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  James Whyle
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  Becky Clarke
  Nike Adesuyi
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  is pleased to recommend the following publications from the African world, one or two online. Most are new, others frequently offer new material, in some cases daily, but our emphasis is on value to readers interested in new writing from Africa.

photo © countycare images
Ngugi wa Thiong'o
 Recommended Reading            
1. You Must Set Forth at Dawn
Wole Soyinka, Methuen Publishing, London, 2006. Another memoir from Africa’s first Nobel Literature laureate. Critics raise questions of balance, fairness and accuracy regarding some details from its omniscient re-telling of important and painful moments in Nigerian and African history, as lived by the author, and bemoan the exclusion of unflattering details, but compulsory reading nonetheless for its impressive range and personalized coverage of many historical events important to Africa watchers.

2. Wizard of the Crow
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Vintage, London, 2007. Latest novel from another giant of African writing. This intensely African story and its venomously caricatured political villains does benefit from the more recent global perspective of the author in prolonged exile. It can be argued that what passes as the reality of independent Africa, especially in its politics, is just as heavily leaned on the magical and surreal like the incidents and plot of Ngugi’s new fiction.

3. African literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory
Tejumola Olaniyan and Ato Quayson, (Editors), Blackwell, Oxford, 2007. Long overdue themed collection of some key commentaries on African writing and writers by those who have studied them most. But it is an incomplete list and at least a second collection of these critical writings is needed before any justice can be seen to have been done to the wealth of available material. About 97 essays in all from leading African and other scholars, grouped under 12 subjects ranging from questions of orality and language to matters of ideology, form, the artist’s function and the postcolonial contexts of writing from or on Africa.

4. Starbook
Ben Okri, Random House, London, 2007. Presents and subtitles itself as ‘A Magical Tale of Love and Regeneration.’ This is the Booker Prize winning author of The Famished Road exploring with unabashed creative freedom his sense of possibilities for alternate and alternative realities and the choices we are presented by them. In recent Okri the invented communities, and familial opportunities serve as narrative props for individual emotional journeys, and poetic flights of fancy, through the deleterious experience of a contemporary life’s not-knowing, not-belonging and not-choosing. Imagine Starbook as mythic Okri exploring further his fascination with qualities of healing in the imagination.

5. Book SA and  Pambazuka
Resourceful online homes for reports, editorials and other informative features on Africa (www.pambazuka.org) and South African literature (www.book .co.za). Founding Editors Ben Williams (Book SA) and Firoz Manji (Pambazuka) are two committed operators among a generation of African online journalists raising the standard of the work, finding new readers across international borders and offering them excellent coverage of their subjects from an African perspective. Ben Casey also has a resource site for literary photographs in Flickr, the online photo display centre – www.flickr.com/photos/booksa. Much online traffic to Pambazuka, which has won media innovation awards.

6. Foreigners
Caryl Phillips, Knopf, October 2007. Make a date with this important new work on the African diasporic condition. But don’t come expecting The Fire Next Time, and the author does not Look back In Anger either – no explosive moments or passages here, but Foreigners is still a journey worth taking with Caryl Phillips, especially because of the three tragic lives encountered in that journey: David Oluwale, a Nigerian in Leeds, UK, 1949-1969, who was brutalised and eventually hounded to his death by racist police, Francis Barber a man who served Samuel Johnson, the English literary figure, in the 18th Century, and Randolph Turpin, a black champion who defeated Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 but lived and died in desperate poverty after. These representative men of African origin enable the author of this mostly Creative Non-Fiction to consider matters of race, identity and otherness.

7. The Shadow Speaker
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Hyperion, New York, 2007. Set in the future time of 2070, in a still violent but technologically advanced and magical Africa, the protagonist is Ejii, fourteen years old. If Speculative Fiction is not the familiar folktales of traditional Africa and their populous spirit worlds, then Nnedi Mbachu, author of Zarah the Windseeker (2005), can be read as a new kind of African writer, though she works from the United States. This location of the author is at once dislocating and beneficial. Her African characters speak cosmopolitan English and have globalized experiences and sensibilities. Is that an intentional comment on possibilities for dramatic changes in spoken language by the novel’s eventful year, 2070? Speculative Fiction is interested in fantasy, time travel, distant pasts and futures, the magical and uncompromisingly fabulous, all kinds of possibilities and probabilities, spirit-people and people’s spirits, and these are also where the curiosities of novelist Nnedi Mbachu lie. This is not the suspended reality of magical/marvellous realism. This is reality itself as represented by H. G. Wells, African-American author Octavia Butler and other outstanding pioneers of the form.

8. Burma Boy
Biyi Bandele, Jonathan Cape, 2007. Proves that a story of young uneducated African recruits with some typically brutish war experiences can be effectively told, attracting critical interest without the resort to gimmickry, such as spilling blood and guts on every page or the invention of primitive and alienating English language forms by which readers, especially non-African others, may better experience the horror of the narrative, and its necessarily uncanny 'African jungle' material.

9. The Uncertainty of Hope
Valerie Tagwira, Weaver Press, Zimbabwe, 2007. Tagwira’s debut novel offers no great surprises or ambition either in form or subject but she successfully complicates the Zimbabwean story by humanising it. This is still a hard luck story about Africans and their Africa, but it is not the usual newspaper report. It is about complex ordinary human lives and some of the extraordinary challenges and choices the mere fact of living forces on them, about the uncertain Africa of Onai Moyo, mother of three.

10. Cion
Zakes Mda, Penguin(UK), 2007. Toloki, a South African professional mourner already introduced to readers of novelist Mda in Ways of Dying (1997), is relocated to the United States, there to continue a personal odyssey which is also the communal journey of discovery of the African peoples from past to present, also engaging parts of slave history. Zakes Mda is an innovative and major South African writer, painter, film maker and composer, whose six novels include The Heart of Redness (2002) and The Whale Caller (2005). He has also written essays, school texts, and more than twenty plays, some collected in Plays of Zakes Mda (1990).

Books and Journals Received

The Shadow Speaker
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Hyperion, New York, 2007. [To be reviewed in the December-January issue of African Writing].

Drumvoices Revue, Vol 15, No 1 and 2
Eugene B. Redmond (Founding Editor), Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, USA, Summer-Spring-Fall 2007.

Dialogue: A Journal of Cultural Literacy
Roi Kwabena, 2007.(cover image sculpture and photograph: George Fowokan Kelly)


Editor’s Note: Please send review copies of publications by registered post to The Editor, African Writing, 26 Kingfisher Green, Oxford, OX4 1BX, UK
, United Kingdom, and email editor@african-writing.com about the post. Publications received will be noted, reviewed or recommended in African Writing as may be determined by the Editor according to available space and reviewers. Publications earlier noted as received may subsequently be reviewed. If you are interested in reviewing for African Writing please email the Editor indicating your availability and suitability. Publishers may also inform the Editor of any online or paper journals focused on writing from the African world, which we may recommend to our readers.
      Dialogue Magazine
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