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!

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Missed the latest Burt award!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there were/are several library related events going on during the months September – December 2016.  Last week I was very much pre-occupied with events involving the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH), including a meeting, training organized by publishers EBSCO and Cambridge UP and the 2nd CARLIGH International Conference which took place here in Accra from 28 to 30 September.  See the GNA website for their story on the opening ceremony.

Regrettably therefore I missed the latest Burt award ceremonies which took place last week – but I am glad to acknowledge their efforts!  The winners were:

  1. Dr Ruby Yayra Goka, for her book The step-mother
  2. Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, for her book Rattling in the closet
  3. Nii Kpani Addy, for his book Red spectacles knows

For more information on the event, see the GNA story (even though it is not totally accurate)!

 

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)

Analyzing my reads over the last three years

As today is the beginning of July, that means that already six months of 2016 has passed, so we are now in the second half of the year. How time flies!

So I thought I would look at my reading so far – or rather the books which I have finished reading, because I do have to admit that I usually have several books on the go at any one time. For instance at the moment, I have one which I read in the bathroom, another in bed (alternating with some library magazines/journals), one for the bus going to and from work, plus a novel to read while eating, and another via Kindle apps. And as I wrote the last sentence I realized that actually I had forgotten to mention two others which I dip into occasionally. So I think that adds up to about seven – at least as of the time of writing!

I don’t usually insert tables or charts into posts, but in this case, I wondered whether a chart would show some trends in my reading – at least for the first six months of the last three years.

2016-07 Nina reads chart

I have to admit that I am not sure there are any real trends that I can detect. I still tend to read more physical books than e-books, and even though I do read some books from my work library, they aren’t that many.

Fiction continues to predominate, and some years I have read more women writers. I continue to read works by/on Ghana and Africa but by no means exclusively so.

Elnathan John reads in Accra

011Two book related events this past week: an Accra Book Club discussion and a visiting writer.

Accra Book Club was a rescheduled event, so there were only two of us – one of the other regulars having traveled! But we had a good talk about Anthony Doerr’s bestseller, All the light we cannot see, and other books and reading in general.

013The visiting writer was Elnathan John, who recently 015published his first novel, Born on a Tuesday. The readings were organized by the Writers Project of Ghana, and took place at Vidya Book Store in Osu. About 40 or so people came and all seemed pretty engaged. Elnathan John read excerpts from his novel, which was available for sale, and at a reasonable price, and spoke about writing, especially in the context of Northern Nigeria.  It was a very enjoyable way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!

I look forward to more of such events.

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.

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.