April 16, 2017

Book Release!!! | "Resemblance" by Afolabi Opanubi

Resemblance is a new novel authored by Nigeria's Afolabi Opanubi. Bloggers will recognize him as the man behind the captivating blog site, Through My Eyes. It was his platform and a space where he shared short stories and think pieces one of which is The Tufiakwa Syndrome, one of my favorite pieces written by him. Afolabi disappeared for a while from the blogsphere and now he has reappeared bearing his debut effort, Resemblance. We don't often see bloggers successfully pursue their literary dreams and that's one of the many reasons I'm excited about Resemblance. Other Nigerian bloggers who've walked this path before include Onyeka Nwelue and Myne Whitman. Onyeka Nwelue ran a now defunct blog and then went on to pen his debut novel The Abyssinian Boy and the rest, as they say, is history. Myne Whitman ran multiple blogs and websites and went ahead to pen A Heart to Mend and A Love Rekindled and has been linked to many exciting projects. I'm rooting so hard for Afolabi Opanubi and his new novel. Here's a synopsis:

"Bose, an art and fashion photographer living in Toronto, discovers on meeting her estranged father, that he has become a man with no past. After years of keeping her distance from him, Bose decides to reconcile with her father. But when she meets with him, she quickly learns that he has mysteriously lost his memories of not only her, but of his family and himself. Shaken, Bose tries to find a solution to her father's ailment. She suspects that he suffers from a form of dementia. She will later discover that to help him regain his memories and lost self, she will have to contend with her own past. Resemblance follows Bose as she traces her family's journey from their home country, Nigeria, to Canada, and confronts the tensions which tore them apart. Reasons behind her family's troubles and their experience of racism are laid bare." 

Here's a brief introduction to the author:

Afolabi Opanubi
Afolabi Opanubi was born in Lagos, but grew up in Port Harcourt. He left for university in Canada when he was sixteen; he studied and worked there for over six years. He writes both fiction and non-fiction. His writing has appeared in The Drum Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, Brittle Paper and Africa is a Country. He has participated in literary workshops such as: Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop, and The Toronto Writers' Cooperative. He currently lives in Lagos. 

Resemblance is 424 pages long (based on my e-book page count), I'm currently at page 141 and I'm impressed by Afolabi's storytelling ability. BUY your own copy of Resemblance via: 

- Glendora Book Store at Ikeja City Mall

March 07, 2017

Ruby by Cynthia Bond | Book Review

Ruby Bell is stark raving mad. She walks the streets barefoot, pees on herself in public, howls nightly
in the forest as she battles demons and digs furiously into tree roots. Hers is a cautionary tale repeated often in a small religious African-American community located in Liberty, Texas. A tale of the wages of a life of sin and immorality. She used to be gorgeous, she used to be the object of envy and lust in Liberty but she has fallen from her lofty perch and shattered into a million tiny pieces. A public downfall that Liberty's inhabitants took a savage pleasure in. The only man who hates to see her this way is Ephram Jennings. He's the forty-five years old bachelor son of the late Reverend Jennings and the brother and only sibling of Celia Jennings, local do-gooder and revered prayer warrior. Ephram has his own wounds and scars from the blows life has dealt him physically and emotionally. He's broken on the inside, miserable and stuck with his domineering sister. Ephram wants to tend to Ruby, he wants to pick up her pieces and put her back together again but there are numerous obstacles he must confront. For Ephram and Ruby there will be no happy ending.

Ruby is set in the time period of racial turmoil in America and the community's recent past is one of lynchings and rape of colored people. Far away Martin Luther King is garnering support and earnestly trying to bring about change with his civil rights movement. Everyone of these characters know pain very intimately. One after the other we get deeply acquainted with them and their personal stories. Veils are pulled off characters revealing monsters and the atrocities they have perpetuated. Atrocities that are hard to take in but were committed by community leaders who indulge in public performances of spirituality that hide their rotten cores. The horrors that have cracked Ruby Bell open and incapacitated her beyond redemption are unspeakable and Cynthia Bond is unflinching in her narration. I love Ruby Bell and my heart broke into two for her. I love Ephram a lot and my heart broke for him too. That ending had to come. I don't think Cynthia Bond could have done any better. Ruby is a great read. It's a riveting and incredibly moving novel that I'll never forget. Cynthia Bond deserves many awards and a standing ovation. Kudos to her.
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RUBY's is my fourth book pick from my celebration of Black History Month! Follow through using the links below:

Introductory Post: February Is Black History Month on Incessant Scribble
Book Pick #1: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis | Book Review
Book Pick #2: The Mothers by Brit Bennett | Book Review
Book Pick #3: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn | Book Review
Final/Summary Post: Black History Month 2017 on Incessant Scribble 

February 28, 2017

Black History Month 2017 on Incessant Scribble

Today's the last day of February! Wherever you are I hope you found some way to celebrate our rich black history. On the 1st of February I announced that I would devote this month to reviewing novels by African Americans. It's a blog tradition that I hope to continue well into the future. I had hoped that I could review four novels but I was only able to review three. This has been a super, super busy month for me and while I couldn't reach my goal I'm super proud of my three book reviews. My fourth book pick is Ruby by Cynthia Bond. I'm almost at one-third of the book. I'll finish it up and post my review on the 7th of March. You'll find the links to all my Black History Month 2017 book picks below. ENJOY!

Book #1: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Book #2: The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Book #3: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

February 21, 2017

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn | Book Review

Margot works as a front desk clerk at the Palm Star Resort in Jamaica. During the day she answers the phones, welcomes guests, oversees the hotel staff and sees to it that guests are comfortable and well taken care of. At night Margot heads to the rooms of guests who earlier in the day put in orders for sex using code words like "sundae" and "ackee". She has dreams of rising past her current job post and she's doing her best to show her boss that she deserves a promotion.

Delores is Margot's mother and while Margot hustles night and day at the hotel, Delores labors under the scorching Jamaican sun selling souvenirs to tourists. She heads out to her market stall every day with her wares, lures tourists over and then exploits them. It's hard work. The Jamaican sun burns and the heat suffocates but her second daughter is the light at the end of the tunnel. She dreams of the day Thandi will become a medical doctor and rescue her from misery and penury.

Thandi is Margot's sister and Delores second daughter. She's the one who's being aggressively set up to succeed. She's the one expected to rise high and fly far. She's the basket into which Delores and Margot have put their precious eggs. Thandi is book smart and going to the best school in the area through a scholarship Margot wangled from Alphonso Wellington her boss at Palm Resort Hotel. Margot and Delores have drilled into Thandi that a good education and good grades is her only escape. It's the only thing that can elevate Thandi above this mess of a life and take her far far away from their shack. The dollars Margot and Delores stash away is used to make Thandi comfortable and see that she lacks nothing that she needs. They even let her skip household chores just so she can concentrate on getting the best grades possible to guarantee entrance into medical school. Thandi does as she's asked but she's not interested in being a doctor. She wants to be an artist and the little encouragement given to her by a schoolteacher sows a seed that threatens to undo all the effort that has been put into Thandi.

Here Comes the Sun is my 3rd book selection for Black History Month here on Incessant Scribble. I discovered this novel and my 2nd book selection, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, in the article My Year of Reading Books by Black Women written by Alisha Acquaye for Elle Magazine. Here Comes the Sun is a great book selection especially for Black History Month for many reasons one of which is that it deals with uncomfortable topics in black communities such as rape, homosexuality and colorism. It pushes the reader to confront these topics and to notice how they affect all our lives directly or indirectly. I think that makes this material more powerful and many times more arresting.

I need to discuss Delores and Margot but I'll try not to give much away. I think it's easier to tag Delores a monster and file her character away than to pay attention to everything that we know about her and acknowledge that she's the way she is because of the cards life has dealt her. She's just like the rest of us. So even though she's cold and unloving and even though she tears down her daughter's dreams and tears down their confidence. Even though she has fed her daughter to ravenous wolves on numerous occasions she's still a human being with her own demons and insecurities. Honestly there were a couple of times when I wanted someone to hug her and somehow heal her emotional wounds.

Margot is very ambitious. She may not be as book smart as her little sister, she may not have the
Formation World Tour, Houston, TX 5/7/16
education and exposure she needs to get the job she wants, and she may not have had a gentle, loving childhood but she doesn't let those things hold her back from her goals. She's ruthless in her pursuit of them tossing morals aside, sacrificing lives, breaking hearts, burning bridges and shattering homes. On page 196 she does something so savage that my eyes widened in disbelief and I put down the novel. It was already past midnight and I was still trying to recover from the shock and pain of watching Beyonce, just hours before, lose the Grammy for Album of the Year for her groundbreaking album LEMONADE, which she more than deserved. It was all just too much for one night so I went to bed. At first Margot seems better than her mother but in the end I'm not sure where to put her so to speak. She has mined the darkness of her childhood, adolescence and adulthood and used all of that to fuel her way forward. So at the end of the novel, however volatile her situation may seem to some readers, however pyrrhic her victory may seem to some readers, it's important to note that she survived. It's important to applaud that she held her head above water and went for every single thing she ever wanted. And anyone, anyone who has ever come from nothing. Anyone who grew up in poverty and lived in "shacks", and has forever known deep, deep, deep thirst for the better and nicer things in life will relate to Margot in some measure. I love this novel. I love it. I love it. I love it. You need to read it.

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READ My Other Black History Month Selections!!!
Book #1: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis | Book Review
Book #2: The Mothers by Brit Bennett | Book Review

February 14, 2017

The Mothers by Brit Bennett | Book Review

The Mothers begins titillatingly with scandalous gossip. Nadia Turner, daughter and only child of Robert and Elisa, got impregnated by the pastor's son and she went to the abortion clinic downtown to rid herself of the baby. The rumor is told to us by "the mothers" a circle of wizened old women who have lived all their lives in Oceanside, a small community in California, USA. The mothers have seen it all - young feverish love, heartbreak, pregnant girls hidden from prying eyes and shipped off quickly to the home of a faraway aunt - and so even though they judge Nadia's actions their judgement seems to come from a different place. In a community as small and tight-knit as Oceanside everyone is connected and one person's actions can create a ripple that morphs into a wave and topples even the most revered community institutions.

Let me first say that this review doesn't do this novel justice (neither does the book cover art) and for that I sincerely apologize. Right from the beginning Bennett has you hooked and she keeps you enraptured until the very end. I'm amazed and so so impressed by the wisdom and depth Bennett has shown in this debut. How old is Brit Bennett? How is she so knowing? The Mothers by Brit Bennett is the spectacular arrival of a new literary voice. It's a mesmerizing accomplishment. Much kudos to Brit Bennett. You need to read this book.
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This is my second book pick for my annual celebration of Black History Month here on Incessant Scribble. My first book pick was The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. My third book pick will be reviewed on the 21st. 

February 07, 2017

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis | Book Review

Hattie, her mom and her two sisters fled the south and traveled up north to Philadelphia to start life all over when Hattie was fifteen years old. The difference in racial relations is immediately evident to Hattie when she gets off the train at Broad Street Station, Philadelphia and so she vows never to return to the south. Not long after their arrival Hattie gets impregnated by August and she moves out of her mother's house to live with him. The twelve tribes referred to in the book title are her eleven kids and one granddaughter and each chapter in the book focuses on each child or in some cases two. Hattie's life has been a thorny mess partly as a result of her choices and largely because August Shepherd is an unambitious, no-good adulterer, completely unworthy of Hattie. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie begins with the birth and death of Hattie's first babies, the twins Philadelphia and Jubilee, thus setting the tone for the rest of the novel.

Ayana Mathis's prose is immediately absorbing. The first chapter is there to break our hearts and ready us for the rest of the novel. The characters are colorful, each one contributing immensely to the narrative and bringing along his or her own recollection of the same family events. I finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and wanted more so I continued on to the acknowledgements and drank up all of Ayana's thank-you's to those who contributed to this work. This is one of those novels that makes me question if I could ever really do this, if I could ever write anything decent enough. It's one of those novels for which I made a mental note to revisit for some sort of literary guidance once I'm ready to walk this path and tell my own stories. I love this novel a lot. You should read it.

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This is my first book pick for the celebration of Black History Month here on Incessant Scribble. I plan to review four novels this month. My second post will be up on the 14th.

READ:
February Is Black History Month on Incessant Scribble

[Image via Amazon]

February 01, 2017

February Is Black History Month on Incessant Scribble

Black History Month is an annual celebration of black history and accomplishments. It's a tradition that originated from the fact that the contributions of blacks to the United States of America were being omitted in history books. It was a disturbing trend that many African Americans noted and spoke out against. Carter G. Woodson was one of those frustrated by the omissions and so with the help of Jesse E. Moorland he founded the Association for the Study of the Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History [ASALH]). That association led to the launching of a "Negro History Week" which later expanded into Black History Month and got officially recognized by U.S. President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. You can read a summarized version of this history at TIME Magazine and also on the History website.

Incessant Scribble has always been dedicated to celebrating the literary works of African authors. Over the past few years I've considered reviewing the works of other black authors on this blog but it wasn't until last year that I became immensely inspired to do so by Read Diverse Books, a literary blog I've been following for over a year. It's a gorgeous blog with great literary content and it's run by the very energetic and smart Nazahet Hernandez, a resident of Texas here in the U.S.A. For a whole month beginning from September 15th, 2016 and on till October 15th, 2016, Naz featured reviews, author interviews, guest posts from latin authors and author spotlights on his blog for the Hispanic Heritage Month. It was an entire month dedicated to celebrating and uplifting latin literary voices. I was mind blown and completely impressed with the quality of work he blogged and in awe because I know the amount of effort that goes into blogging. I was so impressed that I swore I'd pay tribute to African American authors in whatever tiny way I could come February 2017. Beginning this year and continuing every year henceforth, I will devote the entire month of February to promoting black literature that isn't from the continent of Africa. It's my goal to review at least four novels for Black History Month every year.

From the minute I became inspired by Nazahet last year, I began to compile a list of novels by African American authors that I wanted to read. My shortlist included:

1. Sula by Toni Morrison
2. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
3. Going to See the Man by James Baldwin
4. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
6. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
7. Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates

After much consideration (I used Amazon's "Look Inside" feature a lot to preview the novels) I dropped #1, #6 and  #7 from my shortlist. I already owned #2 and so I bought #3, #4 and #5. I began to read #5 but I dropped it because I found it unabsorbing. I'll give it another shot sometime in the future. On January 6th of this year one of my friends, Thank-God Eboh, shared the ELLE Magazine article My Year of Reading Books by Black Women written by Alisha Acquaye on FacebookI loved it. It was in that article that I discovered and quickly purchased The Mothers by Brit Bennett and Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn. I had been contemplating buying Ruby by Cynthia Bond for some time so once I saw it in the ELLE article I bought it. I finished reading The Twelve Tribes of Hattie in early January. I'm currently in the middle of The Mothers and I hope to get to Here Comes the Sun right after that. I'm not yet sure what my 4th book pick will be or if I'll be able to meet my goal of four novels this month. I'll do my best. Keep an eye out for my book reviews 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th of this month. Have an amazing month!

[Image via Cal Alumni Association UC Berkerley]

January 29, 2017

Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo | Book Review

In Chibundu Onuzo's Welcome to Lagos two soldiers Chike and Yemi flee their army base because they can no longer continue with the atrocities being committed by their platoon. They desert their base on foot and under the cover of darkness with no definite plans on where they're fleeing to. Along the way they pick up a bunch of characters all of whom are fleeing something in their lives. The group heads to Lagos in the hope that they can begin life afresh. Their first night in Lagos is spent in a hotel and then financial constraints force them to make a home under a busy Lagos bridge. The menial jobs they pick up help cover their expenses but the question of how long they can continue to live this way hangs over them. Their lives change forever when they come into contact with Chief Sandayo, the former Minister of Education, who's currently on the run.

Welcome to Lagos is the first novel to be released in 2017 out of the many highly anticipated books slated for release this year. There were a lot of times during my reading, especially in the beginning quarter, that I wanted to put this book down and move to another because I was bored by the storylines. By the time I was halfway done with it I knew it wasn't one that I'd recommend. Welcome to Lagos had its moments though. I was intrigued by some plot twists and I followed through to see where it was all headed but those moments don't make up for everything else. I do have to say that I was saddened by the novel's ending. I finished it and sat there in the kitchen thinking about it all. That ending was a product of all their choices especially those made by the group leader Chike. Welcome to Lagos is one of those novels you appreciate in the end.

READ: 
The Spider King's Daughter by Chibundu Onuzo | Book Review

[Image via Amazon]

January 07, 2017

Voice of America by E.C. Osondu | Book Review

Voice of America is a collection of eighteen short stories. It begins with Waiting and ends with the titular story, Voice of America. Some of the characters live in Nigeria and fantasize about the American life while swapping and parroting myths about Americans. Other times the characters are immigrants living in America and grappling with the realities of the American way of life. Of the eighteen short stories I only like seven - Waiting (I love, love, love this one. There's a reason it won the 2009 Caine Prize for African Writing), Bar Beach (love this), Our First American (love this one), Jimmy Carter's Eyes (I love this one a lot. It was a finalist for the 2007 Caine Prize for African Writing), A Letter from Home (love this), The Men They Married, and I Will Lend You My Wife. I had a mixed reaction to some of the remaining nine stories and disliked a couple of them.

Voice of America is E.C. Osondu's debut collection of short stories. It was published in 2010 and I've seen it referenced and recommended so many times over the last few years. Because it's so well regarded I expected to like it or at least a good chunk of it but things didn't turn out that way. I loved the first few stories but as I got further in my reading I encountered more and more stories I did not care for. Welcome to America was where my reading completely stalled for the first time. Every other entertainment choice in my house was more appealing than returning to that story but I finally got through it.

The first E.C. Osondu book I read was his second collection of short stories This House Is Not For Sale when it was published last year. I love that book a lot. Voice of America bears some similarities with This House Is Not For Sale except that the country of obsession by its characters is America instead of Britain. Voice of America is very enjoyable at the good points and E.C. Osondu's humor cracked me up just as it always does. I honestly would have liked to walk away loving the majority of stories in this highly regarded collection by Osondu. Honestly. If This House Is Not For Sale is an 8 out of 10 then Voice of America is a 5 out of 10.

READ:
This House Is Not For Sale by E.C. Osondu | Book Review

[Image via Amazon]

December 07, 2016

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 Anthology | Book Review

The Caine Prize for African Writing is a prestigious literary prize awarded to African writers annually beginning in the year 2000. Each year an anthology comprising of shortlisted stories and workshop stories is published by New Internationalist in the UK and in 8 African countries (South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon & Uganda). This is my second year reviewing the anthology series on my blog. Last year's anthology was titled Lusaka Punk and Other Stories. This year's anthology is titled The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories. The collection begins with the five shortlisted stories and then continues with the twelve stories penned by the workshop participants. Here we go.

Shortlisted Stories 2016
Somalian/Kenyan author Abdul Adan's The Lifebloom Gift opens this year's collection. It's an odd story. It's not long before I know I don't like it and so I check quickly to see how many pages it is (11 pages) and then I continue. The protagonist worked as a TSA attendant until he was fired about two days ago upon accusations of inappropriately touching a traveler during an airport frisk. He denies the charges then goes on to narrate other incidences of touching strangers without their consent including a man (who seems a bit challenged) called Ted Lifebloom. I wasn't comfortable with this story.

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) follows with What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. Nneoma is a mathematician but a special kind. She can calculate grief and pain and from those calculations she and her colleagues can make it all go away. It's a pricey procedure obviously. Contrary to my initial fears I liked the story.

Tope Folarin's (Nigeria) short story is called Genesis. This is my first work by Tope Folarin and something about his narration and the story just made me sit up a little, readying myself for a goood story. The protagonist tells of his childhood in Utah, U.S.A. It's one spent in terror of his mentally ill mother. Alternately pleasant and abusive she is a threat to her spouse and two sons. Our narrator observes meltdowns and the physical abuse of his father. He's the big brother absorbing double portions of physical and emotional abuse just to protect his little brother. Tope Folarin's incredible. I'm sooo impressed. Love this story.

Bongani Kona (Zimbabwe) penned At Your Requiem. It's a tale of two cousins who grew up in the same house as brothers fighting for the love an affection of a twisted mother. They grow older and the toxins and big secret from their childhood cause them to spiral out of control as they try to escape via substance abuse. It doesn't seem like their relationship will be repaired anytime soon.

Memories We Lost is by Lidudumalingani (South Africa). Lidudumalingani is the WINNER of the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing. It's a tale of two sisters. One of them battles mental illness and everyone in their community 's at loss on how to handle this problem so she's subjected to all sorts of rituals. The narrating sister begins to interfere with the medicinal treatment because her sister seems more alive without them. Once she gets wind of the latest treatment proposal she takes matters into her own hands. Memories We Lost is okay.

Workshop Stories 2016
The curiously titled His Middle Name Was Not Jesus was penned by NoViolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwe). We all know Bulawayo. I LOVE her book We Need New Names and I reviewed it in 2013. Mukaka works at a wildlife resort in Zambia and he's infatuated with a lady currently at the resort. He mistakes her tenderness for something deeper and he doesn't handle it well in the end. For a tale by Bulawayo I'm surprised I did not respond sooner to this story.

In Koba Umwine - Peel It Yourself by Chilufya Chilangwa (Zambia), Mumbi's marriage seems set to crumble just three weeks after her nuptials because of an infidelity. A phone call from her mom helps her realize what's important to her.

The Goat is Tope Folarin's second submission and it stands out in the workshop short story lineup. In this boy's family the father is the problem and his mother does her best to mitigate the effects of his fathers rashness. I love this story.

Walking was written by Nigeria's Elnathan John. I remember him from last year's collection and I reviewed his debut novel Born On a Tuesday this past October. In Walking an overweight man exercises daily to fight the weight off. We're privy to all his thoughts & his judgement of other regulars on his exercise route. He's a big man with just as many insecurities, grudges, and issues as the rest of us. I like it.

In Shiko by Billy Kohora, a bunch of old school friends reunite. These boys are in their forties and secondary/high school was a long, long time ago. This is no Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion. This group, at a bar drinking beer and eyeing women, lacks members with any star quality. It's an lackluster band of friends. The business opportunity they meet to discuss is very shady. The protagonist tries to borrow money from his girlfriend and then his dad but that doesn't work. The only thing he's able to bring to the table is secret company intel. During their gathering at a drinking spot that's an office during the day and a brothel at night, one of them calls the narrator a "homo" and everyone freezes. My first thought was "ohh damn... here comes the drama" but... It's a decent story.

The Wandering Festival was written by Bwanga "Benny Blow" Kapumpa (Zambia). Here the protagonist attends "The Wandering Festival" so he can write about it. He's hoping that writing about this once in a decade event will help revitalize his writing career. I just wanted this story to be over.

In the Garden was written by FT Kola (South Africa), another name I recognized from last year's anthology collection. I did not like this story or its narration. There's a marble palace with handmaidens and limestone sphinx sculptures and "precious silk" and stuff. It's possible that this borrows from the ancient empire for artistic purposes. It's definitely not my thing.

Timwa Lipenga of Malawi wrote Duty. The main character heads to prison to see her father. The visits are tough but more so because of the reason he's incarcerated. This is a story that had me wanting more. I like it.

77 Steps by Kafula Mwila (Zambia) isn't engaging. From the beginning the protagonist seems tense. He has questions about his history and the death of his mother years back. Unable to get answers at home he goes out to seek them.

Space II is by Masande Ntshanga (South Africa). Here's a laid back male character whose life seemed promising in the beginning per his father. He hasn't come anywhere close to his potential after all these years. His is a life of prostitutes and prescription drug abuse. I'm surprised I liked this story. It wasn't exciting or moving but it was good in the end.

The titular story of this collection The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things was written by Okwiri Oduor (Kenya). Immediately it's clear I have my favorite story. Dudu is a little monster who constantly exasperates his mom and terrorizes little kids around him. He steals and destroys everything in his path. During one of his rampages he captured a chicken, broke its wing and burst open its head. He's wild and crazy and unmanageable. This story is very entertaining. I love it. I love it. I love it. I look forward to future literary offerings from Okwiri Oduor.

Namwali Serpell (Zambia) closes this anthology with her story Zo'ona. She's another familiar name I remember from last year's anthology. I LOVE this story sooo much. It starts out with the early morning receipt of an email and before the end of the day lives have been ruined. We hop all over with Serpell from character to character to see the ripple effect of a simple error. I LOVE this story a lot.

Most Memorable
1) The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things by Okwiri Uduor
2) Zo'ona by Namwali Serpell
3) Genesis by Tope Folarin
4) The Goat by Tope Folarin

As always this is an eclectic compilation of stories from the African continent. Much kudos to all the publishers for putting this together in a tidy little collection. Last year I loved the opening short story but disliked the closing short story of the 2015 anthology. I had felt that the closing short story then wasn't memorable enough to close the collection. This year the reverse is the case. I really like the closing story but not the opening story. Once again I'm glad I chose to review this anthology series annually. I can't wait to see what 2017 brings. Happy Holidays!!

READ: 
The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 Anthology | Book Review
[Image via Amazon]

November 14, 2016

Blogger Spotlight on Mary Okeke Reviews


Mary Okeke Reviews is one of my favorite literary blogs out there. Its creator Mary Okeke recently began the Blogger Spotlight series on her blog and yesterday she featured me! It's a really good interview and I'm grateful to Mary for the feature. Head over to Mary Okeke Reviews to find out more about me and my blog Incessant Scribble. Enjoy!

[Image via MaryOkekeReviews]

November 07, 2016

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue | Book Review

Behold the Dreamers is a story about a Cameroonian family living in the United States of America. Jende made it out of Cameroun on a visiting visa three years ago and was able to, over a period of time, arrange for his girl Neni and his son Liomi to join him in America. Two weeks after their arrival Jende marries Neni in a small ceremony in New York. Neni soon finds work under the table as a home health aide and also begins taking community college classes so that she can get the credits needed to get into pharmacy school. A year and a half later (the beginning of the novel), Jende gets a nicer, better paying job chauffeuring the wealthy Mr. Edwards and his family. The new job and much larger paycheck makes the Jonga's euphoric. Their sun seems to be rising and all their American dreams seem poised to come true. However, the issue of their immigration status looms over them like a dark cloud. On arrival to America Jende had hired a Nigerian lawyer to figure out a way for him and his family to stay in the country. The pathway to residency proposed by his lawyer is really shaky but they go along with it hoping for the best. Will the Jonga's soar high like a brightly colored hot air balloon or will all their hopes, dreams and aspirations explode mid-flight and fall to the ground like a confetti of burning debris?

Behold the Dreamers was previously titled The Longings of Jende Jonga and I loved the previous title so much that for some time I refused to refer to it as Behold the Dreamers. Anyway, publicity for this novel was in full swing last year way before its 2016 release and the anticipation was high among book readers. Imbolo Mbue was rumored to have received a seven figure advance for this book and so everyone wondered what tale Mbue could possibly have spun to receive such an enormous advance. Behold the Dreamers is a riveting immigrant tale that's relevant for the times we live in. I could relate to the sentiments expressed by Jende & Neni but especially those expressed by Neni. Of the two characters, one is terribly, shamefully weak and wants to give up on the fight while the other is open and willing to pursue all possible options to U.S. residency legal or illegal. I read page after page, completely consumed by Behold the Dreamers while outside my bedroom window morning turned to afternoon and then night. My heart grew heavier as I neared the end and I begged the stronger of the two to do something, anything. I wanted to cry for them. As a citizen of the United States who immigrated from Nigeria I could sympathize with their immigrant experience and I kept rooting for them to get a shot at their dreams. I read this novel in September right after I read the spectacular Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Both Homegoing & Behold the Dreamers were highly anticipated 2016 releases and by now you should already know that Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing is required reading. Of the two stunning debuts it was Behold the Dreamers that I found hard to shake off after reading. I kept thinking about the Jonga's like I didn't have my own day to day problems. I woke up the morning after and thought about it while getting ready for work, while commuting to work and when I returned home that evening. It's a moving debut. You need to read this novel. BUY it. BORROW it. READ it.

READ: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi | Book Review

[Image via Amazon]

October 14, 2016

Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John | Book Review

Dantala's a Muslim boy living in northern Nigeria. His dad is dead, his mother is a shell of her former self due to a family tragedy, and his siblings are scattered. At the beginning of the story he lives with a band of stray, unruly boys who survive the streets by letting themselves be used by political parties to carry out election mischief. He gets redeemed by a Sheikh and is able to live a different sort of life. It's a new chapter in his life and an important part of his growth into a man. A chance happening leads to a sexual awakening but not the kind of awakening a devout Muslim can afford to entertain. These feelings arouse, sober and repulse him. Will he suppress his feelings or seek outlets for exploration? While he deals with that deals with his inner turmoil there are important, life-threatening issues needing attention. His father figure, the Sheikh, and Mallam Abdul-Nur are the heads of two factions who are continuously in discord about what Islam should mean, especially in the wake of international terrorist attacks, and what is the best path going forward both for their community and Islam in general. Tensions rise, things escalate, and people fall left and right.

I haven't read a lot of novels set in northern Nigeria and featuring Muslim protagonists. It makes this book especially more important in the overall quest for more diverse voices from Nigeria and the African continent. While reading Born on a Tuesday and after I was done with it I kept thinking that the novel would mean a little more and I would feel a little more if I could really understand the context of the life portrayed and the gravity of its weighty issues. I'm not saying only northerners or those with a Muslim background would understand Born on a Tuesday. I'm saying I'd probably be a little more heartbroken at the end if I had been able to connect to all of this a little more. I first read Elnathan John in the The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 Anthology titled Lusaka Punk and Other Stories. I liked his short story Flying. Born on a Tuesday is a good read.

READ:
The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 Anthology | Book Review

[Image via Amazon]

October 07, 2016

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi | Book Review

Homegoing begins with the nighttime birth of Effia Otcher, one of the two great ancestresses whose lineages we will follow to the end. We see Effia grow, get married off to a white colonialist named James Collins, and birth a boy named Quey. The three of them live in a castle that holds captives in its murky dungeons. Esi is the other great ancestress. We catch her just as she turns fifteen while in the dungeon of Cape Coast Castle, a holding place for kidnapped persons just before they are shipped off to the United States of America to serve as slaves. Each chapter in  Homegoing is about a character; each character is a descendant of one of these two ancestresses. We follow these descendants from chapter to chapter, life story to life story, in sickness and in health, till death (sometimes), and then we part. They head off to the afterlife and we, witnesses to their immense pain and suffering, head back to our daily lives incredibly moved and much more aware of the horrors of our history.

Homegoing deals with the slave trade that resulted in millions of men & women being uprooted from Africa and shipped to the United States of America to undergo abominable treatment in the hands of white men. I was nervous about this book at first because I know that the author is a 26 years old immigrant from Ghana not an old, wizened African American lady writing about a history she either knows firsthand or via tales handed down to her from generation to generation. As much as it makes me cringe to admit it, I wondered if this was Yaa Gyasi's "story to tell".  I was worried that this whole thing might come off as a ROOTS (the miniseries) wannabe. I was worried that Homegoing (305 pages) would reek of researched content that would render it lifeless, a big bulky mess in the end. The most appropriate GIF that immediately came to mind to mirror my thoughts before and during the first few pages of Homegoing is this scene with Meryl Streep (one of my favorite actresses in the world) from the movie Doubt. 


Homegoing at HARVARD
I had so many doubts but I was rooting for Gyasi to triumph. And she did. She freaking did. Gyasi's writing is confident, commanding, and effortless like this isn't her first rodeo. Homegoing weaves stories across generations, across cultures, and across continents, a terrifyingly ambitious undertaking. It's the first novel I've read that tells the slave trade story from the African perspective. Gyasi takes us to these characters in whatever corner they may be, either living with family or weathering loneliness, some knowledgeable about their ancestral roots and others not so aware. They are split up just like slavery split up millions of families and you yearn for them to reunite but you know for this plotline to pay true homage to our ancestors they shouldn't reunite because in real life lots of black families did not reunite. By the end of Ness's story on page 87 I was certain our ancestors gave Yaa Gyasi the talent, wisdom and fortitude required to tell this story and that they would be so proud if they could read this. As I neared the end of Homegoing and in the ensuing silence after I finished it (including the Acknowledgments), I was more aware of the magnitude of this project, of this literary achievement, this gift that was crafted by the amazing Yaa Gyasi.

Homegoing is one of the most inspiring books I've ever read. I'm so proud. I'm so moved. I'm ready to stand on the street corner selling copies of this book. I saw it displayed in the window of the HARVARD Bookstore late September when I visited and I was like "yessssss...". You need to read this book. BUY it. BORROW it. Just find some way to READ IT.

[Book Cover Image via Amazon, GIF via ReactionGifs