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…


Didn’t miss the latest reading of Ghana Voices

Last week I looked at the Writers Project of Ghana website and saw  there was a reading on 24 October at the Goethe Institut. Given that I looked at it on Thursday, this meant I had  missed the October readings.   I wasn’t very happy with myself, and told the world so.

Imagine how happy I was when I got an email to say that the reading was actually scheduled for Wednesday 31 October, so I hadn’t missed the readings by Mamle Wolo.  And when I checked, information on the WPG website is updated.

So I will make sure that I take my copy of The kaya-girl with me.


Upcoming literary and bookish events in Accra

The next ten days or so promises to be full of various bookish and literary events, which I am very much looking forward to.

  1. Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival (GAWBOFEST) takes place on Friday 21 September 2012 at the National Theatre, here in Accra – in theory from 08.00.  Realistically as it is a public holiday, probably from around 09.30 or so.  Lots of activities according to an advert but no real programme available online, at least as far as I can tell.  I shall go, at least briefly.
  2. 11th Ghana International Book Fair, which takes place from Monday 24th to Saturday 29th September, again at the National Theatre.  Book sales and exhibitions are of course the main part of this event, but there will be other parts, including meetings, and the formal launch of the Burt Award 2011 winning books.  For more details, see their website.  Always on my list of events to attend, and spend money at!
  3. Writers Project of Ghana monthly readings, on Wednesday 26 September, at the Goethe Institut, with Nigeria writer, Chuma Nwokolo.
  4. Accra Book Club’s monthly gathering, with a discussion of Esi Edugyan’s Half-blood blues, which I have nearly finished [having no electricity at home for nearly 48 hours definitely does not help my reading!]
  5. A biannual meeting of the Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) at the end of next week – good to meet fellow librarians.

So I will definitely be busy, and if I get my act together, I should actually do some posting as well!

Mid-year summary from one Accra reader

I do try to post something about my reading, and bookish activities, on a monthly basis, but I just saw
Boston Bibliophile’s mid year summary, which rather appealed to me:

Six new-to me authors:

  1. Laurence Cosse
  2. Emma Donoghue
  3. Alan Bradley
  4. Roger Smith
  5. Lauren Beukes
  6. Dan Rhodes

Six tried-and-true authors:

  1. Ama Ata Aidoo
  2. John Le Carre
  3. Paul Torday
  4. Neal Stephenson
  5. Robert Littell
  6. Tony Morrison

Six books I really liked:

  1. A novel bookstore, by Laurence Cosse
  2. Snowcrash, by Neal Stephenson
  3. Abina and the important men, by Trevor Getz & Liz Clarke
  4. Room, by Emma Donoghue
  5. Legends, by Robert Littell
  6. A reliable wife, by Robert Goolrick

Six countries I’ve visited in my reading [obviously not physically! and the actual number is much, much higher – probably hovering around twenty or so]

  1. South Africa
  2. Zambia
  3. Cote d’Ivoire
  4. Germany
  5. UK
  6. France

Six bookish events I’ve enjoyed

  1. Vice-President Mahama [of Ghana] reading from his manuscript by his official poolside, with other Ghanaian writers
  2. Launch of two books by doyenne of Ghanaian writing, Ama Ata Aidoo
  3. Nii Ayikwei Parkes [author of Tail of the blue bird] reading in Accra on a recent visit
  4. Launch of Elikem Kuenyehia’s book, Kuenyehia on entrepreneurship
  5. Launch of massive two-volume work, Reclaiming the human sciences and humanities, at Univ of Ghana Legon
  6. readings at Goethe Institut, including Ama Ata Aidoo, Kojo Laing and Taiye Selasi

Six bookish things I am looking forward to

  1. Reading VP Mahama’s newly published book, My first coup d’etat, when it is launched in Ghana
  2. Reading the Caine Prize 2012 collection, African violet, when it is published by a local publisher here in Ghana
  3. Getting, and reading copies of the 2011 Burt award winners’ books – again whenever they eventually get published here in Ghana
  4. Attending the next Ghana International Book Fair at the end of September
  5. Attending the Ghana Library Association special 50th anniversary congress in November
  6. Monthly gatherings of Accra Book Club

Two recent Accra book events

In the way of things here in Accra, I attended two book events back-to-back last week [sorry for not posting about them earlier – any excuse would just be that].

One was a set of readings at the Goethe Institut by Kojo Laing, an older Ghanaian writer who has published only a few works – under the auspices of the Writers Project of Ghana. His books are not the easiest to read, and listening to Laing’s answers to questions one could understand why.  Although he grounds his work in Ghana, Ghanaian life and culture it has many fantastical elements in it. At times I almost felt like saying that he was on a rather different planet to we mortals! Plus I understood why I had struggled to read, understand and finish the three of his novels which I have read.

  • Women of the aeroplanes
  • Search sweet country
  • Major Gentl and the Achimota wars [not read]
  • Big Bishop Roko and the altar gangsters – the only book I actually have, and of course, I forgot to bring my copy to be autographed! 

The other book event I attended was the launch of a huge (more than 1,600 pages!) two volume work entitled Reclaiming the human sciences & humanities through African perspectives (edited by Helen Lauer and Kofi Anyidoho, and published by Sub-Saharan Publishers). This compendium of historical and contemporary essays/articles was launched at the University of Ghana, Legon, and obviously aimed at academics and senior level students.  I actually arrived early, and watched as the Nketia Conference Hall at the Institute of African Studies gradually filled up.

The programme more or less kept to time, but it still went on.  However you count it, fifteen eight minute speeches/comments/presentations still mount up to two hours,  but I suppose there were a lot of people who had to be recognized and who would be offended if they were not publicly acknowledged.  There wasn’t an auction, for which I was very grateful, but there were plenty of copies of the books to be bought.

I did buy a set for work, but felt that it was a bit much to purchase for my personal collection, even though it was sold at a relative discount!

Interesting that both these events involved rather challenging tomes!

Ama Ata Aidoo launches two books in Accra

I can’t talk much about the programme for the launch of Ama Ata Aidoo’s books which took place on Friday 23 March – her Essays in honour of Ama Ata Aidoo and Diplomatic pounds & other storiesbirthday [though not her 70th if I heard correctly] – because I am a little ashamed to admit that I was horribly late due to a combination of car issues plus parking.  But I was very glad to see that the venue – British Council Accra – was absolutely full, and that the Vice-President of Ghana, John Mahama, himself an author, was able to deliver his keynote address, even though he was due to travel that very evening!

Despite coming at the end of ceremony I was able to see a few friends and colleagues, including Ivor Agyeman-Duah of the Centre for Intellectual Renewal who organized the launch,  and buy the books. One is a collection of short stories, entitled Diplomatic pounds & other stories and the other is more academic as evidenced by the title Essays in honor of Ama Ata Aidoo at 70: a reader in African cultural studies.  Both are published by Ayebia Clarke who has a great reputation for publishing books on Ghana, and indeed on Africa

I must definitely buy a couple of copies for work.

I wasn’t able to get the author to autograph them, but I think there will be another opportunity  soon – as Ama Ata Aidoo is due to give some readings at the Goethe Institut as part of the Writers Project of Ghana on 28 March.

Not an opportunity to miss!

Writers Mamle Kabu and Kuukua Yomekpe at Goethe Institut

Last week I attended another of the Writers’ Project of Ghana readings at the Goethe Institut, here in Accra.  I wasn’t actually sure that the event was coming on as it ended up being on the day that the Eid el Fitr holiday was officially celebrated in Ghana (despite the fact that virtually all Muslims I know actually ended their fast the day before!)

For me getting to the venue was in itself an adventure as I had forgotten that it is a custom in the area near I live to have a kind of SallahFest, which means a major road is more or less blocked to ordinary traffic but filled with cars/trucks/pickups full of revelers, accompanied by many on foot, wearing the new outfits which are so characteristic of these celebrations here.  Fortunately there were some police on duty, and eventually I was able to make my way towards the east.

Because it was a public holiday, the venue for the readings was shifted outside – but as luck would have it, there were sprinkles which threatened to turn into real drizzle, and we did move inside.

This time there were two writers:  Mamle Kabu and Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe.  Both read excerpts from a recent collection, African women writing resistance:  Kabu excerpts from her short story “Story of Faith” and Yomekpe excerpts from her memoir “Musings of an African woman”,   In different ways the “stories” these two women writers read rang true – either because they told of pressures faced by contemporary women in Ghanaian universities, or for trying to find a suitable identity in the media driven world of the US.

Yomekpe’s recounting of her change of name from Melanie-Ann to Kuukua echoed for me, as well as the issues with her hair, mainly because of what I know from my own family and their experiences.

Naturally I bought a copy of the book – and fortunately many others did the same! I only wish there were more copies available in local bookshops.