The Africa39 is announced

Just saw an announcement about the Africa39 list of upcoming African writers under 40.  More information is available via the Hay Festival Africa39 webpages .

According to the list of nominees, there are three with a Ghanaian connection:

  1. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, author of Powder necklace [and yes, I have read it]
  2. Nii Ayikwei Parkes, author of Tail of the blue bird [which I have mentioned on several occasions!]
  3. Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana must go [I've already mentioned this novel, one of my favourites for 2013]

It is however worth noting that all these Ghanaian authors live mostly outside Ghana – though Nii Ayikwei Parkes is presently in Ghana.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and of course I look forward to reading the anthology of short stories which will be launched in ImageOctober 2014.

 

January and February 2014 bookish activities

Late again – as usual!  What can I say – apart from I apologize?

Once again I am combining two months of reading, buying and other bookish/literary activities.  Admittedly January is usually pretty quiet – at least here in Accra – partly as people recover from Christmas/New Year, and set about new activities.

I read 11 books during these two months:  10 fiction, and one non-fiction, six male authors and five females, two African books, one Ghanaian, and the rest with a non-African focus.  Of the books I read, six were physical and five were electronic.

  1. Scientific progress goes “boink”, by Bill Watterson. [I am a Calvin and Hobbes addict.  I love them, and pity their poor parents!]
  2. NW, by Zadie Smith.  [The pull of a particular area on a group of Londoners as they grow up]
  3. The hunger games, by Suzanne Collins.  [Unusually I had watched part of the movie before reading the book, but on reflection found that the movie had actually adhered quite well to much of the story.  Now I do have to read the rest of the series before seeing those movies!]
  4. Afro SF – Science fiction by African writers, edited by Ivor Hartmann.  [Variable quality, but altogether a pretty good bunch.  I enjoyed the collection!  I wish there had been a Ghanaian writer among them though!]
  5. Inferno, by Dan Brown.  [I know this is light weight reading, but so what?  It read just like a movie script!]
  6. Gone girl, by Gillian Flynn.  [This did come well recommended, and even though I didn't particularly "like" any of the characters, the story is very, very well told]
  7. The ocean at the end of the lane, by Neil Gaiman. [I love Neil Gaiman, and the way he captures the fears of children especially.  So this was definitely one of my favourites]
  8. Bad blood, by Linda Fairstein. [I had heard of this mystery writer, but never read any of her books.  It was entertaining, and the plot was quite intricate, but I didn't get much of an impression about the central character]
  9. Death at the Voyager Hotel, by Kwei Quartey. [Light mystery, set in Accra]
  10. The ghost of Sani Abacha, by Chuma Nwokolo. [Short stories set in Nigeria, some I liked, some I didn't]
  11. Dear life, by Alice Munro. [Short stories by the Nobel Prize winning author.  Read for Accra Book Club.  At first the lives depicted seem to be rather ordinary, but there are often twists in these tales.]

I treated myself to buying nine physical books, and 13 ebooks (thanks to Christmas gift cards!)

Not too many literary activities though.

There were two Accra Book Club gatherings.  For the first one, there were only two of us – a pity as the read was Enders game, by Orson Scott Card, which I had hoped to discuss with someone else, even if the person had only seen the movie, which I don’t think was shown here in Accra (though I could easily be wrong on that score!).  The other ABC discussion by contrast was well attended with six of us talking about Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book.  The setting was suitable – a local restaurant called Buka (a local eating place in Nigeria) – and indeed there were many Nigerians also eating there.

I attended one book launch – at the University of Ghana Institute of African Studies – for the book Africa in contemporary perspective, edited by Takyiwaa Manuh and Esi Sutherland-Addy. Typically I couldn’t stay for the whole function, as I had a meeting to attend!

2014 Africa Reading Challenge

africa_map-2My fellow blogger, KinnaReads, is once again hosting the Africa Reading Challenge, which of course I can’t ignore!

I have not yet chosen the books I will read, though I am very sure that I will read more than five “African” books this year.

And if someone wants more details about this great challenge, the best place to go is http://kinnareads.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/2014-africa-reading-challenge/

2013 books with a Ghana or an Africa focus

I read quite a lot of different types of books, though I readily admit to a weakness for mysteries/crime/thrillers.

But I do also live in Ghana, and have always felt the desire to read books written by Ghanaians – both living here and in the diaspora – and also books about Ghana. To a lesser extent that has also applied to books by Africans and about Africa.

Out of a total of 68 books completed during 2013, 29 (approx 43%) were either with a Ghana or an Africa focus, as detailed below:

Ghana fiction

  • Mr Happy and the hammer of God and other stories, by Martin Egblewogbe
  • Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi [one of my favourite reads of the year]
  • Children of the street, by Kwei Quartey [a Ghana mystery]
  • Akosua and Osman, by Manu Herbstein [a winner of the Burt prize]
  • The deliverer, by Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye [another Burt prize winner, not sure whether this is really fiction though]

Ghana non-fiction

  • Pilgrims of the night: development challenges and opportunities in Africa, edited by Ivor Agyeman-Duah
  • Bright lights, no city, by Max Alexander [very entertaining view of a social enterprise based in the Eastern Region of Ghana]
  • Interventions: a life in war and peace, by Kofi Annan with nader Mousavizadeh [illuminating]
  • Lose your mother, by Saidiya Hartman [on the slave trade, but also the story of one African-American's journey to understand some of its legacies. Very personal]
  • No worries, 5th ed, NAWA [great guidebook to Accra]
  • Defeating dictators, by George B N Ayittey
  • The library tree, by Deborah Cowley

Africa fiction

  • Open city, by Teju Cole [even though it takes place mostly in the US]
  • Chicago, by Alaa al Aswany [again takes place in the US]
  • Nairobi heat, by Mukoma wa Ngugi [another African crime story!]
  • Broken glass, by Alain Mabanckou
  • No time like the present, by Nadine Gordimer
  • Every day is for the thief, by Teju Cole [actually written before Open City]
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [another of my favourite reads of the year]
  • Waiting for the barbarians, by J M Coetzee [the author is South African]

Africa non-fiction

  • Yes, Chef – a memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson
  • This child will be great, by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • Of Africa, by Wole Soyinka
  • Chocolate nations – Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa, by Orla Ryan
  • The boy who harnessed the wind, by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer
  • There was a country – A personal history of Biafra, by Chinua Achebe
  • Birds of our land, by Virginia Dike
  • The beautiful tree, by James Tooley [one of my favourite non-fiction books of the year]
  • One day I will write about this place, by Binyavanga Wainaina

I hope these lists give a flavour of some of the range of books I’ve read.

The Burt Award for African Literature, 2014: Call for submissions

I meant to post this call for submissions earlier, but somehow got sidetracked!  I am all for supporting local authors – and encouraging young readers is essential!

Burt award Ghana logoThe following is taken from the Ghana Book Trust website, and the link is below

The Ghana Book Trust and CODE, a Canadian NGO, have the pleasure to invite Ghanaian authors and publishers to participate in a competition to produce story books for the young between the ages of 12-15.

The Award is sponsored by CODE, a Canadian NGO, with generous support from Canadian patron Bill Burt.

Prizes:

  • 1st Gold – CAD9,000
  • 2nd Silver – CAD 7,000
  • 3rd Bronze – CAD5,000

These would be paid at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of the award in Ghana Cedis.

Winning publishers are guaranteed the purchase of 3,000 out of 5,000 copies expected to be published. The books will be distributed to Ghana Book Trust’s network of CODE-supported schools, community libraries and other schools.

Deadline for Submission
The manuscripts should be submitted through publishers to the Ghana Book Trust in one soft copy with five hard copies on or before 27th June, 2014 by 4.00pm.(Email address: info@ghanabooktrust.com)

They will be reviewed and assessed by a panel of qualified judges to determine the winners.

The Ghana Book Trust is not obliged to award any or all the three prizes if the judges deem work unsatisfactory.

Winners:The winners will be announced through the media.

for more information see Ghana Book Trust website

Bookish activities for December 2013

On the reading front, I read quite a lot – mainly because of the holidays and being off work from 20 December (well the evening thereof) – 12 books, with thee having a Ghana focus, and four an Africa one.

  1. The year of the flood, by Margaret Atwood [part 2 of her trilogy of a post-apocalyptic world. Pretty good, though I have to admit to not remembering much about part 1 - Oryx and Crake]
  2. The night gardener, by George Pelecanos [another crime story/mystery set in the totally non-glamorous part of Washington, DC. With many flawed characters; in fact all of them are, including the geographical location itself]
  3. Among others, by Jo Walton [somewhat disappointing in my view; I had thought there would be more SF/fantasy than there was]
  4. Defeating dictators: Fighting tyranny in Africa and around the world, by George B N Ayittey [passionate advocacy for citizen involvement in government]
  5. Waiting for the barbarians, by J M Coetzee [chosen as "speculative fiction" for  Goodreads "Great African Reads" group; I suspect it might grow on me. But I still wonder at how "African" it is - maybe because the author is South African? ]
  6. One day I will write about this place, by Binyavanga Wainaina [memoir of the Kenyan author. In parts not very chronological, which can be a bit confusing]
  7. The hangman’s daughter, by Oliver Potzsch [entertaining, historical mystery taking place in 17th century Bavaria]
  8. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [a love story, but also stories of being in the African diaspora in the US and UK]
  9. The deliverer, by Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye [fictionalized account of the founder of the Asante nation]
  10. The library tree, by Deborah Cowley [inspirational story of the Kathy Knowles libraries and books]
  11. Hurt machine, by Reed Farrel Coleman [crime/mystery - fairly light stuff, set in New York]
  12. I speak of Ghana, by Nana Awere Damoah [commentaries on contemporary Ghanaian society]

Physical book-buying was minimal – I only bought one, but then I did somewhat overcompensate in stocking up on my Kindle [12 titles - mostly fairly lightweight, but well, who cares?]

Book related events – again fairly light on the ground:

I attended the book launch of Nana Awere Damoah’s book, I speak of Ghana. And there was an Accra Book Club gathering which didn’t work out. See my previous post .

So it wasn’t a bad month to round up the year.

Looking forward: well, I think a little more reading is definitely on the cards, and I do need to visit some of our local bookshops – maybe this weekend!

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,900 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.