An Africa Day Collective

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Image via Mocha Club

Today is (was) Africa Day. My favourite way of celebrating Africa is by celebrating her literature – and by implication, her narratives.

I have loads of posts about South African books, but not one about the continent. Here is a handful of my favourite pan-African books. There are many more. I am shamefully missing a bunch of countries on the continent – please do recommend some good books in countries not listed below. Preferably written by an author from the relevant country.

Note: Linked to my reviews where appropriate. 

  1. CongoMama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen by Lisa J. Shannon – if you read my review, you’ll see I didn’t give this a high rating. It is not the best-written book, and has a saviour complex, but I did get a lot of insight into Congo from it.
  2. Ethiopia: Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
  3. GhanaThe Prophet of Zongo Street by Muhammed Naseehu Ali – short stories set in a fictional community, but the author writes from a Ghanaian lens.
  4. MauritiusThe Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah
  5. Nigeria: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta – set shortly after the Biafran War, and focussing on the experience of a young lesbian woman, this book is marvellous.
  6. NigeriaChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – fantasy and magic. Adeyemi talks about BLM in her notes at the end, and it is so appropriate. I have all the love for this book.
  7. SomaliaA Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg – well-researched non-fiction
  8. South AfricaCoconut by Kopano Matlwa
  9. South AfricaNot A Fairytale by Shaida Kazie Ali
  10. SudanThe Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman
  11. ZimbabweWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  12. Various: 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen – NOT to suggest that AIDS is synonymous with Africa at all, I value this book in our narrative because it highlights so much positivity and hope throughout the continent. Unfortunately this book is out of print.
  13. VariousQueer Africa 2 by Karen Martin et al – I’m still working my way through this anthology, but it is quite wonderful.

My lists of favourite South African books:

And some thoughts I’ve written before about the continent (some about books, but not all):

I owe you all a proper new-material post, I know. And I owe quite a few people responses to email. I’ll get on that.

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8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey

I’m linking up with Jamie’s annual end of year bookish survey again this year.

I spent 11 months of this year without internet, so I’ve hardly reviewed any books, and posted about books rarely too. I also haven’t read much this year. It’s been a tough one. Jamie has a lot of questions, and I don’t have answers to them all, so I’ve actually left some of them out.

2017-book-survey Continue reading “8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey”

South African Books To Read This Heritage Day

Because it’s Heritage Weekend, and I’m working tomorrow (the actual Heritage Day), and I haven’t posted anything bookish in a long time.

I continue to have a love affair with South African (and African continental) books. Below are some of my previous lists on the same topic. (This is not a ranked list. This is a list of more books I’ve discovered since my last list.) (Mh. I thought I had more than two of these…)

Continue reading “South African Books To Read This Heritage Day”

[Book Review] Incarceration Nations

dreisinger_incarcerationnationsI don’t know how much time the average person spends thinking about prisons. It usually crosses my mind when I have a patient who is brought from prison – which happens a lot less now that I’m working only with kids. Every once in a while there will be a report of a jail break, and in high school we had a few debate topics around prisons (This House Supports The Right To Vote For Prisoners, etc). Every year at the anniversary of my aunt’s murder I think about prison, and wonder whether her murderer is still incarcerated.

Besides that, prison doesn’t cross my mind too often, and I’d wager it’s the same for those who don’t work with inmates, or don’t have a close relative currently imprisoned.

Baz Dreisinger’s Incarceration Nations dares to coax us from this comfort in a multi-national exposé of prisons around the world, and the justice/punitive systems within which they function. Continue reading “[Book Review] Incarceration Nations”

Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do

You know that saying about readers having many lives through the books they read? I love it, because there are so many things I can’t do, but would love to. Then there are some things books have inspired me to do… or at least to dream about.

I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesdays to bring you (some of the) things book have made me want to do.

1. Go to Boarding School

A la Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, Spud by John van de Ruit, Looking for Alaska by John Green and even Harry Potter, to name but a few.

5000b1238115345bee19d12384791a68625445af06153537b90254460bebb0df Continue reading “Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do”

What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]

I’ve been on a bit of an alternate-history kick recently, which has led me to believe that it is possibly one of the most challenging genres an author might tackle. Call it the Butterfly Effect or Domino Effect or just plain Jenga, but changing a single event in history causes a cascade of changes, and if the author misses even one of those, the book loses its believability.

23208397Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is an alternate reality in the present day where slavery was never outlawed in the USA, and is still practiced in four major states. It is a horrifying thought and an important topic in light of current race-relations in the USA and much of the world.

World-building is important in alternative-history fiction, but must be subtle. If the world is different to the way we know it, the reader must be able to understand why that is. Winters did this fairly well, in referring to trading sanctions which, for example, result in CDs not yet reaching American markets. Continue reading “What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]”

Top Ten Underrated Books

I’m linking up with The Broke and The Bookish to bring you ten of my favourite books with fewer than 2,000 ratings. All of my books on last week’s list, save for one, have fewer than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads, so I haven’t included any of those books on this list (but you should totally check them out, too!)

Note: Book titles are linked to my reviews of them, or in the absence of a review, to their Goodreads listing.

  1. The Girl Without A Sound by Buhle Ngaba

30187012Number of ratings: 4

A South African picture book “born out of defiance and as a response to the fairytales we were told as little girls. Stories about white princesses with blue eyes, flowing locks of hair and an overwhelming awareness of their beauty.” And just like Coconut and Kwezi (see last week’s list), even though I’m not the intended target market, I think it is wonderful, and I intend to purchase it for as many kids as I can.

Also, you can get the digital file for free on their website! Continue reading “Top Ten Underrated Books”

Ten More South African Books To Devour

Linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday – a freebie! I thought I had a whole host of lists about South African books, but it turns out I only ever did one. I have a soft spot for supporting local (to me) authors, and I do think we have some awesome authors so I like spreading the word.

A note on the links used in this post: I don’t have an affiliate link program. I include links to purchase the books only because I really want to encourage reading these books, and sometimes South African titles can be hard to source. In the titles, I have linked to my reviews where they are available, otherwise to their Goodreads pages.

1. Kwezi by Loyiso Mkize

30349900A brand new South African superhero comic, starring authentically South African characters. Such an important step in having representative books, but also a really fun comic that I would recommend widely. I intend on buying every issue, and buying some to donate to the children’s wards at my hospital too.

You can read the first issue online here. Continue reading “Ten More South African Books To Devour”

The Translation of Love [Book Review]

30362775During the American occupation, the citizens of Japan were encouraged to apply directly to General MacArthur – “if you have a problem, write a letter, this is what democracy means” – and so write they did. MacArthur received over 500,000 letters, letters of entreaty, rage, gratitude, complaint, even adoration.

Twelve-year-old Fumi Tanaka has a problem – her beautiful and beloved older sister, Sumiko, has disappeared. Determined to find her, Fumi enlists the help of her new classmate Aya, forcibly repatriated with her father from Canada after the war. Together, they write to MacArthur and deliver their letter into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese-American GI whose job it is to translate the endless letters.

Before reading The Translation of Love by Lynne Kutsukake, I had no idea about post-war Japan’s American occupation. I had even traveled to Japan, so I don’t know how I missed the enormity of the changes that occurred in Japan during the period of occupation. Continue reading “The Translation of Love [Book Review]”