Monday, 16 April 2012

My journey through African literature

On the list of this years to do list is to read my way through books by Ghanaian / African authors. So somewhere in between my science biased posts i'll be recommending some exotic books for your library. 

My origin of books -  Growing up, there were certain book I just had to have and probably read my way through every edition that got released. Top of the list in my library include 'famous five', 'the adventures of Tintin', 'Danielle Steels' collection and my all time teenage favorite collection, 'Mills & Boon'. My brother was more of a John Grisham type reader and occasionally I'd seize one of his thriller and Sci-fi collection. 

The first time
I read my first Shakespearean novel at secondary school where Macbeth was part of the curricula. I had heard stories from Shakespeare's collection as mum had a habit of citing examples of lessons in life from his books. From the all popular Romeo and Juliet, to the Merchant of Venice, to Julius Caesar and Hamlet including my favorite Macbeth, mum had a quote for all occasions. My appreciation for literature had matured after thoroughly studying and analyzing Macbeth for my English literature exam. But to the credit of the West African examination council (WAEC), literature required that you study a book by an African writer. It is for this reason that I'm pretty certain everyone who went through secondary school in Ghana and probably West Africa for that matter would have read / studied the classic African Novel 'Things fall apart' by Chinua Achebe. Yes, if you haven't already you should add this to your library now. I believe some colleges in America have it as book of choice for studying History, Anthropology and English literature. Over 10 years later, I can still remember the stomping footsteps of Okonkwo as he walked into his compound in anger. The story is set in a Nigerian village of Umoufia, inhabited by the Ibo clan. It takes you on a journey with the main character Okonkwo during the time of colonialism and how Christianity slowly invaded his culture / traditions and consumed his people and his land. I believe it's the general consensus that Okonkwo's strengths became his weakness which eventually led to his downfall. Writing about it now, I'm enticed to read it again. A true masterpiece of literature. '.....things fall apart, the center cannot hold......'

Today's Journey
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's WivesIt was only last year since reading 'Things fall apart' that I picked up another African novel whiles on holiday in Ghana. It was a very simple and basic short story I bought to while away time during my short stay at a beach resort. Not long after my return, An African author - Lola Shoneyin - was invited to speak at a TEDx event. It was the first I'd heard of her so as I usually do, decided to check her out. 'The secret lives of Baba Segi's wives' was my first African writers book I picked up this year. Being another Nigerian author, her debut novel, 'the secret lives of Baba Segi's wives' is set in a Nigerian village and explores the family dynamics of a polygamous marriage. Baba Segi is a traditional man who has four wives, three of whom are illiterate. His educated fourth and youngest wife whom he seems to warm to the most is the obvious envy of the other three older wives. On the downside, she turns out to be the one who is unable to take seed or rather the one who manages to expose Baba Segi's lack of functioning sperms. So who fathered the 7 children from his other three wives...... Read to find out. An interesting story of culture,  scandals, secrets and an encounter of modern and traditional beliefs with humor.

Soon after, a book was recommended on twitter as 'a must read' and again I had to satisfy my curiosity.
'Tales from different tales' by Nana Awere Damoah is now an endorsed 'must read' recommendation by myself. The book is a collection of 8 short stories set in different parts of Ghana. He covers stories starting with life on a University campus to students parting ways, a national service chapter, Kojo seeking greener pastures in the city and a hilarious public transport journey amongst others. The order of the stories is almost replicable of a typical students journey after university. For someone who never experienced life beyond secondary school in Ghana, the book certainly got me wishing I could experience that environment. The stories are memorable, humorous and thought provoking with lessons to be learnt. Nana Damoah’s descriptive choice of words and creation of vivid scenery takes you into the lives of the characters making it even more captivating. The book overall is an easy read and will certainly lighten up your day from start to finish. Check out Nana's blog here

The Next book by an African author I picked up this year is 'Definition of a Miracle' by a Ghanaian writer, Farida Bedwei. Farida is a software engineer by profession and suffers with cerebral palsy, a childhood neurological condition  that affects movement, posture and coordination.
The writer invites you into the home of Zaara, an 8year old girl suffering with cerebral palsy in a country where the condition is misunderstood. She shares her daily experience after the family relocated from the UK and the quest to heal her disability via spiritual means.  Its easy to read, has lots of humor and it brings back memories of a typical day in a family from sibling rivalry, to unwelcome relatives, to parents pickering and community scandals.
I could read a few chapters over and over again on a gloomy day and it'll surely bring back laughter. Highly Recommended.

This weekend, I finished off my fourth African writers themed book. This time a different genre i.e romance. Its been a while since I picked up a romance novel. I don't think I've even read any since I got bored of my teenage Mills& Boon pleasurable days and I must say I'm glad I did. Another Ghanaian author by name of Embi Baryeh. Her debut novel 'the most eligible bachelor' turned out to be a page turner.
The opening of the story from two strangers making out on valentines day after a first encounter got me skeptical but Empi certainly had a plan. The sex scene was beautifully written so I had to read on :-).
As the story unfolds, the book soon becomes a page turner and fixes a smile on your face. The characters are real as is the series of events that follow. It is also an easy read with creative vivid descriptions and the grammar is almost perfect. Ofcourse a happily ever after ending to crown the read. 
I've got a couple of western books lined up to read next but her second book changing faith promises to be better and its next in line on my African writers books to check out. 
Follow Embi Baryeh's blog here

Product DetailsThe latest African writer to join the African literature journey is Abidemi Sanusi with her novel EYO - African Lolita. Well, well what can I say about EYO, definitely not a book for the faint-hearted. I found myself cringe once too many times as it's a harsh realization of the unfortunate plight many families and young girls find themselves in. EYO is a happy young girl living in the slums of Nigeria with her parents and two siblings. She hawks cold water on the streets with her younger brother in the day and is the object of her fathers sexual escape at night. When the opportunity to migrate to the UK came along, little did EYO know her worst nightmare was yet to come. A story of brokenness, child trafficking, physical & sexual abuse, hurt and when finally there's a ray of sunshine it turns out it's too good to be true. A brave writer who has clearly done her research to open up closed doors. Read if you dare.

 So I have finally finished reading "Half of a yellow sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book is deep and a real eye opener. My heart goes out to all nations who've ever had to experience life in times of war. Review to follow shortly..........

 Next up is "Blue bird tail" by Nii Ayikwei Parkes.

Now Reading...............

  Up Next

Any African classics I need to read........ Do please recommend and stay tuned for more reviews of my journey through African literature

1 comment:

Nana Awere Damoah said...

Many thanks for this review and recommendation!!! You made my day!