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)

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

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!

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

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

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.

May 2012 bookish activities

My “bookish” month of May definitely had an African/Ghanaian orientation to it, especially for reading and buying of physical books.

Of the six books I completed, five were either by African/Ghanaian authors or took place in Africa/Ghana, and these are not necessarily books I had planned to include in the Africa Reading Challenge . So this is what I read this past month:

  1. Patchwork, by Ellen Banda Aaku [won the Penguin prize for African fiction in 2010. Has won other prizes for children’s books.]
  2. Foods and food related practices of cultural groups in southern Ghana, by Faustina Amoako-Kwakye. [talks about traditional foods and ways of preparing them. Some recipes.  Not totally a cookbook, which is why I included it]
  3. Indigo, by Catherine McKinley [read for Accra Book Club. More a story of the author’s obsession with the cloth indigo, and her experiences in Ghana, and elsewhere in West Africa]
  4. Tickling the Ghanaian, by Kofi Akpabli [entertaining essays about contemporary Ghanaian culture]
  5. Snow crash, by Neal Stephenson [pretty seminal science fiction novel; I kept having having to remember that it was written in 1993! My favourite read of the month.]
  6. Zoo city, by Lauren Beukes [fantasy thriller, set in South Africa; not the easiest of reads, mainly because of its innovative language]

On the “books” acquired front, it was a pretty quiet month.

I bought two physical books for myself:

  1. Ancestor stones, by Aminatta Forna [I really should read this author’s books – I now have three on my TBR shelves]
  2. Crossroads, by Mike Adjei [I bought it partly because of the cover!]

And one on my Kindle: Little hands clapping, by Dan Rhodes [slightly macabre novel, for Accra Book Club]

And received the following as gifts:

  1. Engaging ideas, by John C Bean [actually this is for work!]
  2. The night circus, by Erin Morgenstern [has been on my wish list for a while]
  3. Death comes to Pemberley, by P D James [the combination of the author plus Jane Austen characters proved irresistable]
  4. Quiet, by Susan Cain [all about introverts]

Not a bad month, but a little quiet, in my opinion.

Blogging the Caine Prize, 2012: Bombay’s Republic

A group of book bloggers, “inspired by” Zunguzungu are blogging about the shortlist for this year’s Caine Prize, and with a reminder from KinnaReads I thought I should make my own contribution, since I was going to read the stories anyway.  This is more a personal reaction, rather than a full review.  Many others, more qualified than I, will do full justice to each of these stories.

The first story is Bombay’s Republic, by Rotimi Babatunde, who is from Nigeria.  It is also the first of the five stories which I read.

I admit that initially I thought it was quite a long story, but maybe that was because I was reading it on a screen rather than from the printed word.  [All right, I know that statement definitely dates me!].  But on reflection, I found that it actually moved pretty swiftly.

The mood of the story is mixed:  I smiled in several places, and shortly thereafter found myself shrinking with slight disgust at descriptions of tiger leeches and

how the leeches must not be plucked out because their fangs behind and, instead, should be scorched off with a match or lighter, since burn marks are kinder on the skin than sepsis festered by their abandoned fangs.

There are two parts to this : one in Nigeria, the other in the Far East/Burma. The first part covers Bombay’s experiences in the colonial army during World War II, while the last part is situated in Nigeria as it experiences the end of colonialism and the beginning of independence. Although the second does relate to Bombay’s experience during WWII, the author’s portrayal becomes more of a satire on political developments. It works as one story, but I found the first half much stronger – mainly because the commentary was a little more subtle.

Generally it is not a subtle story, but that’s OK. It is, as I mentioned earlier, funny, satirical and poignant.  I enjoyed it.

Rating: If I were to rate it out of 5, probably a 4.

Definitely recommended.