Comments on post “Where do books for Africa go to die?”

My colleague blogger, Fiona Leonard,  wrote very recently about a recent visit to the Ghana Book Trust in Accra.

The headline “Where do books for Africa go to die?”  says it all.  The last time I went there – sometime last year – the situation was no different.  I was looking for some “light” reading for students and for the library at work, and I did find a reasonable selection – both for the time I had to look, and for the money I had to spend!  But I did have to scrounge through some large dirty boxes on the floor and a few shelves of non-textbooks.

I do admit that I felt that GBT was definitely not what it used to be.  First of all, there weren’t many people there; yet I emember occasions when it was full of students looking for texts to buy, as well as institutions hoping to supply their libraries.  It was dark – maybe it always was, but I didn’t notice it, and definitely dingy looking.  Definitely not a very attractive place to go.

Yet, as was mentioned by Fiona, GBT continues to receive containers of books from donors in North America, although they no longer act as recipients of books for Book Aid International which has stopped working in Ghana and West Africa.

So what has happened?  And why?  The word on the street is that some companies in the book trade were not pleased with GBT who were supplying many organizations at very low prices, but is this a reason for the lack of care?

Thanks Fiona for saying what many of us should have said ages ago, and for being outraged!


Binyavanga Wainaina to give reading on 19 May at Legon

Just heard about the following, which might be of interest to those who are based in Accra.

Binyavanga Wainaina, founder of Kwani Trust ( and Director of the Chinua Achebe Center for Writers and Artists at Bard College (US), will  give a reading and discuss creative process on  Wednesday 19 May 2010, from 5-7pm at the American
Center in the Center for International Affairs on Legon campus.

Belated link to CODE’S Burt award for African literature Ghana

Burt award GhanaI have to admit that I have seen ads in the Ghanaian newspaper for CODE’s Burt award for African literature in Ghana, and I haven’t made any mention of it.  Mea culpa!

So here is the link to the specific CODE page and I think I should mention that the deadline is 31 May 2010.

The local collaborating organisation is Ghana Book Trust, which in my view is somewhat moribund, or perhaps I should say, less active than it used to be.  A pity, as it did help provide books to lots of institutions and community libraries.  But maybe it was regarded as competition by booksellers?  or was that just a piece of gossip which I heard, and am mentioning?

By the way:  CODE was originally an acronynm for Canadian Organization for Development through Education, but this is now the official name!  [I thought I should mention this fairly useful? piece of information!]

Accra Book Club: next set of reads

I mentioned – in an earlier post – that I would list the next books for the Accra Book Club.  All part of my selfless pr role????

  • Tail of the blue bird, by Nii Ayikwei Parkes
  • a Terry Pratchett evening, with discussion on the Discworld and its recurring characters
  • Pride and prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • It’s our turn to eat, by Michaela Wrong
  • House of spirits, by Isabel Allende
  • The help, by Kathryn Stockett.
  • In the skin of a lion, by Michael Ondaatje

I actually have several of the books, which makes me both pleased, yet feeling somewhat bereft that I wanted books that I wouldn’t necessarily thought of myself!

For those who are interested. this batch will start in June 2010.  If anyone wants more information about the ABC, do leave a comment here, and I will get in touch.

Gina Loring’s poems at Cuppa Cappuccino

I got an invitation to listen to Gina Loring – a young, contemporary, poet from the US – via an email from Franka Andoh, who runs Cuppa Cappucino.  In a way my timing was perfect; though I was late, (the programme actually started on time at 5.30pm as advertised), I came to meet the invited guest just about to recite three of her poems.  One a tribute to Lena Horne, another to her small cousin aged 18 months and other on the poems lying within so many people.  On reflection they were really interesting, and I wish I could have heard more.

But it was Friday evening, and the end of the last week of the semester, and the academic year, and I guess I was tired, so part of me wanted to stay and be sociable, and the rest wanted to go home.

Regretfully, I say, looking back, I chose the latter.  Got home, and there was no electricity, so there was no choice but to wash and go to sleep.

But I was glad to have been remembered, and to have been invited.

What I need to do more is to keep in touch and network afterwards, rather than excuse myself!

Missed reading by Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Tail of the blue bird


On Saturday 8 May I read in the Daily Graphic newspaper that Nii Ayikwei Parkes was giving a reading at one of the local bookshops here in Accra.  Unfortunately, I had made another family commitment, so couldn’t make it.

I was actually disappointed, because I know Sytris, who were hosting the reading, and I wondered why I had not received any email, text, hard copy or phone notification that such an event was going on.  I did send a text asking for more info, but it was really too late to totally reorganize my day!

I must say that 8 May was one of those days when many events seemed to be taking place, and while some I knew I wouldn’t attend, there were a couple, such as the Parkes reading, that I might have, given that I have read his novel, Tail of the blue bird.  Plus there was the added attraction that the Accra Book Club put it on our next batch of books to be read and discussed!  Additionally I had had some email correspondence with Parkes when his book first came out regarding its availability here in Accra

Oh well, I guess it is one of those things, and obviously I am not on the right kind of “lists” or “loop”   Definitely something to work on, and also to kind of complain about.  At times I do find that Accra events can be quite insular, with invitations being sent out to those “known” to the event organizers, especially if there aren’t paid newspaper adverts.  Or maybe there were TV or radio adverts or announcements, and I didn’t hear them?

Talking about “Indian summer” (by Alex von Tunzelmann)

Seven members of Accra Book Club met on Thursday to talk about Alex von Tunzelmann’s first book, Indian summer: the secret history of the end of an empire . Appropriately enough we met at Heritage Restaurant in Osu, which is one of several Indian restaurants here in Accra.

We did ask for a separate room, and rearranged the tables- from long to squarish – so that we could talk to each other rather than having several different conversations at the different ends!  It did work, and we not only had a good discussion, but an enjoyable meal, and we didn’t worry about others feeling we were being too loud, or they were!  Plus there was the added bonus of hearing about one member’s recent visit to India, which added a little something to the occasion!

Most of us liked Indian summer, and felt we learned something that was a bit different from what we might have known from the media we read/consume/listen to or the films – such as Gandhi – that we watch.   The importance of the role of individuals in events really did come out, even if they were incompetent in many ways!  The relationship between Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru was also one that most of us didn’t know about it.  Gandhi, interestingly enough, did not come out as saintly as we might have thought before reading this book.

We also made some decisions on books for the next sequence, which I will post about later

We agreed to meet at the end of May for a very much lighter read:  Donna Leon’s Through a glass darkly, which continues a Venetian theme.