Two weeks of non-stop bookish activities

It’s been a fairly busy two weeks, and for those of us interested in books and information, there have been
lots of events going on – in addition to work related stuff!

2013 Burt prize winners - coversFirst there was the Burt Award for African Literature. This covered the winning Ghanaian books for 2013.  I admit I arrived late – but I didn’t miss too much of the programme, which had, it seemed, more or less started on time [which is great]. The speeches were OK, with William Burt, the Canadian who funded the Burt awards, talking about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books! That really brought back some of my early reading.

Naturally I bought copies of the prize winning books:

  1. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka (1st prize)
  2. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah (2nd prize)
  3. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein (3rd prize)

The first and third prize winners have been prize winners before.  The occasion was covered by the press, though not in its entirety as usual.

Then the day after, actually in the same venue – British Council – there was the launch and showing of the documentary The art of Ama Ata Aidoo. The film, by Yaba Badoe, was pretty interesting, though perhaps a little bit long. But illuminating especially if one has read or wants to read some of Ama Ata Aidoo’s work. I did not too surprisingly buy one of Aidoo’s books, No sweetness here - coverwhich has recently been republished here in Ghana.  There’s a great account of the launch here.

Another event was the yearly GAWBOFEST (Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival). Not exactly my favourite event, but maybe that is because I always tend to go to buy books, and get slightly disappointed at the range available. I also find that the long speeches in the morning session must be pretty boring for the children who attend, but then I admit that I don’t stay that long to see what happens during the rest of the day. Yet it is an event that I would wish to continue, just simply because there need to be more opportunities to see books, to buy them, and to talk about reading and writing.

I also went to the September Ghana Voices reading, organized by the Writers Project of Ghana. This month it was Benjamin Kwakye, who it turns out I have met before – though I am ashamed to say that I didn’t remember this. I was also annoyed with myself because I forgot to take copies of his books with me to be autographed!  [Too many things to remember on this day]

The September gathering of the Accra Book Club also took place during these two weeks – our read was the somewhat confusing, well-reviewed thriller, The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes.  Although I enjoyed reading it, it was a little confusing, and talking about it certainly clarified my understanding of this novel about a time-travelling serial killer, and the plucky victim who chased him.

All these activities included a fair bit of book buying – nine books in total – mainly because it is still difficult to buy certain titles as book shops with the kind of stock I like remain very few and far between here in Accra. I even managed to buy one of Ghanaian/American author Kwei Quartey’s books which has been on my wish list for several months.  Murder at Cape Three Points  - cover

As well as these events, I was also away from my usual work location, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all connected with the consortium of libraries my workplace belongs to.

On the work side, I was away from campus, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all related to CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana).

Now I have to write up two sets of minutes, plus an evaluation of the workshop.  Plus of course get back into the work swing of things!  Definitely no rest for some of us!

 

CODE and Ghana Book Trust writers and editors workshops

Seen in the Daily Graphic of 29 August 2014

The Ghana Book Trust [I was going to put it in a link, but it seems their website is down] in collation with the Canadian Organisation for Development through Education (CODE) and the Burt Award for African Literature invites interested persons to participate in a 5-day Writers’ and Editors’ workshop.

The workshop is for persons who write for/are interested in writing and working with Young Adult fiction.

Dates:  8-10 September, Writers’ workshop; 11-12 September, Editors’ workshop

Venue:  Erata Hotel, East Legon

Time:  9am – 4pm

Resource persons:  Kevin Major from Canada and seasoned Ghanaians in the book industry.

Registration:  phone Winnie on 026-569-9700 between 9am and 4pm.  Deadline is 4 September 2014.

Good luck to those who participate.  The more people who write here in Ghana the better, especially for those who like reading.

 

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