Recently in Books About Africa Category

Jeunesse d'Afrique has been rewarded

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Librarie Jeunesse d'Afrique is one of the bookshop where the Burkina's team goes to purchase book for the village libraries.The bookshop has been rewarded recently. Here is a article abstract about this reward:
« Prix du mérite du gouvernement burkinabè ». Telle est la dénomination de la distinction décernée à la librairie « Jeunesse d'Afrique » à l'occasion des Journées de l'entreprenariat burkinabè qui se sont tenues du 5 au 7 juillet 2012 à Ouagadougou...
« Je viens très souvent faire mes achats ici parce que je suis persuadé que la librairie nous propose des documents de qualité. Les prix sont également à ma portée » Blaise Nanéma, fidèle client de la librairie.

Read the full article here

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Capitaine des ténèbres de Serge Moati et Yves Laurent

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Despite the ridiculous (truly!) cover this novelization of the infamous Colonne Voulet-Chanoine is worth the reading (it was also made into a film)  I hope we can get copies in every library in Burkina someday.  It recounts a little known but emblematic episode in the history of colonization of French West Africa.  In 1898, fresh from the defeat of the Mossi kings in central Burkina Faso, Paul Voulet and his friend and companion Julien Chanoine (son of a 9782213626109.jpgFrench general) were entrusted to lead a military mission to conquer the Lake Chad area.  The French were in a race with the British to secure for themselves all the unmapped areas of Africa.  With Lake Chad, the French would have control over the entire Sahel from Senegal to the border of Darfur (then an independent Sultanate as the British reconquered Sudan).  Controlling the colonies below Chad (now CAR, Cameroon and Congo) the French would have an enormous bloc on the continent.  But by design or misfortune, Voulet and Chanoince, once they had left the last French outpost at Say, on the Niger River, after Timbuktu, decided to pillage and terrorize their way to Chad.  They "went barbarian" as the saying goes, despite the likelihood that villagers and small kingdoms would have greeted them peacefully and been happy to trade, along the way. 

The book spends time on a romantic backstory of Voulet.  I have no idea whether there is documentary record of the letters between himself and his prostitute wife who spurns him in the end (wow!).  Would be interesting to see if true.  This then forms the basis for psychologizing Voulet, while Chanoine is simply represented as a resentful sadist psychopath.  Anyway, good reading.  Nice description of their battle with Sarraounia.

The books is available here on Amazon.  If you read French, order a copy, read, and then send to FAVL to forward to the libraries.

Race for Reading: Only one week left!!

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Elisée write:

This is the only way to be in shape while supporting community libraries in Burkina Faso. Only one week left. Call our Ouagadougou office for registration or any support: +22650361341 / +22676678757 or email at favlafrica@gmail.com

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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

Les Jumelles du Kurumari

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Elisee wrote:


Dounko has just read this excellent book, he sent us a little summary and invite us to read this book:


les jumelles de kurumari.jpg"Les jumelles du kurumari est le titre du livre d'Ismaël Soumaïla Traoré que je viens de lire.
Ce roman parle de l'histoire des jumelles de Nèènè habitante de farabougou. La naissance des jumelles fut une grande fête à farabougou. Adam et Awa leur noms respectifs, se ressemblaient comme une goutte d'eau de telle sorte à leur bas âge seule Nèènè la maman pouvaient les distinguer. Pour leur santé et les bénédictions de survivre, une de leur proche faisait le tour du village pour demander les voisins, parents et autres des bénédictions de santé selon les coutumes de farabougou. Mais aujourd'hui les gens abusent de ces coutumes pour maltraiter les jumelles ou jumeaux. A 7ans elles vont à l'école comme les autres enfants du village. En grandissant Adam était plus grosse et coquine qu'Awa. Awa aimait la lecture qui la faisait voyager à travers le monde et apprenait à comprendre toute l'actualité. Quant à Adam elle préférait sortir avec des garçons plus âgés qu'elle ou voulait plutôt se marier. Awa à travers la lecture a appris beaucoup de choses et sensibilisa sa sœur à poursuivre les études avoir l'âge normal avant de penser au mariage. N'écoutant pas les paroles, Awa utilisa les images qu'elle sait procurer à la bibliothèque pour parler et montrer les images des jeunes filles marié tôt soufrant de fistules, du VIH/SIDA etc. Cette manière convaincue Adam à reprendre ses études et à fréquenter la bibliothèque également. Etant de bonnes élèves en classe, tout le village les aimaient vu le respect qu'elles avaient pour leurs camarades ou aux personnes âgés qu'elles rencontraient sur leur chemin. Les plus riches voyant la beauté d'Adam, ont corrompu les parents prédisant la maturité pour le mariage. Les parents voyant l'argent ont accepté en décidant de les faire quitter et se marier les camarades de classe la nouvelle et devinrent tristes à tel point que nombreux d'entre eux préféraient quitter l'école si les jumelles venaient de les quitter pour le mariage. Une assemblée fut convoquée pour convaincre les parents sur l'importance des filles à l'école et pour toute une nation. C'est ainsi que les parents des jumelles les laissèrent pour continuer les études.
C'est un livre à lire absolument ou à partager avec les autres."

Dounko Sanou
Bibliothecaire Animateur
Kyle Baker's graphic novel Nat Turner, tells the very powerful story of slavery and rebellion with "pull no punches" images, and few words (except a lot of extracts from the Confessions of Nat Turner).  The graphic novel is bracketed by two images of readers in the dark, literally and figuratively, that summarize the whole tragedy and crime of slavery.  This really should be required reading in high school. I have a feeling most school principals would be terrified, however, of the imagery.... axing a baby to death in the rebellion, a mother throwing her child overboard as the slave ship disembarks in America... Nat Turner swaying as he is hanged.

A commentator on Amazon gives the book a 1, with the following comment (among others): "Some things shouldn't be remembered at all because they just bring back bad blood. Nat Turner should not be remembered. If you want to know more about him, read one of the many scholarly histories on university websites. This book is nothing but gore porn."  I think this is indeed a complex point, and was raised in discussions of Spielberg's Schindlers List.  If you already know your answer to this kind of question, you know whether you ought to read Nat Turner.  If not, think about the question before reading.

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Slavery in Africa in books

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Last night I had the pleasure of reading Abina and the Important Men, a graphic novel by Trevor Getz, a history professor up at SF Stat, and illustrated by Liz Clarke.  I was very impressed!  It is a compelling story, and the book would be extremely useful in high school and university courses, with all kinds of pedagogy guides, short essays, and suggestions for discussion and further reading.

In addition to being a pleasure to read, the book raises three interesting and fundamental questions:
  1. How should a historian (professional and amateur) "read" the surviving historical record, when we can reasonably assume it has been biased - many "voices" of the past never make it into the historical record.
  2. The ambivalence of the British in enforcing their anti-slavery ordinances, in light of their interest in stability and own role in fostering the slave trade to begin with, provides a context for addressing enduring ethical dilemmas about compromises, responsibility, and justifications.  Likewise for the ambivalence of the "important men" of colonial indigenous societies.
  3. How was slavery different in Africa compared with New World slavery?  What kinds of generalizations might be appropriate to make?  And then of course, this issue prompts us to think about the enduring effects of slavery.  How has the collective experience of 300 years of slavery trade left traces in social institutions of present-day African societies.
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Em's Book Review: "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced"

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You only have to read the title to get your first dose of shock. Age 10 and divorced? How does a 10 year old girl even get married off in the first place?

This is the story of Nujood, a young girl from an impoverished family in Yemen. Her father forces her to marry a man three times her age. As the father says, the family will be better off with one less mouth to feed. The husband agrees not to touch her until she reaches puberty, but the very first night he rapes Nujood. The rapes continue every night, she is beaten, forced to abandon school and is forbidden to play with other children in order to maintain the family's honor. 

Crying to her mother and father does nothing; they tell her to accept her role as new wife. With no one to stand up for her, Nujood decides to sneak out of the house to the courthouse and demand a divorce. After a highly publicized hearing, her divorce is granted, her story becoming well known across the world.

The book is straightforward, short and sweet; obviously written in a child's point of view.  There is not much historical background or any detailed look into the religious and cultural reasons behind forcing underage girls to marry men two or even three times their age. The book is definitely inspirational. I was amazed by Nujood's courage and her determination. When she grows up, she says that she wants to become a lawyer to help other young girls like herself. I hope she follows her dream. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Nujood in the next 25 years.


Em's Book Review: "Chanda's Secrets"

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ChandaSecrets.jpg"Chanda's Secrets" is a heartfelt young adult novel by Canadian Allan Stratton. The book focuses on all aspects of HIV/AIDS but more importantly on the stigma surrounding the virus. It's the story of Chanda, a young woman who witnesses friends and members of her family die off one by one from AIDS, though no one in her village wants to acknowledge it. When her own mother gets sick, Chanda is forced to make some very adult and very difficult decisions. "Mama said I should save my anger to fight in justice. Well, I know what's unjust. The ignorance about AIDS. The shame. The stigma. The silence." Based in an unnamed Sub-Saharan African country, this is one of those universal books that any young adult, whether living in a rural African village or in a bustling American city, would appreciate and be affected by.


Em's Book Review: "Of Water and the Spirit"

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 "My name is Malidoma. It means roughly 'Be friends with the stranger/enemy'...As my name implies, I am here in the West to tell the world about my people in any way I can, and to take back to my people the knowledge I gain about this world."

And so begins Malidoma Patrice Somé's Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman, which I can say has been one of my favorite books to read this year.
In his autobiography, Somé seeks to create an understanding of two drastically different worlds: the Dagara of Burkina Faso and the western world. Somé was born in a Dagara village during the early 1950s but is kidnapped by a French Jesuit missionary as a "child of God"--trained to be a priest--where he suffers verbal, physical and sexual abuse. At the age of 20 he escapes and finds his way back to his village but, having lost his ability to speak local language and having a European education, he is not accepted by the villagers ("they understood literacy as an eviction of a soul from its body...to read was to participate in an alien form of magic that was destructive to the tribe"). He undergoes a dangerous 6-week long initiation in order to become one of his people again.

 some_water_spirit.jpgThe book is both engaging and fascinating, but I think I enjoyed it so much for two reasons. 1) Somé is Burkinabè. Gotta support Burkinabè authors! 2) Since I arrived in Burkina, I've always been so curious and intrigued by the world of animism. It is such a strange, magical and secretive religion. I remember when I was in Pobé, I asked several of my friends to tell me more about animistic traditions, but they all responded with a shy smile and a shrug of their shoulders. This nassarra wasn't about to get any information about the secret world of animism. This book, much to my excitement, goes in great detail about some of the animistic rituals, traditions and customs Somé witnessed. As a foreigner reading this, you think that it has to be make-believe. The walking dead, visiting the underworld, defying gravity...these things just don't happen in the "real world." Yet for the Dagara people, it's a part of their life. I found it all so fascinating. I also found myself highlighting phrases, writing in the margins and actually wishing I was back in college having to write a paper on this book.

A quick Google search on Somé tells me that he holds three masters degrees, two doctorates and taught at the University of Michigan. He travels the world sharing his story. The book says he lives in Oakland, though it was published in 1994. Something tells me that meeting Somé would be an incredible experience. 
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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, Peace Corps volunteer Emilie Crofton, Krystle Austin, Elisee Sare, and Monique Nadembega.

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