Six events in two weeks!

In typical Accra style the last couple of weeks have been horribly busy on the bookish front. Often there is a dearth of activities or events, and then suddenly – boom, one after another, to the extent that I hardly feel I am keeping up.

So six different bookish events in the period of two weeks: Programme for Nketsia book

3 book launches
1 book reading
1 book club gathering
and 1 meeting of librarians!

The book launches were for three rather different books, which interestingly enough, were all non-fiction.

Nana Kobina Nketsia V launched his large, and expensive (GH¢200 – which is a little under $100), volume entitled African culture in governance and development: the Ghana paradigm, at a ceremony which was long, and with speakers dominated by what I would nicely call, gentlemen of a certain generation. Almost everyone who spoke was over 60, with the exception of playwright Kobina Sekyi’s granddaughter, who got to give the vote of thanks. Ironically, given the criticisms of colonialism, the launch took place at the British Council! There were a good number of people who matter in attendance, including the Vice-President. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough money to buy a copy – but maybe I’ll get one for work at some later date?

Africa: A miner's canaryThe second book launch was for Africa: A miner’s canary into the 21st century, by Ivor Agyeman-Duah. I freely admit that I have known the author for many years, since he started his writing career as a journalist in Kumasi, so I do try to support any of his events. And I did buy a couple of copies of the book – one for work, and one for myself.

I was late for the last book launch – there was a work away day/retreat – but I have to admit that I was not too unhappy about this. Nana Awere Damoah’s latest book, I speak of Ghana, was launched at a I speak of Ghanalocal bookshop, Sytris, in the evening of the Farmers’ Day public holiday. The venue was packed, but I wondered why some of those present were actually there, as there were constant loud conversations going on at the back of the venue – to the extent that the MC conducting the auction had to actually ask people to keep quiet. And I don’t think any of the noise makers were book buyers! But I bought a copy of the book, and had the author autograph it, and look forward to reading some of Nana’s accounts of life in contemporary Ghana.

The book reading, by Malaka Grant, was another opportunity for some book buying, as she brought along some copies of her recently published book, The daughters of swallows. Malaka, who lives in the US, was full of energy and fun, and her audience at the Goethe Institut (part of the Writers Project of Ghana monthly events) responded with great glee. Ironically I suspect that most of those present knew The daughters of swallowsher because of her connection with the blog Adventures from , while yours truly was more familiar with her other somewhat more domestic blog Mind of Malaka.

The Accra Book Club gathering was, in contrast to the rest of the events, a bit of a fizzle. Only two of us showed up! Oh well…

GLA logoAnd finally there was the Ghana Library Association‘s 2013 Seminar and AGM which took place at the Balme Library. It’s an annual affair, and though this was a one-day event, it was good to see other colleagues, some of whom travel from far outside Accra. Plus this year there were not only a few speeches and presentations, but a breakout session which allowed members to speak their mind on selected library topics. And the AGM went smoothly, with hardly any acrimonious comments, which have on occasion characterized such occasions.

July round-up – books etc

Although it wasn’t that long ago since I posted about my reading, buying and events, this was about May and June, so rather than delaying things, I thought I should get my act together reasonably early this time.

So this covers activities in July.

I completed six books during the period: five fiction and one non-fiction. There were four male authors and two females, and only one Ghanaian author! Plus two were read on Kindle, and the rest in physical form.

Here,  in the order that I finished them, are my July reads:

  1. Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, by Robin Sloan [read for Accra Book Club; I preferred the first part of this novel, and didn’t really like the way it ended. Maybe I need to re-read it?]
  2. Late rain, by Lynn Kostoff [I guess you could call this a crime story, maybe Florida noir?]
  3. The kill artist, by Daniel Silva [pure escapism, but a good story nonetheless. I do like Silva’s hero!]
  4. Ghana must go, by Taiye Selasi [family saga or drama; very poignant and moving. I really liked it.  I think this is one of my favourite books of the year.]
  5. Holes, by Louis Sachar [I had seen the movie, and then came across the book. Not sure which one I preferred!]
  6. Taste – the story of Britain through its cooking, by Kate Colquhoun [I do like cookery and food books, and this one was pretty interesting]

The buying front was also pretty busy – and somewhat self-indulgent. I managed to acquire seven titles on my Kindle (or rather, to be read via a Kindle app on my new tablet) – including four freebies (yeah!) plus nine physical books. That definitely means that I will have to try to restrain myself a little in August.

I attended four book related events in July (previously discussed, so I won’t go into much detail) – and they were concentrated in the last couple of weeks. Two involved Taiye Selasi, who read excerpts from her first novel, Ghana must go,  to a packed audience at the Villa Monticello, followed the evening after by a discussion about how she finally made the decision to write her novel. Then Nigerian writer Chibundu Onuzo joined Martin Egblewogbe at an all too brief reading hosted by Nii Ayikwei Parkes at Sytris. And finally there was a reading by chick-lit/romance writer Nana Malone who gave a reading at the Goethe Institut. It was interesting to hear how she got into full-time writing, and that the self-publishing e-book route had served her well.

I am not sure what my plans are for August; I tend to decide on my reading on a rather ad hoc basis.   But I have plenty of works to choose from!

Follow-up to a BIG literary week in Accra.

Earlier this month, I posted briefly about all the literary activities that were going to take place in Accra.  I guess it is really time to talk about how I took part.

Ghana must go Amazon coverI didn’t attend Taiye Selasi’s first event at Taverna Tropicana on 16 July; I was at a meeting instead.  But I heard it was fun, there was good music, a youngish crowd, and there were books for sale!

Selasi’s reading on 17 July was definitely a more up-market affair, taking place at Villa Monticello.  I saw a couple of ambassadors and their spouses, plus various Ghanaian literary personalities were around.  Entertainment journalist/blogger Ameyaw Debrah has not only coverage of the event (including some photos – including one which includes yours truly!), plus a copy of a review of the book.  Definitely worth looking at.  The venue was packed – maybe 100 people? and many more were turned away, which I suspect was disappointing for them.  Fortunately  I had bought a copy of Ghana must go while on holiday, so at least I was able to get it autographed.  Those who thought they would be able to buy copies were not so lucky however, as I heard later that the books hadn’t yet been cleared from the airport!  [I think I have mentioned this issue before?]

I was very lucky to hear Taiye Selasi speak at an after dinner discussion on 18 July at the Yale event, From success to significance.  This was not a reading, but more or less an extended interview, giving those of us lucky enough to be present a further insight into some of her lifetime decisions – including that of becoming a writer.  Very complementary to the readings of the day before!

The Spider King's daughter Amazon coverAnd to top off the week, there was the African Writers Evening on 19 July at Sytris.  Featured were:  Nigerian writer Chibundu Onuzo and Martin Egblewogbe, with Nii Ayikwei Parkes in the chair!  Onuzu gave the second of her Accra readings (the first one took place on 17 July – which of course I missed as I was attending Taiye Selasi’s reading), with excerpts from her first novel The spider king’s daughter, while Martin Egblewogbe (of Writers Project of Ghana, among others) reading from some of his unpublished short stories.  Luckily I was able to buy a copy of Onuzo’s book.  Although I enjoyed the event, ultimately I thought it was too short!  Definitely a compliment then.

A BIG literary week in Accra!

51hg9fpz0gL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_This is definitely going to be a heavy literary week in Accra, and when I first realized what the schedule would be, I wondered, on Twitter, whether I should clone myself!

This is definitely going to require a bit of juggling.

It started off with Writers Project of Ghana‘s Sunday evening radio show on CitiFM… with Chibundu Onuzu and Elizabeth-Irene Baitie.

Tuesday 16 July:  Taiye Selasi is doing a reading of her book, Ghana must go, at Taverna Tropicana in Nima.  There will also be music, DJ Kobby Graham.  Time:  from 8pm.  I would have liked to go but I think I might give this one a miss, as I do have to go to work the next morning.  Plus I have another commitment that evening…

Wednesday 17 July:  two events on the same day!   Chibundu Onuzu and Emmanuel Iduma will be reading at the WEB DuBois Center in Accra, from 6pm.  And, Taiye  Selasi is officially doing her Ghana launch of Ghana must go at Villa Monticello at 7pm [I think I will go to this one.]  I have a copy of her book, which I must start reading.  If there are copies for sale, then maybe I will buy some for work?

Friday 19 July:  Chibundu Onuzu and Martin Egblewogbe are doing readings, organized by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, at Sytris [I think I will go to this].  Onuzu’s book, The spider king’s daughter, is definitely on my wish list!

Thanks to fellow blogger, Creative Writing Ghana, for a composite post on some of these events.

Cassava Republic books in Ghana! at Yari Yari Ntoaso

ImageI won’t talk about Yari Yari Ntoaso (an international conference on literature by women of African ancestry) in this post, but if you want to know more see http://kinnareads.wordpress.com/ who is posting the schedule, and photos, or follow the #YariYari hashtag on Twitter.

What I wanted to comment about was the fact that the well known Nigerian publisher, Cassava Republic, had a stand among the tables of vendors!  How pleased I was to see them, and of course I couldn’t resist buying something on Day 1 – and who knows what will happen on Days 2-4?

The comment I made to their representative was to ask why they didn’t sell any of their Imagebooks here in Ghana?  I would much rather support either a Ghanaian or other West African business if this is possible.  I know the market might not be huge, but still I do believe there is a market for Nigerian literature here.  Certainly I saw at least six other books that I would have bought from them if I hadn’t either read or bought them already!

I wonder what other readers think?

April 2013 bookish activities

Looking back on April 2013 books, information and library activities

To begin with as usual, a small review of my April completed reads: I read six books (listed below), ironically more non-fiction than fiction, and also more male writers than female. There was one Ghanaian author, two non-Ghanaian African authors, and three non-Africans.

  1. This child will be great, by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf [I found the first part much more interesting than the second, which was more political]
  2. The library at night, by Alberto Manguel [And of course, I dipped in and out of this book just before going to sleep!]
  3. Cod, by Mark Kurlansky [interesting, but not as fascinating as some of his other books]
  4. The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson [one of the books suggested for Accra Book Club. Very funny. And one keeps wondering what the main character will get up to next!]
  5. Mr Happy and the hammer of God and other stories, by Martin Egblewogbe [some very intriguing stories in this collection, which is focussed more on the thoughts of the characters, rather than the external African/Ghanaian environments]
  6. Of Africa, by Wole Soyinka [one of the recommendations for Accra Book Club, which I did not finish before the discussion. Very, very dense.]

Book buying was definitely on the meager side (which means I definitely have to make up in subsequent months): I only bought two books – one at a local bookshop (Sytris) and the other from a colleague who got it from the author.

Activities were as usual fairly varied:

  • Accra Book Club had one of its gatherings – with a discussion of Dune, by Frank Herbert (see post). As I may have mentioned, I really enjoyed re-reading this classic science fiction novel.
  • I joined a group of colleagues for a presentation on eLibraryUSA at the US Embassy Information Resource Center. I enjoyed it, and appreciated using some of the new resources later in the month.
  • Writers Project of Ghana held its March Ghana Voices programme, with Martin Egblewogbe reading some of his poetry, and excerpts from his book, Mr Happy and the hammer of God and other stories, mentioned above.
  • And finally, just before listening to various cultural gurus hosted by Adventurers in the Diaspora , I spoke to a visiting Danish postgraduate student studying literacy/books/reading/libraries in Ghana. I hope he got something out of the interview.

So what about May? lots coming up, including Yari Yari Ntoaso which I am really looking forward to!

 

 

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!

March bookish activities

March bookish activities

I did a fair bit of reading in March, but not much buying. Yet there were a lot of books and information related activities I was involved in.

I finished reading the following novels – no non-fiction during this month!

  • The particular sadness of lemon cake, by Aimee Bender [great title, but I have to admit I didn’t feel the content quite lived up to it]
  • The night circus, by Erin Morgenstern [really enjoyable, even though there were lots of questions unanswered at the end]
  • Skellig, by David Almond [classic teen story; a bit of a tearjerker perhaps]
  • The library of shadows, by Mikkel Birkegaard [another mystery/thriller which started off better than it ended]
  • Nairobi heat, by Mukoma wa Ngugi [detective story set in both the US and East Africa; not sure the ending was the right one, but well…]
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert [classic science fiction story, read for Accra Book Club. Remarkably prescient? I think I first read this more than 40 years ago!]

I didn’t buy much: two books at literary events, plus one visit to Vidya Bookstore which netted three books for me, and two Accra Book Club reads on my Kindle!

As for events related to themes dear to my heart, there were quite a few:,

  • A book slam, organized by AWDF (African Women’s Development Fund) and Alliance Francaise, with several well known African and Ghanaian writers reading excerpts from either their prose works or poetry. A great way to spend the evening of International Women’s Day!
  • Ghanaian author, Alex Agyei-Agyiri, read excerpts from one of his novels at the March Writers Project of Ghana event at Goethe Institut. I did buy one of his books, but I have to admit that I was not impressed by his actual reading – rather sad, as many authors are pretty good at reading their own work.
  • Earlier in the last week I gave a talk/presentation on “Literacy and me” for the Rotary Club of Ring Road Central. Basically I talked about reading, bookish events, and some of my work in information.  There was also a brief discussion  of Rotimi Babatunde’s Caine Prize winning short story “Bombay’s Republic”.
  • And last but not least, there was a work related meeting of CARLIGH –  a consortium of libraries here in Ghana, to which Ashesi belongs, followed at the end of the month with a gathering of academic librarians from all over Africa, brought together by the AAU to discuss progress on institutional and digital repositories.

I am not sure what April will be like… I rather tend to go with the flow…

Kofi Annan’s “Interventions” book launch in Accra

Along with many people – the hall at ISSER (Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research), University of Ghana, Legon was full – I attended the Ghana launch of Kofi Annan’s autobiography, Interventions, on 4 January 2013.

For the most part the event went well, starting only 15 minutes after the stated time [pretty good], and the MC kept things moving. There were a few glitches with the microphone, which meant that it was often hard to hear the relatively soft spoken Kofi Annan when he was delivering his author’s comments, which were very illuminating and of course confidently delivered as usual.

And typically there was one extra person to add to the programme, but on the whole, it flowed fairly well. The refreshments were good – with fresh coconuts and palm wine, in addition to the usual soft drinks, beer and wine.  See more details from my colleague, Kajsa Adu, who blogged almost immediately about the launch

My major issue with this event was and is with the book suppliers – in this case EPP – who had a table with some books on it at the beginning of the event, but obviously not enough to cover all those who wished to buy a copy.  Disappointment no 1:  many of us would have liked to buy a copy to get it autographed and we couldn’t.  But OK, there was an announcement to this effect, and we were reassured that if we went to EPP Bookshop at Legon we could get copies.

My immediate reaction, and no doubt that of others:  Surely by now publishers and booksellers know that book launches in Ghana are  events where attendees buy books, and that many of these same individuals will not go looking for these same books elsewhere after the events?

Disappointment no 2:  I went to the EPP Bookshop at Legon – which I have described before – the day after the event, and then I was told “It is finished.”   When asked when, the shop attendants replied “this morning”.  So needless to say I was not very happy, and indeed another customer who had hoped to buy four copies expressed her dissatisfaction and annoyance in no uncertain terms.  We dutifully wrote our names and contact details, and now we hope for the best.

Moral of the story:  if you see some books for sale at an event, ask if you can buy some before it starts.

A belated look at September 2012 book related activities

During September, I read – or more appropriately – finished reading six books:

  1. King Peggy – An American secretary, her royal destiny and the inspiring story of how she changed an African village, by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman [quite apt as it was about Ekumfi Otuam, the “hometown” of the late President of Ghana, Prof John Atta Mills]
  2. The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives, by Lola Shoneyin [a polygamous marriage has many secrets]
  3. Half-blood blues, by Esi Edugyan [read for Accra Book Club]
  4. Speechless – World history without words, by Polyp [graphic non-fiction; I confess I wasn’t always clear what was being depicted]
  5. Death and pain – Rawlings’ Ghana, the inside story, by Mike Adjei [aspects of Ghana’s history during the turbulent 1970s and 1980s]
  6. The bean trees, by Barbara Kingsolver [moving early novel by the well-known American author]

As is obvious by the titles above, there were more books with African/Ghanaian flavours/origins. Unusually for me there was an even mix between fiction and non-fiction.

In terms of bookish activities, it was a busy month, or rather the last ten days were very full. I had mentioned anticipating several activities in a previous post, and indeed I did go to all.

GAWBOFEST – Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival – did take place, and I did go. 21 September was a public holiday here in Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday). But I didn’t stay long, bought a few books, and left, mainly because I wasn’t feeling very well, even though I had heard that the President, John Mahama, was coming to read from his recently published book, My first coup d’etat. I was very sorry to have missed that reading, but I was very happy that it took place in what was a relatively informal and non-political forum.

The next week, 25 – 29 September, was the 11th Ghana International Book Fair, held this year at the National Theatre. I went round the stands on a couple of days, and didn’t buy much, mainly because I had seen what I wanted at GAWBOFEST. But I was glad to attend the formal book launch of the Burt award 2011 books, and did buy the pack of three books:

  1. The kaya girl, by Mamle Wolo
  2. The lost royal treasure, by Ruby Yayra Goka
  3. Akosua & Osman, by Manu Herbstein

For an interesting and challenging perspective on the Book Fair and writing for children here in Ghana, see Mikelle on Education’s post.

Another entertaining reading took place at the Goethe Institut, where Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo read excerpts from two of his books, as part of the Writers Project of Ghana Ghana Voices series:

  1. The ghost of Sani Abacha
  2. Diaries of a dead African

Nwokolo was entertaining and amusing, and the audience obliged with lots of questions and laughter, and of course we bought his books!

The rest of the week involved a regular monthly gathering of the Accra Book Club, plus a meeting of CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana)…

And not too surprisingly I did buy a few books: one gift, three books for work, and nine for myself! The TBR shelves continue to grow!