#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.

Sweet Medicine by Panashe Chigumadzi

sweet medicineDate Read: June 3rd 2016

Published: 2015

Publisher: Blackbird Books

Pages: 203

 

 

 

 

 

The Blurb

Sweet Medicine is the story of Tsitsi, a young woman who seeks romantic and economic security through ‘otherworldly’ means. The story takes place in Harare at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes in 2008.

 

Review – ★★★ (3 stars)

Sweet Medicine is a good debut! Don’t you love the book cover? It’s one of the reasons I just had to have this book. In between reading, I watched interviews and talks on YouTube that featured Panashe, where she spoke on racism in South Africa (where she was raised. She’s originally from Zimbabwe), feminism and the makings of an online magazine she founded – Vanguard Magazine, which is a womanist platform for young black women in South Africa speaking to the intersectionality of queer politics, Black Consciousness and pan-Africanism. Panashe is simply an amazing inspiration, and she’s only 25!

Set in present day Zimbabwe, Tsitsi – the main character, seems to be a victim of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Throughout this novel, she does all she can to achieve economic and romantic stability through ways that seriously contradict her staunch Christian upbringing. I must say – it was hard not to judge Tsitsi while reading this novel. Her forbidden relationship with Mr. Zvobgo (a rich man who’s recently divorced from his wife) was uncalled for, yet understandable, I guess? Unfortunately, just like Tsitsi in Sweet Medicine, many young women find themselves at the mercy of rich men as they try to survive in the midst of economic crises. This novel tackles several dichotomies of dilemmas Tsitsi and other ordinary women (even with university degrees) suffer thanks to the terrible economic states of their nations, like – desperation versus true love; spirituality versus worldliness; feminism versus patriarchy; tradition verses modernity; poverty versus abundance, and much more.

Sweet Medicine might be one of the few African novels I’ve read, where I can confidently say is written for Africans – Zimbabweans to be exact. Panashe unapologetically throws readers into Zimbabwean slang & Shona and into the happenings of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis – as if we are natives! Initially, Sweet Medicine was a little challenging for me to read as it took me a while to adjust to the writing style and the myriad of Shona expressions and phrases blended into the dialogue. But once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed the measured suspense of Tsitsi and Mr. Zvobgo’s undulating relationship issues, as well as the glimpses of Zimbabwean life Sweet Medicine fed me.

If you get the chance to read Sweet Medicine, just immerse yourself into the atmosphere of 2008 Zimbabwe for about 200 pages. Cringe at the silly interactions and exchanges between Tsitsi and her super bold sister-friend, Chiedza. Appreciate Tsitsi’s relationship and her tortuous quandary of wanting to live a comfortable life (and provide for her family) with the man of her dreams versus wanting to honor God and her mother. And when you’re done, go back and admire the ultra-chic book cover which I believe, embodies Tsitsi’s persona. Sweet Medicine made for a decent summer read! I recommend this – especially to readers who’ve been longing to read a contemporary African novel, written for us – Africans.

P.S: I have an extra, brand new copy of Sweet Medicine which I will be giving away- amongst other goodies during my hosting the second and last give-away of the year. Stay tuned! 🙂

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

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Purchase Sweet Medicine 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! 

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

68.Noviolet-Bulawayo-We-Need-New-NamesDate Read: June 28th 2015

Published: June 2013

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Pages: 290

 

 

The Blurb

Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise – which of course is no such thing. It isn’t all bad, though. There’s mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices.

They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she’s left behind.

 

Review – ★★ (2 stars)

NoViolet Bulawayo’s short story, “Hitting Budapest” rightly won the Caine Prize in 2011 and this story is actually the first chapter of her novel, We Need New Names. I remember back in 2013, We Need New Names was very popular but I was obsessed with Adichie’s Americanah so I was in no rush to indulge in Bulawayo’s book at the time. Also, some friends who read the book told me that We Need New Names was boring, and now I understand where they were coming from.

We Need New Names is a coming-of-age story about a ten year old Zimbabwean girl named Darling and her life in the shanty town, ironically called Paradise; as well as her life in the USA after she escapes political violence to reside with her aunt Fostalina, in Michigan. Readers are introduced to Darling’s friends who also live in Paradise: Chipo (an eleven year old who is pregnant with her grandfather’s child), Sbho, Stina, Bastard and Godknows. It was quite heartbreaking to read on how Darling and her friends searched for guavas to satisfy their perpetual hunger. On the other hand, it was humorous to witness Darling and her friends argue and quarrel over trivial matters as they embarked on their adventures and games.

But to be honest, after the third chapter I was tired of the shanty life storyline. There seemed to be no plot in this novel and I was struggling to enjoy the story. I started to enjoy We Need New Names more once Darling moved to Michigan (which happens after page 150). But some stuff Darling was getting into after she moved to the U.S was absurd to me, for example, her keen interest in watching pornography with her friends. That part of the book was awkward and probably unnecessary…

Towards the end of the book, I was sick of the plethora of stereotypes NoViolet Bulawayo dumped onto the pages. In Zimbabwe, all the people and the living conditions in the shanty town were heavily stereotyped. The poverty-porn in this book is so blatant it almost seems intentional. I know poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor is terribly wide in Zimbabwe, but the lack of a solid plot in this book made it hard to ignore the excessiveness of the sad living conditions. All the people Darling encountered in Michigan were stereotyped too – especially Mr. Eliot’s (her aunt’s former employer) daughter who just had to be white, rich, spoiled, in an Ivy League school, had an eating disorder (bulimia), was depressed and had a cute dog that donned designer-dog fashions. Why did the people Darling encounter have to be tagged with all the stereotypes associated with their race, sexual orientation, nationality?

We Need New Names has been translated into many languages! Check out the book covers below.

My favorite chapter is entitled, ‘How They Lived,’ where NoViolet Bulawayo speaks generally on the African immigrant experience in the West. It seemed pretty spot-on and I enjoyed the commentary on the struggles Africans face in raising their kids abroad, naming their kids, sending money back to family in Africa, assimilating etc.

I have a feeling this book was nominated for several awards because this is what the West loves – to read a story on African struggles with excessive stereotypes (this is just MY opinion!). Don’t get me wrong, there is a uniqueness to this book, especially in the writing style. I wouldn’t say this was written ‘beautifully’ as everyone claims, but it is surely unique.

I commend NoViolet Bulawayo for using her native language (I’m assuming it’s Shona) in many parts of the book. Words in Shona and native slang are not italicized or defined at the back of the book – readers have to decipher on their own what ‘kaka’, ‘tikoloshe’ and other native Zimbabwean (slang) words mean, and I love that. I also enjoyed how Darling’s english changed from her time in Zimbabwe to her stay in the U.S. Since Darling is the narrator of this story, the diction in the book gradually changes from broken Zimbabwean-English to ‘Standard’ English, as Darling starts to sound more ‘American’ in her speech. It was amusing (even though I was cringing) to read on how Darling would practice her American accent by imitating the pronunciation of words from the television shows she watched. Other than that, this book was a struggle for me to get into and I found myself rolling my eyes a lot! If I wasn’t buddy-reading this with a friend, I would have given up after the first 30 pages.

Other African literature book bloggers loved this book! Mary of Mary Okeke Reads and Osondu of Incessant Scribble enjoyed We Need New Names. Check out their reviews to get more positive perspectives on this novel.

This was not my cup of tea, but it might be yours! Give it a try if you don’t have anything else to read.

★★ (2 stars) – Thumbs down.

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Purchase We Need New Names from Amazon

Can We Talk and Other Stories by Shimmer Chinodya

shimmerDate Read: November 22nd 2014

Published: 2001 (originally published by Baobab Books in 1998)

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 154

The Blurb

Opening with the puzzled and innocent view of a boy looking in on the adult world from outside, this collection follows the transition from childhood to adult life. Youthful desires for prosperity, love and a purpose in life are undermined by experiences of humiliation, compromise and a failure to communicate, in a process that reflects a wider disillusionment and decline in post-independence Zimbabwe. In the final story, cynicism turns to anger as the narrator, facing the breakdown of his marriage, challenges his audience to confront the inaction that leads to disappointment and the deep-seated loneliness and alienated at the root of our estrangements.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

This is a refreshing collection of 11 short stories and I’m glad I randomly spotted this at the bookstore! People, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka are not the only legendary African Literature male novelists. Shimmer Chinodya is surely one of them- in my opinion! He is a wonderful poetic storyteller.

Can We Talk And Other Stories is a collection of stories that take readers through the transitions of boyhood to manhood. Various issues associated with coming-of-age such as confusion, fear, loneliness, depression, insecurity, alcoholism amongst others are tackled in these 11 short stories. It’s best to read these stories from the beginning to the end, as the stories are in chronological order with respect to the age of the main characters.

The novel starts off with a story of a precocious five year old boy, followed by tales of school life- in Zimbabwe and abroad, followed by stories of adult relationships and ends with a story of a forty-something year old man, lamenting his failed marriage called “Can We Talk”. “Can We Talk” was actually nominated for The Caine Prize for African Writing in year 2000- the year Leila Aboulela won the prize for her story “Museum”.

I enjoyed all the stories, mostly because they were different from the myriad of West African novels I usually read. I loved reading about Zimbabwe and admired Chinodya’s use of Shona (the principle language of Zimbabwe) in the text. The glossary at the back of the novel helped me translate some of the words used in the text, but even without the glossary I was able to understand the ideas conveyed in the stories. Chinoya’s use of alliteration, metaphors, repetition and other literature techniques were perfect in illustrating issues of love, confusion, guilt and loneliness. There is also a lot of humor in these stories- its not all depressing!

My favorite stories were:

“Brothers and Sisters” – A tale of a young man who suddenly becomes a staunch Christian and tries to convert everyone he interacts with to Christianity. He finally finds the love of this life, but when she finally reveals to him her true self, things take an interesting…exaggerated turn.

“Snow” – This is not a story per se…I wouldn’t call it a poem either. Its more like a collection of words. “Snow” more or less is a collection of words expressing different ideas and feelings about living in the West- from accents, to weather, food, international students, immigration etc. To get a gist of the text, here are two excerpts from pg. 59 & pg. 61:

‘White flesh white flesh. Blue eyes. Green eyes. Black eyes. Brown. Blonde hair. Brunette. Red. Black. Multivitamin smiles. Braced teeth. Sun-tan.

Food.

Foodfood foodfood foodfood.

French fried, fritters, frankfurters, fish, fillet, farina, falafels, figs, fennel, flax, Fanta, fruitbread.

Fat.

Fat fat fat.

Fudge-face, milk-nose, coke-lips, burger-bums, popcorn-belly, choc-cheeks, gum-teeth, cream-tongue, pizza-palate, Budweiser-chin, candy-kiss…’ (pg. 59)

‘Snow. Cold, loneliness. No legs, no laughter. Layers of loneliness packing into cakes of ice. The hard ice of longing. Cold and hard as pornography. Magazines splattered with blood-red flesh. Peep shows. Live.

Can the earth be so dead, so cruel? So white? Were shorts possible?

Oh, for a black face, for laughter, for warmth.’ (pg. 61)

I love this story because I’m currently obsessed with narratives on African life in the West/immigrant experiences. I especially love how “Snow” ends, because winter can truly get lonely and make any African miss home immensely! I simply understood and bonded with the collection of words and had fun reading it. Shimmer Chinodya is a wordsmith!

My only issue with this collection is that most of the stories were written from a male’s perspective. It would have been nice to have more than just one story (“Play Your Cards”) with a female voice.

But I will definitely be on the lookout for more Shimmer Chinodya books to purchase. I think I’d like to read his book- Chairman of Fools next.

My heart was glad after reading this novel. 🙂

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

Purchase Can We Talk and Other Stories on Amazon

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Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing edited by Yvonne Vera

yvonne veraDate Read: March 7th 2014

Published: 1999

Publisher: Heinemann (African Writers Series)

Pages: 186

The Blurb

African women are seldom given the space to express their concerns, their ideas and their reflections about the societies in which they live.

 In situations where a good woman is expected to remain silent, literature can provide an important medium for the expression of deeply felt and sometimes shocking views. In this anthology the award-winning author Yvonne Vera brings together the stories of many talented writers from different parts of Africa. They act as witnesses to the dramas of private and public life. Their stories challenge contemporary attitudes and behavior, leaving no room for complacency.

Contributors include Ama Ata Aidoo, Veronique Tadjo, Farida Karodia, Lindsey Collen and Sindiwe Magona.

Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)

This is a powerful collection of fifteen stories by African women writers from various countries such as: Zimbabwe, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, Nigeria, Mozambique, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Namibia and Zambia. It was cool to read stories from countries that are not very active in the African literature scene- like Mauritius, Mali and Sudan.

These stories tackle the positives and negatives of being an African woman in their own unique ways. Some themes in the stories are: coming-of-age, motherhood, women empowerment, polygamy, abortion, death, political instability, faith and many more!

My favorite stories were:

‘The Museum’ by Leila Aboulela (Sudan) – This is the story that won the first Caine Prize in 2000! It’s a tale of the challenges a Sudanese girl- Shadia, faces as she is studying Mathematics in university in the United Kingdom. Despite the fact that she has a fiancé back home in Sudan, she starts to fall for fellow Scottish classmate- Bryan, who seems to be the brightest in the class. As Shadia and Bryan spend more time together, Aboulela teaches readers about the importance of religion (Islam). After Shadia and Bryan take a trip to a museum and Shadia is disappointed at how wrongly the West portrays Africa, I learned that Africa will always be where the heart is, for Africans living abroad.

‘The Power of a Plate of Rice’ by Ifeoma Okoye (Nigeria) – A hilarious tale of a single mother, who is a schoolteacher, struggling to keep her family alive. The principal of her school refuses to pay her salary while her children are sick and starving. This schoolteacher ends up doing something unpredictable which shocks her principal. This was a fun and easy read.

‘Stress’ by Lília Momplé (Mozambique) – A mistress of a rich married man sits in her luxurious apartment and spends her days staring out of her window, desperately desiring and fantasizing about her neighbor across the street. Meanwhile, this neighbor barely notices this mistress across the street as he struggles living as a deeply stressed schoolteacher. I enjoyed the unpredictability of the story’s ending!

‘The Barrel of a Pen’ by Gugu Ndlovu (Zimbabwe) – This was a heart-wrenching tale of two girls who spend their afternoon in a hotel. An unqualified nurse visits the girls in the hotel and executes an abortion on one of them. The gory descriptions of this story had me cringing. But I loved how the friendship between the two girls was strong enough to save a life.

This collection was published in 1999, but the stories, themes and the lessons learned are still relevant to readers today, in 2014. I recommend this!

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

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Purchase Opening Spaces: Contemporary African Women’s Writing on Amazon

And the 2014 Caine Prize winner is…

In less than a week, the 2014 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 One Day I Will Write About This Place and other essays such as “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 novel, Voice of America: stories.
  • NoViolet Bulawayo, from Zimbabwe (2011) – author of novel, We Need New Names. 

This year, the Caine Prize shortlist comprises of five amazingly talented young writers with unique short stories (L -> R):

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  • Diane Awerbuck, from South Africa. Read her story “Phosphorescence” here. Listen to the story here.
  • Tendai Huchu, from Zimbabwe. He’s also the author of novel, The Hairdresser of Harare (on my To-Read List!). Read his short story “The Intervention” here. [I couldn’t find the audio for Huchu’s story!] 
  • Efemia Chela, from Ghana/Zambia. Read her story “Chicken” here. Listen to the story here.
  • Billy Kahora, from Kenya. Read his story “The Gorilla’s Apprentice” here. Listen to the story here.
  • Okwiri Oduor, from Kenya. Read her story “My Father’s Head” here. Listen to the story here.

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

It was refreshing to see a Ghanaian on this year’s shortlist. Since I’m Ghanaian I’m naturally rooting for Efemia Chela. Her short story “Chicken” is a coming-of-age narrative. The story consists of three vignettes. In the first vignette, the protagonist who is at an awkward stage in her life- in her twenties, reflects on her extended African family and the meal they shared commemorating her successful graduation from university. Chela’s description of food in this story is so vivid, it makes your mouth water!

In the second vignette of the story, the protagonist gives an account of a recent sexual encounter (with a female). In the third vignette she tries to decide what path she is to take in life- whether to become a lawyer as her parents suggest or to follow where her heart leads. Chela’s writing style is heavily descriptive, but not a drag at all! I appreciated her unique style of narrating. It suited the awkward, twenty something year old coming-of-age theme!

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

The winner will be announced on the 14th of July in Oxford, England. Good luck to all the shortlisted candidates!