Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

We had the pleasure of being present at the book launch held in London on 12th July as part of the Africa Writes line-up of events. We were not familiar with the concept/idea behind the novel, but our interest was perked by the author’s own spirited explanation behind the novel and how she had drawn on oral tradition to form it.

Without revealing too much, the novel is set in Uganda,  in ancient times (pre-colonial) and in the present day. The acts of their forefathers ripple through to the present in strange and different forms, at times blurring the lines between myth, belief and mental illness.

There is great wit, verve and turn of phrase in this novel, at times drawing the threads of the narrative together, at other times making us laugh. We really enjoyed this novel, and strongly urge you to try and locate a copy of it!

You can read more about the novel at the Kwani? Manuscript Project site.

Africa Writes Festival 11th July – 13th July 2014

Afrobyte will be attending Africa Writes, the literature and book festival held by the Royal African Society in partnership with the British Library. It will be held at the British Library, London, UK.

We are planning on being there for “Reclaiming the Feminine Voice” on Friday 11 July, but will be checking out various other events being held over the three days as well.

If you are thinking of going, make sure you check out the website africawrites.com. They also have a bookshop with a broad coverage of the spectrum, definitely worth checking out!

 

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

What can we say about the first volume of Maya Angelou’s biography that hasn’t been said before? It is excellent, emotional, uplifting, depressing and exceptional all at the same time. We hear about her growing up in Stamps, raised by her extremely religious grandmother alongside her brother Bailey whom she adores. We see through her eyes the turmoil of rape at a young age and the emotional scars that this leaves behind, but nonetheless does not defeat as she works to seek gainful employment in a racist society.

Maya Angelou’s honesty in her descriptions, both about the actions of others and those of her own ring true throughout. It is an autobiography that once read, will stick in your mind. With six additional autobiographies to take you through her life, the journey does not stop at the end of this work.

You can purchase this autobiography over at Amazon.co.uk: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

We Need New Names

This novel is about the experiences of a young girl, first set in Zimbabwe, and then covering the immigrant experience in the USA. In an interview with the Guardian, NoViolet Bulawayo explains that the inspiration for this novel came from seeing images of a young boy surrounded by rubble following a clean-up operation that was displacing a large number of people in Zimbabwe. This is set against the wider backdrop of the challenges faced by anyone residing in this country during the ’00s.

As a debut novel, it works extremely well. There is something particular about the immigrant experience of young children, the displacement they feel, the sometime partial assimilation of another’s culture and values, the homesickness and rose-tinted views – all of interest and it is great that Bulawayo has taken this topic in hand here.

You can check out an extract of the novel and the rest Bulawayo’s commentary on it at the Guardian website.

You can purchase this novel over at Amazon.co.uk: We Need New Names

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston’s work, whilst not entirely ignored at the time of publishing (it received both positive and negative reviews) in 1937, it would subsequently fall out of print until Alice Walker resurrected interested in Hurston’s canon of work with her article in Ms Magazine.

The novel follows the story of a young woman, who seeks out that ideal of love that she first witnessed a long time ago between bees and the pear tree. Her subsequent marriages and the lessons she learns from them are explained to us – from the first that treats her like a servant, the second who wants her as a trophy wife and the final one, Tea Cake, who involves her fully in his life and allows her to participate. The latter is also filled with emotion, with jealousy but also with the very love that she had been looking for.

The novel had been informed by Hurston’s own travels and experiences, in particular she brings to life the manner of speech of those times, and this makes it a particular treat to read. You are transported into the reality of life there.

In many respects this novel is a calling to the individual power we are all graced with, and by Janie enacting this as a black women, is particularly powerful to read. Although every single person she comes into contact with has an opinion on the way she lives her life, by the time Janie embarks on her journey with Tea Cake, she has come to realize that she only has one life to live, and she ought to live it the way she wants to in order to be happy – and ignore the naysayers.

We could say a lot more about the impact this novel has had on us, but we would like to encourage you to find out for yourself!

You can purchase this novel over at Amazon: Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel

Ghana Must Go


(from the Penguin website)

A stunning novel, spanning generations and continents, Ghana Must Go by rising star Taiye Selasi is a tale of family drama and forgiveness, for fans of Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is the story of a family — of the simple, devastating ways in which families tear themselves apart, and of the incredible lengths to which a family will go to put itself back together.

It is the story of the Sais family, whose good life crumbles in an evening; a Ghanaian father, Kwaku Sai, who becomes a highly respected surgeon in the US only to be disillusioned by a grotesque injustice; his Nigerian wife, Fola, the beautiful homemaker abandoned in his wake; their eldest son, Olu, determined to reconstruct the life his father should have had; their twins, seductive Taiwo and acclaimed artist Kehinde, both brilliant but scarred and flailing; their youngest, Sadie, jealously in love with her celebrity best friend. All of them sent reeling on their disparate paths into the world. Until, one day, tragedy spins the Sais in a new direction. This is the story of a family: torn apart by lies, reunited by grief. A family absolved, ultimately, by that bitter but most tenuous bond: familial love.

Ghana Must Go interweaves the stories of the Sais in a rich and moving drama of separation and reunion, spanning generations and cultures from West Africa to New England, London, New York and back again. It is a debut novel of blazing originality and startling power by a writer of extraordinary gifts.

“Ghana Must Go is both a fast moving story of one family’s fortunes and an ecstatic exploration of the inner lives of its members. With her perfectly-pitched prose and flawless technique, Selasi does more than merely renew our sense of the African novel: she renews our sense of the novel, period. An astonishing debut.” Teju Cole, author of Open City

Taiye Selasi was born in London and raised in Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Oxford. The Sex Lives of African Girls (Granta, 2011), Selasi’s fiction debut, appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012. She lives in Rome.

This book can be purchased over at Amazon: Ghana Must Go

The Association of Foreign Spouses


Synopsis (from Marilyn Heward Mills’ website)

Marriage to a handsome Ghanaian architect has brought Eva far from the quiet English countryside. He had made it sound heavenly: an easy, warm life, jovial people, exotic food, vibrant colours, a fascinating culture. The reality is quite different. The heat and humidity saps her energy; the general hardship drains her of vitality; the foreign culture still bewilders her. But Eva has her friends – Dahlia, Yelena and Margrit – all of them strangers in a foreign land, who through the years have relied on each other to fill the gaps left by distant relatives.

A sudden coup unnerves everyone, but for Dahlia things become more dangerous still. And as Eva’s relationship with Alfred also unravels, the Association of Foreign Spouses discover that there are dark sides to their lives and that they must scheme and deceive to protect themselves and their families.

Set in Ghana in the turbulent eighties, The Association of Foreign Spouses is a story of love and friendship, betrayal and forgiveness. It is the story of a group of women who live in a land that at times defeats them, among people who often disappoint and baffle them. Through their trials and hardships, the women support each other, unified by their foreignness, their distance from home and the choices they have made, as ultimately they are wooed by this strange place that they come to call home.

Marriage is a struggle and a compromise. Even more so when it transcends borders, nationalities and language. Heward Mills spins a powerful story of foreign wives in Ghana that entertains as well as explains a lot against a rich background of characters and social events.

The four women all have their own stories, but are joined by a common bond – the love they felt for the men that brought them here. In many respects, it is a domestic tale, but made more complex by the frames of reference of the participants in the story, their age, their expectations in marriage and its role in life. The fact that they are immigrants, and what it means to be home. The fact that you have to live as best as you can with the choices you make.

This novel is set in 1980s Ghana, and you get a sense of the intrusion and impact that the changing times have on domestic tranquility.

You can purchase this novel over at Amazon.co.uk: The Association of Foreign Spouses