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?
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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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The Spider King’s Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo

Spider King's Daughter coverDate Read: September 4th 2014

Published: 2012

Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited

Pages: 288

 

The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Abike Johnson is the favourite child of her wealthy father. She lives in a sprawling mansion in Lagos, protected by armed guards and ferried everywhere in a huge black jeep.

A world away from Abike’s mansion, in the city’s slums, lives an eighteen-year-old hawker struggling to make sense of the world. His family lost everything after his father’s death and now he sells ice cream at the side of the road to support his mother and sister.

When Abike buys ice cream from the hawker one afternoon, they strike up a tentative and unlikely romance. But as they grow closer, revelations from the past threaten their relationship and both Abike and the hawker must decide where their loyalties lie.

Review – ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Did you know that Chibundu Onuzo wrote The Spider King’s Daughter when she was 21 years old? I find that incredible! Her attention to detail of all the intricacies that could happen in a story involving two people are thoroughly explored, and I am very impressed! When I was reading this book, it felt like I was watching a Nigerian movie. The storyline is full of suspense, speculations and assumptions that could actually push this novel into the ‘thriller’ genre. The Spider King’s Daughter is a novel centered around two characters: Abike and Runner G.

Abike is a 17 year old spoiled brat, child of the Spider King- a mysterious, very wealthy man in Lagos. One day as she is chauffeured home from school, she spots a handsome hawker, Runner G, selling ice cream on the street. For days she tries to catch Runner G’s attention through her characteristic manipulative ways and finally starts a conversation with him on the street as she sits in her car. After some weeks, Abike and Runner G become friends and they spend their weekends together. Abike even invites this hawker, Runner G to her huge palace (againsts her father’s will) where they simply enjoy each others’ company and slowly fall in love. Their relationship seems to turn sour when Runner G starts to act strange around Abike, as others warn him of Abike’s true character.

Runner G is a street hawker who sells ice cream. He was not always a street hawker. He came from a middle-class home in the past. But after the death of his father- who was a lawyer, Runner G’s family fell into poverty. His mother is currently bed-ridden and depressed and he had to stop school and start hawking in order to pay his younger sister’s school fees. Runner G becomes Abike’s friend after she initiates conversation with him from her car in the street. He slowly falls in love with her, but later realizes she isn’t actually the person she portrays herself to be. Runner G hence starts to dig for information about Abike from her family members and her close friends who have nothing good to say about her. He later finds out that her lavish lifestyle, grâce à her father’s wealth, might actually be the reason why his family is in abject poverty.

The once cute-turned-dark love story between Abike and Runner G results in a truly unpredictable, shocking end, that pushes me to pity both Abike and Runner G.

The book was written from both Abike and Runner G’s perspectives- which was a bit confusing for me in the beginning. But it was great to see how two people could interpret an event or a day together in two completely different ways. Readers get to understand both Abike and Runner G’s thoughts and feelings towards the dynamic of their relationship and how possibly incompatible they actually are. I appreciated Onuzo’s commentary on hawker-life through Runner G’s character. It pushed me to actually put myself in their shoes and question the terrible economic disparities of our African nations.

Onuzo’s attention to detail was very impressive. Everything about this book, down to the smallest detail was great…it’s actually difficult to discuss this book without giving away spoilers. But I really really recommend this!

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

Purchase The Spider King’s Daughter on Amazon

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The Africa39 Anthology!

The Africa 39 project is an anthology of stories/extracts from the most promising 39 authors under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora. Africa 39 will finally be launched TOMORROW, October 12th 2014 at a festival in UNESCO’s World Book Capital in Port Harcourt, Nigeria!

The selected authors of the Africa39 anthology are believed to have the potential and the talent to define the trends that will mark the future development of literature in a certain language or region.

Some of these authors are: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Okwiri Oduor (Kenya), Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (Ghana/USA), Igoni Barrett (Nigeria), Sifiso Mzobe (South Africa), Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia), Hawa Jande Golakai (Liberia), Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda), Recaredo Silebo Boturu (Equitorial Guinea), Edwige- Renée Dro (Cote d’Ivoire), Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Malawi), Zukiswa Wanner (Zambia/South Africa/Zimbabwe) among others!

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I pre-ordered the book on Amazon so I should receive my copy pretty soon. I really hope the book will be available in Ghana- hopefully at the EPP book shop in East Legon, Accra. EPP actually has lots of new African Literature books in stock, so maybe Africa39 will arrive here soon!

I’m excited to read stories from authors of different sub-Saharan African countries that aren’t very popular in the African Literature scene- like Liberia, Malawi, Zambia, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea among others! 🙂

For more information on Africa39, read – here.

Harmattan Rain by Ayesha H. Attah

 

Harmattan-RainDate Read: February 10th 2014

Published: 2008

Publisher: PER ANKH

Pages: 434

 

The Blurb

Harmattan Rain follows three generations of women as they cope with family, love and life. A few years before Ghana’s independence, Lizzie-Achiaa’s lover disappears. Intent on finding him, she runs away from home. Akua Afriyie, Lizzie-Achiaa’s first daughter, strikes out on her own as a single parent in a country rocked by successive coups. Her daughter, Sugri grows up overprotected. She leaves home for university in New York, where she learns that sometimes one can have too much freedom. In the end, the secrets parents keep from their children eventually catch up with them

 

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

Once I finally gave this book a chance, I really enjoyed it! I started Harmattan Rain in October of 2013, but put it down after reading 30 pages or so. I found the beginning a bit slow so I just took a break and came back to it in February.

Harmattan Rain focuses on three generations of Ghanaian women in a family: Lizzie-Achiaa, Akua Afriyie and Sugri. Readers experience Ghana (mostly the capital, Accra) through these characters from 1954- before independence, to the early 2000’s. We learn about Ghana’s political unrest during the coup d’etat era and witness the evolution of Ghanaian politics. Ayesha Harruna Attah does a great job of weaving Ghana’s history into the storyline in a simple, clear way, without being politically biased.

The novel is divided into three parts, so readers have the opportunity to delve deep into the lives of each character and their storyline. Ayesha Harruna Attah effortlessly develops each character and their storyline to the point where all three storylines are meshed together perfectly. As the novel takes us from one generation to the next, readers witness family cycles, past mistakes and habits continuing. It was refreshing to go through the realistic ups and downs of these ladies’ lives: Lizzie-Achiaa- the brave matriarch of the family runs away from her village to find her lost lover and also tries to pursue her nursing career in Accra; Akua Afriyie- Lizzie’s rebellious first child struggles with being a single parent and strives to find happiness through her art; Sugri- Akua Afriyie’s only daughter, a brilliant but sheltered girl, learns hard lessons of life as she goes away to college in the US.

My favorite part of the novel is part three, which focuses on Sugri. I could identify with Sugri more, as she attended an international high school, went to university abroad and experienced being ‘different’ outside of Ghana. She may be a little naive, but her growth and strength by the end of the novel was inspiring! Ayesha Harruna Attah seems to be a shy person from some interviews I’ve seen, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was reading this book because she’s a powerful writer with an unexpected creative imagination. Harmattan Rain is a great debut for Ayesha Harruna Attah and I can’t wait to read her next novel!

Check out a sneak peek of her second novel, Saturday’s Shadows to be launched this Fall – here!

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

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Purchase Harmattan Rain on Amazon