The Many Faces of the Dreamers

Imbolo Mbue's debut novel Behold the Dreamers was first published over a year ago. It brings together the lives of two families living and working in New York - the Jonga's (a Cameroonian migrant family) and the Edwards (a wealthy American family) around the time of the 2008 financial crisis. Or as described in the blurb

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. 
However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades. 
When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

Since its publication, Behold the Dreamers has gone on to win the 2017 Pen/Faulkner award for Fiction and was selected for Oprah's very exclusive Book Club. The novel has also been translated into several languages including Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek and Portuguese. Being the ever curious person that I am, I wanted to know what the the different editions look like. Thankfully, Imbolo Mbue's Facebook page has the covers for 12 of the editions. And here they are. Any favourites? The are also be Italian, Spanish and Turkish editions (covers not pictured here, and not sure if those have been published yet).

US edition

UK edition

French edition

Polish edition

Dutch edition

Hebrew edition

Serbian edition

Danish edition

German edition

Portuguese (Brazilian) edition

Czech edition

Greek edition


The Manchester Review's Special Issue on African Speculative Fiction

Issue 18 of the Manchester Review

In the introduction of the Manchester Review's special issue on African Speculative Fiction, Geoff Ryman writes, 
'This is a collection of damn good stories - plus a complete comic and an excerpt from a film script'. 
I am currently making my way through the issue, which contains 21 stories only available in print (21 Today) as well as links to an additional 21 stories that are available online and for free (21 Tomorrow). 

21 Today is split into 7 parts, with stories published between 2003 and 2017: Part One: Lift Off with four stories from Lauren Beukes, Ayodele Arigbabu, Doreen Baingana and Peter Kalu; Part Two: Publishing Venues, Workshops and Awards with four stories from Irenosen Okojie, Nnedi Okorafor, Jonatham Dotse and Dayo Ntwari; Part Three: Superheroes: Gods and Politics, with one novella (from Nick Wood and Tade Thompson) and one graphic novel (from Ziphosakhe Hlobo and Lena Posch); Part Four: South African Conundrums, with two stories from Nick Mulgrew and Nerine Dorman; Part Five: Nairobi Beatniks with two stories from Clifton Gachagua and Mehul Gohil; Part Six: Living in an African Future with  4 stories from Shadreck Chitoki, Stephen Embleton, Tiseke Chilma and Muthi Nhlema and a script from Dilman Dila; and Part Seven: Should I stay or should I go? Publishing internationally with three stories from Wole Talabi, Masimba Musodza and Kofi Nyameye. 

The issue ends with a pretty comprehensive year by year list of mostly fiction written in English. There are a lot of novels in the list, as well as comics and films ... and it's an impressive list. Starting with Chaka by Thomas Mofolo in 1909/10 and ending in July 2017 with the announcement of Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death being adapted fro TV. Here, I've pulled out some of the books, anthologies and comics on the list using the headings Geoff Ryman used to categorise them. Enjoy! And then check out the special issue.  

All books covers via Google images.


Nigerian Characters in the Marvel Universe

A couple days ago I shared some very exciting news on my personal Facebook page - about Nnedi Okorafor's forthcoming Marvel comic 'Blessing in Disguise'. The headline courtesy of BBC stated that it was the 'First Nigerian superhero to be published by Marvel'. 

This headline led to quite an interesting discussion - which begun as a result of a comment which seemed like outright shock that BBC would claim this to be the first Nigerian superhero to be published by Marvel. This led to other names being added to the thread including Shango who appeared in 1982 (as a hero).

So, in my ever inquisitive (many may call it nerdy) way I decided to look into this some more and focus on Nigerian characters in Marvel. Of course, those who are more in the know, please do add to this. Also, this is not to take away from what is pretty amazing news - that Nnedi Okorafor is writing an 8-page comic set in Lagos as part of Marvel's Venomverse anthology. 

To begin with, according to the Marvel Database, it seems that Nigeria (the country) made its first appearance in the Marvel Universe in March 1974 (Captain America Vol 1 #171). In terms of characters, one of the earliest appearances of a Nigerian character would have been the god, Shango - in Thor Annual #10 (1982) where he was recruited by Thor to confront Demogorge. It doesn't seem like there were any other Nigerian characters until Leo (K'Beer Okoye) who first appeared in New Warriors Vol 4 #4 (November 2007), followed by Imo Miri whose only appearance was in Thunderbolts International Incident Vol 1 #1 (April 2008)

Then there's Oya (Idie Okonkwo) - a fourteen-year old living in Oyo who accidentally burned down her village and killed her family. Her first appearance was in Uncanny X-Men #528 (November 2010)

... and now, there's Ngozi. Looking at these four other characters I do wonder if it isn't that Ngozi is the first Nigerian superhero to be published by Marvel, but that she is the first Nigerian superhero to be written/created by a Nigerian-American woman that is published by Marvel. For instance, the Marvel Database states that Oya was created by Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen; while Shango was created by Alan Zelenetz and Mark Gruenwald. I have no idea!! Comic fans and experts out there, please let me know.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

Saw this on twitter, and I had to share. It's another new release for 2017 – this time from award-winning Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker and writer Yaba Badoe.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is out September 7, and published by Independent publishers Head of Zeus, here’s a blurb of the story:
Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people.
Fourteen years on she's a member of Mama Rose's unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them:
'A bamboo flute. A golden bangle. A ripening mango which must not fall... if Sante is to tell their story and her own.'
Rich in the rhythms and colours of Africa and glittering circus days. Unflinching in its dark revelations about life. Yaba Badoe's novel is beautiful and cruel and will linger long in the memory.

The book sounds amazing, and can we take a second to appreciate the gorgeous book cover! Can’

The Hamburger That Killed Jorge - New Anthology of Mozambican Crime Fiction

This year has seen some exciting releases, and up next is what is said to be ‘the first Mozambican crime anthology’.

O Hambúrguer que Matou o Jorge, translated as The Hamburger that Killed Jorge in English is an illustrated anthology of 15 Mozambican crime short stories and the ‘brainchild of entrepreneurs Jessemusse Cacinda and Alex Macbeth, who recently started Ethale Publishing.

Ethale received more than 60 short stories during the selection process for the anthology, which started in 2015, when Ethale sought applications from all over Mozambique for writers to submit short criminal fiction stories involving local scenarios and characters.

Well, the English e-book edition of The Hamburger That Killed Jorge will be published this month (August 9) by the London-based digital publishers Bahati BooksIt was translated from Portuguese by Alex Macbeth. 

In a press release for the publication, Bahati writes:
The book is unique in that in addition to the literary narrative, three of the stories are illustrated and one is a graphic novel. A wife that spies on her husband, gangs and dangerous neighbourhoods, a murder in a concert hall and TV scams – the stories in this collection vary immensely in subjects and plot twists. The only constants are the tension between characters and the brilliant craft of the authors’ storytelling. Most curious of all is the eponymous story where a hamburger becomes the cause of the main character’s death!
The project is dedicated to the famous crime fiction author Henning Mankell and is the first publication by Ethale Publishig Lda in attempt to enrich African literature and solidify a tradition of Noir fiction on the continent.

Writivism Festival is 5 and Reinventing the Future

In exactly ten days, speakers, exhibitors, performers, curators, academics, writers, bloggers and more from various African countries and the Diaspora will be in Kampala for the Writivism Festival. Now in its fifth year, Writivism is Uganda’s leading literary festival, and this year will take place at The Square between August 17 and 20.

On the 2017 theme – Reinventing the Future  - Writivism writes:
For a very long time, we have been told, irrespective of how old one is, that we are the future. For all of us, the future has come. We are in the future. This year, as we look back at our roots and recent history as an initiative, we would like to gather around the question of the future. We are in the future. How are we reinventing it? Is our future that foretold by the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals? Is it the apocalyptic prediction by some religious cults and carried out through at leas one known suicide mass killing? How are Africans reinventing the future? Join us in answering these questions through various artistic interventions?

… and the schedule to address this theme of Reinventing the Future, and the line-up of guests is hawtttt!!! 

There will be keynote addresses from E C Osondu, Thando Magolozana, Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Daniel Kalinaki. In his keynote speech, Daniel Kalinaki - author, journalist and media executive – will explore the relationship between the media, literature, the arts, business and politics. While Thando Mqgolozana, founder of the Abantu Book Festival, will talk about the importance of decolonisation of literature and his role in changing the cultural politics of literary production in South Africa and beyond. What does decolonisation mean, outside South Africa?

Also expect launches of very exciting books and literary magazines, including Jalada and Transition’s Fear Issue, Jowhor Ile’s After Many Days, JJ Bola’s No Place to Call Home, Mzililkazi wa Afrika’s Nothing Left to StealSundown, Set Me on Fire, Butterfly Dreams, and A Igoni Barrett’s Blackass.

During the festival, there will be panel discussions on East Africa’s new novels, Sooo Many Stories will present a panel on the dangers and strategies for writers dealing with sex as a theme in their creative work; while Huza Press and Mawazo Institute will consider the sustainability and future of the mentoring and creative writing workshop culture in Africa. Salooni, the Ugandan pop-up hair salon and art installation that explores the politics woven through and straightened out of black hair, will also be at the Festival.

Salooni - a multi-disciplinary experiential art project created by four female Ugandan artists (Kampire Bahana, Darlyne Komukama, Aida Mbowa and Gloria Wayamuno. Image via Okayafrica
But wait, there’s more. Short Story Day Africa’s one day Flow workshop will be there; aspiring writes can also pitch their novel stories to publishers; and as this is a space for all there will also be academic roundtables on cultural archives, spoken word, literary magazines and newspapers, and building audience. This year’s Arts Management and Literary Activism (AMLA) workshop will cover themes on literary festivals, online magazines, literary events and literary adaptations. Soo Many stories also has tot tales for the kids, as well as school, hospital and market visits.

There are also opportunities to watch some really cool performances and films. Actress and playwright Kemiyondo Coutinho will perform her one woman show Kawuna…you’re it!, which interweaves three stories surrounding HIV and the stigma it presents and gives voice to the silenced women affected by this disease and their hope for the future. There will also be a screening of Music is our Weapon - a film portraying the philosophy, history and fight-for-justice of the band, Sarabi, one of the most enthralling band in Kenya and their growing influence across the world
I had the absolute pleasure of being in Kampala last year for the Writivism Festival and it seems they are going from strength to strength - I mean, there's a blogger’s hour (say what, now?! I would so be there, if I was in Kampala). It is also amazing that in Reinventing the Future, the festival is also integrating  some Kampala based events that exist beyond the festival, such as AKA Dope and Makerere University’s poetry night.  I mean, there’s even The Gathering, which is describes as a regular feast of poetry, music and conversation, accompanied by beer and roast meat. It's a pretty cool way to reveal the everyday literary landscape in Kampala. 
So, if you're in or around Kampala, between August 17 and 20 - can I just say I am extremely jealous about the excitement that will take place over those 4 days!! Find out more on the Writivism website.

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