Accra Book Club reads for 2014 and looking forward to 2015

A recap of the books Accra Book Club read and discussed during 2014

  • Ender’s game, by Orson Scott Card. I know this was on the list, but I can’t remember the discussion. I did eventually watch the film on DSTV, and thought it was pretty well done.  I used to have a physical copy of this book, but somewhere along the line, it disappeared.  So I had to buy a e-copy!
  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a good discussion. I suspect that a different group would have a very different perspective.  I actually read a Nigerian edition!
  • Dear life, by Alice Munro – brrr, the Canadian climate does permeate these rather bleak stories
  • Kindred, by Octavia Butler – I really like Octavia Butler’s work, and wonder why it took me so long to read them!
  • The Burgess boys, by Elizabeth Strout – a disfunctional family, with locations in New York and Maine. Moving though.
  • The invention of wings, by Sue Monk Kidd – based on historical figures, involved in the abolition of the slave trade
  • The housekeeper and the professor, by Yoko Ogama – I didn’t attend this discussion, but I enjoyed the book which was very different from most of the work I read during this year
  • The lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri – moving account of two brothers and their families in India and the US.  Another physical copy
  • The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes – upon reflection, I found the discussion of this book helped me to understand this book better
  • We need new names, by NoViolet Bulawayo – I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy this book that much; I also wasn’t that sure about having the two different settings of Zimbabwe and the US.  Ironically I bought the e-book, and then discovered that EPP books had loads of physical copies, and for a very, very reasonable price!
  • Euphoria, by Lily King – a love story told from different points of view. A good read.

And because I am aware that some people may be wondering what we are going to read and talk about in 2015, here is our current list of books:

  • Flight behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Memory of love, by Aminatta Forna
  • How to get filthy rich in rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid
  • The woman upstairs, by Claire Messud
  • Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Foreign gods, by Okey Ndibe
  • Don’t let me go, by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The short and tragic life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
  • Ade, by Rebecca Walker

If anyone wants to know more about Accra Book Club, do comment or send an email to accrabookclub [at] gmail [dot] com.

Ghana and Africa reads for 2014

Usually at the end of a year, or the very beginning of one, I look back and mention books which I categorize as my Ghana and Africa reads. These are either books written by Ghanaians or Africans, wherever they live and write. They can also be written by non-Ghanaians/non-Africans if the topics are either Ghanaian or African.

Ghana reads of 2014

Fiction
1. Death at the Voyager Hotel, by Kwei Quartey – an ebook, but not featuring Inspector Darko Dawson. Fun. I believe it has now been published here in Ghana?
2. Between sisters, by Adwoa Badoe – a girl who wasn’t that interested in school learns lessons while working for a family in Kumasi
3. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka – the 2013 Burt prize 1st place winner. Pretty good.
4. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah – another Burt prize winner, 2nd place. A bit over the top, in my view.
5. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein – the 3rd place Burt prize winner. Enjoyable, with wonderful illustrations.
6. No sweetness here and other stories, by Ama Ata Aidoo – a new edition, locally published. The stories still have punch, even after 40 years!

Non-fiction
1. Ethnicity and the making of history in Northern Ghana, by Carola Lentz – fascinating account of the Upper West Region especially.
2. Java Hill, by T P Manu Ulzen – a family account of a coastal family. I wish there were more of these.
3. History of West Africa and the Ga (Osu) people, by Narh Omaboe – rather poorly written and published, unfortunately!

I bought eight of my nine Ghana reads here in Ghana – either at book launches, or at local bookshops. The one exception was the lone e-book.   Interestingly four of the six  Ghanaian works of fiction are written for young adults.

 

Africa reads of 2014

Fiction
1. Afro SF – Science fiction by African writers, edited by Ivor W Hartmann – I love SF, so these were great.
2. The ghost of Sani Abacha, by Chuma Nwokolo – short stories of contemporary Nigeria.
3. Short stories [supporting Worldreader], by Chika Unigwe – many about diasporan Nigerians.
4. Arrows of rain, by Okey Ndibe – first novel, by now acclaimed author based in the US.
5. Akata witch, by Nnedi Okorafor – young adult novel, with a plucky albino heroine
6. The grass is singing, by Doris Lessing – classic, which I had never read before
7. The spider king’s daughter, by Chibundu Onuzo – a good debut. It doesn’t turn out quite as expected.
8. Distant view of a minaret, by Alifa Rifaat – poignant stories from a North African writers
9. We need new names, by NoViolet Bulawayo – prize winner novel of Zimbabwe and African diasporans in the US
10. Opening spaces – Contemporary African women’s writing, edited by Yvonne Vera – a wide ranging of short stories by African women.
11. Diaries of a dead African, by Chuma Nwokolo – three linked stories, tragic, but comic at the same time.
12. Secret son, by Laila Lalami – what makes a potential terrorist.
13. The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes – the setting is not African, though the author is. About a time-travelling serial killer

Non-fiction
1. Women leading Africa, edited Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah – illuminating collection.
2. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff – biography, yet fairly easy to read. Wish I remembered my “ancient” history better
3. The fastest billion: the story behind Africa’s economic revolution, by Charles Robertson and others – not sure I agree with his prognosis, but it is good to read a more optimistic view of Africa’s future

Out of the sixteen Africa reads, most were bought as physical books from local bookshops here in Accra. I did however buy six e-books (nos 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 13 of the Africa fiction list).

I still tend to read most of my books in physical format – about 64% overall for 2014 – though I think the percentage of e-books is probably increasing.

I ended the year having started, but not yet finished, the following:

  • Flight behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. This is the Accra Book Club read for January 2015. [the only one in e-book format]
  • Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. The final part of the Hunger Games trilogy. I want to finish this before watching the movie!
  • Exodus, by Paul Collier. On migration.
  • Living in the shadow of the large dams: Long term responses of downstream and lakeside communities of Ghana’s Volta River Project, by Dzodzi Tsikata. Fairly heavily academic, so I dip into this.
  • Human mules, by Carol Larratt. On the kayayei [young female porters] in Accra.

Missed two recent book launches!

I am a little ashamed to admit that I missed two recent book launches that took place in Accra.

Kofi Akpabli launched two books on travel in Ghana:  Romancing Ghanaland and Harmattan.  I haven’t bought copies – yet, but will do so eventually!  For more information on the launch programme and some photos, see http://www.spyghana.com/kofi-akpabli-launches-two-new-books/.

The other is much more controversial.   Prof Kwaku Danso-Boafo’s book J.J. Rawlings and the Democratic Transition in Ghana  has been mired in controversy, with some disagreements between the author, and the main subjects. So all the more reason to get a copy!  See more at http://www.ghanaiantimes.com.gh/book-on-rawlings-launched/

 

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.