From New Daughters of Africa to The Other Americans: 11 New Releases for 2019

Waterstones TCR. Photo: Mine.

I was doing my usual sweep of the internet - catching up on what is happening in the world of literature and beyond - when I saw a tweet by Laila Lalami with the cover of her forthcoming book, The Other Americans. The Moor's Account is up there as one of my favourite books (I would go as far as saying it would be in my top 10 of books) - so obviously I was excited to see this tweet. 

Laila Lalami's new book then got me thinking about some of the new releases for 2019, and specifically some of the books being published by women's writers. A more comprehensive list soon come - as there are so many exciting books out next year. For now, here are 11 books from women writers to look forward to in 2019. Also, looks like March is going to be an expensive month for some of us - with 6 of these new releases scheduled for then.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance is the stunning sequel to Tomi Adeyemi's New York Times bestselling debut Children of Blood and Bone, the first title in her Legacy of Orïsha trilogy.

After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could've imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too. 

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari's right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy's wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

This major new international anthology celebrates the work of women of African descent, captures their continuing contributions, and charts a contemporary literary landscape as never before. A glorious portrayal of the richness and range of the singular and combined accomplishments of more than 200 contributors, New Daughters of Africa showcases their global sweep, diversity and achievements while also testifying to a wealth of genres: autobiography, memoir, letters, short stories, novels, poetry, drama, humour, journalism, essays and speeches.

Following up Margaret Busby’s landmark 1992 anthology Daughters of Africa, this companion volume brings together the words of writers from across the globe—Antigua to Zimbabwe, Angola to the USA—to honour a unifying heritage while showing the remarkable range of creativity from the African diaspora particularly in the past 25 years. Arranged chronologically, New Daughters of Africa illustrates an uplifting sense of sisterhood and the links that endure from generation to generation, as well as common obstacles writers still negotiate around issues of race, gender and class.

New Daughters of Africa features key figures and popular contemporaries, as well as overlooked historical authors and today’s new and emerging writer.

From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, author of The Moor's Account - a timely and powerful new novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant that is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, all of it informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.

Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui's daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town in the Mojave she thought she'd left for good; his widow Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efraín, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from coming forward; Jeremy, an old friend of Nora's and a veteran of the Iraq war; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son's secrets; Anderson, a neighbour trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself.

As the characters--deeply divided by race, religion or class--tell their stories, connections among them emerge, even as Driss's family confronts its secrets, a town faces its hypocrisies, and love, messy and unpredictable, is born.

From the award-winning author of Dust comes a vibrant, stunning coming-of-age novel about a young woman struggling to find her place in a vast world--a poignant exploration of fate, mortality, love, and loss.

On the island of Pate, off the coast of Kenya, lives solitary, stubborn Ayaana and her mother, Munira. When a sailor named Muhidin, also an outsider, enters their lives, Ayaana finds something she has never had before: a father. But as Ayaana grows into adulthood, forces of nature and history begin to reshape her life and the island itself--from a taciturn visitor with a murky past to a sanctuary-seeking religious extremist, from dragonflies to a tsunami, from black-clad kidnappers to cultural emissaries from China. Ayaana ends up embarking on a dramatic ship's journey to the Far East, where she will discover friends and enemies; be seduced by the charming but unreliable scion of a powerful Turkish business family; reclaim her devotion to the sea; and come to find her own tenuous place amid a landscape of beauty and violence and surprising joy. 

Told with a glorious lyricism and an unerring sense of compassion, The Dragonfly Sea is a transcendent story of adventure, fraught choices, and of the inexorable need for shelter in a dangerous world.

Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories – equal parts wholesome and uncanny; from the tantalising witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can – beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

Perdita Lee may appear your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor flat with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. In fact, the world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval – a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.

Years later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story, as well as a reunion or two. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi’s inimitable style and imagination, Gingerbread is a true feast for the reader.

An electrifying debut from the winner of the 2015 Caine Prize for African writing.

On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. The tale? A playful panorama of history, fairytale, romance and science fiction. The moral? To err is human.

In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives – their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes – form a symphony about what it means to be human. 

From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones and viral vaccines – this gripping, unforgettable novel sweeps over the years and the globe, subverting expectations along the way. Exploding with color and energy, The Old Drift is a testament to our yearning to create and cross borders, and a meditation on the slow, grand passage of time.

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

In addition, there are books are coming out in 2019, but still waiting on covers and for some the exact publication date.
Irenosen Okojie has a short story collection, Nudibranch, to be published in November 2019 with Dialogue Books (and a novel, Curandera, which will follow in spring 2020). As reported in the Bookseller earlier this year, 
'Nudibranch' is Irenosen Okojie’s second collection of short stories, which focuses on "offbeat characters caught up in extraordinary situations". Such characters include a mysterious woman of the sea in search of love, who arrives on an island inhabited by eunuchs; dimensional-hopping monks, who, navigating a season of silence face a bloody reckoning in the ruins of an abbey; and an aspiring journalist returning from a failed excursion in Sydney who becomes what she eats. A darker, Orwellian future is also imagined where oddly detached children arrive in cycles and prove to be dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings.

There’s also In The Palace of Flowers by Victoria Princewill, which will be published by Cassava Republic; 
Set in Iran at the end of the 19th Century in the Persian royal court of the Qajars, 'In The Palace of Flowers' is an atmospheric debut in the tradition of Kamila Shamsie, Laila Lalami, Jessie Burton and Elif Shafak. 
Jamila, an African slave, stands at the funeral of a Persian nobleman, watching the rites with empty eyes. In that very particular moment, she realises that her life will never be acknowledged or mourned with the same significance. The fear of being forgotten, of being irrelevant, sets her and Abimelech, a fellow Abyssinian slave and a eunuch, on a path to find meaning, navigating the dangerous and deadly politics of the royal court, both in the government and the harem, before leading her to the radicals that lie beyond its walls. 
Love, friendship and the bitter politics within the harem, the court and the Shah’s sons and advisors will define the fate of these two Abyssinian slaves. 
Enchanting and page-turning, 'In The Palace of Flowers' is a magnificent debut about the fear of being forgotten.
Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi will also be releasing her first full story collection, Manchester Happened, by Oneworld in May 2019 (called Let’s Tell this Story Properly in the US and will be published by Transit in July 2019). Also look out for Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah “about the last days of Scottish explorer and missionary, David Livingstone, as well as the journey of his body from Zambia back to England".


Emmanuel Iduma's A Stranger's Pose: My Thoughts

Between August 30, 2017 and December 13, 2017, writer and art critic Emmanuel Iduma shared a series of vignettes and images on his Instagram page - with the hashtag #astrangerspose. In that period around 23 of these photos and vignettes were shared. Less than one year later, some of these images appear in Emmanuel Iduma's soon-to-be released book, A Stranger's Pose.

What appears to be the first image in Emmanuel Iduma's #astrangerspose series on Instagram

Published by Cassava Republic, and out in Nigeria and the UK October 16, 2018 and in the US November 17, 2018, A Stranger's Pose has been described as "an evocative and mesmerising account of travels across different African cities". The blurb further describes it as "a unique blend of travelogue, musings and poetry".

A Stranger's Pose begins in Mauritania. Emmanuel Iduma is "in a white E350 Ford van ... driv[ing] into a Mauritanian sunset"

Today Eid ul-Fitr begins. Men are walking back from mosques, women and children trailing them, sure-footed celebratory. I see all this with my nose pressed to the window. The men wear long, loose-fitting garments, mostly white, sometimes light blue. I watch them from behind, and think of the word 'swashbuckle'. I am moved by these swaggering bodies, dressed in their finest, walking to houses that look only seven feet high. I envy the ardour in their gait, a lack of hurry, as if by walking they possess a piece of earth.  
I want to be these men. 

This first chapter is half a page. Half a page is enough to clearly inform you of what you are getting into when you decide to read A Stranger's Pose. By Chapter 2 - which is probably around three-quarters of a page long - we meet "a relative who requested anonymity". A relative who after Iduma recounted stories of his travels asked him to "take me with you on your journeys". Simply put - this is exactly what Emmanuel Iduma does with A Stranger's Pose. Through poetic writing, Iduma takes you along on the journey. You feel like you are there - on these different journeys - every step of the way.

Through Iduma's travels, we go to Mauritania, Lome (as part of a West African book tour), Kouserri (twenty-five kilometres from N'djamena), as well as N'djamena, Dakar, Rabat, Nouakchott, Bamako, Abidjan,  Addis Ababa, Douala, Yaounde, Nouadhibou, Khartoum, Goree Island. In Nigeria, we go to Lagos, Benin City, Abuja, Asaba, Umuahia, Enugu. I haven't captured all the places we encounter. A map in the middle of the book helps us place the different African countries and cities Emmanuel Iduma visits during his travels. 

Iduma meets many people along the way. People whose stories are as much a part of A Stranger's Pose as Iduma's own stories. Khadija who worked in the building he was residing while in Rabat, Serge the caretaker of the motel he stayed at in Abidjan, Salih in Mauritania who lives alone, and will not get married as "women are too complicated". These are some of the people we meet. 

The story - the journey - isn't linear. Then again, neither are our memories, and the ways in which we remember things and tell our stories. We may start off in Mauritania, then head off to Lome, and many pages later we are back in Mauritania. This is what also makes it feel like Iduma is telling only you a story - as he remembers it, or should I say recounts it. That is, his travels - be it difficult experiences, such as obtaining visas or something unique/beautiful about that city he visited, or the period at which he visited the place, or the person(s) he encountered on this trips. 

Iduma is very observant. The things he notices and captures in the book make you aware of just how. Iduma is able to capture not only the sense of a place, but also the sense of people in those places he visits and even their moods and their feelings. A Stranger's Pose also gives a sense of be/longing. How do you get to and from a place? Especially if you are an African (a Nigerian) visiting other countries in Africa? What is it really like to be in a place where you don't understand the language? How do you navigate these spaces?

At the same time, this book is more than observations of a young Nigerian man travelling within Nigeria, and across a number of African cities. In some parts, it also feels like a book about searching  - especially in the chapters focused on "home" (by home, I am referring to Nigeria). A Stranger's Pose doesn't end far away, but closer to home - in Iduma's ancestral hometown. I won't give away too much, but Iduma is searching for something and towards the end writes a passage that made me think not only of a stranger's pose but a stranger's glance

I am yet to mention the photographs that accompany this book - around 40 if I counted correctly. Photographs taken by Siaka Traore, Tom Saater, Dawit L. Petros, Abraham Oghobase, Jide Odukoya, Emeka Okereke, Stephen F. Sprague, Adeola Olagunju, Eric Gottesman, Paul Marty, Michael Tsegaye, and Emmanuel Iduma himself.  Forty photographs that also stay with you long after you finish the book. 

One of the photographs that feature in A Stranger's Pose. Source: Slideshare

Emmanuel Iduma is an art critic, and if you have read his photo essays, such as The Colonizer's Archive is a Crooked Fingerit makes sense that photographs would feature in this book. For me the photographs also made me remember the stories even more. I am struggling to find the right words to describe it. For now I will say, it humanised an already very human story. Still, I want to know how, and why, the photographs were selected? Did the vignettes/stories come first, and photos come after? Or did the photographs jog a specific memory that Emmanuel Iduma was then compelled to write? 

I also haven't touched on the books mentioned in this book - including Yvonne Owuor's Dust, Ben Okri's Famished Road, Amos Tutuola's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, John Berger's Photocopies, Breyten Breytenbach's Intimate Strangers. There are also a few films mentioned in this book. 

Travel writing - particularly in the African context - tends to be dominated by a Western perspective. Indeed, back in 2013, Fatimah Kelleher wrote about travel writing and Africa in the 21st century
Over the last 400 years however, travel literature has been dominated by western colonial and post-colonial viewpoints (which in turn have been dominated by the upper and middle classes) that have contributed to the larger lens through which places like Africa are viewed globally. 
Kelleher followed this up in 2014 with a reading list of ten African and African Diaspora travel writing - some of which were included in a 2014 list on African travel writing for this blogIt is extremely refreshing to read writing about travels on the African continent by an African - in this case a Nigerian. With Emmanuel Iduma's book adding to a canon of travel memoirs/books that are slowly moving the genre - when it comes to writing about 'Africa' - away from the Western gaze. 

I don't tend to quote myself, but I end with something I tweeted after I finished A Stranger's Pose
I savoured every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every image. As I got to the last line of the last page ... the only word I have in my vocabulary to describe this book is 'beautiful'.

The stories within the story: An Illustrator's Perspective by Sandra van Doorn

I have another special treat on the blog - a guest post from illustrator Sandra van Doorn, as part of the Sing to the Moon blog tour. This now makes two guest posts on the blog, so I am now triply excited - is triply a word? 
The original drawing over the cover for Sing to the Moon by Sandra van Doorn via Instagram

I am obsessed with illustration and design - so there was no way I was going to miss out an opportunity to have Sandra van Doorn share the process behind the illustrations created for Sing to the Moon. Thank you Sandra for the guest post. Sing to the Moon written by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl with illustrations by Sandra van Doorn is out October 11.

Creating a scene
I think illustration should always go deeper than the text. A book is a magical world and it is important to create a wonderful universe for a character, invite our readers into a special place.

In many ways illustration is similar to creating a movie scene. I always ask myself - where is the light coming from? What mood do I want to create? What is happening to the main character, but also what else is going on simultaneously.

My favourite spread to illustrate this concept in Sing to the Moon is the veranda scene. While Jjaja is clearly busy working, the boy has his version of helping - he is having tons of fun climbing a tree – while the little white dog is always up to some mischief.

Birds are flying around. A spider is busy spinning a web.  A cricket is standing by. It adds many layers to the story, which invites the reader to pause, question and explore a new world. I want the reader to stay a little longer…

Drawing technique:

I usually sketch and colour with dry pastels, on thick cartridge paper. I like a smooth finish, so there is much blending involved. Detailed work such as drawing birds or leaves is very time consuming. So depending on the complexity of the illustration it can take up to 3 days to finish one spread.

Once my drawing is done I scan it and digitally adjust some colours and add a background which I create separately with pastels too. At this point I might decide to add a bird, or an insect or a flower - which I would draw and add as a layer in photoshop.

I try to stay as close to the real image as possible, but if I feel some colours should stand out a little more I do that with photoshop.

Illustrations by Sandra van Doorn courtesy of Lantana Publishing


The stories within the story by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl

Today, I have a special treat on the blog - a guest post from writer Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, as part of the Sing to the Moon blog tour. This is my first ever guest post on the blog, so I am also doubly excited. Here, Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl shares the stories within the story Sing to the Moon, revealing the many layers and sublayers woven into this beautiful story about the relationship between a grandparent and their grandchild. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did - and thank you Nansubuga for sharing. Sing to the Moon written by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl with illustrations by Sandra van Doorn is out October 11.

Usually there are one or more (actually several) stories behind my stories and I think that is interesting and gives insight into my life and writing inspiration.

While Sing to the Moon is ostensibly about a young boy discovering adventure through a rainy day spent with his grandfather, there are layers of memories (and thus stories) that I wove into the book. 

First and foremost, I wanted to honour my grandfather and other family members who have shared stories with me over the years. I think listening to family stories is one of the most important things we can do. All stories are important and interesting, but our own origin stories, cultural stories, and family stories are particularly important. To this day, I am struck by how much I still don’t know about my own family. And now that my grandfather has passed away, I deeply regret that I didn’t capture and listen more. I love how the young boy in the story learned about his grandfather's childhood. I wish I knew more about my grandparents' childhood. 

In this current time of preoccupation, I also wanted to honour the value of focusing on simple tasks. Now that I have my own family, all of those years of housework that I disliked as a child (and there were many of them!) have more or less paid off. I have patience for certain tasks – wanting to do them properly – that is a direct result of years of chores. In addition, doing a chore with someone you love – and using that time to connect can literally turn a ‘chore’  into a pleasurable experience. I think that’s a nice thing for kids to see, if they don’t already have that experience.

Finally, I remember hearing the beat of drums from a faraway hill on several occasions while staying with an aunt of mine in Uganda. I also remember hearing people preparing meals, or speaking in hushed tones as they passed our window on their way home from work, etc. I often wondered about their stories. What were those drums? Where were those people headed? What were families preparing for dinner (I could smell the deliciousness, hear it being made, but I couldn't see it...)? I am totally inspired by the mundane actions of strangers and I like to weave pieces of their stories into my own. It’s just a reflection of how we live, in any case: picking up this and that from this and that and making it our own.  

Thank you.

Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl
Writer with an African lens 
@archivalafrica (Instagram)

Sing to Moon image via Lantana Publishing website


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