Category Archives: Books

Books on my Christmas Wish List

I created a mental list of the books I wanted to get at the end of the year. But because, it was a list in my head, I would add new titles each time. This was making it difficult for me to decide what books to get. Also, it wasn’t going to be good for my bank account. Writing the list on the blog should help with my book shopping at Christmas and help me not go overboard with my spending on books. (Click the book titles to read the blurbs of each book on my wish list on Goodreads).

Not Working by Lisa Owens is a novel I first heard about on Emma Gannon’s podcast Ctrl Alt Delete. It’s a book about a young lady who quits her job to find her purpose. I am interested in this as I’ve always thought about the idea of work and our career interests. I’ve heard the book is really funny and it’s been compared to Bridget Jones so I’m looking forward to reading this.

not-working-by-lisa-owens

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was one of the most talked about books by an author of African descent in 2016. I read blog reviews about Homegoing, listened to a podcast on Homegoing and watched a YouTube review of Homegoing. I also came across a twitter chat about the novel too. Having heard so much about the novel, I want to read it for myself. Darkowaa from African Book Addict recommended that I read Homegoing before any of the books on my wish list.

Homegoing is a novel that tackles a big topic- slavery as it explores a family that is split by slavery where one sister is sold as a slave and ends up in the United States and the other sister stays in Ghana. It traces the experiences of the descendants of each sister in Ghana and in America. It’s a book I’m looking forward to reading based on the great reviews it has received.

yaa-gyasi-homegoing

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell is a  non-fiction book on my wish list. Jen Campbell is an author and booktuber. I watch her videos on books on YouTube from time to time and would love to read her work. The Bookshop Book is a book about bookshops around the world. As I love books, I would love to read the bookshops and how they have survived over the years. I also see it as a way of supporting Jen’s channel.

the-bookshop-book-by-jen-campbell

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal is about a young mixed-race boy whose white brother is adopted and Leon isn’t. Leon family is falling apart and the book explores their experience of social services and foster care. Leon’s experience on not being adopted is an important issue as sometimes white babies are preferred in adoption over black children.

I think reading My Name is Leon would help me understand what it’s like to require social services. Most of the discussion I hear on social services are from documentaries on people depending on benefits and I want to listen to a different perspective from people who genuinely need the social support that the state provides.

my-name-is-leon-by-kit-de-waal

While compiling the list, I went on Book Depository to gauge whether my budget would be able to cover all the books. Hopefully, I’m able to get all the books on the list.

Let me know in the comments what books are on your Christmas wish list.

Non-Fiction November: Reads + Lit links

Fiction has always been my go-to. But recently, I’ve developed an interest in non-fiction books. I’ve read more non-fiction works this year and I’ll be discussing some of the books I read this year as well as the ones on my TBR (to be read) list.

I read  The Elephant and The Bee by Jess de Boer in the summer. It’s the story of a young Kenyan woman who’s trying to discover herself and her career interests. Jess tries her hands at different things from insect farming in Thailand to working as a chef in Switzerland and New Zealand before becoming a beekeeper. She also participated as an athlete in the Commonwealth Games and while reading her book, I wondered how she got to do everything she did.

elephant-and-bee

Then, I read Safe House edited by  Ellah Wakatama Allfrey which is a collection of creative essays from across Africa. My favourite stories in the book were on the experiences of second-generation Chinese immigrants in Senegal and the chapter on living in Liberia during the Ebola crisis. Safe House explored stories beyond what the media tells us. When the Ebola crisis happened, there was a lot in the news but what was it like for the people who lived in Liberia at the time.

I liked the story on Chinese immigrants in Senegal as a lot of the media coverage is on African migrants in the West but it’s important to know the stories of people who migrate to Africa.

safe_house_cover_

I was sent some lovely non-fiction titles from Jacaranda Books recently which I’ll be reading over the next few weeks – Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart and a biography, Evelyn Dove: The Black Cabaret Queen by Stephen Bourne. In Beyond the Pale, Emily writes about her experience  as a mother to a daughter diagnosed with albinism. She also explores cultural beliefs associated with albinism in the book.

Evelyn Dove: The Black Cabaret Queen is a biography of Evelyn Dove, who was the first black female singer on BBC Radio. I received the biography a few days after watching Young, Gifted and Classical on the BBC, which is a documentary on Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who is the first black winner of the BBC Young Musician competition. Sheku plays classical music and his story can be compared to Evelyn Dove’s as they are both minorities on the musical scenes that they appear on.

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A non-fiction essay, I would recommend checking out is This is Personal by Benjamin Zephaniah.  He writes on his experiences of racism in England and the opinions of others towards immigration within the country. His writing is amazing.

As someone who loves to know what’s happening in the world, non-fiction keeps me informed. Non-fiction covers stories on disability, history, immigration, everything really and it deserves our recognition.

Let me know in the comments if there are any non-fiction books you would love to read.

Bookish Chat with Eniola

Eniola and I have been friends since we were 10. We met at secondary school. Eniola lives across the pond from me in the US so we mainly have our discussions about books over FaceTime. I remember Eniola once told me that the story of Ifemelu in Chimamanda’s Americanah was similar to her story, just that she didn’t have the interesting love life that Ifemelu had. Eniola completed a year at university in Nigeria before moving to the US. Ifemelu also spent a year at university in Nigeria, before moving to America. In terms of Ifemelu’s love life, it had to be exciting to get people interested in the story.

Recently, Eniola and I had a chat about books and that was the inspiration for this post.

Eniola and I

How did you get into reading?

I started reading at an early age. I was an only child for five years. My parents would take me to the British Council library in Ibadan every Saturday and I would read there. I had a typical reading childhood where I read a lot of novels by Enid Blyton and the Babysitters’ Club series. However, my favourite things to read were the Archie Comics. My best friend in primary school always had Archie Comics so I read them a lot. There were always books around me and I didn’t have many friends so I read.  My first exposure to African books was in secondary school where I read Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo.
Do you have any authors that stand out to you?
Lola Shoneyin, Ada Tricia Nwaubani and Chimamanda Adichie. My favourite books from Chimamanda were Americanah and The Thing Around Your Neck.

A lot of people say they struggle to find time to read. How are you able to balance reading for pleasure, alongside your day job?
To be honest, I haven’t found time to finish a book since I started working in January, this year. I started reading From Pasta to Pigfoot and The Kite Runner and I haven’t finished both. I’m nearly done with The Kite Runner though. Before, I could finish a book in two to three days but now I don’t. 
What are your top recommendations to someone who is new to African literature?
I would say it is important to start by looking for books that are easy to read. My recommendations are: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin, Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and From Pasta to Pigfoot by Frances Mensah Williams.



Do you have any books you would like to read in the near future?
Any books from Cassava Republic (they are an independent publishing company that produce titles mainly by African authors).

Beyond the questions, Eniola mentioned how it’s easier to access books living in the West. The British Council Library she visited frequently in Ibadan as a child, has been shut down. Eniola lives in Illinois and she mentioned how many of the popular titles by African authors are found in her local library. I know living in England makes it easier for me to get books that I enjoy. Blogging about books may not be an option for me, if I lived in certain parts of the world.

Do let me know in the comments section if there are any books on your reading wish list. 

On Travelling Light as a Young Woman

You know those times when you pack your makeup bag with all your makeup products for one weekend and wonder why your travelling bag is heavy. I’ve come to realise that I don’t need so many products on a weekend away.  I tend to wear eyeliner, mascara and a bold lipstick as my typical everyday makeup look so those are the only makeup products I take with me. The only time I take my products for a full made up face is when I’m going for a wedding or an event. I know not everyone will be able to do with just 3-4 items but “do you boo.”(Side note: my cousin questions my ability to wear lipstick without any foundation. She said I can get away with it because I wear bold lip colours and she has advised me to never wear a nude lip colour without foundation).

On holiday in Skegness wearing lipstick and mascara. I can’t be carrying many makeup products. Who is looking at me? 

When I’m done with sorting out my makeup, I move on to my hair. I have  to plan well when my hair is out. Do I need to take my leave-in conditioner with me? The last time I travelled down to London, I moisturised my hair before travelling so I wouldn’t have to for the next couple of days. I was staying over at my cousins’ that weekend so if my hair got dry, I could always ask them for a moisturiser. 

Then what would I read while I’m away? I have to take a book with me. If my book is too big and I don’t want to take it with me, I reread one of my kindle books on my phone. My favourite hard copy books to take with me while travelling are my Ankara Press novels, They are small in size and fit and I feel like I’m carrying nothing when I have one with me. I didn’t think twice when I put one of their novels- Black Sparkle Romance in my overnight bag when I last travelled to London  because it wasn’t going to be a burden for me to carry.

Train ride to London with my novel and overnight bag

My hair is sorted. Books are sorted and makeup, I gatchu but what about my clothes. My grandma would say, “you only need one pair of trousers and two tops for your break.” That advice wasn’t for me. I would take clothes I don’t need and end up staring at them and questioning why I brought them. In winter, packing gets tougher because of the thick clothes I wear during that season that fill my bag in no time. However, I’ve learnt to manage this. No need for five jumpers just because I’m going away for a week.

On holiday in Skegness last autumn

I would end with my favourite excerpt on travelling from a novel, From Pasta to Pigfoot.  It’s a scene where the main character, Faye is travelling from Ghana to London and there are a lot of people travelling with huge amounts of luggage.

“‘Dad, have you seen the amount of luggage some people are taking?’…Directly in front of them, a young couple had two trolleys, each laden with suitcases, canvas tote bags and cardboard boxes firmly secured with masking tape. The woman was carrying a handbag on top of an even larger shoulder bag while trying to push a smaller wheeled suitcase… When Ghanaians are returning home, they always take huge amounts of luggage.”– From Pasta to Pigfoot by Frances Mensah Williams

Do you find travelling light difficult or easy? 

Book Review: Love’s Persuasion by Ola Awonubi

Love’s Persuasion is a romance novel where two characters, Ada and Tony meet and the story explores their relationship and other situations they face as young people at work who have to deal with expectations from their families.

Tony was sent abroad to study in England at the age of 10. When he was 28,  his parents asked that he return back to Lagos to head his father’s finance company. Tony had other career interests in writing but his father wasn’t keen about that.

“I have spent my life building up my businesses for you and all you want is to do is to stay in London doing this writing thing…Do you think I sent you to London to become the next Chinua Achebe? You have a degree in business and finance and your ACCA for a reason, you know.”

Ada, on the other hand was from a low-income family and was expected to marry a rich husband to take care of her family. The story looks at whether Ada would succumb to that to raise her family’s living standards or if she would choose to work hard to build a well-paying career for herself. Ada had extensive financial responsibilities towards her family and she was also paying her university fees and working alongside her studies. An excerpt on her experience was,

‘Books call Ada’. ‘Money call Ada’. ‘The roof is falling down call Ada’. How many pieces do you want me to divide myself into?’

Tony and Ada are from different social backgrounds so we see if their love survives the class differences between them.

I think Ola, the author explored a different returnee experience when she wrote about Tony moving back to Lagos. I watched An African City, which is a web series about five female women who had lived in the West and moved back to Ghana. It was nice to read about a man’s returnee experience which maybe a bit different from a woman’s.

Exploring how Tony schooled abroad from a young age and turned out fine was interesting as I’ve listened to conversations on how going to boarding school overseas at a very young age can affect a child negatively. I once read a novel, Mother’s Choice by Agbo Areo (it was required reading in secondary school) and was about a boy who left Nigeria to school in England and how he joined bad friendship groups in England and didn’t turn out great. Love’s Persuasion offers a different perspective on still being able to excel in life, even though the child’s faraway from home.

I met Ola, the author at the Africa Writes literary festival and that was where I bought a signed copy of her book.

Ola Awonubi and I

There’s a video review to the book as well.

Do you read romance novels? And what’s your favourite genre to read?

 

Day Out at the Africa Writes Literary Festival

I found out that there was going to be the Africa Writes festival at the British Library on social media and given that I love African literature, I was interested. The event ran for 3 days but I only attended on the second day- Saturday.

At the British Library

I chose to attend sessions on digital publishing and diversity in children’s publishing and a book launch. Yewande Omotoso launched her book- The Woman Next Door so I was able to find out more about her writing and the book. 

I enjoyed all the sessions and the panel discussions were very interesting. I’ll give you a mini recap on the session as the issues they discussed are topical. The sessions were:

The Digital Debate: A New Era of Reading and Publishing
This was facilitated by the ladies who founded Bahati Books, a digital publishing house. What drew me to attend was the constant conflict in my mind on whether to buy e-books or hard copies. The latter always wins the war. I’ve only read 2 books on Kindle and the first time I bought a Kindle book, I thought e-books were cheap. I bought it for £1 but I guess there must have been a promotion at the time. 
The publishers on the panel mentioned how they can play with the prices of their e-books and that’s why it may seem cheap at certain periods. They can afford to change prices on e-books but hard copies have the prices already printed on them. The panel spoke on how it can be costly producing e-books so we shouldn’t expect it to be free.
There was a discussion on free content and how “just because it’s digital, doesn’t mean it’s free.” However, I feel there’s a place for free digital content from authors. I like when I’m able to read blog posts or short stories from authors online for free before committing to buying a book. There are short stories on Brittle Paper which I read from time to time to discover new authors.

An interesting issue was also whether certain genres like erotica do better in e-book sales. It was said that 50 Shades of Grey did well in e-book sales as people perhaps felt more comfortable reading it digitally than holding a copy version and reading it in public. 

“There’s no such thing as a Black Princess: Diversity in Children’s Publishing”
This was about the need for representation of characters from different backgrounds. I knew growing up, I read many books by Enid Blyton where I didn’t see any characters like me and I didn’t think much of it at the time. However, it’s important that children see themselves in books because every background is valid.

One thing I took away from this were that stories are for everyone. Just because, a book has black characters doesn’t mean it’s only meant to be read by black children.

Then, there was a question on whether books should have raceless characters. For example, there was a casting of a black actress as Hermione in the West End play, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and this caused a lot of debate. JK Rowling defended this casting as the ethnicity of Hermione was “never specified” in the book. From the session, I figured the panel was more drawn to ethnicity of characters being specified.

Finally, what’s a book event without an opportunity to buy books? There was a book marketplace and I bought a romance novel by Ola Awonubi, called Love’s Persuasion and chatted with Ola.

Ola Awonubi and I

Overall, I enjoyed Africa Writes and I plan to next year and attend more of the sessions. It was a lovely way to spend my Saturday.

Let me know in the comments section if you’re a lover of e-books or you’re a hard copy girl like me.

Book Event Recap: New Nigerian Writing with Cassava Republic Publishing

This year, I’ve been reading a lot of African fiction so I was excited when Cassava Republic said they were hosting an event where I could meet some African writers. To say a bit about Cassava Republic, they are a publishing company whose mission is “to change the way we think about African writing”. They launched in London in April but I think they’ve been based in Nigeria for about seven years. They had some events around the time of their launch in the UK. One of the events was An Evening of New Nigerian Writing and this was organised with Dulwich Books, a bookshop in South East London. I learnt about the event on Cassava Republic’s Facebook page. 
I picked up three of Cassava Republic’s new releases there and I met the authors of the books- Leye Adenle, Elnathan John and Sarah Ladipo Manyika. There was a deal where I could get three books for £25. I felt buying the books at the event saved me from having to order it online on a later date and wait for it to get delivered. I’m glad that Cassava Republic is establishing their presence in the UK as it’s a platform to showcase the works of African writers. A lady I met at the event told me that this was my first of many book events. 
One of the books I got
In the video, I mention the two other books I got and share a recap on the event. 
One of the issues raised at the event was whether people were reading less? Do you think we, as individuals are reading less?   

Book Review: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie

I thought I had read Purple Hibiscus while I was in secondary school. This was because it was required reading for the students below me at my secondary school. I thought I borrowed it from one of them. However, when I picked up the book to read this year, the story seemed very unfamiliar to me. That was when I realised that I had never read it before. 
Everywhere I hear about African writers, Adichie’s name is mainly mentioned so I was interested in reading her work. I share my thoughts of Purple Hibiscus in the video below. 
Have you read any of Chimamanda’s books? If you have, let me know which one you liked the best.  What books have you enjoyed lately and would like that I check out?

Book Review: So The Path Does Not Die by Pede Hollist

This novel was mainly set in Sierra Leone and the United States. It focuses on a young lady from Sierra Leone, Finaba and her experience in her home country and her time in the United States. The story started around her initiation ceremony and the possibility of her circumcision. What I found great about the book was I was not sure if she got circumcised till after I read a considerable amount of the book so the author left me in suspense while reading it.

Image credit: Amazon Kindle

Female circumcision was one of the issues the novel raised. The novel made me question if calling female circumcision, female genital mutilation is appropriate. Sexual violence and rape were addressed by the author as these were woven into the lives of the characters. The novel had a mini love story as Finaba was in romantic relationships and you know we all love a bit of romance. 
Reading about Finaba’s move back to Sierra Leone was interesting because sometimes we may think the only attractive option is to move to the West. Her move back was around the time when there was a conflict in Sierra Leone. This shaped the story in that the characters were affected by the war, financially, physically and mentally. At a time, when there is conflict in the different parts of the world, the story caused me to reflect on the experiences of people in war-torn areas and their loved ones who support them from foreign lands.

Finaba explained why she wanted to return to Sierra Leone and her reason triggered my thoughts on why we choose to live where we do. The novel explored the possibility of Africans in the diaspora contributing to the development of their home countries through coming back to help. This idea is related to a call made by Ms. Walla, Cameroon’s first female presidential candidate in This is Africa Online for the region’s educated and young diaspora to return to join the public sector as many have skills that can transform the region. 

*I purchased the novel on the Amazon Kindle store and it cost £1 at the time I bought it.