An Africa Day Collective

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.


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”

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]”

Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]

learn through fictionLast year I made an infographic for Black Dove, White Raven, and although it hardly interested as many readers as I had hoped, it was something I immensely enjoyed doing. So I am thrilled to share a new infographic, this time about Fiji and the novel I read, Kalyana by Rajni Mala Khelawan.

Spanning the early 1960s to more or less the present day, Kalyana tells the story of a young Indo-Fijian girl – her parents’ only daughter, and just a little spoiled. Continue reading “Learning Through Fiction: Fiji in “Kalyana” [+Infographic]”

Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw [Book Review]

25893705Writing an “issue book” for young adults can be dangerous. Writing an issue book that incorporates diversity and a non-Western setting can be disastrous. It can be shallow. It can be whitewashed. It can be a pity-party. It can be subtly racist. Issue books are hard to write because we all have unwitting biases, and they can reveal themselves in our writing, despite our very best intentions.

Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw is nothing like that.

Besides being teenage girls in Mumbai, Noor and Grace seemingly have nothing in common. Noor (which by the way is one of my favorite names!) is the eldest child of a prostitute. She was raised in the red-light district of Kamathipura. Education is her refuge, but she lives in constant fear of following the fate of her mother. Continue reading “Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw [Book Review]”

Book Review: Cambodia Noir

25814249Phnom Penh, Cambodia: the end of the line. Lawless, drug-soaked, forgotten—it’s where bad journalists go to die. For once-great war photographer Will Keller, that’s kind of a mission statement: he spends his days floating from one score to the next, taking any job that pays; his nights are a haze of sex, drugs, booze, and brawling. But Will’s spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful young woman who shows up and begs Will to help find her sister, June, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper.

* * * 

If Cambodia Noir were just another crime thriller, it would disappear back into the woodwork among the millions of other sex-drugs-rock-and-roll thrillers with fallible heroes and sultry women that could be turned into a generic B-grade action film. Continue reading “Book Review: Cambodia Noir”

Reading Lumikki Andersson, the Finnish girl-sleuth

Lumikki is a Finnish-Swedish high school student with a propensity for landing in the middle of trouble that has nothing to do with her. She is independent, talented, and a little bit of a BAMF. In the middle of the Finnish winter, she stumbles upon blood-stained money (literally) and can’t not get involved. A while later, during the Prague summer, she gets involved with a dangerous cult and – guess what – can’t NOT get involved.

The Lumikki Andersson books are the kind that are action-packed, but they do require the reader to suspend their disbelief a little. This high-schooler has a lot of skills with virtually no reliable origin for obtaining them (no secret KBG-training, for example). She is intelligent and manages to outwit police officers, drug bosses and big corporates who just clearly have not managed to gain any wisdom during their many years on earth. Continue reading “Reading Lumikki Andersson, the Finnish girl-sleuth”