Feb 14, 2012

Books for 2012

This is the list of books I have sitting on my shelf that need to be read in 2012. These are all carry overs from last year, and are written by African authors. I really ought not to buy any other books until these are read, and hopefully reviewed. I'm having trouble prioritising, any suggestions are welcome! (The list is alpha by author last name)

You’re Not a Country – Pius Adesanmi

In this groundbreaking collection of essays, Pius Adesanmi tries to unravel what it is that Africa means to him as an African, and by extension to all those who inhabit this continent of extremes. This is a question that exercised some of the continent's finest minds in the twentieth century, but which pan-Africanism, Negritude, nationalism, decolonisation and all the other projects through which Africans sought to restore their humanity ultimately failed to answer. Criss-crossing the continent, Pius Adesanmi engages with the enigma that is Africa in an attempt to make meaning of this question for all twenty-first century Africans.

Tropical Fish – Doreen Baingana

In her fiction debut, Doreen Baingana follows a Ugandan girl as she navigates the uncertain terrain of adolescence. Set mostly in pastoral Entebbe with stops in the cities Kampala and Los Angeles, Tropical Fish depicts the reality of life for Christine Mugisha and her family after Idi Amin’s dictatorship.

Three of the eight chapters are told from the point of view of Christine’s two older sisters, Patti, a born-again Christian who finds herself starving at her boarding school, and Rosa, a free spirit who tries to “magically” seduce one of her teachers. But the star of Tropical Fish is Christine, whom we accompany from her first wobbly steps in high heels, to her encounters with the first-world conveniences and alienation of America, to her return home to Uganda.

As the Mugishas cope with Uganda’s collapsing infrastructure, they also contend with the universal themes of family cohesion, sex and relationships, disease, betrayal, and spirituality. Anyone dipping into Baingana’s incandescent, widely acclaimed novel will enjoy their immersion in the world of this talented newcomer.

The Family – Buchi Emecheta

The story of a young Jamaican girl, Gwendolen Brillianton, who is born into poverty and deserted by her parents when they emigrate to London. Being reunited with her parents and the siblings she has never met does not end her problems, and she realizes she must must fight her family and take control of her own life in order to recover from abuse and take pride in her self.

Second Class Citizen – Buchi Emecheta

A poignant story of a resourceful Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination of women and countless setbacks to achieve an independent life for herself and her children.

Maps – Nuruddin Farah

Originally published in 1986, Maps is the first volume in Farah's "Blood in the Sun" trilogy. One senses autobiographical resonance in the storys concentration on Askar, a Somalian boy orphaned by his mother’s death when she bore him and the loss of his father, a combat soldier serving in Somalia’s war against Ethiopia. Askar’s dilemma whether to belong to his loving (Ethiopian) foster mother Misra or join the Somalian Liberation Front and emulate his father’s selfless courage is subtly explored in a tense narrative alive with local colour that’s both an affecting character study and a dramatic allegory of the confusions still plaguing a wounded and deeply conflicted society.

Gifts – Nuruddin Farah

(Volume two of the “Blood in the Sun” trilogy) Gifts is a beguiling tale of a Somali family, its strong matriarch, Duniya, and its past wounds that refuse to heal. As the story unfolds, Somalia is ravaged by war, drought, disease, and famine, prompting industrialized nations to offer monetary aid--"gifts" to the so-called Third World. Farah weaves these threads together into a tapestry of dreams, memories, family lore, folktales, and journalistic accounts.

The Good Doctor – Damon Galgut

A finalist for the Man Booker Prize and Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the region of Africa, The Good Doctor is a taut, intense tale of the dashed hopes of the post apartheid era and the small betrayals that doom a friendship. It has been greeted with enthusiastic interest around the world and assures Damon Galgut's place as a major international talent. 

When Laurence Waters arrives at his new post at a deserted rural hospital, staff physician Frank Eloff is instantly suspicious. Laurence is everything Frank is not—young, optimistic, and full of big ideas. The whole town is beset with new arrivals and the return of old faces. Frank reestablishes a liaison with a woman, one that will have unexpected consequences. A self-made dictator from apartheid days is rumored to be active in cross-border smuggling, and a group of soldiers has moved in to track him, led by a man from Frank's own dark past. Laurence sees only possibilities—but in a world where the past is demanding restitution from the present, his ill-starred idealism cannot last.

Snakepit – Moses Isegawa

In Snakepit, Isegawa returns to the surreal, brutalizing landscapes of his homeland during the time of dictator Idi Amin, when interlocking webs of emotional cruelty kept tyrants gratified and servants cooperative, a land where no one–not husbands or wives, parents or lovers–is ever safe from the implacable desires of men in power. Men like General Bazooka, who rues the day he hired Cambridge-educated Bat Katanga as his “Bureaucrat Two”–a man too good at his job–and places in his midst (and his bed) a seductive operative named Victoria, whose mission and motives are anything but simple. Ambitious and acquisitive, more than a little arrogant, Katanga finds himself steadily boxed in by events spiraling madly out of control, where deception, extortion, and murder are just so many cards to be played.

Love Child – Sheila Kohler

The compelling story of a forbidden marriage, a baby lost, and a love triangle gone horribly wrong, Love Child centers on Bill, a South African woman whose life has been defined by the apartheid-era, class-riven society in which she lives. Under pressure to make her will, Bill is forced to think about the momentous events and decisions that have made her an extremely wealthy if somewhat disillusioned woman. To whom should she leave her fortune? As Bill relives her past, we learn that this is a simple question with a complicated answer. In elegant, sensual, and nuanced prose, Kohler skillfully explores the space between our dreams and our reality, between our hopes and our disappointments.

Wives at War and other stories – Flora Nwapa 

“...collection of absorbing short stories centred around women. Common to all is the involvement of women in all kinds of war.” 


A pile of good books wating to be read, for sure. I loved Tropical Fish, Farah never disappoints, I really want the Adesanmi book. And well Flora Nwapa is just divine! Have you considered joining the Africa Reading Challenge, which I'm hosting this year? Hint, hint... And a very well-deserved win to Zambia, it soothed Ghana's loss for me. Happy reading.

Kinna,my apologies for the delayed response. Thanks for the feedback, I really am looking forward to diving into these books. On the challenge, I believe I unofficially signed up...hehehe. I should formally join and have the added incentive to stay on track this year with my reading goals.

Happy reading to you too!

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