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.

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.

Reactions to “Is science fiction coming to Africa?”

At one point in my life – my teens and early twenties – I was a devoted science fiction reader. It was one of the genres that I used to borrow a lot of from the local public libraries I patronized – either the Cleveland Park  or Friendship Heights  branches of the DC public library system (at least as they existed in the mid 1960s and early 1970s). I think I pretty well exhausted whatever stock they had! And though I haven’t read as much in the years since that time, I still buy and/or read the occasion SF.

Last weekend (17 June) I was doing my usual Sunday morning activities of tidying up and cleaning, with the BBC World Service on in the background when I heard a trailer for a programme coming up just after the news: “Is science fiction coming to Africa”, plus I thought I heard a voice I recognized… Naturally I listened a bit more carefully.

I was thrilled to hear that one of the key people featured on the programme was Jonathan Dotse (http://www.afrocyberpunk.com), a third year student at Ashesi University College (where I work), who has published short stories and is writing a science fiction novel, set in Accra – which many of us are avidly awaiting.

Plus I had actually read the presenter of the programme, Lauren Beukes’ prizewinning novel, Zoo City, though I do admit that I found some bits of it a little difficult to follow. I have also read one of Nnedi Okorafor’s novels, Zahrah the windseeker, and have several others on my wish list.

Admittedly on the film side, I haven’t done so well – I haven’t seen District 9 [was it on DSTV and I missed it? probably? possibly?] and my curiosity is certainly piqued regarding Pumzi.

So what does this mean for this book lover? Naturally I have to follow up – maybe even order a book by Okorafor which I haven’t read? and also try to watch a couple of African SF films!

A weakness for cookbooks

I am not a good cook, though I do like to bake at the weekends.

But I do like to buy and skim/read through cookbooks.

Although my shelves of cookbooks don’t particularly look like it, I do try to buy any Ghanaian or African cookbooks which I come across, which admittedly are not that numerous. Here are a few of them – some definitely newer – in colour, with photos – and some older, with a few line drawings if one was lucky, none was much more the norm.

Interestingly the newer Ghanaian cookbooks are often aimed at those in the diaspora – many of whom who may be of Ghanaian origin – and wanting to recreate a little bit of “home” through their cooking. With the increasing availability of items such as plantains and yams even in mainstream supermarkets, plus the plethora of so-called “international” supermarkets catering to multi-ethnic communities, as well as the so-called “Ghana stores” or “African supermarkets” which are no longer total rarities even in suburban areas of the US.

One of the best sources of Ghanaian recipes which is not in book form – yet – can be found on Fran Osseo-Asare’s BetumiBlog http://betumiblog.blogspot.com/ which not only has recipes, but talks about alternatives and the whole process at arriving at formal recipes. Fascinating, though I admit to not having the patience to do this.

Apart from Ghanaian/African cookbooks I love looking and drooling at contemporary cookbooks with their beautiful photos – and knowing that my dishes never look anything like that. Middle Eastern/North African/Mediterranean food are all pretty attractive to me, especially those that do not use a lot of meat. Baking too is a weakness – after all that is something I often do on a Sunday afternoon.

So here are some of what is on my shelves, and in some boxes.

NB: I was originally going to post this as part of the Blog Action Day on FOOD, but obviously it didn’t happen quite as planned!

Better late than never?