Friday, 22 August 2014

The 'I've Got Two Copies' Book Giveaway

I did promise it was a good one. So I've got two copies of Lauren Beukes' latest novel Broken Monsters and wanted to share the love by doing a book giveaway. This is my little way of saying thank you for supporting this blog.

Designed by Damola Rufai/atelier_RONIN 
I'll be giving one of my copies away to one lucky winner. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the synopsis can be found here. The rules are simple:

This giveaway is open only to those who like bookshy's Facebook page or currently follow this blog. So if you already do and would like a chance to win a copy of this new release, all you need to do is either like the post on the Facebook page associated with the giveaway OR leave a comment below (sorry, but anonymous comments will not be considered). There isn't really a country or continent restriction, but the only requirement is that there is a postal address or PO Box in which the book can be posted to - as I will be using good ol' Royal Mail to deliver the book to the winner. The giveaway is open until Sunday August 31st. The winner will be announced on Monday September 1st via the Facebook page.

PS. I am old school and yes, I know that there are random generator apps out there that would make my life so much easier, but I am going to put names, or numbers associated with names (not quite sure yet what strategy I will use yet), in a hat and get someone (other than myself) to pick a winner. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

African Book Cover Designers: Victor Ehikhamenor

By now it should be no secret that I love book covers. I've always been interested in the design of book covers, and over the past few years I've become more and more fascinated by those behind designing the book covers. Honestly, if I could go back in time I would probably do my PhD on the art of African book covers. Alas, I did not. 

I do believe a book cover is important - obviously it won't change the content of a book. A well designed book cover will not make a bad book great. The same way a boring book cover does not necessarily mean the book itself will be terrible. 

Still I believe that book cover design is an art, a beautiful art and it takes such an amazing (and enviable) skill to be able to convey the sense of the story.

There are so many beautiful African book covers out there, and the book covers in this post come from Victor Ehikhamenor, a Nigerian visual artist, photographer and writer.

Victor Ehikhamenor and Chimamnda Ngozi Adichie via BellaNaija

His art - in which 'many aspects of Nigeria's complex folklore, mythology and religious iconography ... together with the country's political narratives past and present' can be found - has been used for books covers of authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helon Habila, Tony Kan, Lola Shoneyin, Chika Unigwe and many more. According to Ehikhamenor, he has 'designed more than 25 book covers or supplied art for covers for both local and international publishers'. 

On how he goes about designing covers

"It is a collaboration between the writer, the publisher and the cover designer. It is not autocratic, it is democratic to a large extent ... The concept can come from the writer or the publisher, then I visualise and actualise. Other times, it is just me and my team. But first, I read the book. I have to know what the book is saying ... Some covers you can design and say let me do it for beauty sake but sometimes you have to battle with publishers because they might have a different agenda".

Looking through his paintings on his website, I can see clearly some of his artwork in many of these book covers. 

A look at some of Ehikanemor's paintings via his website

Ehikhanemor once said his 'works are a menagerie of different things, a representative of magical realism'. Of his paintings he said they 'are a story - folktales, myths, mystery, history and many more'. Reading that and seeing his artwork, it is clear why he has designed so many African book covers because in his own words he 'paint[s] with so much zeal, like a frenzied storyteller'.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Another New Release: Irene Sabatini's 'Peace and Conflict'

Ooooh! Yet another new release for 2014. This time from Irene Sabatini, author of The Boy Next Door (which won the Orange Prize for New Writers in 2010). Peace and Conflict, her second novel, is published by Constable & Robinson and will be out on the 6th of November. Here's a synopsis via Constable & Robinson

This is the story of a young boy's adventures as he takes it upon himself to solve the mystery of an 'evil' old neighbour in Geneva, and a missing auntie in Zimbabwe. Charming, funny and resonant, this is a novel about how one boy comes to understand what conflict can do to a person, a family, a whole country - and what it means to fight for peace.

This is the story of a hero.

Ten-year-old Robert knows many things. He knows all about his hometown, Geneva, with its statues and cannons and underground tunnels and the Longest Bench in the World. He knows about the Red Cross and all the places his dad has been on his missions. He knows that his mum is writing a book about vampires and how long his older brother spends practicing his 'swag' poses in front of the mirror. He knows all about animals, too, because his Auntie Delphia is a vet in Zimbabwe.

But still he has questions. Is his neighbour, Monsieur Renoir, really evil? Why did he leave a Victoria Cross medal on Robert's doorstep? And why has Auntie Delphia disappeared? In the 'Peace and Conflict' unit in school, Robert learned all about wars and heroes. But as the lives of his friends, foes and family unfold, he discovers what it really means to be a hero . . .

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The 'I've Got Two Copies' Book Giveaway

So, I've got two copies of the same book. As a result, the 'I've Got Two Copies' book giveaway is back. Will be posting details soon. And I promise it's a good one.

Designed by the amazing Damola Rufai/atelier_RONIN (who also did my logo).*
*Original image has been modified. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Solitude Issue: Saraba Magazine

I first found out about Saraba Magazine a couple years ago (and even then, I was pretty late in learning about the awesomeness that is Saraba). Saraba is a Nigerian literary magazine whose first issue was published in February 2009. Their goal is to 'create unending voices by publishing the finest emerging writers, with a bias for Nigeria, and Africa'. Since then, they have published issues with themes on History, Art, Sex, Music and more (past issues can be found here). 

Their 16th issue, Solitude, has just been published and here's some info on it:

Saraba Magazine is excited to share the newest issue of the magazine published with the theme of “Solitude.” This forty-page issue includes poems by Saddiq Dzukogi, Olajide Salawu, Rasaq Gbolahan, Ajoke, Paul Njoroge, Kechi Nomu, Sihle Ntuli, Ekweremadu Uchenna, Yusuff Omoloja, Mathias Orhero and Freeman David. There are short story contributions by Efe Paul, Iquo Eke, Adebola Rayo, and Dare Falowo, as well as a nonfiction piece by Arthur Anyaduba.

From the Publishers’ Note:
“How do we contemplate solitude?

“With silence, hands cradling chin, eyes staring into space in an empty room without articles of interest, an atmosphere of quotidian existence of devotion to matters of the heart?

Find here a cache of short poems and short stories by promising writers from Africa, writing in Africa. Follow them as they grapple with different phases of solitude: from avulsion of romantic partners to a search for solitude that leads to a brief stint in a mental institution. And in your solitary experience, while you grasp at the realities of others, ask yourself what it means to be alone.”

Saraba Magazine is one of the leading literary journals in Nigeria, publishing the work of emerging writers within the country and across the African continent. Our focus is on quality writing that shows immense promise and we often publish writers in the earliest stages of their career. As increased attention is drawn towards contemporary African writing, Saraba offers its readers a unique perspective by promoting the work of writers who have been published little or not at all. The website contains a growing repository of fiction, poetry, essays and interviews by writers based in and outside Nigeria.

Founded in 2009, Saraba has published sixteen magazine issues and six poetry chapbooks. All of this can be downloaded for free on the website as PDFs.

To read the stories, poems, and essay related to the theme, please visit to download a copy of the issue.

For enquiries, please write Adaudo, Saraba’s Managing Editor at

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Books, Books, Books
For over a year now I haven't been able to read as much as I would have liked to, which has made me pretty sad. Thankfully over the last few months, my reading has picked up a bit more  (as I now have slightly more time to read). 

Since June, I've read Chewing Gum, Where to Now, We Need New Names, the Aya SeriesAmericanah and London Cape Town Joburg. I've also been doing some reading in the non-African lit world - Gone Girl, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Smith, Seraphina, Volume 1 of the Saga Series and Catching Fire (and started reading Mocking Jay). I've also started reading The Three (so far, so awesome).

Read and currently reading

Although I've been doing a lot more reading, I've also noticed I've been doing a lot less reviewing - which I am really trying to rectify.

There have also been quite a few additions to my library mainly due to my inability to leave bookstores empty handed, but also from some publishers, as well as a special person who knows me too well - thank you for the ARC of Broken Monsters I did so many jigs when I got it :) 

I found Jose Eduardo Agualusa's My Father's Wives and Rainy Season at the Southbank Book Market. The day I got it I didn't have enough cash on me and the lady selling the books was kind enough to put them in a safe place for me for a few hours. I headed back there on my way home and it was still there. Kerry Young's Pao and Leila Abouela's Lyrics Alley I got from Church Street Bookshop in Stoke Newington. I ended up getting Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death and Akata Witch via Amazon as I can't seem to find her earlier novels here in the UK (or maybe I'm not looking hard enough). They are both second hand and in excellent condition. Amos Tutuola's novels I got courtesy of Faber & Faber, while So the Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist I got unexpectedly yesterday from Jacaranda who were at the African Fashion Week London. The Three is my most recent purchase - I got that last week at the airport during the longest layover ever. I tried to continue reading it as I sat on the plane waiting to take off until I decided that reading it on a plane probably wasn't the best idea. 

New additions to my library
Finally, I've started getting more and more interested in Caribbean literature and want to start to read more of it. My mum's got a ton of Caryl Phillips (I think she might have everything he has ever written) and I recently got Kerry Young's Pao. But I need your help - if there are any readers and lovers of Caribbean lit out there, I would really really really love if you could recommend me a few books to read. Classic ones. More newer ones. The must-reads. I know very little about it, so your recommendations are much appreciated. Thank you!!!

Friday, 8 August 2014

From The New York Times to CNN: African Literature in the News

Maybe it's because I am completely engrossed in it, but I can't help but notice how much more I'm reading about African literature in mainstream media sources. 

Back in June, for instance,  The New York Times published an article, 'New Wave of African Writers With an Internationalist Bent'. The article explains how:
'Black literary writers with African roots (though some grew up elsewhere), mostly young cosmopolitans who write in English, are making a splash in the book world, especially in the United States. They are on best-seller lists, garner high profile reviews and win major awards, in America and in Britain. Ms. Adichie, 36, the author of "Americanah," which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction this year, is a prominent member of an expanding group that includes Dinaw Mengestu, Helen Oyeyemi, NoViolet Bulawayo, Teju Cole, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor and Taiye Selasi, among others.' 
Other African authors mentioned in the article include Ishmael Beah, Aminatta Forna and Okey Ndibe, with the reasons behind this 'critical mass' being that:
'After years of political and social turmoil, positive changes in several African nations are helping to greatly expand the number of writers and readers. Newer awards like the Caine Prize for African Writing have helped, too, as have social media, the Internet and top M.F.A programs.'

What is unique about these 'new African writers' though - according to Manthia Diawara, a professor of comparative literature and film at NYU, 'It is a literature more about being a citizen of the world - going to Europe, going back to Lagos'. He goes on to explain that 'Now we are talking about how the West relates to Africa and it frees writers to create their own worlds. They have several identities and they speak several languages.'

The article did, however, get some flak, as highlighted in an article on BooksLive, 'Should Science Fiction and Fantasy be Included in the "New Wave of African Writers"?', as Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors, such as Nnedi Okorafor, were kept off the list. While I do agree that the list should have acknowledged the other voices and genres in African literature, it does not change the fact that it is a great time for African literature. 

Take Flavorwire, last month they also put together their own list of '8 More African-Born Writers You Should be Reading'. They acknowledge the 'abundance of fantastic literature coming out of Africa right now' and see it as 'something to celebrate'. Their list of 'African-born writers include A. Igoni Barrett, Chigozie Obioma, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ivan Vladislavic, Binyavanga Wainaina, Zoe Wicomb, Camara Laye and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. I love Flavorwire's list for its mix of new and old and it contains some authors whose works I absolutely love. 

And then this month, actually just a few days ago, CNNs African Voices released its own list of 'African writers you should be reading now'. The rise of the new African writer was also a theme in this article: 
' ... Iately new names from across the continent are becoming part of popular literary consciousness. "Purple Hibiscus," "Half of a Yellow Sun" and more recently "Americanah" have brought international acclaim for Nigerian author du jour, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
She joins a growing list of popular African authors -- including NoViolet Bulawayo, Binyavanga Wainaina, Taiye Selasi, Lauren Beukes, Alain Mabanckou -- who have been steadily picking up steam --and fans -- across the globe over the last several years.'
This article, in a way, goes one step further from The New York Times article as it mentions 'indigenous content producers and independent publishers' across the content, such as  Chimurenga and Kwani?, as well as writers' collectives like Jalada. And while it does recognise translated Francophone literature with Alain Mabanckou and makes mention of Sci-fi and fantasy (it also mentions erotica) and lists Lauren Beukes among its must-read writers, it would be awesome to also include authors like Nnedi Okorafor and Sarah Lotz who are also getting some amazing recognition internationally, as well as Ivor Hartmann and his work with AfroSF. 

Moving away from NYT and CNN African Voices, just yesterday, Zimbabwean author, Tendai Huchu, wrote an article for Vitabu books, 'A Few Thoughts on the Literature Which May/May Not Be Called African Literature'. In it he writes that 'We live in interesting times for lovers of African literature' and I can't help but agree. I love that in this article Tendai Huchi draws attention to 'Some of the more interesting developments [that] are happening outside the stables of large international publishers and don't get as much notice/airplay/recognition'. By this he is referring to:
'The indie authors in romance like Myne Whitman (A Heart to Mend), Nkem Ivara (Closer than a Brother), Rudo Muchoko (When Love Strikes) and Kiru Taye (author of the highly popular Men of Valour series, which has done extremely well on Amazon), who are pushing the boundaries and mining spaces traditional publishers have neglected. 
In speculative fiction you have self-pubbed authors like Masimba Musodza who publishes in both Shona and English, and whose novel, Hebert Wants to Come Home, was first serialised on JukePop Serials. Running parallel to the work of indie authors, it is also interesting to see new developments by Ivor Hartmann, publisher of AfroSF, and Marius du Plessis of Fox and Raven Publishing who are creating alternative platforms for writers working in Genre Fiction.
It will also be interesting to see whether authors like Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Deon Meyer exert a large enough gravitational pull for new writers to enter the crime genre. Already in Nigeria there is a new start-up, Cordite Books, headed by Helon Habila which hopefully will ignite a spark in crime fiction written on the continent.'

As a book lover, I can't help but be happy to see that African literature, on and off the continent, is on the rise - although for many it's always been there. So maybe it's less about African literature being on the rise and more about it being noticed and appreciated by a lot more people. And as a book blogger it's also kinda nice to know that bloggers are being recognised in this landscape. As raised in the CNN article by Ms. Afropolitan:
"And when something is good, it obviously catches people's attention. Before it would not have reached any mainstream; now it is, thanks to bloggers and local content production."
And also by Tendai Huchu in his article:
'Another interesting/new factor to add to the literary scene has been the emergence of online bloggers and critics. Publishers have often complained that newspapers on the continent have little real interest in literature, which is why bloggers like Zahrah Nesbitt (Bookshy), Sarah Norman (White Whale), James Murua (James Murua’s Literature Blog), Ainehi Edoro (Brittle Paper), Nana-Ama Kyerematen (Afri*Diaspora), Vitabu and many others now occupy a crucial space in terms of reviewing and publicising books from around Africa to their potential readership across the world. This can only be enriching because book blogs (even for large western publishers) have become the essential, go-to place for readers today and can create a buzz for works that might otherwise be ignored in mainstream media.'
There really is a lot going on in the world of African literature. We have some awesome literary magazines like Bakwa (Cameroon) and Saraba (Nigeria) and innovative ideas like  Okadabooks in Nigeria using mobile devices to bring books to people. We also have literary festivals - Ake Arts and Book Festival (Nigeria), Open Book Festival (South Africa), Storymoja Hay Festival (Kenya), Writivism Festival (Uganda) as well as Africa Writes (UK)

And if I may, I would like to add to these already wonderful lists by mentioning a few more names - travel writer, Noo Saro-Wiwa; Angolan authors, Ondjaki and José Eduardo Agualusa; Ghanaian author, Nii Ayikwei Parkes; Nigerian author, Obinna Udenwe;  South African authors, Zukiswa Wanner and Niq Mhlongo; and Zimbabwean, Nouvoyo Rosa Tshuma. 

As for blogs, if you are interested in finding out more, James Murua has a list of 10 African literature rich blogs, which includes blogs such as Kinna Reads and BooksLive.