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Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Rant on Representation of African Immigration Experience in Literature

After reading Amy's Misrepresentations in Literature, if you have not, please click here and here, I decided  to write about the representation of the African Immigration Experience in contemporary African Literature. Perhaps, it is because I read "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie right after reading "We Need New Names" by Noviolet Bulawayo. Both of which, have African characters who were struggling to survive and fit in the American culture. Taking on jobs they dreamt unworthy of in the U.S.A., at some point resorting to sexual encounters in order to make ends meet. As well as, trying to Americanize their accents by mimicking in front of a mirror or devouring American series on line and television. Following that, comes the feeling of disappointment, self-loss, cultural clash, depression maybe? And, finally, a new being would be born. It is all just so clichéd. Do not get me wrong, the novels were extremely engaging, page-turners  that I wholeheartedly recommend.

However, my question is, is there a single (African) immigrant experience? U.K and U.S.A are always in the spotlight, and making it seem like they are the only countries Africans emigrate to and as if we all go through the same settling in process. Hence, assuming that there is only one (African) immigrant experience. I know fully well it (African immigration in U.K and U.S.A) is a fact , and I am in no way trying to dismiss nor downplay its existence and importance. I am simply stating that the (African) immigration is a uni-personal experience and should neither be generalized nor stereotyped. The only similarity is the fact that each person involved in the process left their home country to settle in another; which in time, might end up becoming theirs or not. The rest is highly individualistic and will continue to surprise us.

What is your opinion about this topic?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

We Need New Names, 2013, Noviolet Bulawayo ****

"We Need New Names" by Noviolet Bulawayo was a compelling read. A fast moving first person narrative through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl, Darling, in Zimbabwe. Her life was smooth sailing until her house was demolished, and had to move in with her family to a slum called Paradise. A contradiction in terms, indeed.
Life in Paradise was not bad after all, she made friends: Bastard, pregnant Chipo (though she was only 11), Sbho, Stina and Godknows, with whom she aimlessly roamed the richer neighbourhood in tatters, searching for ripe guavas to steal in order to assuage their hunger. Going to school was out of the question, since all of the teacher have emigrated to neighbouring countries for better pay cheque. What is more, International Aid was their main source of survival. 
As the story unfolds, things went from bad to worse and, fortunate Darling managed to join her aunt in the United States of America. Where she found herself subdued in a cultural conflict, self-loss, missing all she had left behind. Even though, her home country was a scene of abject poverty.

An entertaining read. Though, at first, I was wondering why all the Prizes. However, in the end, I came to realise that it is one special book, whose story clung on for a while after reading. Realistic characters, though, with names that weren't the norm. Additionally, I found something intrinsically despairing with Darling's narrative,  helplessly voicing out her opinions about the world she lives in. The writing style flows easily. It is just amazing how the writer emulated a child in such circumstances.

Noviolet Bulawayo is a talented writer, I am so confident that she would write even better novels in the future. Her first novel is a 2013 Man Booker Prize Nominee, 2013 Guardian First Book Award Nominee, 2013 Winner of Etisalat Prize for Literature and  2014 Pen/Hemmingway Award so far.
Finally, big thank you to the MS/HS library for lending me an electronic copy after I persuaded them to buy one.

I recommend.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

2014 Winter Read Progress (WRP)

This year Winter Read Progress is not what  I should be proud of. Even though, I did not publicly set myself any reading challenge, I need to keep the ball rolling. I merely read six novels compared to the ten I read this time last year. 2013 Winter Read Progress. I wish it could have been better. As an avid reader, nevertheless, in my defence, I must confess that I have literally been too busy with a lot going on in my personal life that deterred me from reading as much as I would have loved to. All the same, for the time being, I have read more than a 1500 pages. Which, in my opinion is not bad at all.


        

  

I also read up to page 287 of "Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote" by Ahmadou Kourouma, which I couldn't finish because I felt totally detached from the story. There is a lot going on in it and all at the same time, and the writing style is not what I would call superb. Perhaps, it is just me not the novel, though I am reading a translated version. I might as well get back to it when I gather enough strength. Have you read it? If so, what was your impression?

 

Where did I visit and read? Actually, I did not travel much this winter, I only visited Andorra and just skied and rested and skied. Nothing else.
Furthermore, with regards to my WRP, I read a little bit across the continent; Cameroon, Nigeria, Maurtius, Zimbabwe (twice) and Côte d'Ivoire. Of which, two were African Writers Series, a Commonwealth Writer Prize Winner and lastly a 2013 Man Booker Prize Nominee and 2013 winner of Etisalat Prize for Literature.

Below are links to the books' review
What about you? How was your reading experience in the last trimestre, I hope it was better than mine. I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Reads
Read African Literature.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Hangman's Replacement, 2013, Taona Dumisani Chiveneko ***

This is one difficult novel to review. It started off with the wretched Abel Muranda being interviewed for a Hangman's position in the city of Harare. A hilarious one. The poor man was only interested in the job because it meant free health care for him and his family. However, there were people who thought that such position weren't meant for loyal and honest men like him. On the other hand, some others also thought he was just the perfect candidate. From there on, the story started to unfold peculiarly, with many characters involved; lawyers, judges, scientist and most importantly a carnivorous flame lily and the gallows. Interestingly, it seems a person in the dark was manipulating the whole situation to his own interest.

In my opinion, lots of effort was put into writing this novel, you can tell that the writer is full of imagination. I have never read a novel with that many characters. However, it felt more like a movie, which I think it is a story that would rather be more interesting seen than read due to its complexity.

Additionally, I am so glad to read about a totally different topic by an African writer, some sort of science fiction (actually not) futuristic novel I must confess. Sometimes humorous and thrilling.  I'd recommend if you are looking for a completely out-of-the-ordinary read by an African writer. Also, keep in mind , it's almost 500 pages, which took me a while to read.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to  Taona for sending me a  copy of your novel to read and to review, I truly appreciate.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Reading African Writers Series

Here is another undeclared challenge of mine, to read all  novels in African Writers Series. The AWS founded in 1962 with Late Chinua Achebe as editor, are books written by African Writers published under Heinemann. Click here and here for more info.
There are around 300 published AWS so far, however, I have only read 13 of them. Below are they. The numbers in brackets are their corresponded number in the AWS, the ones without, I am not sure of. 
What about you? Are you interested in reading novels in the AWS? What is your opinion about it? 

Friday, 28 February 2014

The Rape Of Sita, 1993, Lindsey Collen ****

Evidently, this novel narrates on the "Rape of Sita"; however it is not just the "Rape of Sita" per se. It is also, essentially, about the oppression of the Mauritians during the British colonization.
A story about the struggle of generations of Mauritians to regain their freedom and peace of mind from the scourge of colonization. Sita was one woman determined to be part of that history. Although, she was raped by a family friend under weird circumstances. The story is mainly based on how she moved along without doubting her own integrity. How she survived such terrible experience in a society where everyone else is mentally raped.
"The Rape of Sita"  was told through the voice of a male character, who knows Sita so well; I assume, since he narrated on the incident in detail. Though, he was not involved in committing the offense. Additionally, he tends to address the reader directly, which could be a pet hate.
"Here is the first dilemma, dear reader. Should she have gone to the Seychelles at all? Can a person know what will happen as a result of this decision to go to a conference?"
I guess readers should have the liberty to reach their own conclusion without being constantly asked to take a minute to reflect on a particular issue. Again, I am sure the writer purposely wanted to narrate her story that way. Apart from that, it is a novel poetically and beautifully written, no gory details of the horrific event. I recommend.
I came across it because it is part of my Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa Region Winners Reading Challenge. It won the 1994 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: Best Book, Africa. And I must say that it deserves the Prize. First novel ever read set in Mauritius.
Linsey Collen, born in South Africa is known as a Mauritian novelist whose works have twice won the Commonwealth Writers Prize as Best Book Africa.

Furthermore, another novel I have read that primarily narrates on rape is Lucky by Alice Sebold, a non-fiction. Quite a troubling read, indeed. However, rape in "The Rape of Sita" was approached in a totally different way.
Finally, I'd recommend you read A Rant on Misrepresentation of Rape in Literature by Amy on Amy Reads, one blogger, whose posts I follow often. Though, I must say that "The Rape of Sita" do not belong to any of the three categories mentioned in the post.

Please, let me know your thoughts if you've read this novel.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Books, New Releases 2

I called this post Books, New Releases 2 because there is already another post of mine with title Books, New Releases.
New books to look out for in 2014, some are already published, some will be out soon.


After reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah I fell in love with him and he became to me an inspirational figure. So, he's published a new book, the one you see above. Below from US.Macmillian.com
At the center of Radiance of Tomorrow are Benjamin and Bockarie, two longtime friends who return to their hometown, Imperi, after the civil war. The village is in ruins, the ground covered in bones. As more villagers begin to come back, Benjamin and Bockarie try to forge a new community by taking up their former posts as teachers, but they’re beset by obstacles: a scarcity of food; a rash of murders, thievery, rape, and retaliation; and the depredations of a foreign mining company intent on sullying the town’s water supply and blocking its paths with electric wires. As Benjamin and Bockarie search for a way to restore order, they’re forced to reckon with the uncertainty of their past and future alike.

With the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable, Radiance of Tomorrow is a powerful novel about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times.
Readers really like it on Goodreads doing well on Amazon too. Perhaps, not yet as good as his memoir. All the same I look for to setting my hands on it.



I have been wanting to read Okey Ndibe's first novel Arrow of Rain, very well rated on Goodreads: 
A young woman runs into the sea and drowns. The last man who spoke to her, the curious individual known as Bukuru, is asked to account for the suicide. His shocking revelations land him in court. Alone and undefended, Bukuru has to calculate the cost of silence in the face of stories which must be told.
Though, I have not had the opportunity to lay my hands on it. And he's published his second novel "Foreign Gods INC" very well rated on Goodreads and Amazon too. Click here to visit his official website.

I look forward to reading his books.



Chris Abani published his latest novel last month January 2014. From Amazon:
Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin. Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.
His only novel I have read so far is  "GraceLand" which I really enjoyed. His latest novel is very well rated on Goodreads and Amazon. I also look forward to reading it. Click here to visit his official website. Click here to see and hear him talking on Ted about " Telling stories from Africa" and here "On humanity".



Above is a new novel by Ben Hinson, an author of Ghanaian/Nigerian descent, based in New York City. He's been working on this project for the past 5 years. A gritty piece of literary/historical fiction based on mercenary activity in Africa, Asia, the United States and England during the Cold War era and the 1990s. Which will be available later this year (2014). Please click here for more info.

What about you? Do you look forward to reading any new  books published this year?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Man of the People, 1966, Chinua Achebe ****

"A Man of the People" written in the first person narrative is about the selfishness of politicians in a society rife with corruption. And its consequences.
Mr. Nanga has been  Odili's teacher sixteen years or so before he went into politics and became Chief the Honourable M. A Nanga, MP "the most approachable politician in the country....., a man of the people".
During one of his political tour in his village, they met again and Nanga used the opportunity to invite Odili to his house in the city. In Chief Nanga's house, Odili discovered, with evidence, that his ex-teacher was involved in a lot of unethical political practices. Abuse of power and authority. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, Chief Nanga was an unscrupulous politician who was ready to do anything for his advancement. He, in fact, never cared for the people, even if he was referred to as "a man of the people". However, Odili, his guest observed, took advantage when he could but never questioned his methods until it was his turn to suffer the consequences. As a result, he retaliated and swore vengeance.
"What mattered was that a man had treated me as no man had a right to treat another - not even if he was a master and the other a slave; and my manhood required that I make him pay for his insult in full measure. In flesh and blood terms."
Hence, began his plan to carry out his revenge on  Chief Nanga as the country was in the throes of reaching a boiling point that erupted in coup d'état.

This is one beautiful and  realistic novel by my late townsman, Chinua Achebe. A satirical novel about the pathetic state of many African countries right after independence from the Europeans. An easy, enjoyable and interesting read, some times funny; though, sad. What really bothers me is that things like this still take place today. So said, I highly recommend.

It goes without saying that  Chinua Achebe is one of my favourite writers, I hope to get to read all of his works. He is a genius and I love him. Lastly, this is part of my (undeclared) challenge on reading all of the African Writers Series (hopefully).

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Houseboy, 1960, Ferdinand Oyono ***

Houseboy as the title says is the story of a houseboy called Toundi. During the colonial period in Cameroon, he left his parents to work as a domestic male servant for the white men in his village. From one household to another he narrated his experience in form of a diary.
Firstly, he was fascinated by the European way of life; although, gradually, he came to realise that all that glitters was not gold. He saw how the white men patronised and dehumanise his fellow villagers. As a result, he started finding fault with the principles of the "so called" Europeans. Which, unambiguously, led to his downfall.
"Everybody told his own little African story to refute him and demonstrate that the African is a child or a fool....."
In one occasion his adulterous madam once told him
"....you are a conscientious worker... but you haven't got that joy one finds in African workers... You  give the impression that you are doing a houseboy's job while waiting for something else to come along"
Worst of all, Christianity was their perfect weapon to indoctrinate Africans. The same Madam asked Toundi to start forming a family since they were paying him enough. He  replied.
"Perhaps, Madame, but my wife and children will never be able to eat and dress like Madame or like white children"
She replied
"Oh dear, you are getting big ideas. You must be serious. Everyone has their position in life. You are a houseboy, my husband is Commandant... nothing can be done about it. You are a Christian, aren't you"
Another incident was:
"It was terrible. I thought of all the priests, all the pastors, all the white men, who came to save our souls and preach love of our neighbours. Is the white man's neighbour only the white men? Who can go on believing the stuff we are served up in the churches when things happen like I saw today..."
This was not a novel I thoroughly enjoyed; however I recommend it if you want an insight into (pre) colonial Africa. It is as well part of the African Writers Series, click here for more info. Please bear in mind that the novel was originally written in French, in case you might want to read the original version.

My first novel read in 2014, lets see how my reading goes this year. No pressure, please.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Reading the Ceiling, 2007, Dayo Forster **

This novel is a narrative on the three different outcome of the life of Ayodele depending on whom she had her first sexual intercourse with.
The first was with Reuben, she ended up leaving him when she left for abroad to study. Later on, she jumped into a couple of other relationship where her heart was broken. At last, she eventually married a man her father's age. She kind of wanders aimlessly.
The second was with Yuan, her class mate, with whom she madly fell in love. Though, he died a tragic death, that, again shattered Ayodele's heart.
Thirdly, she got pregnant as a teenager. As a result, her relationship with her mother fell apart. For that reason, she left home and in the long run became second wife to her rich boss.

In my opinion, Dayo Forster is somewhat talented in creative writing; however, I wonder what is the use of having a talent in creative writing if you cannot narrate engagingly. I dragged myself through this novel for a whole month. Quite unbelievable, considering the fact that I am a voracious reader. To cut a long story short, it was a dull reading experience.
With this I end my review on books read in 2013!

Happy Reading.

Monday, 20 January 2014

L’exemple de Mary Okeke by Thierry Manirambona

You all remember that Thierry Manirambona was the winner of the book giveaway I hosted on my blog. Please click here for more info. Well, he has received the book and wrote about it on his blog, please click here to read his very inspiring article. I am so glad to be an enlightenment in such a way. Now, I am even more inspired.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Woman at Point Zero, 1975, Nawal El Saadawi ****

Firdaus was born into a poverty- stricken family in Egypt, to an ignorant selfish father and a mother with a dubious identity. When both of them died, her uncle to whom she considered her only living relative, sexually took advantage of her while he enrolled her to secondary school. Sadly, after which, she was decided to be married out to an old widow, who also took his turn to abuse her. The situation became unbearable, she fled.
On the run, she met the owner of a coffee shop, who seems to be nice at first, until she asked to be self-sufficient. He found it outrageous; hence, started the physical, mental and sexual abuse towards Firdaus. Fortunately, once again, she managed to take to the hills.  Freedom regained, she met a woman who "out of kindness" employed her as a high class prostitute. Life turned out unpleasant, expectedly. She escaped.
From experience, she learnt that she could as well exploit her own body to her heart desire. Which, she did and made fortunes. One thing led to another, and in self-defence she killed a man. Eventually, she found herself locked up in women's prison waiting to be executed.

I could not believe that this story was a non-fiction, how can one woman be so misfortuned and brutalized by every single individual she ran into. In fact, it happened in Egypt, some time around the early 70s. It is a creative non-fiction narrated to Nawal El Saadawi during her research on neurosis in Egyptian women. This novel is a result of her encounter with a woman, Firdaus, in Qanatir Prison Egypt. There is no any other title that could have suited better than "Woman at Point Zero".

I am sure that this is no more the fate of the Egyptian women today, or so do I believe. Considering the fact that this was a reading experience that tore my heart out. This novel was originally written in Arabic and translated into English eight years later. The writing style is quite easy, perhaps sometimes repetitious. All the same, I recommend to adults only. Firdaus' story deserves to be read and known

Sunday, 12 January 2014

And The Mountains Echoed, 2013, Khaled Hosseini ***

You all remembered when I excitedly announced on the 10th of March 2013 that Khaled Hosseini's latest novel will be out soon. If not, please click here. Luckily, I came across the book in a library.
Abdullah and Pari are two siblings who live with their poor father, step mother and half brother, Iqbal. Pari was merely three years old when, out of poverty, was sold to a rich family in Kabul. Later on, she moved to Paris with the woman she thought to be her mother. In Paris, as events unfolded; she got married and had children. Flashes of her life come to her but she couldn't make them out because she left her brother when she was very young. Iqbal left Afghanistan to Pakistan as the war erupted. When he came back many years later with his son, he found out that a war lord had settled on his family land. He was left homeless. While, Abdullah left for California and did not connect with his sister until 50 years later more or less. And many more characters were linked in the story.
I guess the author was trying to narrate on the aftermath of the war that devastated Afghanistan, his country of origin. For instance: the difficulties and corruption involved in reclaiming a family land and problems displaced families face in reconnecting with their loved ones.

However, in my opinion, "And the Mountains Echoed" is nothing compared to Khaled's previous works. It should have been promoted as a collection of interlinked short stories, as simple as that, since none of the characters were completely developed. I was totally caught off balance wondering  why I was introduced to so many of them, who were, as a matter of fact, not bringing anything to the main story. At a certain point I felt an absence of meaning and content. I am sorry to say that this novel was somewhat all over the place.
All the same, Khaled Hosseini still writes beautifully, I couldn't expect less anyway. Again, I will like to add that since "The Kite Runner" was a best seller that made him (very) famous, we are all expecting him to provide us with a similar thrill. Perhaps, that was the problem.

Finally, I still like Khaled Housseini as a writer, I will still read any other book he writes in the future open-mindedly. Please, feel free to read this novel if it comes across your way.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Susan's Diary: The Kidnap Case, 2013, Karo Oforofuo ***

Please click here to read my review of part one if you missed it.
After the incident with Eric where Susan almost lost her precious life, she decided to be a good girl. She made up her mind to leave her old self behind and start helping people. No more being a hot chick. No more deals with big boys.
Five months later, on a busy rainy day, a guy called Jude walked up to her and asked for help. Two of his staff have been kidnapped and a 50 million naira ransome was needed. He wanted her to help him find them and Susan accepted out of compassion. From there on the whole story unfolded interestingly.
She discovered that one of the staff was in fact dead and not kidnapped as she was told, which made her find the case somewhat fishy. And once again her life was at stake.

In my opinion, part two of Susan's diary was not as enjoyable as part one. All the same, it is still interesting; you will find Susan in action; fighting, shooting and eventually falling in love. I recommend if you have read part one and liked it. The Kidnap Case is longer than Friday's experience, though, I found the latter more engaging.

Finally, please bear that inasmuch as I might like Susan she is not a role model.

Please click here to read my interview to Karo Oforofuo author of Susan's Diary

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

20 Best African Novels Must Read & Winner of Book Giveaway

These are my compilation of 20 Best African novels must read based on the novels I have read so far, in order of preference.
  1. The Joys of Motherhood, 1979, by Buchi Emecheta  
  2. Zenzele A letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire
  3. Neighbours, 1995, Lília Momplé
  4. Things Fall Apart, 1958, by Chinua Achebe 
  5. Half of a yellow sun, 2006, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. Women are Different, 1986, Flora Nwapa 
  7. Changes, A Love Story, 1991, by Ama Ata Aidoo 
  8. Kehinde, 1994, Buchi Emecheta
  9. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, 2007, Ishmael Beah 
  10. I Do Not Come to You by Chance, 2009, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani  
  11. Minaret, 2005, Leila Aboulela
  12. One is Enough, 1981, Flora Nwapa
  13. Diaries of a Dead African, 2003, Chuma Nwokolo, JR 
  14. Born In The Big Rains, 2004, Fadumo Korn
  15. Infidel, 2007, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  16. No Longer at Ease, 1960, by Chinua Achebe 
  17. Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night, 1991, Sindiwe Magona
  18. So Long A Letter, 1979, Mariama Bâ
  19. The Education of a Brtish-Protected Child, 2009, Chinua Achebe 
  20. The Palm-Wine Drinkard, 1952, Amos Tutuola


You now have your New Year Reading Challenge, do not hesitate to read them all. They are all page-turner, eye-opener and  entertaining.

Moreover, I hosted a Book Giveaway on the 15th of December 2013, please click here for more info. Six candidates participated from five different nationalities, American (U.S.A), Burudian, Ugandan, Portuguese and Nigerians.
I would like to annouce that the winner is Thierry Manirambona a Burundian that lives in Belgium, the novel will be dispatched to him tomorrow. I hope he enjoys it and shares his reading experience with us.

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous reading!
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