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Book Nerds Rapping!

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As a lover of both classic literature and Jay-Z, I found it hard not to love this parody of a Jay-Z/Kanye West song, "B*tches in Bookshops".

"Read so hard, got paper cuts..."

See the original post with the lyrics here on Annabelle's blog.


Judging a Book by Its Cover

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In a meeting this morning with Donkoui and Michael, we were talking about how to set an example for the librarians. We talked about how to show them how to read a book to kids. One of the things Michael pointed out was that the librarians should be discussing books with their audience as they go along, by asking them questions about pictures and what they think the story will be about based on the cover page. What do the title and the image tell us about the book? He reminded us of the reaction of the Ghana librarians to the book Tail of a Blue Bird, and the librarians were disappointed that the book didn't discuss birds. 

I later came across a blog entry from a woman who asks her 6-year-old daughter to guess what a classic novel (Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, among others) based on the title and the image on the cover. It's a fun read. My favorite is her conjecture about who the main character of Jane Eyre must be: "This is about a girl that goes mining. I don't know why, but she looks like she would go mining, mining for gold. "

Aya Update

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Hi FAVL fans,

As you know, we've been working on a project to get the five-book series of Aya de Yopougon in each of the 11 FAVL libraries in Burkina. We've made progress since the beginning of the project- back in June, we received enough money from GlobalGiving donations to purchase one book in the graphic novel series for each library. Through GlobalGiving, we've recently received donations with which we'll be able to buy one more book for each of the libraries. We've had some challenges along the way too - the books are a little pricy here in Ouaga and the main bookstore is out of the first and second books of the series. So we'd like to ask our friends in France to help us out and send us a copies of the books in the Aya de Yopougon series. Every little bit is appreciated not only by us but the kids who visit the village libraries in hopes of reading books with familiar language with scenes from their own lives in African villages.

A million thank you's to those who have already donated, and stay tuned to the FAVL blog and the GlobalGiving website for regular updates on the progress of the project.
I found an interesting article on The Guardian website this morning. We spend a lot of time talking about illiterate groups looking for Moré and Dioula translations that Braille translations/large print versions of books are rarely thought of. I didn't realize that about 90% of visually impaired people live in developing countries.

From the article: 

There are about 256 million visually impaired people in the developing world, according to an estimate by the World Health Organisation. In many rich countries, blind people have ready access to works that have been translated into braille and other accessible formats such as audio and large-print books, although, according to the EU, only 5% of books are accessible to blind people in wealthy states.

However, under existing copyright law, poorer countries can't access those translations without getting the express permission of the copyright holder. Few developing country governments have managed to do that, meaning that their blind and visually impaired populations are left with barely anything to read. The EU estimates that less than 1% of books are accessible to blind people in poorer countries.
About the treaty:

The European parliament passed a resolution in February calling on the EU to support a binding treaty for the blind, but it does not appear to be having much impact. "The EU and the Americans are blocking the treaty - that's what's going on," said James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI). "It's shameful what they're doing." He added that the administration of President Barack Obama has changed its position on the treaty over the past few years. In 2008 Obama's transition team were making positive noises, but since then the administration has become less enthusiastic.

Europe and the US are home to some of the world's biggest publishing companies, many of which don't like the idea of an international treaty that would restrict their intellectual property rights. Observers speculate that the Obama administration may be loth to upset the publishing industry, a major campaign supporter, this late in an election year. "What we can see in the [negotiating] room is that primarily it's the business interests that dominate," said Hackett.

Activists are hoping for a legally binding treaty, but US and European delegates have been pushing for a softer "instrument" that would offer only guidelines and recommendations.

Read the full text of the article here.

Fun book photos

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Emilie writes:

I was cheking out Changing Hands Bookstore 's facebook page and they have a lot of fun photos posted. Thought I'd share a few:

dont judge a book by its movie.jpg

book bath.jpgbook ring.jpg

hoarding books.jpg

love libraries.jpg

reading in bed.jpg

reading makes me smile.jpg

The Feeling is Mutual

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I have two GREAT books for you!

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French readers, I have two great books for you!

J'ai toujours hésité a donner mes impressions sur les œuvres d'auteurs autobiographiques. Dany Laferrière en fait partie. En effet, que peut on dire sur l'œuvre de L'enfant de Petit Gaove, auteur essentiellement autobiographique, sans se surprendre en train de parler de sa vie, ce que lui-même décrit? C'est pourquoi je vous suggère de lire non pas un... mais deux de ses livres: Pays sans chapeau, et L'énigme du retour.


Ces œuvres de Dany Laferriere sont l'histoire d'un exile répété, de la fuite d'une dictature, toute aussi répétée! De père en fils. Le père de Dany homme politique haïtien, dandy et grand séducteur devant l'éternel, se voit contraint de fuir François Duvalier (Papa Doc). Il s'exile a New York et il y meurt dans une quasi paranoïa, sans jamais plus revoir sa famille. Dany, quand a lui, échappe de justesse aux hommes de Jean-Claude Duvalier (Bébé Doc), s'exile au Quebec ou il devient écrivain et homme de média. Ces deux romans décrivent un esprit révolutionnaire, provocateur et persévérante, s'adaptant à son milieu sans pour autant perdre ses valeurs haïtiennes; valeurs si chères qu'une mère omniprésente dans ses récits a su lui inculquer à lui Vieux os, dans son existence québécoise. S'il faut prendre un jour le temps d'écrire l'influence de la politique Haitienne sur la création artistique et littéraire de cette île, je pense que ces deux romans de Laferriere sont un reflet fidèle de l'impact de la dictature des Duvaliers sur la société Haitienne avec son corollaire de pauvreté, de misère mais aussi son désir de changement.

"One Kindle Per Child"....really?

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That was my first impression after reading this Wall Street Journal article: "An E-Reader Revolution for Africa?"

Maybe I'm pulling a Sarah Erdman, author of "Nine Hills to Nambonkaha." While a great writer, I was  put off by her negativity towards technology that actually facilitated and empowered the lives of Africans in rural villages (complaining about the new light posts because it diminished her views of the night sky...please).

But a Kindle for every student? I think it's fair to say that the education system in numerous African countries needs improvement, but should kindles really be at the top of the list?

Maybe it has nothing to do with my pulling an Erdman, but just about how much I romanticize real books, and my reluctance to accept that kindles are the new thing.

Or maybe, I'm just jealous.

Whatever it is, I'm really curious to see how this "one kindle per child" pans out over the next few years. How effective are they? What happens when it breaks? Are students really more engaged in their school work with a Kindle? Does using it help improve a student's academic success? Anyone doing a research project on this? Michael?

Le Respect des morts

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le-respect-des-morts.jpgThis is a excellent book review from Dounko:

Amadou Koné écrivain Ivoirien nous raconte dans cette pièce de théâtre, l'histoire d'un village qui devrait bénéficier d'une retenue d'eau afin de permettre à la population d'abreuver les animaux et faire du jardinage. Quand la population fut informée, elle trouva cette initiative très contraire aux coutumes du village. Les gens racontent que le colonisateur veut faire couler l'eau en sens contraire ce qui est du jamais vu depuis l'existence du dit village. De plus cette retenue d'eau va les faire quitter le village pour éviter les inondations. Les corps de leurs ancêtres seront déterrés. La population s'opposa au projet de la retenue d'eau. Pour ce faire, elle eu recourt aux cultes pour empêcher la réalisation. Plusieurs sacrifices furent faits mais le colonisateur tenait à sa promesse. Le dernier sacrifice demandé par les ancêtres est d'un enfant de moins d'une année, comme aumône.
Tous des analphabètes, le seul lettré est le premier fils du chef. Celui-ci était revenu pour passer ses vacances au village et apprit avec la nouvelle. Il essaya de faire comprendre à la population ce que c'est qu'un barrage, en vain. Le chef du village qui devrait donner un enfant pour justifier son autorité et sa dignité n'avait pas un enfant de moins d'une année. Il demanda à son fils dont la femme venait de mettre leur premier fils au monde et avait 7 mois. Son fils concerta sa femme sur la décision de son père pour leur dignité. La femme ne trouva pas d'inconvénients si la mort de son fils pouvait donner la paix et évité de faire la retenue d'eau au village. Le sacrifice du bébé fut fait très tôt le matin mais à la surprise générale de la population les tracteurs et Caterpillar arrivèrent le même jour et démarrerent les travaux. Depuis ce jour la population de ce village a compris que le sacrifice existe mais la réalité est aussi là.
C'est un livre à lire pour comprendre, comment les africains ont aussi contribué à nuire
le développement de l'Afrique ou de certains villages."

Sanou Dounko

Krystle's Book Review: Graceland by Chris Abani

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I just finished Graceland by Chris Abani, and I must say I was sorely disappointed. The weird thing is that it was actually a pretty good book. It reminded me a lot of The Kite Runner, which I loved. The main character was likable and sympathetic. The book was intense and never boring, with a number of shocking and unexpected scenes. The young Nigerian author definitely shows a lot of promise. I think my hopes may have mounted too high when the teaser on the back cover told me it was "the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis impersonator hoping to make his way out of the ghetto [of Lagos, Nigeria]." When I saw that, I knew I had to read it, thinking, "how could this not be fantastic?"

Elvis is a teenager whose mother succumbed to cancer when he was young. His father, Sunday, decides to move them from the village to Lagos, in search of better job prospects. Young Elvis is forced to leave behind his beloved grandmother and Aunt Felicia and confidante and cousin, Efua. In Graceland.jpgLagos, life unravels for Elvis and Sunday. Sunday cannot find work, shacks up with a woman with three children and turns to drink to drown his sorrows. Elvis does not go to school and works odd jobs to support his family, singing and dancing on the beach as an Elvis Presley impersonator. He realizes he is not making enough money doing this, and under the influence of his friend, Redemption, he turns to more illicit financial prospects. Unsurprisingly, he lands in a world of trouble and hurt. Finally, *spoiler alert* he obtains a passport and decides to start afresh in America. Throughout the story, Elvis maintains a strong connection to his mother by carrying her journal of recipes and plant descriptions everywhere with him. Abani intersperses the scenes of urban disfunction with snippets from the journal as well as memories of Elvis' mother and village. The whole story is set to the backdrop of political malfunction and slum life in Nigeria.

Like I said it was definitely a good book. Maybe I've just read too many depressing books about the "state of things in Africa," where politics and poverty are the center of everyone's lives. I've lived in an African country for three years now, and I can tell you, those are not the only things people think about and concentrate on. It's not only bad things and poor people one sees here. I know that these books that "expose" dictatorships, nepotism and poverty are extremely important for raising awareness and fixing the problem. But why do ALL the books about African countries have to be about these things? There are so many good things that happen in Burkina every single day. Where are all the books about this side of life in African countries?

*Second spoiler alert*
I also have an issue with the fact that Elvis' salvation is leaving for America. Even Abani admits at the end of the story: "Even though it had become painfully clear to him that there was no way he could survive in Lagos, there was no guarantee that he would survive in America" (pg 318). However, Redemption convinces him to leave by telling him that America is better, and he is not met for the rough and tumble life of Lagos. "It wasn't like he couldn't make it in Lagos. Plenty of people did it every day and they lived full and happy lives. But Redemption had been right: not him" (pg 318). What about the ghettos of New York or L.A.? What happens when he finds it difficult to find a job as an uneducated immigrant in the United States, and it's the rough crowd that's making quick cash? Especially when his fall-back dream is dancing, a very difficult profession to land a lucrative job. Since he has fallen in with this crowd before to take the easy way out, who's to say he won't again?

In any case, the book leaves you feeling depressed about Africa and not-so-hopeful about Elvis's future. A disappointing conclusion to a book that started with so much promise! 
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Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, Peace Corps volunteer Emilie Crofton, Krystle Austin, Elisee Sare, and Monique Nadembega.

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