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The clothes of nakedness, by Benjamin Kwakye

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Accra books and things blog mentioned this book, so I ordered it through interlibrary loan.  I guess I would recommend this only for hardcore African literature readers.  It is a morality tale- one of the main characters is named Mystique Mysterious, for heaven's sake- and so just doesn't work as a novel.  A pity, because Kwakye clearly has the writing talent to tell a good story.  I hope he gets a good editor, and abandons the fluff... don't have a world of humans interacting and then a devil gliding through them, with no character.

I think if you are Ghanaian you probably have a different reaction to the novel- it speaks to you more directly.  Here is one blogger, geosireads:

This is one book you will read and enjoy. Benjamin Kwakye is one writer I respect so much for his works. He tells the major issues confronting modern Ghana and I must confess that this work is very much insightful as well as thoughtful. Reading it for a third time brought to me much joy even more than my first reading. I enjoyed this book as well as his second novel, The Sun by Night. As I am yet to read his third and most recent novel, The Other Crucifix, I will go into it with high expectations, perhaps wanting to see it surpass his previous works. The Clothes of Nakedness is Highly, Highly, Highly, Highly, Highly Recommended!
One thing, this novel, together with Wife of the Gods, and Esse Roji's wonderful Dead Men Don't Smoke Marijuana, is making me think there is a lot more marijuana in Ghana and English-speaking West Africa than in Burkina Faso! 

Nii Ayikwei Parkes reads from Tail of the Blue Bird

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6a00d83451ce8669e200e54f78a5078834-640wi.jpgFAVL board member
Magi Diego writes in:


My local women's book club chose Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as our book of the month. I've been a member of this book club for quite a few years and we have read all sorts of books, many involving women and taking place in faraway lands. However, I think this was perhaps only our second African novel, which made it quite interesting. You see, we have a  potluck every month in which book club members are to bring a food item  mentioned in the book.  (None of us knew what Gari was for sure! )  We  ended up with several tasty soups (stews) and yams cooked many ways.  It was  fantastic. 

The book club was divided on their reaction to Half a Yellow Sun.   Many found it too gruesome and gory.  (One of our members is 8 months pregnant, and well, if you have read the book, you know it is not something that would  make for a happy pregnancy).  However, the younger bunch really enjoyed it,  perhaps because it opened up a whole new culture to us- learning about the Igbo  and the short lived history of Biafra.  Some of the older folks remembered  Biafra from the news as kids.  (Personally, I only knew it as the lead singer of  the Dead Kennedy's last name- and lo and behold, come to find out, that is where he got the name....)  Me, I loved the book.  I learned so much as well as  enjoyed a good story.  The characters could have been a bit more developed and  the relationships even more so.  However Adichie's clever juxtaposing of America Civil Rights in the 60's to what was going on in Nigeria during the same time  was what sold the book to me.  If you really find the events way off in Nigeria  gruesome, look what we Americans were doing here to each other on our own soil, in our backyard.

Petina Gappah with Bola Mosuro on Network Africa

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Premier prix du roman paalga : "Souvenirs d'un petit campagnard"

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Felicitations aux ecrivains! 

"Souvenir d'un petit campagnard" de Jean Louis Somda et "Le Roi du Dja Djo" de Bali Nébié. Ce sont là les deux œuvres classées respectivement première et deuxième de la première édition du Prix du roman paalga. Lancé à l'occasion du 35e anniversaire de L'Observateur paalga, ce concours littéraire a rendu son verdict le jeudi 23 décembre 2010 à la faveur de la clôture du Salon international du livre de Ouagadougou (SILO).
Lire la suite...

Barly Baruti à Madagascar

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1st Book Club Meeting of FAVL Librarians

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Today we held the first official meeting of the FAVL Librarians' Book Club and it went incredibly well.  The librarians all actively participated, made interesting observations and stated their opinions. All had strong opinions on certain aspects of the book.  The book discussed was "L'amour d'Aissatou" by Andrée Clair. It takes place in 1960's Niger, right after its independence. Balkissa is determined to send her daughter Aissatou to school, but many villagers are against it, stuck in traditional ways. The book tackles many feminist topics including girls education, forced marriage and polygamy.

-"Ce livre décrit la vie des années 1960, mais ca parle des thèmes d'actualité. C'est ca qui m'a beaucoup impressionné. » (Donkoui)
This book describes life during the 1960s, but the themes ring true today. It made a big impression on me."
-«  Ca nous montre qu'il n'y a pas grand-chose qui ait changé » (Ivette)
« It shows us that not much has changed »

The book's topic of polygamy led to a heated debate on the pros and cons of polygamist relationships and the difficulties women face. One librarian is a monogamist Catholic, another a polygamist Muslim, so you can imagine how interesting the discussion was.

The librarians all say their favorite character in the book was Aissatou's mother because of her strength and determination.
"J'ai beaucoup aimée le courage de la mère d'Aissatou. Beaucoup de femmes rêvent d'être comme elle. » (Lucy)
"I really liked the courage in Aissatou's mother. A lot of women dream of being like her."

We were thrilled with how the first meeting went and are looking forward to the next book club meeting. We asked the librarians to look around during their next FILO visit and find the book they'd like to read for their next meeting.

L'Aîné des orphelins

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aine orphelin.jpgI read this novel set in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide on the plane back from Burkina Faso.  Pretty ambitious narrative structure, and a real challenge to take the viewpoint of a child, telling the story in first person (compare Uwem Akpan).  The climax, as Faustin's experience in les avènements is revealed, is very powerful.

Here is a nice academic article on the book.

McNee, Lisa. "Monénembo's L'Aîné des orphelins and the Rwandan Genocide." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 6.2 (2004):
In her paper, "Monénembo's L'Aîné des orphelins and the Rwandan Genocide," Lisa McNee discusses Tierno Monénembo's L'Aîné des orphelins, a novel that offers a double discourse and a dual memory of the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. McNee argues that L'Aîné des orphelins presents us with an extraordinary kind of fictional testimonial to genocide. Although Monénembo is not from Rwanda and did not participate in the tragedy, only someone who has paid the price of the clarity needed to distinguish between good and bad faith could have written a novel like L'Aîné des orphelins. Monénembo's characterization of Faustin as a young man who feels guilty without reason is plausible, given what we know of victims of abuse and their reactions, or those of survivors of other humanitarian catastrophes. One can only speculate about Monénembo's own experiences as an exile. In Monénembo, McNee proposes, we have a rare example of an intellectual who accepts the burden of a certain complicity, the complicity of those who did not speak out or intervene at the time of the genocide and who does not flinch at the cost of confronting that complicity. Of course, the Rwandan genocide recalls the shadows of other genocides and the reflections that others have shared may help us to better understand the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath.



Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey

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wifegods.jpgIf you have a friend who like mysteries, then this is a definite Christmas present. Of course, I enjoyed the setting, and Quartey never goes tourist-brochure.  Relevant details are introduced in a subdued way.  The mystery itself, like many, is pretty straightforward (I'm not really a big fan of the genre).  But the main character is a nice complex figure, and if Quartey chooses to write well, in future books, rather than make money, it bodes well. 

Measuring Time by Helon Habila

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measuring.jpgI bought this purely at random, as amazon.com "suggested" it when I bought another novel online.  The blurb and cover made it sound pretty good.  And it was.  Pretty good, that is.  My opinion is that the relationship story between Zara and Mamo doesn't work at all... dialogue stilted, characterization uncomfortable.  But the "village" life of Mamo, as he refashions himself as a village intellectual, was super.  I found that part of be full of insight, presented in a nice narrative context.  Habila should have expanded on characterizing the Mai and Waziri and their conflict with Mamo.  That would have been great.  So definitely pick it up for a decent read.  Not quite as coherent as some other recent African novels, but quite interesting and nicely written.

FAVL Blog

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, FAVL Burkina Faso representative Koura Donkoui, FAVL Burkina Faso program manager Krystle Nanema, and FAVL friends Emilie Crofton and Elisee Sare.

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