December 31, 2017

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2017 Anthology | Book Review

Another year, another Anthology from the Caine Prize for African Writing. Reading the 2015 Caine Prize Anthology was such a good experience I decided to review it every year in December. This year's winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing is Sudanese author Bushra al-Fadil with his short story, The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away. The 2017 Anthology contains five shortlisted stories and eleven stories from the annual writer's workshop. Let's begin!

2017's Shortlisted Stories
Lesley Nneka Arimah's (Nigeria) Who Will Greet You at Home opens this years collection. It's a beautifully written, moving and haunting tale that I fell in love with when I read her short story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, in April of this year. She announced on Twitter a few months ago that it will be adapted into a film and I honestly can't wait. FARAFINA is her Nigerian publisher and they released her work just last month. You need to read this short story and you need to read What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky. Lesley's writing is a gift from the gods and I eagerly await her future offerings.

Chikodili Emelumadu (Nigeria) follows Lesley's lead with the haunting tale, Bush Baby. I've always been a little unsure about African tales like this but this tale is one to remember especially with that chilling last sentence. Love it!

The third story in this line up is The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away by Bushra al-Fadil (Sudan). I was desperate for this story to end. It was such a bore. I usually try to avoid spoilers and news about the Caine Prize so I can be surprised at the end of the year when I put together this review and so it wasn't even until I was done with this anthology that I discovered he was this years winner. His story was a waste of my time.

Arinze Ifeakandu (Nigeria) wrote God's Children Are Little Broken Things. The first time I saw that title was on Facebook via the literary blog, Brittle Paper, and I've been in love with that title just because of its literal translation. The title alone and its subject matter seemed to promise a good read and maybe a good cry but it delivered neither. After reading this tale about forbidden love set in one of the most dangerous places to love the same sex - Nigeria - I felt nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Zilch. That in itself is a feat. This story did not hit any spots whatsoever. The only thing I found remotely interesting was that it was set in the University of Nigeria, my old alma mater. This tale was very disappointing.

The Virus was written by Magogodi oaMphela Makhene (South Africa). I just couldn't get through this story. I couldn't. I'm a little embarrassed that I couldn't muscle through it but at the same time it's freeing to say I couldn't. Does that make any sense? I hate the title. After a few pages I checked the page count, skimmed through its pages and just moved on.

Writers' Workshop Stories 2017
Fidel, written by Ethiopia's Agazit Abate, was a tale I did not "get" or care for so I moved on after reading a few pages.

By the time I got to The Secret Language of Vowels by Abdul Adan (Somalia/Kenya) I had settled into a pattern. I read the first page just to get a "taste" of the story then finding it severely deficient I rush to count how many pages of prose I have to get through in order to be free. The Caine Prize 2017 has more dead stories than other collections so far. I gave up on this story too.

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) rushed in to save me with the amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing short story Shells.  I'm not even done with the first paragraph and I'm arrested by her storytelling. I even paused during my reading to Google "can birds eat crabs". Crabs are supposed to be impenetrable and threatening to a degree so I couldn't see how a bird could feast on it. Anyway, I digress. Lesley's writing is gorgeous. Her imagination is breathtaking and she "brings it" every. single. time. Every time she steps up she freaking delivers. I read Shells greedily, flipping page after page after page, lapping it all up as my heart pounded. The best stories always seem so short! When I got to the end of the tale I put down the collection and I wanted to cry. I honestly wanted to just bawl. So many things about that story moved me. It's sad, unforgettable and haunting. Why isn't this in her story story collection What Happens When a Man Falls From the Sky??? I wanted to reread it but I put it off for after I finished the anthology, a reward for completing this task. Much kudos to Lesley. I'm a fan.

Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe) wrote An Unperson Stands on the Cracked Pavement Contemplating Being and Nothingness. If you follow this blog you've read my review of Tendai's Huchu terrific debut novel The Hairdresser of HarrareI love Tendai but I didn't have any patience for this story. It’s boring and wordy like its title and so I hurried off to the next story.

My Mother's Project by Lydia Kasese (Tanzania) is an interesting read.

I felt This Is How the Heart Breaks into a Thousand Pieces and Then Folds into a Stone by Lidudumalingani (South Africa). The death of a child fractures a family and almost suffocates it. It's a good story.

Right off the bat The Goddess of Mtwara by Esther Karin Mngodo (Tanzania) is riveting, humorous. I enjoyed it.

The Storymage by Cheryl S. Ntumy (Ghana/Botswana) is terrific. I'm really impressed by this one. I'm hoping it gets adapted to film. Applause, applause, applause.

Five Is Not Half of Ten by Daniel Rafiki (Rwanda) is a good story too. I'm not crazy about the ending but it's good.

In That Little House in the Village by Zaka Riwa (Tanzania) two men hide in a house to do something that's forbidden. It's a good tale.

In Family Ties by Darla Rudakubana (Rwanda) estranged siblings come together for the sake of their father. I like it.

Most Memorable Stories
1) Shells by Lesley Nneka Arimah
2) Who Will Greet You At Home by Lesley Nneka Arimah
3) Bush Baby by Chikodili Emelumadu

I loved the opening story and the closing story was good enough but there were fewer hits and more misses in this collection. This was a great year for African writing and I can't wait to see what 2018 brings. Have a wonderful and fulfilling and Happy New Year!

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2015 Anthology | Book Review
The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 Anthology | Book Review

[Image via CainePrize]

November 20, 2017

Book Release!!! | FARAFINA Released 3 New Titles This November

FARAFINA released three new books this November!
- What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky (Nigerian Edition) by Lesley Nneka Arimah
- How to Win Elections in Africa by Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams
- Anike Eleko by Sandra Joubeaud and Alaba Onajin

FARAFINA is an imprint of Kachifo Ltd and on November 13th it released these three titles on online platforms and in selected bookstores nationwide. I've been fortunate to read What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky. It's a stellar collection of gripping short stories that I love, love, love. You can find my review of it HERE. On October 27th, 2017 Lesley announced on her Twitter account that one of her short stories from the collection, Who Will Greet You at Home, has been optioned by a filmmaker! That's exciting!! If you read my book review you'll know that's one of my favorite stories in the collection. I can't wait to see how it gets reimagined for film. Kudos Lesley!!! I haven't read How to Win Elections in Africa but my good friend dedicated an entire Facebook post to Chude Jideonwo praising the book sooo I know it will be really good. I haven't heard anything yet about Anike Eleko but I love that book cover already and you know book lovers judge books by their covers. Here's a press release from Farafina accompanied by praise for these beautiful books from other accomplished authors:
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
The collection of short stories, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Caine Prize for writing, boasts of powerful storytelling, unique female protagonists, and a world where women are depicted as the center of the society.

Praise for What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
"Arimah has a gift of crafting intimate familial relationships... and the pressures and strains of those relationships form the most intricate and astonishing narratives. The powerful stories in this dark and affecting collection will show you that magic still exists in our world." - Tendai Huchu, author of The Hairdresser of Harare, and The Maestro, The Magistrate & The Mathematician. 

"Masterfully moving between the speculative to the mundane, this is a riveting read that will stay with you long after you've put it down." - Chinelo Onwualu, Editor of Omenana Magazine

"From the very first story in What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky this thunderstruck reader began to glean the answer to the question embedded in the book's title... Lesley Nneka Arimah has landed in my rereading list like a blast of fresh air" - Igoni A. Barrett, author of Blackass and Love Is Power, or Something Like That

About the Author
Lesley Nneka Arimah's work has received grants and awards from Commonwealth Writers, AWP, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Jerome Foundation and others. Her short story What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky was shortlisted for the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing. She currently lives in Minneapolis.
Anike Eleko written by Sandra Joubeaud and beautifully illustrated by Alaba Onajin
Anike has to hawk eko every morning but that does not stop her from going to school. She loves school and wants to be a doctor. However, her mother has decided her fate: once she finishes primary school, she will join her Aunt Remi in the city as a tailor.

When a mystery guest visits Anike's school, she has the chance to win a scholarship that will change her fate. With the help of her friends Oge, Ileri and Ariyo the cobbler be enough?

Written by Sandra Joubeaud and illustrated by Alaba Onajin, Anike Eleko tells a colorful story of one girl's courage in the face of opposition to her dreams.

About the Authors
Sandra Joubeaud is a French screenwriter and script doctor based in Paris, France. She has also worked on Choice of Ndeye, a comic book commissioned by UNESCO and inspired by the novel, So Long a Letter (Mariama Ba).

Alaba Onajin is a grapic novelist with a diploma of Cartooning and Illustration from Morris College of Journalism, Surrey Kent. His work includes The Adventures of Atioro, and other collaboration projects with UNESCO and Goethe Institut, He lives in Ondo State, Nigeria.

How to Win Elections in Africa by Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams
Democracy involves the process of changing custodians of power from time to time in order to maintain a useful equilibrium of performance and accountability. But the post-colonial narrative in most African countries has been one of strongmen and power brokers entrenching themselves deeply across the crucial levels of society. The past few years have however seen citizens become more aware, and some revolt against these systems.

How to Win Elections in Africa explores how citizens, through elections can uproot the power structures. Using examples from within and outside Africa, this book examines the past and present to map a future where the political playing field is level and citizens can rewrite existing narratives.

Politicians have been handed their notice: It is no longer business as usual.

About the Authors
Chude Jideonwo is the managing partner of RED, which brands include StateCraft Inc, Red Media Africa, Y!/ and Church Culture. His work focuses on social movements shaking up and transforming nations through governance and faith, with the media as a tool. He teaches media and communication at the Pan-Atlantic University. In 2017, he was selected as a World Fellow at Yale University.

Adebola Williams is the co-founder of RED and Chief Executive Officer of its communication companies - Red Media Africa and StateCraft Inc. A Mandela Washington Fellow under President Barack Obama, he has been a keynote and panel speaker at conferences across the world including at the London Business School, Wharton, Stern, Yale, Columbia, Oxford and Harvard.

Go get yourselves copies of these beautiful books!!!

June 07, 2017

Eyo by Abidemi Sanusi | Book Review

Eyo's a young girl who lives with her parents and two siblings in Ajegunle, Lagos. Early every
morning she and her little brother head out to hawk ice-water in Lagos traffic to supplement their family's income. They battle heat, street bullies, purse snatchers, lecherous perverts and head home at the end of the day where she, barely ten years old, fights off sexual advances from men many times her age. It's a daily cycle with no end in sight. Her lazy, abusive father pleads with one of his "friends" to take Eyo to the U.K. in the hope of a better life for Eyo and by extension the rest of the family. Eyo gets smuggled into the United Kingdom but life there is nothing like what she or her family expect.

EYO is a novel about child abuse and the horrors of child trafficking. The details of physical and sexual abuse that Eyo suffers were so, so disturbing. I wondered how anyone let these ideas into their head not to talk of sorting them out and working through endless drafts of it. Abidemi Sanusi is a former human rights worker per the novel's back cover page so she probably dealt with cases such as this. Anyway, the subject material and its ugliness caused me to put this book down a lot. It's one of the reasons why this review, originally slated for the month of May, is coming out so late. Even as early as page 26 I wondered if I should ditch the book. It wasn't something I wanted to deal with at the time. It is a good tale though and I like what Abidemi does with the story especially as it progresses to the end. Abidemi sheds light on the darkness of child trafficking but she's also very blunt about the realities of the life in which we live and that is especially manifest in the series of events leading to the end of the novel. It's an ending that, with Abidemi's superb skill and discernment, elevates this novel to a level that would be unachievable in the hands of a less gifted author. Kudos to Abidemi.  

May 27, 2017

Kasahorow Writers' Fellowship 2017

The Kasahorow Writers' Fellowship is a four month program for writers that includes customized writing skills training and guidance to plan, write and publish books. It's all done online thus guaranteeing participants more flexibility. During those four months fellows submit 6 - 7 online assignments, and take part in one on one calls with peers, and Kasahorow staff. Fellows also build their knowledge in, and receive hands on practical training on topics such as Selecting a Subject, Researching your Subject, and Writing for a Language Newbie.

Who Can Apply?
Anyone, anywhere in the world can apply. Applicants need to be proficient in English, motivated to write and publish books for an audience that is new to a language, and willing to do the work required to get his/her book written and published. DEADLINE for application is May 31st, 2017! Interested applicants can find out more about the fellowship HERE and apply HERE. You also can visit if you'd like.

Got Questions? 
Contact Doris Anson Yevu at with the subject line: Kasahorow Fellowship Application. Shorlisted applicants will be contacted for a 30 minute Skype interview. All applicants, shortlisted or not, will be notified of a decision by June 30th, 2017.

Good Luck!

April 30, 2017

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah | Book Review

What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky is a collection of twelve exceptional short stories by new author, Lesley Nneka Arimah. It begins with
The Future Looks Good, a tale spanning three generations of women, then continues with War Stories, Wild, Light, Second Chances, Windfalls, Who Will Greet You at Home, Buchi's Girls, What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky, Glory, What Is a Volcano? and ends with Redemption, a tale about a young girl who's enamored with the new housemaid next door and unable to put into words the new feelings this arrival stirs in her. I loved every story in this impressive debut collection. Every. Single. Story.

The first time I read anything by Lesley was last year when I reviewed the Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 Anthology in which What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky was shortlisted for the prestigious prize. In spite of that I still felt like I was coming to this collection without a good sense of Lesley and the directions she would/could go literarily. The Future Looks Good is a great opener. It's heartwarming from the beginning but in the last sentence Lesley thrusts a knife into my chest. I had to pause like...ohh gawd... Why would you string us along like that? Like everything would be alright? I was shocked, "hurt", impressed, and nervously excited about the rest of the collection. Again and again Lesley showed that she wasn't one for happy endings and I love that in any author that I read. Her tales cover love, heartbreak, grief, guilt, homosexuality etcetera. Windfalls was goood. Who Will Greet You at Home seems like the sort of tale you'd expect from Stephen King. I couldn't finish it in one sitting lol. My anxiety rose with each page I flipped especially because I had become aware of what Lesley could do. I love Who Will Greet You at Home a lot. Love it. Somehow What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky felt like a brand new tale and that ending... No... (insert sad emoji). What Is a Volcano is brilliant, well written and so absorbing. I love it. I don't know if it's drawn from an actual folklore told by any of the various community of peoples Lesley's multicultural background has exposed her to but I really like it. Lesley's tales are unforgettable. Thank you Lesley. Thank you. You should read this. 

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.
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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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

[Image via Amazon]