Next week there are three bookish events taking place in Accra, and even two of them take place on the same day!
The first is actually being advertised as a “public unveiling” – which is slightly strange term, at least when applied to a book. I guess I would associate that more in connection with a tombstone, but then language does change. This is for Nana Kobina Nketsia V’s African culture in governance and development.
The second is the launch of another book by Ivor Agyeman-Duah, which I look forward to, since I’ve known him, and tracked his progress for many years. His book is titled Africa: A miner’s canary into the 21st century.
Interestingly the first two are both taking place at the British Council here in Accra. Given that both these authors are rather well connected, I suspect the venue will be full.
And finally Malaka Grant, a blogger I follow – she blogs at Mind of Malaka - is reading from her recently published book, Daughters of Swallows. I think this should be fun.
Selfishly I hope that there will be copies of the books available for purchase, and at a reasonable price!
Kinna of Kinna Reads just announced that the Ghanaian literature week would be extended!
I was actually reading a book set in Ghana during the actual week – Children of the street, by Kwei Quartey – but didn’t get around to saying anything about it, so maybe now I will have that chance!
OK, I do admit that I probably read at least one Ghana or Africa based or authored book every month, and there are some months when I will read many more than that. It all depends on what I feel like reading.
I haven’t talked about my reading, book buying, or bookish events for a while, so rather than wait till the end of this month, I will look back on August and September, which weren’t horribly busy.
During these two months, I completed nine books – two fiction (only!) and seven non-fiction – the proportions being quite unusual for me, as I tend usually to read more fiction than non-fiction. Three books had a Ghana focus, four were on Africa/by African writers, and two were by non-Africans and neither on Ghana or Africa.
I bought eight physical books – including two cookbooks – plus four e-books.
So, to the books I completed:
- Snowdrops, by A D Miller (a thriller set in a wintry Moscow; nothing is really what it seems)
- Gulp, by Mary Roach (an entertaining non-fiction book on the gut)
- The boy who harnessed the wind, by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer (very inspiring book book about a young Malawian inventor)
- Bright lights, no city, by Max Alexander (story of Burro, a social enterprise in Ghana)
- Interventions: a life in war and peace, by Kofi Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh (entertaining and illuminating autobiography by the former UN Secretary-General)
- Birds of our land, by Virginia W Dike (children’s guide to bird of southern Nigeria)
- Lose your mother, by Saidiya Hartman (aspects of the slave trade and its heritage, with emphasis in Ghana)
- There was a country – A personal history of Biafra, by Chinua Achebe (a very personal view of some of the events of the Biafran war)
- No time like the present, by Nadine Gordimer (read for Accra Book Club; on contemporary South Africa)
As for bookish events, I missed a couple of the August events – a reading by Nii Ayikwei Parkes and the launch of Boakyewaa Glover’s latest book – due to car issues. Needless to say, I was not pleased.
There was a gathering of the Accra Book Club, the first for a while, due to the “summer”/vacation period. Those of us who had read The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared (by Jonas Jonasson) found it very entertaining, and a good read. Only a couple of us had read Canada, by Richard Ford, so there wasn’t much of a discussion on that novel.
I also attended Nigerian writer Sefi Atta’s reading at the Goethe Institut at the end of September, part of the Ghana Voices series organized by the Writers Project of Ghana.
And also at the end of September, I took part in the launch of the 5th edition of NAWA (North American Women’s Association)’s guide to living in Accra, No Worries. Interestingly I actually have all five editions!
I’ve always been intrigued by articles/posts demonstrating just how differently books are marketed in the US and the UK. Usually this happens by posting the different book covers/jackets, and usually selecting the one which the author feels is most appropriate to the content of the book.
During the last few months this has happened to me with Ghanaian/Nigerian/Afropolitan author Taiye Selasi’s first book, Ghana must go.
Although I knew that she would be in Accra in July for the Ghana launch of her book, I have to admit to a little trepidation regarding whether there would be copies of her books available at any of the local occasions where she was going to read and talk. And not too surprisingly this was justified, as typically there were issues in the timing of shipping books to Ghana, much to the disappointment of those who would have liked to have Selasi personally autograph their copies.
Luckily I was able to get a copy in the US – see cover.
And more recently as Selasi’s book was adopted as the class of 2017 Freshman read at Ashesi University College, I was able to see first hand that the UK cover was very different.
The US cover is bold, yet in a way the UK one relates to the flowers which are so important to one of the main characters. Can I decide which one I prefer? I am not sure.
What about you the readers?
British Council Ghana
I just saw an advert in the Daily Graphic of 10 October 2013 (p25 for those addicted to their physical newspapers) for a Literary workshop to nurture and empower the next generation of Ghanaian writers, and couldn’t resist passing it on, especially as several Ghanaian writers who were associated with a British Council programme in the early 2000s – Crossing Borders – did go on to be quite successful.
The ad had the following blurb, most of which is actually on British Council Ghana’s Facebook page:
“The British Council invites writers, publishers, publishing agents and persons working in the literary and publishing industry to a Management Forum and a 3 Day Capacity Building Workshop in Literary Writing and Publishing to be led by UK publisher, Nana Ayebia Clarke (MBE) of Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited.
Theme: Demystifying the publishing industry: the case of a writers life”
There are two events associated with the workshop:
- Management Forum on Wednesday 16 October, at 6pm at the British Council
- 3 day master class for writers: 16-18 October. Fee GH¢100
Obviously if someone reading this is interested, and yes, there are lots of Ghanaian writers out there, do phone +233 (0)30 261 0090 or +233 (0)26 377 6049, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and/or to register.
It is interesting that American/Ghanaian mystery writer Kwei Quartey is presently visiting Ghana – obviously doing research on his next book? I heard him speak, and do a reading on CitiFM’s Writers Project programme two Sundays ago, which was at least better than nothing, but part of me wished that he could have given a public reading here in Accra. I guess that is being a bit selfish, but I guess that is what comes of being in this location.
I do remember Quartey being asked about the availability of his books here in Ghana. And of course the usual issues of where publishers chose to promote books came up.
Unfortunately there is also a major issue of what local booksellers chose to sell. I think I read Quartey’s first novel, Wife of the Gods, as a borrowed copy which a fellow Accra Book Club member had bought on a trip outside Ghana. His second book, Children of the street, I did buy from a local bookshop [though I haven't read it yet], and the third , Death at the Voyager Hotel, I managed to download on my e-reader [actually this happened because Quartey mentioned it on the Writers Project radio programme!] I am not sure however whether any of them are currently available here in Accra, which is very sad, in my opinion.
Thanks to fellow blogger and reader, Chris Scott, for reminding me, via his website that I had actually considered writing about this.
Although it wasn’t that long ago since I posted about my reading, buying and events, this was about May and June, so rather than delaying things, I thought I should get my act together reasonably early this time.
So this covers activities in July.
I completed six books during the period: five fiction and one non-fiction. There were four male authors and two females, and only one Ghanaian author! Plus two were read on Kindle, and the rest in physical form.
Here, in the order that I finished them, are my July reads:
- Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, by Robin Sloan [read for Accra Book Club; I preferred the first part of this novel, and didn't really like the way it ended. Maybe I need to re-read it?]
- Late rain, by Lynn Kostoff [I guess you could call this a crime story, maybe Florida noir?]
- The kill artist, by Daniel Silva [pure escapism, but a good story nonetheless. I do like Silva's hero!]
- Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi [family saga or drama; very poignant and moving. I really liked it. I think this is one of my favourite books of the year.]
- Holes, by Louis Sachar [I had seen the movie, and then came across the book. Not sure which one I preferred!]
- Taste – the story of Britain through its cooking, by Kate Colquhoun [I do like cookery and food books, and this one was pretty interesting]
The buying front was also pretty busy – and somewhat self-indulgent. I managed to acquire seven titles on my Kindle (or rather, to be read via a Kindle app on my new tablet) – including four freebies (yeah!) plus nine physical books. That definitely means that I will have to try to restrain myself a little in August.
I attended four book related events in July (previously discussed, so I won’t go into much detail) - and they were concentrated in the last couple of weeks. Two involved Taiye Selasi, who read excerpts from her first novel, Ghana must go, to a packed audience at the Villa Monticello, followed the evening after by a discussion about how she finally made the decision to write her novel. Then Nigerian writer Chibundu Onuzo joined Martin Egblewogbe at an all too brief reading hosted by Nii Ayikwei Parkes at Sytris. And finally there was a reading by chick-lit/romance writer Nana Malone who gave a reading at the Goethe Institut. It was interesting to hear how she got into full-time writing, and that the self-publishing e-book route had served her well.
I am not sure what my plans are for August; I tend to decide on my reading on a rather ad hoc basis. But I have plenty of works to choose from!