Black History Month 2016 – #ReadSoulLit

Hello all!  Yes Black History Month is just around the corner.  This February Danielle from OneSmallPaw and I are hosting a read along of a great American classic called Jubilee by Margaret Walker and a #ReadSoulLit photo challenge over on Instagram.  We’ve tried to make the photo challenge more engaging, with the hopes of seeing lots of new titles being  pictured; henceforth, showing the wide range of fantastic black authors and genres in which they write.  So I hope you’ll all try and join in for something at some point. If you don’t have Instagram you can follow me here to see what I post over there, but with a bit more explanation.  Don’t forget to link #ReadSoulLit when you post your pictures on Instagram and Twitter.  That helps people find us.  Currently, there are 900+ photos on Instagram, which should spark everyone’s interest in reading black authors.  Happy reading in February!

jubilee

 

ReadSoulLit2016

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Out Stealing Horses

I finished Out Stealing Horses on Saturday morning, before meeting with my book club in the afternoon. I was relieved it was over.  I’d dragged 9 days to read such a short book and couldn’t believe it.  So, how come big books get the bad rap so much?

I was expecting something different than what I got.  Actually, the description on the back cover is slightly misleading.  In spite of that, it was good for me but not great. It’s the story of a 67 year old retiree who is living out in the countryside in an old run down house that he’s just bought and is renovating himself.  The story takes place in Norway and the glacially cold landscapes and dark silent nights develop into a story that is both surprising and very melancholy. I can’t say more than that. The little you know about the plot the better off your reading experience. Speaking of the reading experience, Petterson’s writing is simple and undeviating, from his descriptions of the landscape to Trond’s personal feelings. It is perfectly written from the first person, while interchanging with flashbacks.  However, I had a problem with the quiet, slow pace, and depressing tone of this book. There were several times when I started out reading and wound up falling asleep.  Yes there were some slow areas.

Having not read much Scandinavian literature, reading this one made we wonder about the way Scandinavian authors tell stories.  It seems to be very different from the anglo-saxon way.  It’s intriguing and seems to be very much like a puzzle and emotionally charged.  I’m interested in continuing on to read Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book 1 or Skomsvold’s The Faster I Walk.  If anybody has read either and wants to encourage me to read one or both of them, down below is where you need to tell me all about it.

As my book club discussed the book, we wondered how well it had been translated.  There were some parts that just seemed to have nothing special happen in them and we discussed in depth the utilization of the word “special” in one part of the book.  The book is only 264 pages but even so the plot thickens and makes you wonder because Petterson doesn’t give you all the details.  His writing resembles his protagonist’s personality.  He refuses to fill in the blanks.  We as readers have to do that.  This can either drive you mad, keep you confused, or titillate your imagination.  If anything this book will spark meaningful conversation and much speculation on the different characters – why they do what they do, the outcome of their actions, and oh all the what ifs….

Favorite passage:  “The face there is no different from the one I had expected to see at age sixty-seven.  In that way I am in time with myself.  Whether I like what I see is a different question.  But it is of no importance.  There are not many people I am going to show myself to, and I only have the one mirror. To tell the truth, I have nothing against the face in the mirror. I acknowledge it, I recognise myself. I cannot ask for more.” (Out Stealing Horses, p. 98-99)

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African Christmas Reviews 2015

Becoming AbigailBecoming Abigail was one of the Essence magazine book club picks.  It is also the first book I’ve read by Chris Abani and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from him this year, in particular The Secret History of Las Vegas and Song for Night.  In Becoming Abigail, Abigail is born when her mother Abigail dies giving birth to her.  This novel outlines Abigail’s journey through life from Nigeria to London, while trying to become herself.

In losing her mother she also loses her father.  He is no longer the same and can only see his wife when he looks at his daughter.   There is no room for Abigail to develop and become, not only that but she doesn’t have the protection from her father that she should because he never seems to stop grieving for his wife.  This novella is written with a beautiful, sensitive writing style, almost in a feminine way.  Descriptions are painful and streaking a sadness that goes from the beginning script to the last punctuation. “Always in this memory she stood next to her father, at all whip of blackness like undecided but upright cobra. And he held her hand in his, another lie.” (Becoming Abigail, p. 18)

 

Men of the South is a multi-voiced narrative that takes place in South Africa. I’ve had it on my iPad now for about a year and finally decided to delve into it. Not having heard very much about it, I wasn’t sure what it was about, but was interested to read another African story by another writer other than a Nigerian.  So Men of the South turned out to be an engaging and thought-provoking read.

Mfundo, Mzilikazi (Mzi for short), and Tinaye are the men of the South. The story opens with Mfundo who is a talented trumpet player who’s hoping to get his career started successfully.  However he seems to have run into a few glitches.  Mxi, the second protagonist, used to work in a Men of the SouthNGO and is hiding his sexuality from his father and lastly there is Tinaye who is from Zimbabwe but working for a NGO in a job where he is under paid.  Each point of view scrutinizes life in Africa – immigration, NGOs, male/female relationships, traditions, and feminism. The story is cleverly weaved through the connection that these three characters share with each other.

I enjoyed the book but I didn’t think it was great. It’s a solid three stars, a good book.  One big problem I had with it was that I read it on e-book.  Unfortunately there was a giant glossary at the end for all the Zulu words and phrases (that I didn’t know was there 🙁 ) and that I just could logistically look at while reading.  So I had to use my intuition for meaning.  So, if you decide to pick this one up you’d be better off reading a physical book.

The female characters in this book are minor and are painted in a negative way,which I believe is done purposefully. The men aren’t perfect either but they are realistic. The book is called Men of the South and that’s what it’s about the men. The women are a means to develop the critique on relationships, family, and tradition. The principle female character is called Slindile, Sli for short. She’s ambitious, bossy, and intelligent. She is the link between the three main male characters.

Zukiswa Wanner is a journalist from South Africa.  Men of the South was shortlisted for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and her first novel The Madams, was shortlisted for the K. Sello Duiker Award in 2007. I’m definitely going to check out The Madams eventually.

 

The Fisherman was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015.  It was Obioma’s first novel and seemed to be very well  The Fishermanreceived.  I finally read it in the last days of 2015 after hearing so much about how much people loved it.

The story begins introducing a Nigerian family with four brothers who are very close to each other.  As the story develops, they are forbidden to go to a river where some gruesome crimes have taken place.  Every one is forbidden to go there but the boys decide to go there and fish, hoping to catch big fish and earn a little money.  During one of their fishing expeditions,  they come across the village madman called Abulu, known for necrophilia, masturbation, and a few other objectionable acts.  He wanders around town predicting people’s tragic futures.  He predicts the future of the oldest brother, Ikenna and the story unfolds.  We learn the boys fears, their past stories, their jealousies, the history of their country, and their fear of the future as they watch Ikenna change into something else and their sibling rivalry becomes dark and sinister.

The book is well written in spite of those few moments where I felt it dragged.  I would imagine this book would come off very well on audiobook – hearing the African accents, language, etc.  Funny but I didn’t find reading this book very pleasurable and I can’t really explain why.  Maybe it’s because I got something completely different to what I was expecting. What was I expecting you ask? I don’t even know. I just know that what I got wasn’t it.  All in all it’s worth giving a try.  Obioma is being compared to China Achebe and his nomination and shortlist on The Man Booker List 2015 will surely catapult him into literary success.  I’m curious to see what he will write next.

 

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My Top Ten Favorite Books of 2015

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.