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HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi

This is a novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction and stands in the limelight of Alex Halley’s Roots.
           
The novel’s context is brilliant - two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.
One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day,
Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of both nations.
           
Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control.
Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer, and just as Alex Halley’s Roots became the historical monument of the seventies, Homegoing will be that in our time as a major film or multiple television series.


 

If Romeo and Juliet Had THIS Magical Parrot, Things Would Have Been Different…

SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF NIGERIA: Kidnapped, brutally beaten, and left for dead in the ocean, a young African man washes ashore, unconscious, on a deserted island far from home. Because this lowly peasant boy had the temerity to win the heart of a wealthy young woman, her other suitors – all wealthy and powerful men – conspired to destroy him.

Against all odds, this fervent young man is still alive, as is the love he holds for his beloved. Alas, she is now hundreds of miles away and has been told that he is dead.

In his debut novel The Parrot Matchmaker: An African Lovers Tale, Nigerian-American author Felix Adeoti Oguntoye chronicles the story of Remi, a simple farm boy in love with the beautiful Aderonke.

This retelling of an old Nigerian Yoruba folktale reveals how Remi goes against the power structure of his village to claim his love and how he learns to survive, alone and with no prior skills, in a completely alien place. After turning his island exile into a shrine to Aderonke and composing love songs to her, a singing parrot, a shaman on the mainland, and the power of telepathy in dreams unite to show Aderonke how to find and rescue him.

Brimming with the visual beauty and exotic culture of Africa and offering a unique and detailed look at coastal Nigerian village life before westernization, The Parrot Matchmaker is grounded in the very popular genre of African multicultural fiction (authors like Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and Chinua Achebe.)

While the universal themes of love across class differences and surviving outside hostility have appeared in thousands of bestselling books and hundreds of blockbuster movies, The Parrot Matchmaker offers the extreme twist of Remi not knowing where he is and having no way to communicate — and of Aderonke believing he has been killed.

Oguntoye comments, "I'm an immigrant from Nigeria and still very much tied to the traditional Yoruba culture I was raised in. I've wanted to find ways of telling the stories of my people, and this book, my first published novel, is a more modern retelling of an old Yoruba folktale.


 

Foreign Gods Inc. - A Must-Read African Literature

United  States-based Nigerian writer, journalist and scholar Okey Ndibe's new novel offers readers an insightful look into the life and place of the African in today' s world. Foreign Gods Inc., a 330-page is not just  a book of literature but almost serves as a historical treatise on the life an adventurous and albeit desperate character, Ike Uzondu who like many African immigrants in the U.S. and I dare say Europe seems to have all the indices of life and the environment conspire to work against them and thus consign them into the social and economic dustbin of their new environment, Their only crime is that they were born African and black, has an accent, and consequently does not fit the West's psychographics of what an educated person should be.

In a style entirely his own, Ndibe sets out to weave a tapestry of soul-stirring story line that transverses Ike's native Nigeria and the cold streets of New York. The result is a panoply of gritty, audacious and at times hilarious rendition of cross-cultural interests working at odds with one another. The writer brilliantly navigates his canvass with such adroitness that evokes a multiplicity of deep emotions all at the same time.

Nobel Peace laureate, Wole Soyinka was elated in his comment of Foreign Gods, Inc. when he wrote to say that: "We have a fresh talent at work here. It is quite a while since I sensed creative promise on this level", while foremost Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o describes Ndibe's novel as "reading as a narrative of a taxi-driving Faust in modern Nigeria. With Moliere-like humorous debunking of religious hypocrisy and rancid materialism, it teems with characters and situations that make you want to laugh in order not to cry".

Okey Ndibe after his first book, Arrows of Rain finally joins the pantheon of hallowed African writers such as Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta, Ishmael Beah, among many others who are fast taking over the baton from the pioneering class of the Chinua Achebe's, Ayei Kwei Armah, the late Kofi Awonoor, Wole Soyinka's, wa Thiong'o's and the Nadine Gordimer's.

I strongly recommend Ndibe's Foreign Gods Inc. on Soho Press as a must-read for all students of modern African literature.


 

Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela

This is the book that the new motion picture Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is based upon.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela began secretly writing this autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, while he was still in prison on South Africa's Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prison.

The book was published in 1995, five years after Mandela's release from 27 years in prison, two years after he received a Nobel Peace Prize and a year after he became South Africa's first elected black President. 

In this book Mandela describes his childhood, schooling and his 27 years in prison for anti-apartheid activities. He also talks of his nation's politics and of the people who influenced his beliefs.

His book was dedicated to "my six children, Madiba and Makaziwe (my first daughter) who are now deceased, and to Makgatho, Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi, whose support and love I treasure; to my twenty-one grandchildren and three great-grandchildren who give me great pleasure; and to all my comrades, friends and fellow South Africans whom I serve and whose courage determination and patriotism remain my source of inspiration"

Mandela is a prolific writer, with over 100 books ranging from children's books, fairy tales, quotation, politics, freedom and how to achieve it. The Long Walk to Freedom is his profoundly personal memoir that should be in every library of those who wish to understand and respect freedom – anywhere.


New Age Religion Redefines Black History

From orphan to author, the self-help guru is turning the spiritual world upside down by exploring a new concept, African Spirituality. “Our ancestors believed in African deities and egguns and gained the strength to survive one of the worse atrocities in American history," says Cruz.
"People create mental prisons for themselves, whether it
is guilt, regret, or longing, everyone is tortured by the voices
in their heads.
"

"My first memory is me as a child, running from the shadows," says Cruz about growing up with a mother with schizophrenia. From this experience, Cruz took a different approach to self-help and new age religions. “People create mental prisons for themselves, whether it is guilt, regret, or longing, everyone is tortured by the voices in their heads,” says Cruz.

These voices are what Cruz calls the shadows, the suppressed memories, thoughts, and emotions. The only way to tame those voices is to bring them into the light. People can do this through awareness by understanding the truth about history.

'When The Shadows Began To Dance' is a book that rediscovers black history through the main character Nelly Reyes. She suffers from mental illness, a broken family, abuse, and neglect. She is able to piece back the parts of her soul by allowing herself to be guided by her ancestors and the Seven African Powers.

Nelly is then able to understand the religion of her ancestors, a religion that helped them to survive slavery in the New World. Yamaya Cruz reveals the hidden secrets of the past. She incorporates ancient knowledge with African folklore to create a storyline that is powerful and haunting.

She writes with fearless passion, keeping the reader engaged long after the story is told. She aspires to write books that are about spiritual healing, with emotional feeling, so people’s shadows can dance.

 


My First Coup D’Etat
by John Dramani Mahama

Book with an extraordinary publication date.

The author, who at the time of the book was published served as the Vice President of Ghana and now has been inaugurated as the new President of Ghana, following the untimely death of President John Atta Mills in July 2012 – just about moths after the book was published and provides a good insight to the new President.

MY FIRST COUP D’ETAT is a literary nonfiction account that charts the coming of age of John Dramani Mahama in Ghana during the dismal post-independence "lost decades" of Africa. He was seven years old when rumors of that first coup reached his boarding school in Accra.

His father was suddenly missing. "It is sometimes incorrectly referred to in texts as a bloodless coup, yet it was anything but," Mahama writes. "They tried, as best they could, with smiles and toffee, to shield me from their rising anxiety but I could feel it bouncing off the quick sideways glances they shot one another and taking flight like some dark, winged creature." John’s father, a Minister of State, was in prison for more than a year.

MY FIRST COUP D’ETAT offers a look at the country that has long been considered Africa’s success story--from its founding as the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence, to its current status as the only nation on the continent to have, thus far, met the majority of targets on hunger, poverty, and education set by the U.N. But these stories work on many levels--as fables, as history, as cultural and political analysis, and of course as the memoir of a young man who, unbeknownst to him or anyone else, is destined to become a leader in his own land. These are stories that rise above their specific settings and transport the reader--much like the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Nadine Gordimer--into a world all their own, one which straddles a time lost and explores the universal human emotions of love, fear, faith, despair, loss, longing, and hope despite all else.


Travel West Africa by the 19th Century Book

By Sylvia Frommer-Mracky, Travel Editor

There are dozens of travel books from which to choose to guide you throughout almost every part of the world. That’s good! It takes searching to find the right one. The one that advises you where to house yourself and at what price; where to dine at how many stars and dollar signs; as well as the sights which must not be ignored.

I want to introduce you to another route to follow, a unique and somewhat romantic road, to a world less known and in a manner most intriguing. To my thinking this may be the way to submerge yourself into a new world of travel that is perfect for “adventure achievers” and the travel literati. Make sense?

The National Geographic Adventure Classics is a new series of what their experts find to be the 100 greatest adventure books of all time. The one I chose is on Africa, of course. “Travels in West Africa” is like no other guide book found anywhere. Published in 1897 two years after Mary Kingsley returned from an exceedingly daring journey into what was then known as the French Congo.

This is a book by a remarkable woman, one who was never schooled but educated herself by reading the fascinating books in her father’s extensive library. What held her interest the most were the stories of the explorers in West Africa. Shortly after her parents death her travels began. It was 1892 and this trip was considered a reconnaissance. In 1895 she was ready to return to explore as an anthropologist and an amateur scientist trained to collect new species of fresh water fish for the British Museum.

Her West Africa journey began from Sierra Leon and moved south, all the way to what today is Angola.

With her Sharon Stone good looks, slim figure and her 19th century lady-like demeanor, Mary Kingsley was never shy or condescending; she put herself as an equal with the native tribes, some of whom have never seen a white person, man or woman until she came through the jungles. She traded with the native tribes for goods and services. She was on equal terms with chiefs, French traders and government ministers.

I think she was quite fearless and never seemed to panic in any situation and there were many dangerous as well as what seemed to be hilarious situations – all captured on the pages that she wrote.

Relating to today’s traveler, her 1897 descriptions of the cities – Free Town, Accra, Calabar, Luanda are like precious treasures that a true connoisseur of travel will savor when he or she sees what remains of what Ms. Kingley saw, noted and wrote about for us to enjoy. Her books were best sellers in England and continue to be worldwide, for the past 200 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts from “Travels in West Africa” 1987

“The West Coast of Africa is like the Arctic regions in one particular, and that is that when you have once visited it you want to go back there again; and, now I come to think of it, there is another particular in which it is like them, and that is that the chances you have of returning from it at all are small, for it is a Belle Dame sans merci.

I succumbed to the charm of the Coast as soon as I left Sierra Leone on my first voyage out, and I saw more than enough during that voyage to make me recognise that there was any amount of work for me worth doing down there. So I warned the Coast I was coming back again and the Coast did not believe me; and on my return to it a second time displayed a genuine surprise, and formed an even higher opinion of my folly than it had formed on our first acquaintance, which is saying a good deal.

“We reached Sierra Leone at 9 A.M. on the 7th of January, and as the place is hardly so much in touch with the general public as the Canaries are 1 I may perhaps venture to go more into details regarding it. The harbour is formed by the long low strip of land to the north called the Bullam shore, and to the south by the peninsula terminating in Cape Sierra Leone, a sandy promontory at the end of which is situated a lighthouse of irregular habits. Low hills covered with tropical forest growth rise from the sandy shores of the Cape, and along its face are three creeks or bays, deep inlets showing through their narrow entrances smooth beaches of yellow sand, fenced inland by the forest of cotton-woods and palms, with here and there an elephantine baobab.

The first of these bays is called Pirate Bay, the next English Bay, and the third Kru Bay. The wooded hills of the Cape rise after passing Kru Bay, and become spurs of the mountain, 2,500 feet in height, which is the Sierra Leone itself. There are, however, several mountains here besides the Sierra Leone, the most conspicuous of them being the peak known as Sugar Loaf, and when seen from the sea they are very lovely, for their form is noble, and a wealth of tropical vegetation covers them, which, unbroken in its continuity, but endless in its variety, seems to sweep over their sides down to the shore like a sea, breaking here and there into a surf of flowers.”