers through the powers of imagination. The result is a collection that outrages, saddens, and transports the reader with its sheer beauty.

 

Review –  ★★★★ (4 stars)

Reading Krik? Krak! was a pleasant experience! It was the perfect summer read, especially since most of the short stories in this collection take place in Haiti – the island with the indigo blue skies and the sandy beaches. It is very evident that Danticat wrote this collection from her heart and I felt her love for the island in every story. All nine stories have a calm nature to them and they read smoothly. These stories were truly engaging and I loved that they all seemed interconnected with one another and had some sort of realistic twist. Danticat’s effortless talent in storytelling is wonderfully showcased in this collection and my favorite stories were:

Between the Pool and the Gardenias – This was a crazy story! A housemaid finds and keeps an abandoned baby and decides to name the baby, Rose. After a couple of days, she realizes that the baby is emitting a strong stench…because it is dead and rotting! This story startled me and I loved it.

The Missing Peace – This is a story about a precocious, brave, fourteen year old named ‘Lamort’ by her grandmother (‘Lamort’ means ‘death’ – because after she was born, her mother died. Quite eerie). I love how Lamort finds her own voice by the end of this story, grâce à her forbidden friendship with an American journalist who visits the island.

Caroline’s Wedding – This was an interesting tale of a Haitian family residing in New York City. The adult daughters in this family – Gracina and Caroline, live with their widowed mother. Their mother is very bitter that her last child – Caroline (who was born without her left forearm) is marrying a Bahamian and not a Haitian. Meanwhile, as Gracina tries to placate her mother’s resentment, she learns more about her parents’ marriage and starts to have strange dreams about her deceased father.

Epilogue: Women Like Us – This piece was a solid conclusion to the collection of stories. I’m assuming this was a true account on the struggles Danticat experienced in convincing her family of her desire to become a writer instead of the stereotypical housewife or cook most women in her family pride themselves and aspire to.

I learned a great deal about Haiti from this collection and Danticat expertly highlights the hardships Haiti has faced and how these trials have affected its citizens. I’m actually still researching things from the book to learn more, for example: the coup d’etats Haiti faced in 1988 and 1991, Papa Doc Duvalier (Haiti’s ex-president – François Duvalier) and his role in Haiti’s development etc. Krik? Krak! was an enlightening read from the diaspora and I will definitely be reading more of Danticat’s work soon. Edwidge Danticat’s books have been on my to-read list for a while now and I must say, fellow book blogger – Shannon from Reading Has Purpose (check out her book blog!), made me even more eager to indulge in Danticat’s work, as she is a huge fan and speaks highly of her novels! I think the next book I read by Danticat will be her first novel (1994), Eyes, Breath, Memory.

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

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Purchase Krik? Krak! from Amazon

And the 2015 Caine Prize winner is… Namwali Serpell!

A big congratulations to Zambia’s Namwali Serpell for winning the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing!!

Namwali Serpell is the 16th winner of the Caine Prize, which is recognized as Africa’s leading literary award for short stories. The winner was announced last night at a dinner held at the Weston Library, Oxford, England for all the shortlisted candidates.

Namwali Serpell won the £10,000 prize for her short story, ‘The Sack’. Initially I was miffed at how this year’s shortlist was more or less a dichotomy between South Africa and Nigeria, with one story from Zambia. Even though I was more in love with Elnathan’s story ‘Flying‘, I’m happy Zambia won this for once! I look forward to more of Serpell’s work in the future. Her short story, ‘The Sack’ can also be found in the Africa39 anthology which was published in October of last year (2014). Check out Africa39 to read more new short stories by young African writers, under the age of 39!

Namwali Serpell winner

 Read ‘The Sack’ by Namwali Serpell – here

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!

Valentine’s Day Anthology 2015

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Ankara Press gave us a special treat today, by publishing a Valentine’s Day anthology featuring 7 short stories by some great contemporary African writers. According to Ankara Press, this lovely collection shows that “romance can be empowering, entertaining, and elegantly written, by men as well as women.”

Some of the writers and readers of the stories include: Sarah Ladipo-Manyika, Eghosa Imasuen, Helene Cooper, Chuma Nwokolo and my favorite- Binyavanga Wainaina, amongst others!

The stories are written in English with some translations in Pidgin, Kiswahili, Yoruba, French, Kpelle, Igbo and Hausa languages. There are also audio versions of the stories in this anthology- such an awesome treat!

I’m enjoying all the stories thus far, I hope you all enjoy them too!

Read, listen and download (for free!) Valentine’s Day Anthology 2015HERE

To find out more about Ankara Press – A New Kind Of Romance, click – here or follow them on Twitter @ankarapress.