A backward look at my Ghanaian and African reads of 2016

Usually sometime early in the year I look back on my reading for the previous year, and share the books on Ghana and Africa I read.

For Ghanaian fiction, I read three novels: two are diasporan authors, while one is based based here in Ghana (at least now)

  • Glover, Boakyewaa – The justice
  • Gyasi, Yaa – Homegoing [a January 2017 choice for two book clubs/groups I belong to!]
  • Quartey, Kwei – Murder at Cape Three Points

For Ghanaian non-fiction, I count four works

  • Addo-Kufuor, Kwame – Gold Coast boy [autobiography, by a brother of Ghana’s former President, a physician and politician]
  • Ashun, Mary – Tuesday’s child [another autobiography, with an emphasis on the author’s childhood]
  • Insaidoo, Kwame Afadzi – Ghana – An incomplete independence or a dysfunctional democracy?
  • NAWA – No worries. 6th ed  [I actually have all 6 editions of this guidebook to Accra!]

My African fiction category is a mixed bag, including some novels with locations in African settings, which I realize some people might not consider “real” African fiction.

  • Abouet, Marguerite & Oubrerie, Clement – Aya de Yopougon 1-3 [a series of graphic novels with Ivoirian characters]
  • Banda-Aaku, Ellen – Sula and Ja [story for young adults/teens by prize-winning Zambian author]
  • Boyd, William – Solo [anoatther James Bond novel, partially set in Nigeria]
  • Camus, Albert – The stranger [this was a re-read of the classic]
  • Davids, Nadia – An imperfect blessing
  • Farah, Nuruddin – Hiding in plain sight [read for Accra Book Club]
  • Guillaume, Laurent – White leopard [thriller, with a Malian location]
  • Jemisin, N K – The fifth season [prize-winning science fiction/fantasy novel which takes place in what had once been Africa’s tropical regions]
  • Jonasson, Jonas –  The girl who saved the King of Sweden [another comic book from this Swedish author;the main character is South African]
  • Lotz, Sarah – The three [author is South African, and part of the novel is set there]
  • Mahlangu, Songeziwe –  Penumbra
  • McCain, Paula – Circling the sun [read for Accra Book Club, set in colonial Kenya]
  • Orford, Margie –  Like clockwork [thriller set in South Africa]
  • Singh, Astha –  Congo journey [mostly on the Indian community]
  • Walker, Rebecca – Ade – a love story [set mostly in Tanzania]

African non-fiction was a bit sparse last year, with only three books

  • Agyeman-Duah, Ivor – Africa – a miner’s canary into the 21st century
  • Beckman, Bjorn & Gbemisola, Adeoti – Intellectuals and African development
  • Kpomassie, Tete-Michel – An African in Greenland [quite touching in parts]

I do admit that, apart from book clubs/groups, I don’t really plan my reading.  I do have a lot of TBR books which fill one medium bookcase, and always feel I should concentrate a bit more on these books, but somehow it doesn’t always work out!

Some of my Ghanaian and African reads for the first six months of 2016

Some of my Ghanaian and African reads for the first six months of 2016 include

Ghana reads include books by Ghanaian authors, Ghanaians in the diaspora, on Ghana, or with a Ghanaian setting:

  • Quartey, Kwei: Murder at Cape Three Points (mystery/crime with Inspector Darko Dawson)
  • Agyeman-Duah, Ivor: Africa – a miner’s canary into the 21st century (a collection of essays on African countries)
  • Insaidoo, Kwame Afadzi: Ghana – An incomplete independence or a dysfunctional democracy (political analysis)

Africa reads include books by African authors, Africans in the diaspora, on African countries, or with an African setting:

  • Singh, Astha: Congo – a journey (fictional account of an Indian family in DRC)
  • Guillaume, Laurent: White leopard (thriller set in Mali)
  • Mahlangu, Songeziwe: Penumbra (prize-winning South African novel with the main character having a mental breakdown)
  • Camus, Albert: The stranger (this was a re-read of the classic which I originally read in French)
  • Orford, Margie: Like clockwork (crime/thriller set in South Africa)
  • McCain, Paula: Circling the sun (fictional account of early part of Beryl Markham’s life, mostly set in colonial Kenya) [read for Accra Book Club]
  • Davids, Nadia: An imperfect blessing (a family saga set in the Cape Town of 1993-94)
  • Farah, Nuruddin: Hiding in plain sight (a diasporan Somali family adapts to loss of a member to a terrorist attack) [read for Accra Book Club]
  • Banda-Aaku, Ellen: Sula and Ja (a young adult novel about two teens discovering more about each other, set in Zambia)

Plus a special mention of three cookbooks with African/Ghanaian connections:

  • Sloley, Patti Gyapomaa: A date with plantain (I admit that ripe plantain is one of my absolutely favourite foods)
  • Osseo-Asare, Fran and Baeta, Barbara: The Ghana cookbook (comprehensive, and great if you are a non-Ghanaian or not living in Ghana)
  • Timothy, Duval and others: The groundnut cookbook (lots of West African recipes adapted to more Western/UK tastes)

2015 Ghana and Africa reads

I know I haven’t done much posting over the last year, and I guess one of my New Year’s resolutions for this year is to do more in this area. Focus is the key though.

I didn’t do much reading of fiction from Ghana, as seen by the following:

  • Adonoo, Elikem: The teleport conspiracy [lent to me by the author]
  • Attah, Ayesha Harruna: Saturday’s shadows [author is definitely maturing]
  • Goka, Ruby Yayra: The lost royal treasure [young adult]

although I do have to admit to reading some Ghanaian flash fiction, but those I didn’t record!

Non-fiction on Ghana did much better:

  • Akpabli, Kofi: Harmattan – a cultural profile of Northern Ghana
  • Coe, Cati: The scattered family – Parenting, African migrants and global inequality [doubly relevant as a lot of the families were from Akuapim South District in Ghana, where I work]
  • Dagadu, Kati Torda (ed): Ghana: Where the bead speaks
  • Larratt, Carol: Human mules – The kayayo girls [not really sure whether this was creative non-fiction, but fascinating nonetheless]
  • Tonah, Steve: Fulani in Ghana: Migration history, integration and resistance
  • Tsikata, Dzodzi: In the shadow of the large dams [having worked near Nigeria’s first hydroelectric dam, I am still fascinated by the impact of these large projects]
  • Owusu, Mary A Seiwaa: Prempeh II and the making of modern Asante 

I did read a fair amount of African fiction, with a tendency towards Nigerian writers/writers of Nigerian descent:

  • The Gonjon pin and other stories: the Caine Prize for African fiction 2014 [even though I often download the shortlisted stories, I still like buying the published collections]
  • To see the mountain and other stories: The Caine Prize for African writing 2011
  • Barrett, A Igoni: Love is power, or something like that
  • Ndibe, Okey: Foreign Gods, Inc. [for Accra Book Club]
  • de Hernandez, Jennifer et al: African women writing resistance [a mixture of fiction and non-fiction]
  • Forna, Aminatta: The memory of love [for Accra Book Club]
  • Hamilton, Masha: The camel bookmobile [not sure this really counts, though the setting is mostly Kenya]
  • Imaseun, Eghosa: To Saint Patrick [I had downloaded this before attending a WPG reading by this author.  A Nigerian detective story!]
  • Laye, Camara: The dark child [rather amazing that I hadn’t read this before!]
  • Obioma, Chigozie: The fishermen [for Accra Book Club]
  • Okorafor, Nnedi: Lagoon [author is of Nigerian descent]
  • Omotoso, Yewande: Bom boy
  • Oparanta, Chinelo: Happiness, like water [definitely an author to watch]
  • Oyeyemi, Helen: Boy, Snow, Bird [the setting is the US, though the author is of Nigerian descent] [for Accra Book Club]
  • Wanner, Zukiswa: London Cape Town Joburg [Inspired partly by Caine Prize presentation]

Followed up by a few non-fiction books with an African emphasis:

  • Fuller, Alexandra: Cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness [even though the main characters aren’t particularly nice, the author writes well and sympathetically]
  • Ngugi Wa Thiongo: Decolonising the mind 
  • Saro-Wiwa, Noo: Looking for Transwonderland 

I guess the above will sort of qualify for the 2015 Africa Reading Challenge.  Although sometimes I feel it is not much of a challenge really, as I tend to read a fair number of books by Ghanaians/about Ghana and also by Africans/about Africa anyway – approximately 30% of my 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.

 

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.

Three book events coming up during week of 25 November

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!

 

Yari Yari Ntoaso: an international conference of African women’s literature coming up!

YYARI_1As readers/followers of this blog will know, I am always on the lookout for interesting literary/library/information events taking place here in Accra.  And May definitely looks like a month to look forward to.

Recently I received a press release about the forthcoming Yari Yari Ntoaso African women’s literature conference.

An excerpt follows:

The Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA) and New York University (NYU), in collaboration with Ghana-based Mbaasem Foundation and the Spanish Fundación Mujeres por África (Women for Africa Foundation), will present Yari Yari Ntoaso:   Continuing the Dialogue – An International Conference on Literature by Women of African Ancestry. This major conference will put writers, critics and readers from across Africa, the USA, Europe, and the Caribbean in dialogue with each other in Accra, Ghana, from May 16-19, 2013.

 More than a dozen emerging and established Ghanaian writers and scholars, including Ama Ata Aidoo, Amma Darko, Ruby Goka, Mamle Kabu, Esi Sutherland-Addy and Margaret Busby will speak about their work on topics ranging from identity, to the craft of writing, to literary activism. These authors will be joined by other international writers such as: Angela Davis (USA), Tess Onwueme (Nigeria), Natalia Molebatsi (South Africa), Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (Puerto Rico), Sapphire (USA), Veronique Tadjo (Côte d’Ivoire), Evelyne Trouillot (Haiti), and many others (a list of participants is below). Local organizations participating in this exciting gathering include the Pan-African Writers Association, the Ghana Association of Writers, and the Writers Project of Ghana. 

Most events will be held at the facilities of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (No. 54 Independence Avenue, near the Ridge Roundabout) in Accra. A draft program is available in the “Gallery” section of www.indiegogo.com/owwa

Ever since I heard of this event, I have been looking forward to it, and am already planning which sessions I will attend!