Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Look at Ten New Releases for 2015

I am so excited about this post. 2015 hasn't even begun and already here are ten new releases to look forward to in the first five months. Looks like it's going to be yet another exciting year!!!!!

A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg 
January 2015

South African writer and scholar, Jonny Steinberg, is the author of several critically acclaimed book, including Midlands and The Number which both won South Africa's premier non-ficiton literary award, the Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize. He is currently a lecturer in African Studies and Criminology at the University of Oxford. 

A Man of Good Hope, published by Jonathan Cape, takes a powerful look at the impact of the Somali civil war on one man, who having lost everything, refused to give up hope. 

When Asad was eight years old, his mother was shot in front of him. With his father in hiding, he was swept alone into the great wartime migration that has scattered the Somali people throughout the world.This extraordinary book tells Asad's story. Serially betrayed by the people who promised to care for him, Asad lived his childhood at a sceptical remove from the adult world, living in a bewildering number of places, from the cosmopolitan streets of inner-city Nairobi to towns deep in the Ethiopian desert.

By the time he reached the cusp of adulthood, Asad had made good as a street hustler, brokering relationships between hardnosed Ethiopian businessmen and bewildered Somali refugees. He also courted the famously beautiful Foosiya, and married her, to the astonishment of his peers. Buoyed by success in work and love, Asad put $1,200 in his pocket and made his way down the length of the African continent to Johannesburg, whose streets he believed to be lined with gold. So began an adventure in a country richer and more violent than he could possibly have imagined. A Man of Good Hope is the story of a person shorn of the things we have come to believe as human - personal possessions, parents, siblings. And yet. Asad's is an intensely human life, one suffered with dreams and desires and a need to leave something of permanence on this earth. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
January 2015

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe before moving to London in 1989, Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. The Girl on the Train, published by Doubleday, is her first thriller. 

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. 'Jess and Jason', she calls them. Their life - as she sees it - is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. 

And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. 

Now everything's changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar. 

Now they'll see; she's much more than just the girl on the train ...

Arrows of Rain by Okey Ndibe
January 2015

Novelist, political columnist and essayist, Okey Ndibe's debut novel, Arrows of Rain, will be republished by Soho Press. Originally published by Heinemann's African Writers Series in 2000, Arrows of Rain, looks at a woman's drowning and the ensuing investigation in an emerging African nation.

A young prostitute runs into the sea and drowns. The last man who spoke to her, the "madam" Bukuru, is asked to account for her death. His shocking revelations land him in court. Alone and undefended, Bukuru must calculate the cost of silence in the face of rampant corruption and state-sponsored violence against women.

Arrow of Rain dramatises the relationship between an individual and the modern African state. Okey Ndibe examines the erosion of moral insight in both public and private life, drawing out the complex factors behind the near-collapse of a nation.


The Curator by Jacques Strauss
February 2015

South African, Jacques Strauss, first book - The Dubious Salvation of Jack V - won the Commonwealth Book Prize, Africa. His second novel, The Curator, published by Vintage Digital, is an unforgettable and provocative journey into the dark heart of South Africa. 

It's not possible to undo what happened in 1976.

In rural South Africa a family massacre takes place; a bloodbath whose only witness is the family's black maid. Hendrik Deyer is the principal of a state-run school camp who lives nearby with his wife and their two sons, Werner and Marius. As Hendrik becomes obsessed with uncovering what happened, his wife worries about her neighbours, a poor white family whose malign influence on her son Werner is - she believes - making his behaviour inexplicably strange and hostile. One night another tragedy changes each of their lives, irrevocably.

Two decades later, Werner is living with his mother and invalid father in a small Pretoria flat. South Africa is a changed place. Werner holds a tedious job in the administration department of the local university and dreams of owning his own gallery. His father is bedridden, hovering on the edge of death, and furious, as he has been for twenty years. As Werner feels his own life slip away, his thoughts turn to murder as a means to correct the course of all their futures. He can't undo the past, but Werner's desperation to change his own fate will threaten not only his own family but also those still living in the aftermath of what happened all those years ago. 

The Burning Gates by Parker Bilal
February 2015

Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub (Sudanese- British writer). The Burning Gates, published by Bloomsbury, is his fourth Makana Mystery. 

Private investigator Makana has a new client: the powerful art dealer Aram Kasabian. Kasabian wants him to track down a priceless painting that went missing from Baghdad during the US invasion. All the dealer can tell Makana is that the piece was smuggled into Egypt by an Iraqi was criminal who doesn't want to be found.

The art world is a far cry from the shady streets and dirty alleyways of the Cairo that Makana knows. but he discovers that this side of the city has its own dark underbelly. Before long, he finds himself caught between dangerous enemies on a trail that leads him into the darkness of war and which threatens to send the new life he has built for himself up in flames.

Arabic cover
Ritual by Amir Tag Elsir (translated by William Hutchins)
April 2015

Amir Tag Elsir is a Sudanese writer and doctor whose novel The Grub Hunter was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2011.

In Ritual, published by Bloomsbury, a Sudanese writer begins to suspect that one of his most idiosyncratic characters from a recent novel resembles - in an uncanny, terrifying way - a real person he had never met. Since he condemned this character to an untimely death in the novel, should he attempt to save this real man from a similar fate? 

Set in both sides of Khartoum - the bustling capital city and the neglected, poverty - stricken underbelly - this is a novel of unreliable narrators, of insane asylums and of the (dubious?) relationship between imagination and reality. 

A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
May 2015

Jose Eduardo Agualusa, author of novels including Creole and The Book of Chameleons, is one of the leading literary voices in Angola and the Portuguese language today.

On the eve of Angolan independence an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her apartment for 30 years, living off vegetables and the pigeons she lures in with diamonds, burning her furniture and books to stay alive and writing her story on the apartment's walls. 

Almost as if we're eavesdropping, the history of Angola unfolds through the stories of those she sees from her window. As the country goes through political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo's life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.

A General Theory of Oblivion, published by Vintage Digital, is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable.

The Lights of Pointe-Noire - Alain Mabanckou (translated by Helen Stevenson) 
May 2015 

Award-winning novelist, poet and essayist, Alain Mabanckou, has written several novels including African Psycho, Black Bazaar and Tomorrow I'll be Twenty.

The Lights of Pointe-Noire, published by Serpent's Tail, is a meditation on homecoming.

Alain Mabanckou left Congo in 1989. When he returns home two decades later to the bustling Congolose port town of Pointe-Noire, he finds a country in some ways changed beyond recognition: the cinema where, as a child, Mabanckou gorged on American culture has become a Pentecostal temple; his secondary school has been re-named in honour of a previously despised colonial ruler. But many things remain unchanged, not least the superstitions which inform everyday life.

Mabanckou, now a celebrated writer, finds he can only look on as an outsider at the place where he grew up. As he delves into his childhood, into memories of his departed mother and into the strange mix of belonging and absence that informs his return to Congo, Mabanckou slowly builds a wise, wry, moving exploration of the way home never leaves us, however long ago we left.


Awaiting Cover Image. 
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
May 2015

Award-winning fantasy and sci-fi writer, Nnnedi Okorafor, is back with the prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fanstasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death. The Book of Phoenix, published by Daw Books, is a unique work of magical realism featuring the rise of Okorafor's powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell ...

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York's Tower 7. She is an "accelerated woman" - only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix's abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperiences n the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7's refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realise that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix's escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity's future.

Jimfish by Christopher Hope
May 2015

South African novelist, poet and playwright, Christopher Hope - known for his controversial works dealing with racism and politics in South African - is the author of several novels including Krug's Alp (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Fiction) and Serenity House (shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1992).

Jimfish is published by Atlantic Books. In the 1980s, a small man is pulled up out of the Indian Ocean in Port Pallid, SA, claiming to have been kidnapped as a baby. The Sergeant, whose job it is to sort the local people by colour, and thereby determine their fate, peers at the boy, then sticks a pencil into his hair, as one did in those days, waiting to see if it stays there, or falls out before he gives his verdict:

'He's very odd, the Jimfish you've hauled in. If he's white he is not the right sort of white. But if he's black, who can say? We'll wait before we classify him. I'll give his age as 18, and call him Jimfish. Because he's a real fish out of water, this one is.'

So begins the odyssey of Jimfish, a South African Everyman, who defies the usual classification of race that defines the rainbow nation. His journey through the last years of Apartheid will extend beyond borders of South Africa to the wider world, where he will be an unlikely witness to the defining moments of the dying days of the twentieth century. Part fable, part fierce commentary on the politics of power, this work is the culmination of a lifetime's writing and thinking, on both the Apartheid regime and the history of the twentieth century, by a writer of enormous originality and range.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Ankara Press: A New Kind of Romance

The ladies of a new kind of romance
We chose the name Ankara, because, like the cloth, we believe it reflects Africa’s long conversation with the other continents in order to develop a new aesthetics of tradition. This has now become a feature of African cosmopolitan style and modernity. - See more at: http://www.ankarapress.com/blogs/news#sthash.Kn95Ja5q.dpuf
We chose the name Ankara, because, like the cloth, we believe it reflects Africa’s long conversation with the other continents in order to develop a new aesthetics of tradition. This has now become a feature of African cosmopolitan style and modernity. - See more at: http://www.ankarapress.com/blogs/news#sthash.Kn95Ja5q.dpuf
We chose the name Ankara, because, like the cloth, we believe it reflects Africa’s long conversation with the other continents in order to develop a new aesthetics of tradition. This has now become a feature of African cosmopolitan style and modernity. - See more at: http://www.ankarapress.com/blogs/news#sthash.Kn95Ja5q.dpuf
"We chose the name Ankara, because, like the cloth, we believe it reflects Africa's long conversation with the other continents in order to develop a new aesthetics of tradition. This has now become a feature of African cosmopolitan style and modernity." - Bibi Bakare-Yusuf
The wait is finally over for lovers of romance fiction (no pun intended). Today, Monday December 15th 2014, Nigerian publisher Cassava Republic launched their new romance imprint, Ankara Press with six new e-books.

I've been following the launch of this new imprint since July, when it was mentioned at a panel on genre fiction at AfricaWrites 2014. There, Bibi Bakare Yusuf, spoke about the creation of Ankara Press - a romance imprint with more of a mass appeal. Ankara Press, however, has been years in the making - with call for submissions back in 2011. Well, it seems like it was worth the wait with the 6 e-books being released today and all available to download now for NGN500 (less than £2).

Ankara Press' first six e-books
Ankara Press also joins a list of other imprints from publishers on the continent who focus on African romance fiction, such as Nollybooks and Sapphire Press in South Africa and Drumbeats in Kenya.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Even More Best Books of 2014 by African Writers

What a difference a week makes! Last week I compiled a list of the Best Books by African Writers in 2014 from the different lists out there, and since then there have been even more Best of Lists.  
It started with 13 .... 
Helen Oyeyemi and Dinaw Mengestu are in one of the lists, but the ones I've come across this week also have some really cool additions to the Best of Lists. 

Starting with The Root, they compiled a list of the 15 best works of fiction by Black authors in 2014, which included Dinaw Mengestu's All Our Names, Nuruddin Farah's Hiding in Plain Sight, Okey Ndibe's Foreign God's, Inc., Teju Cole's Every Day is for the Thief, Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird, Chris Abani's The Secret History of Las Vegas, Ishamel Beah's Radiance of Tomorrow, Bridgett M. Davis' Into the Go-Slow (yes, I'm claiming that one) and Nadifa Mohamed's The Orchards of Lost Soul.

Over at Tor.com, their Reviewers' Choice: Best Book of 2014 includes Deji Olukoton's Nigerians in Space, Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters, Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon and Sarah Lotz's The Three. While at Kirkus, Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon also makes it onto the Top 10 Alien Books of 2014.  

In South Africa, BooksLive showcases the list of all lists - Sunday Times Book Reviewers 2014 books of the year. I counted about 20 (mostly South African) books in a list of about 46 books - pretty awesome right? I also only really focused on fiction (so definitely check out the full list), although there are a few non-fiction books here. This list is insane and has crime, thriller, speculative fiction, YA and more. 

On the list we have Fiona Leonard's The Chicken Thief, Sarah Lotz's The Three, Alex Smith's Devilskein & Dearlove, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor's Dust, Edyth Bulbring's The Mark, Thando Mgqolozana's Unimportance, Masande Ntshanga's The Reactive,  Vernon RL Head's The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World, Dominique Botha's False River, Nadia Davids' An Imperfect BlessingKarin Brynard's Weeping WatersLyndall Gordon's Divided LivesDamon Galgut’s Arctic SummerImraan Coovadia's Tales of the Metric System, Rosamund Haden's Love Tastes Like Strawberries, Joanne Macgregor's Dark WhispersKirsten Miller's Sister MoonMark Gevisser's Lost and Found in Johannesburg (UK title is Dispatcher: Lost and Found in Johannesburg)Jaco van Schalkwyk's The Alibi Club and Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters.


... and became 35 (at my last count).
With less than 3 weeks to go until the end of the year, I'm not sure what surprises will crop up in anymore Best of Lists, but let's wait and see. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Another New Release for 2014: Boualem Sansal's 'Harraga' (Translated by Frank Wynne)

UK Cover
Published in 2005 in French by Gallimard, Algerian author, Boualem Sansal's novel Harraga, was released last month in the UK. Translated into English by Frank Wynne, here's the synopsis courtesy of Bloomsbury:

In a crumbling colonial mansion besieged by slums in the old quarter of Algiers, Lamia lives a life of self-imposed isolation, communing only with her ghosts by day, working as a paediatrician by day. Her family are dead, but for her beloved brother Sofiane, who has become a harraga – one of those who risk their lives attempting to flee the country for a better life in Europe/elsewhere. 
US cover

Lamia's tranquil, ordered existence is turned upside-down when a sixteen-year-old stranger knocks on her door in the middle of the night. Only because she has been sent by Sofiane, Lamia takes the girl in. Pregnant, unmarried and dressed in garish finery like an X-Factor contestant, Chérifa is talkative, curiously innocent, and utterly unafraid. She enters the house like a whirlwind, and leaves a trail of destruction in her wake. Lamia must try to teach her, to protect her against a world where a woman who is not meek, subservient, married is an affront, where a girl who is pregnant can be killed to spare her family's honour.

By turns funny and lyrical, luminous and sardonic, Harraga, by the controversial author of An Unfinished Business, is the engaging and ultimately tragic story of two very different women who become friends and allies in a patriarchal world. Harraga will be published in the States January 2015.

Friday, 12 December 2014

bookshy is three today!!!!!

Today, my blog turns 3 and I'm really excited. When I wrote my first ever post New Beginnings on this day in 2011 in Lagos, I had no idea what an amazing journey I was heading on. It really has been a fantastic three years and I have loved every second of it.

I am going to keep it short and sweet this year and say thank you, thank you, thank you for all the love and support my blog gets. For everyone who reads the blog, follows it, likes the facebook page, follows me on Twitter and more.

I can't say enough how much I have truly enjoyed the last three years. So here's to the next year - to (hopefully) more reading, more learning, and more sharing of my love, passion and joy for the wonderful world of African literature.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

African Speculative Fiction

It's almost three years since I put together my first list on African Science Fiction, which included works from Lauren Beukes, J M Coetzee, Kojo Laing, Nnedi Okorafor and Abdourahman Waberi. I followed up that post last summer to reflect the exciting and fun times for African Science Fiction. Well, a lot has happened on the scene in the last few years, so I am adding to the first two lists to further reflect these changes. I'm also using the broader term - speculative fiction (broadly Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror), but if you're going to be specific there are sub-genres (I will not reveal the extent of my geekyness, but you can read more here :)). 


Paradoxa's 'African Sf: Introduction' provides a great overview of African sf and is like a go-to list for African sf. Going as far back as 1863 where the continent was more of just a 'feature [in] scientific expeditions' to works by 'indigenous Africans, either written in or translated into English' such as Mohammed Dib's Who Remembers the Sea (1962), as well as 'African sf texts in indigenous languages - such as UK-based Zimbabwean Masimba Musodza's MunaHacha Maive Nei? (2012)'


Here are some more speculative fiction novels that have been published in the last few years.





Fox & Raven (an SA Indie Publisher of Speculative Fiction) have published some really cool books I've been wanting to read. They'll also be publishing Cristy Zinn's first middle-grade/teen fantasy novel The Dreamer's Tears in March 2015. Really enjoyed her short story Five Sets of Hands in AfroSF so definitely looking forward to her debut novel. And


For more speculative fiction, especially from South Africa check out Dave-Brendon de Burgh's post on SA writers and publishers of speculative fiction. See also Tor.com's Under the Radar: (Even More) South African Genre Fiction. And for more YA SF/Fantasy, check out Nick Wood's The Stone Chameleon, Edyth Bulbring's Cornelia Button and the Globe of Gamagion andThe Mark and S.A. Partridge's Sharp Edges and the Deadlands Trilogy by Lily Herne (the pseudonym of mother/daughter due Sarah and Savannah Lotz)

 

                

The excitement continues as last week a new speculative fiction e-magazine, Omenena arrived. Curated and edited by Mazi Nwonwu and Chinelo Onwualu, Omenana is a platform where speculative fiction from Nigeria can be achored. Additionally, Jalada's second anthology, Afrofuture(s), will be centred on Afrofuturism and AfroSF, while Short Story Day Africa will also be publishing a speculative fiction anthology, Terra Incognita, with the longlisted stories. Finally, Malawian author, Shadreck Chikoti, announced last month about a book being published in the near future with 'stories [that] will be set 500 years from now ... about Africa'.

And there's more. Next year (May 5, 2015 to be exact), Nnedi Okorafor The Book of Phoenix will be published by DAW Books. This is the prequel to her 2010 World Fantasy Award-winning novel Who Fears Death

North African Speculative Fiction should not be left out and I would like to do another post focusing on that, but Arab Literature (in English) has written a lot on Arab Sci-Fi and particularly on Arab SF in translation, if you're interested. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Another New Release for 2014: Nael Eltoukhy's 'Women of Karantina' (Translated by Robin Moger)

Another new release for 2014, this time from Egyptian writer and journalist Nael Eltoukhy. Born in Kuwait in 1978, and moving to Egypt as  a toddler in 1981, Nael Eltoukhy's latest, Women of Karantina, was originally published in Arabic in 2013 by Egyptian publisher Dar Merit. The English translation is by Robin Moger and the book sounds amazing. Here's an interview on Arabic Literature (in English) with Robin Moger and Nael Eltoukhy on Women of Karantina and the synopsis courtesy of AUC Press

A baroque novel of crime and excess in a future Alexandria, from a young Egyptian writer of promise.

Back in the dog days of the early twenty-first century a pair of lovebirds fleeing a murder charge in Cairo pull in to Alexandria's main train station. Fugitives, friendless, their young lives blighted at the root, Ali and Injy set about rebuilding, and from the coastal city's arid soil forge a legend, a kingdom of crime, a revolution: Karantina.

Through three generations of Grand Guignol insanity, Nael Eltoukhy's sly psychopomp of a narrator is our guide not only to the teeming cast of pimps, dealers, psychotics, and half-wits and the increasingly baroque chronicles of their exploits, but also to the moral of his tale. Defiant, revolutionary, and patriotic, are the rapists and thieves of Alexandria's crime families deluded maniacs or is their myth of Karantina - their Alexandria reimagined as the once and future capital - what they believe it to be: the revolutionary dream made brick and mortar, flesh bone?

Subversive and hilarious, deft and scalpel sharp, Eltoukhy's sprawling epic is a masterpiece of modern Egyptian literature. Mahfouz shaken by the tail, a lunatic dream, a future history that is the sanest thing yet written on Egypt's current woes.