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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Anthills of the Savannah, 1987, Chinua Achebe ****

"Anthills of The Savannah" is Chinua Achebe's sixth published work I have read so far. In my opinion, if  this prolific writer was born in a different era, he would have written differently. He did not write for the sake of writing instead he wrote because he felt the dire need to put into writing the history and need of his own people through their own eyes. The Europeans who wrote about Africans at that time simply glorified themselves. Hence, writing was his weapon to fight against all sort of oppression and repression, be it colonial or military dictatorship. As a matter of fact, most of his writings are some sort of codified messages. He always wants one to think and reflect in order to reach their own conclusion. So, he breaks it down in stories, which makes it easier to grasp. Late Chinua Achebe (to me) was a revolutionary and philanthropic writer.

"Anthills of the Savannah" is another work of his that narrates on the dictatorship and suppression of human rights of an invented state, I believe to be Nigeria. Three childhood friends that thought they were the three musketeers; Sam, Chris and Ikem. Chris left his position as the editor in chief of the national newspaper to help his friend Sam set up a government he headed following a coup d'état. Ikem the poet and the most literary of the three, took up Chris' position because he (Chris) was promoted to Commissioner for Information. As the story unfolds, Sam's power went right to his head and he became paranoid, Chris was fully aware that this political circus was not what he bargained for; nonetheless, he preferred to bask in the glow and comfort of his political position. Ikem did what he knew best,  write and give lectures in order to open the people's eyes but the people were not ready to open their eyes. Almost everyone in Kangan was corrupt to the core with a complete distortion of reality and motivated by self-interest. Here are some interesting quotes from the novel that kind of sum up what I meant.
"Agatha who was so free with leaflets dripping with the saving blood of Jesus and yet had no single drop of charity in her own anaemic blood"
"Charity, he thundered is the opium of the privileged;.....While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary".
The beginning of the novel was not an easy read, maybe a bit too political? I read and re-read just to make sure I was getting it clear. However, if you manage to go pass that, there is a whole lot of political tension, intrigue and love story to enjoy. Mind you, it is a serious adult read that was  nominated for the 1987 Man Booker Prize. I recommend to all lovers of politics, history and most importantly all lovers of Chinua Achebe's writings like me.

*His other novels I have read are Things fall apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, The Education of a British Protected Child, A Man of the People

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

VikariouzlyTME: Mary Okeke: Reader, Blogger, Traveler, Super Woma...

I am more than happy to be featured in Vikariouzly TIME, please click on the link below to read more. VikariouzlyTME: Mary Okeke: Reader, Blogger, Traveler, Super Woma...: It has been a while since I did a feature post. But today, I am delighted to do a feature post on someone I think is extraordinary. ...

Monday, 8 December 2014

Lyrics Alley, 2010, Leila Aboulela ****

Mahmoud Bey, fallen out of love with his first wife, Waheeba, brought in to his traditional Sudanese household a beautiful Egyptian woman as his second wife. Filing for divorce would have been best before marrying for the second time, however, he decided not to. Perhaps, it was because of the two sons he has with her (Waheeba)? Nassir and Nur. Though, Nassir was hopeless and Nur who was assumed would take up the family business ended up helpless.
Mahomoud Bey's brother, Idris with whom he lives and runs the family business, is widowed with three daughters. His first daughter was barely mentioned, the second daughter, Fatima, married her (hopeless) cousin Nassir, while Soraya was informally betrothed to his cousin Nur, everyone's favourite until calamity befell him.

As you can see "Lyrics Alley" narrates the story of a wealthy Sudanese family striving against all odds to live up to their reputation. Keeping up with old tradition and culture that shows little or no regard for women. Even though, their younger generation were singing a different tune.

I discovered Leila Aboulela through her short stories, she has a somewhat intimate way of narrating. I went ahead and read Minaret and really enjoyed it. I cannot say the same for Lyrics Alley. It is not a family saga, not even close to it, it is simply a very well written love story that unfolded in a family setting. Do not be deceived with the family tree at the beginning of the novel (which helped). Nonetheless, there is no dramatic metamorphosis, it is more or less a 300 pages novel. I recommend.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Boy Next Door, 2009, Irene Sabatini ****

I finished reading this novel in the month of August, I couldn't write my review then because I was engulfed by our wedding preparations.

The Boy Next Door caught my interest because it was by an African writer but most importantly because it won the Orange Prize for New Writers in 2010. Consequently, I thought it was going to be a great read. I was not wrong. After all, one of my favourite novels "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007.
Irene Sabatini debut novel is not simply about the boy next door, it is mainly about the coming of age of Lindiwe in a deteriorating  and divided Zimbabwe. Its citizens paralysed with fear and nervousness, ready to crack apart any moment soon. To make matters worse, she fell in love with a white boy (the boy next door) who was accused of murder. I crossed my fingers and wished that their love survived in their constantly disintegrating country plagued with racism and corruption. Did it? You would have to read the novel in order find out.

Irene Sabatini did a fantastic job with her debut novel. Believe it or not, writing is an art not everyone can master. So, being her first novel, she really impressed. No wonder she won the Orange Prize. Well done Irene. I took pleasure in reading "The Boy Next Door", somewhat reminded me of Americanah. I recommend. Though, bear in mind it was a long read 400+ pages.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Where is Mary Okeke?

I know.. I know...I have been missing in action for a while. I apologise for my prolonged absence. The reason, obviously was because I have not been reading that much. I have been so busy planning my (graceful) wedding that reading dropped off my radar. Believe it or not, it was incredibly time consuming, especially with a full time job and other daily activities to take care of. 
Well, the good news is, we returned from honeymoon yesterday and fortunately, I have started reading again. I promise to write you in details (with pictures) about the whole planning process, I will be doing so in a different blog called Charmingyellow since Mary Okeke Reviews is exclusively for my reading reviews. So, stay tuned for my wedding reviews in Charmingyellow and Book reviews in Mary Okeke Reviews. I look forward to hearing from you.

My kindest regards,
Mary.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Solitude Issue of Saraba Magazine

Saraba Magazine is excited to share the newest issue of the magazine published with the theme of “Solitude.” This forty-page issue includes poems by Saddiq Dzukogi, Olajide Salawu, Rasaq Gbolahan, Ajoke, Paul Njoroge, Kechi Nomu, Sihle Ntuli, Ekweremadu Uchenna, Yusuff Omoloja, Mathias Orhero and Freeman David. There are short story contributions by Efe Paul, Iquo Eke, Adebola Rayo, and Dare Falowo, as well as a nonfiction piece by Arthur Anyaduba.

From the Publishers’ Note:

“How do we contemplate solitude?

“With silence, hands cradling chin, eyes staring into space in an empty room without articles of interest, an atmosphere of quotidian existence of devotion to matters of the heart?

Find here a cache of short poems and short stories by promising writers from Africa, writing in Africa. Follow them as they grapple with different phases of solitude: from avulsion of romantic partners to a search for solitude that leads to a brief stint in a mental institution. And in your solitary experience, while you grasp at the realities of others, ask yourself what it means to be alone.”

Saraba Magazine is one of the leading literary journals in Nigeria, publishing the work of emerging writers within the country and across the African continent. Our focus is on quality writing that shows immense promise and we often publish writers in the earliest stages of their career. As increased attention is drawn towards contemporary African writing, Saraba offers its readers a unique perspective by promoting the work of writers who have been published little or not at all. The website contains a growing repository of fiction, poetry, essays and interviews by writers based in and outside Nigeria.

Founded in 2009, Saraba has published sixteen magazine issues and six poetry chapbooks. All of this can be downloaded for free on the website as PDFs.

To read the stories, poems, and essay related to the theme, please visit http://www.sarabamag.com/the-solitude-issue/ to download a copy of the issue.

For enquiries, please write Adaudo, Saraba’s Managing Editor at editor@sarabamag.com.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Three Strong Women, 2012, Marie Ndiaye **

Obviously, this novel narrates the story (ordeal) of three women with immigration background in common.  The story started off with Norah. Abandoned by her father who kidnapped her little brother and made her mother go insane. Many years later after seeing her self through school with difficulty, she gave heed to her father's request to do him a favour since she was a lawyer. Seriously? After his psychological abuse and manipulation, you are going back to him? Not just that, he still makes you wet your pants in public? What is more, she is in a relationship with a man she strongly believes to be a failure. Are you kidding me? Why not just leave those that inflict suffering and pain instead of complaining all day long? Truth be told I do not find anything strong about Norah. Her actions and choices were simply annoying.
Secondly, Fanta, whom I did not get to meet, rather, I met her loser of a husband, Rudy Decas, with an itchy anus. Who would not stop blabbing about his misery. I stopped half way, could not put up with him.
Lastly, was Khady, the saddest of them all. Wretched and naive she was. Lost her husband who loved and appreciated her, moved in with her in-laws, who later on sent her away on a road journey to Europe where she let fate decide her destiny.

This novel was such an underwhelming and disappointing experience. The writing style left me unengaged, not sure who to blame, the writer? Or the translator? Since the novel was originally written in French. I was expecting a mind-blowing read and not unjustified pain and misery. Again, the title was downright misleading, though, after reading, one can easily guess that the writer was being ironic. Should I recommend? Unless you want more understanding of what I am talking about. Finally, I wonder what the standards are, by which prizes are awarded to novels.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cloth Girl, 2006, Marilyn Heward Mills ***

Cloth Girl is a novel set in Gold Coast today's Ghana, during the end of the British colony. Innocent fourteen-year-old Matilda, caught the eye of Robert Bannerman. A prestigious black lawyer from an important family, who knew that the only way he could have Matilda is making her his wife. Since he was already married, he made her his second wife by their tradition. Poor Matilda had no idea what was happening to her neither had she control over her life and somewhat lived in a state of confusion. Nevertheless, her family members were so excited to be associated with the Bannermans. They couldn't care less.
On the other side of the colony Audrey, a British lady was on the verge of madness as she discovered that the Gold Coast was not a place for her. However, she could not take her courage in both hands and leave without her husband. Fortunately, her meeting with Matilda changed the course of her destiny. In their meeting each other, Matilda also came to discover the actual meaning of love, as well as realising that she, in fact, does not feel anything for her husband. Though at that time she had already borne him five children (there around). Will she deny her fate and surrender to real love?

Cloth Girl was not a novel that swept me off my feet, I just have this feeling that something was lacking, I cannot pinpoint what exactly it was. Perhaps, the novel should have been shorter, perhaps the author should have just concentrated on the life of Matilda and her surroundings and not Audrey who was more often than not, inebriated. Perhaps... perhaps. It was an acceptable but not outstanding read, anyway. According to my fellow blogger Nana Fredua-Agyeman, he said  
"This is a book I would highly recommend to all those who love to read and all those who enjoyed Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood".
Please click here to read his review on this novel. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta is my favourite novel and in my opinion far enjoyable than Cloth Girl. Have you read both novels? What is your opinion?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

2014 Spring Read Progress (SpRP)

This year has been quite a busy one, I have not been reading as much as I would have loved to because I got my mind on other events going on in my life at the moment. I am not trying to give excuses, I wish I could help it. However, I promise to fill you in with details concerning the circumstances. Coincidentally, it happens to be that I am also reading book with almost or over five hundred pages. I just finished Cloth Girl by Marilyn Heward Mills, which took me more than two weeks to read through.
Furthermore, I did not even celebrate my second anniversary with you, 22nd of May. I  apologise. As already said, I am extremely busy at the time being. Although, no matter what the excuses, I promise to be as constant as possible.

What did I read in the Spring of 2014?

       

     

The picture above is me in Montseny a biosphere reserve on the coastal hills of my city, click here  for more info. So far this year, I have only read ten books with a total of 2711 pages. Please click here to see my Winter Read Progress.

What about you? have you read any of the novels mentioned above? Have you heard about them before? Or did you find out about them on my blog? How is your reading progress so far this year? I hope that it is better than mine. I look forward to hearing from you.

Reading must go on!

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Consequences of Love, 2008, Sulaiman Addonia ****

When war erupted in Eritrea, Naser's mum had to smuggle her children out of the country to a "supposedly" safe Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia with their uncle, while she stayed behind. Few years later, Naser was kicked out of his uncle's house. He was accused of being an apostate. Quite hypocritical on his uncle's behalf, since he sexually offered his nephew to their Kafeel. As I learnt from the novel, Kafeel is a sponsor, all immigrants in Saudi Arabia has to be sponsored by a Saudi. The Kafeel system gives full control to the Saudis over the lives of the foreigners they sponsor. They have the power to withhold the passports of those under their control and deport them whenever they choose. So, you could imagine what such hierarchy involves.
As Naser was abandoned by his uncle in the streets of Jeddah, he went through circumstances where he was sexually exploited. Which, was even justified by his perpetrator...
"My dear, in a world without women and in the absence of female glamour, boys like you are the perfect substitute. Why hide your attractiveness and your tender physique like a veiled woman? You are the closest my customers have to a beautiful and sensual person roaming freely in their world"
Fortunately, he managed to fall in love with a veiled woman in a country where falling in love is a crime, where lovers stand the chance of being lashed in public or stoned to death. In "The Consequences of Love" you will find out how a love affair unfolds in a society as oppressed as  Saudi Arabia.

This novel was narrated through the eyes of a young adult, a twenty year old Naser, meaning that the narrative was rather simple, though the content was deep and most of the times troubling. I almost stopped reading because of the revolting images it conjured up. Men are forced to quench their sexual desire with young boys, since their women are under the veil. Sometime, this include sexual exploitation and abuse of young immigrants from war-torn countries.

I recommend, especially if you would like to know how a love story unfolds in a sexually oppressed society.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Mary Okeke Reviews listed as one of 10 African literature rich spaces online

I am so pleased, delighted and excited to announce that James Murua named Mary Okeke Reviews as one of 10 African literature rich spaces online. Please, visit his blog to read more and to also discover other amazing spaces promoting African literature with so much zeal, including his. It goes with out saying that I am happy to be one of them. Click here to read more.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

By The Sea, 2001, Abdulrazak Gurnah ****

Old and weary Saleh Omar, find himself seeking asylum in England. 
"How much danger is your life really in? Do you realise what you're doing? Whoever persuaded you to do this is not doing you any favours, let me tell you that....You'll be lonely and miserable and poor, and when you fall ill there'll be no one to look after you. Why didn't you stay in your own country, where you could grow old in peace? This is a young man's game, this asylum business, because it is really, just looking for jobs and prosperity in Europe and all, isn't it? There is nothing moral in it, just greed. No fear of life and safety just greed. Mr. Shaaban, a man of your age should know better."
The immigration officer had no idea what Saleh Omar had been through. He did not that the man before him, in the last eleven years, had always been at the brink of loosing his life. Torn down by the consequences of dictatorship and a long drawn-out family drama that has just began to unravel. Actually, that began to unravel when he met Latif Mahmud with whom he is (mischievously) related to. There, before them, the story of their past began to unfold. The story of love, lost, betrayal, inheritance and possession that transpired during the independence transition of their country that ended up in a disaster.
Latif Mahmud who thought that Saleh Omar's has come all the way from Zanzibar to England to laugh in his face, to tell him that not only was he able to dispossess his (Latif's) father of their family houses but also he was brave enough to steal his name and seek asylum. However, he was mistaken. It has got nothing to do with pride nor bravery this time, Sale Omar knows better. It is all over, now it is a matter of survival and finding peace of mind.
"By The Sea" is a novel that narrates on a family dilemma many years later when most of the family members are dead or missing. One gets to understand that most of the time in life there is no guilty or not guilty, we are just responsible for our acts.
I am so excited to add another writer to my list of Favourite Writers, I am aware I have to read more of his works in order to completely make up my mind. However, I am hopeful that they would be as poetic and entertaining as "By The Sea", which was an engaging read. Quite a complicated story it was to narrate on since many characters were involved; nevertheless, Gurnah wrote it in a way that would leave you without a shadow of a doubt. This novel is a good example of the meaning of being a good writer and having a strong story to tell. Unfortunately, both characteristic do not always go hand in hand.

Abdulrazak Gurnah was born in Zanzibar, a Tanzanian writer whose work has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. At the moment, he is a professor at the University of Kent. By the way, my first read from Tanzania.

I highly recommend.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

#BringBackOurGirls

Thank you my sister and friend Adaobi Nkeokelonye for letting me use your essay on my blog. It expresses how I feel with respect to the not so recent tragedy that plagued our home country, Nigeria. How dare they try to turn a blind eye! Hopefully they will bring back our girls, daughters, sisters and friends alive. We want our girls back!

Many nights have gone and you are not home. The other me seems lost, lost because you are not here.   At first I tried to think it will be for a day, but one day passed, then another and another. Many nights have followed, you are still not here. Sometimes Mama thinks it was your voice she just heard, we still hear your giggle and imagine your young and beautiful frame swaying around the house in colourful African prints. Time and time again, we gaze on the side of the bed where you sleep, on your favourite little wooden chair where you sit, hoping you will just appear on them in a flash. Your clothes are here, but you are not. These days I inhale their smell, I grab your dresses close to my nostrils, hoping to cling to your smell which lingers in my head but is now disappearing for lack of your touch. But how can this be? How could you go with the night? Women and girls were never taught to befriend the night. Oh, how you cried dear little sister? Even now I hear your cry piercing the forest as you are being forced in the cold black night?  I am hurting; we are broken, because while men slept, the enemies came and snatched you all away.

In the days you have been gone, it was as though the leaders did not care. I had wondered what calibre of leaders sleep sound when children especially daughters are not home by midnight? What father or husband waits for weeks to calm a broken wife, mother or sibling? Just when did protection elude our daughters? When did they become endangered species?

But then morning came and leaders are wiping away the comfort of yesterday of their eyes. Since then, you have become one thread that runs through humanity. The world is enraged, the social media is in frenzy, #bringbackourgirls, #bringbackourdaughters, #wewantourgirlsback is the loud cry everywhere. You have gained more brothers and sisters of different race, tongue, lands and clime. Our women are willing to march naked into the forest to bring you home, people who know not your name, your faces nor your life before now have showed they care. Nations and leaders of the world are offering their hand to pull you out of captivity. Yet in all of this, one thing is clear, as a nation, our battle is between us.

I am sorry that our fathers could not at least afford you the uncivil security we had years ago. In my teenage years, violence was music on the street but not the loudest, girls were not missing and our boys were neither slaughtered. But life is changing and our days are fast turning into night. These changes have altered your lives forever. Far from the city, deep in the forest where men dread to go, not because of the wild animals, but for the fear of wild humans who dine on human blood and glory in trading innocent girls is where you are now. We are not afraid you will be attacked by lions and wild animals; we are troubled that these men with their misplaced rage will leave you with scars that will traumatize you daily.

I know not all your faces but I know you look like me. I feel your pain; it is becoming so long, so strong and so visible that I want to cut it quickly with a knife.  Your captors are killers; they stink with blood on their hands, anger blows through them, they fight with everything in the name of their angry god. Perhaps in trying to reinforce dominance, they will violate your will and desecrate your deepest recess. With force, they will try to inject shame into you. Dear Sisters, never accept shame, for this shame is eternally theirs and not yours. They may cut your dignity and self-esteem and slice them apart, but still, come home so that we will stitch them back together.

I imagine that your hearts are roving the wide forest landscape each sleepless night wondering what Papa and Mama are doing, wondering if the world cared to rescue you all from the rusty chains of your kidnappers.  You ask yourself, do they hear when we cry? The other you feel lost, the part that was free. Day after day, your faith in freedom is nibbled away but please do not lose hope. Dear little sisters, they may be more than you now but they are not more than all of us.

You are not lost, remember that. Unknown to you, your captivity has made you silent revolutionaries. Yes I hear the sound of the coming storm. Your roaring captivity is gathering the storm of revolution. It is my hope that your freedom will be an epoch for dusting our society of despair.When finally this day comes, I hope it will be the epoch for the future where our daughters are safe again, where our bodies are ours again, where the daylight and the nights are kinder to us.

For now, we stand anxious, firm and hopeful at the gates of freedom. We wait for you to arrive and run into our waiting arms.  We wait to lead you home to the safety of your warm beds again. Until then, every night, I will send you myrrh to heal your bruises, aches and sprain with a prayer that if hell exists, then to your captors, I wish the devil’s speed, a high speed to the hottest recess of its inferno.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Mary Okeke in Africa Positive

I am incredibly excited to announce that I was featured in Africa Positive Number 53. 2014. A quarterly publication in German that writes about positive news about Africa that do not make it in the mainstream German media. Thanks to Ann Wanjiku who did the interview. We discussed mainly about my motivation to start reviewing African Literature, response I get from writers, African Institutions and publishing houses. If it is a full time job and if I do charge for my services. I felt so much at ease talking with Ann Wanjiku, that we discussed at length even about other issues that were not strictly African Literature.
A week ago I was sent a couple of copies of the published magazine, even though I do not speak nor understand German, I am so happy to have them. If you understand German I strongly recommend you get your copy of Africa Positive or visit www.africa-positive.de to find out more about them and subscribe.


I have also been featured in Come-To-Nigeria Magazine, Voice Write Africa, La Plume Burundaise. I am so happy and more than grateful.
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