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Friday, 21 December 2018

Thirty-one and counting: 2019 in books




The year is almost over - and if you’re like me, and haven’t even managed to make a dent with 2018 (heck, even 2017) books - here are some more books to add to your ever-growing (or should it be never-ending) list. PS. This is in addition to these 11 books I shared a couple months ago, including Laila Lalami's The Other Americans, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's short story collection Manchester Happened.
Aren't they gorgeous?
January 
Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored - and consumed by an insatiable need for sex.

Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adèle organises her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she's been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making. Suspenseful, erotic, and electrically charged, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman's quest to feel alive.



When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...


Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, An Orchestra of Minorities tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.

Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements.. Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.

Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer’s Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.



February
In a world uncomfortably like our own, a young woman called Alamantis is arrested for asking a question. Her question is this: Who is the Prisoner? When Alamantis disappears, her lover Karnak goes looking for her. He searches desperately at first, then with a growing realisation. To find Amalantis, he must first understand the meaning of her question.



When Lerato Mogoathle left South Africa for a planned three-month break to West Africa little did she know that those three months would turn into five years.


Vagabond is her hilarious and honest account of her five years of living as a drifter in Africa. In between the borders, foreign architecture and interesting new ways of life, Mogoatlhe found passion, love, laughter and heartbreak. On these pages you will find capsules of time spent in 21 countries in five regions of Africa. You will be regaled by the tales of how she tries to worm herself into hotels when she has no money because of unpaid invoices back home. You will be mortified and proud of how she navigates herself out of difficult situations like being misread by a man who tries to force himself on her.


Mogoatlhe’s book is a travel memoir driven by the belief that whatever else Africa is, it is first and foremost a home. It is punctuated with a deep urge to know the continent differently.
**via Twiiter (@iamthezuba)




March
Salma, happily married, tries every day to fit into life in Britain. When her first love contacts her, she is tempted to risk it all and return to Egypt. Moni gave up a career in banking to care for her disabled son, but now her husband wants to move to Saudi Arabia – where she fears her son’s condition will worsen. Iman feels burdened by her beauty. In her twenties and already in her third marriage, she is treated like a pet and longs for freedom.

On a road trip to the Scottish Highlands, the women are visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird whose fables from Muslim and Celtic literature compel them to question the balance between faith and femininity, love, loyalty and sacrifice. Brilliantly imagined, intense and haunting, Bird Summons confirms Leila Aboulela’s reputation as one of our finest contemporary writers.



The year is 2067. The city of Rosewater is chaotic, vibrant and full of life - some of it extra-terrestrial.

The charismatic mayor, Jack Jacques, has declared Rosewater a free state, independent to Nigeria. But the city's alien dome is dying. Government forces await its demise, ready to destroy Rosewater's independence before it has even begun. And in the city's quiet suburbs, a woman wakes with no memory of who she is - with memories belonging to something much older and much more alien.



April
'The Half-God of Rainfall' is an epic story and a lyrical exploration of pride, power and female revenge.

There is something about the boy. When he is angry, clouds darken. When he cries, rivers burst their banks. And when he touches a basketball, deities want courtside seats. Half Nigerian mortal, half Grecian God: Demi is the Half-God of Rainfall. His mother, Modupe, looks on with a mixture of pride and worry. From close encounters, she knows that Gods are just like men: the same fragile egos, the same subsequent fury, the same sense of entitlement to the bodies of mortals. The Gods will one day tire of sports fans, their fickle allegiances and their prayers to Demi. And when that moment comes, it won’t matter how special he is. Only the women in Demi’s life, the mothers, the Goddesses, will stand between him and a lightning bolt.



Growing up in middle-class Lagos, Nigeria during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ihechi forms a band of close friends discovering Lagos together as teenagers with differing opinions of everything from film to football, Fela Kuti to spirituality, sex to politics. They remain close-knit until tragedy unfolds during an anti-government riot.

Exiled from Lagos by his concerned mother, Ihechi moves in with his uncle’s family, where he struggles to find himself outside his former circle of friends. Ihechi eventually finds success by leveraging his connection with a notorious prostitution linchpin and political heavyweight, earning favour among the ruling elite.

But just as Ihechi is about to make his final ascent into the elite political class, he reunites with his childhood friends and experiences a crisis of conscience that forces him to question his world, his motives, and whom he should become.



Wolf Light by Yaba Badoe

Born in wolf light, the magical dusk, in Mongolia, Ghana and Cornwall, Zula, Adoma and Linet are custodians of the sacred sites of their homelands. When copper miners plunder Zula's desert home in Gobi Altai, and Adoma's forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy. How far will Zula, Adoma and Linet go to defend the well-being of their homes? And when all else fails, will they have the courage to summon the ancient power of their order, to make the landscape speak in a way that everyone will hear?





The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 3: Halal If You Hear Me. Edited by Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo
The collected poems dispel the notion that there is one correct way to be a Muslim by holding space for multiple, intersecting identities while celebrating and protecting those identities. Halal If You Hear Me features poems by Safia Elhillo, Fatimah Asghar, Warsan Shire, Tarfia Faizullah, Angel Nafis, Beyza Ozer, and many others.





May
A young girl collapses from hunger and is nursed back to health by a pack of dogs…
A grieving woman remembers her absent father and her failure to keep her promise to him…
A struggling writer conjures her muse into being, walking every inch of the city in search of inspiration…

In Thirteen Months of Sunrise – the first major translated collection by a Sudanese woman writer – Rania Mamoun expertly blends the real and imagined to create an intimate portrait of life in Sudan today. From brief encounters to unusual friendships, this startling and evocative debut illuminates human experience and explores the alienation, isolation and estrangement of urban life.


Straightened. Stigmatised. 'Tamed'. Celebrated. Erased. Managed. Appropriated. Forever misunderstood. Black hair is never 'just hair'.

This book is about why black hair matters and how it can be viewed as a blueprint for decolonisation. Emma Dabiri takes us from pre-colonial Africa, through the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and on to today's Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars and beyond. We look at everything from hair capitalists like Madam C.J. Walker in the early 1900s to the rise of Shea Moisture today, from women's solidarity and friendship to 'black people time', forgotten African scholars and the dubious provenance of Kim Kardashian's braids.

The scope of black hairstyling ranges from pop culture to cosmology, from prehistoric times to the (afro)futuristic. Uncovering sophisticated indigenous mathematical systems in black hairstyles, alongside styles that served as secret intelligence networks leading enslaved Africans to freedom, Don't Touch My Hair proves that far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.


This eleven-piece, limited-edition box set—an African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) project—features the work of ten new African poets.




Exiles of Eden looks at the origin story of Adam, Eve, and their exile from the Garden of Eden, exploring displacement and alienation from its mythological origins to the present. In this formally experimental collection steeped in Somali narrative tradition, Osman gives voice to the experiences and traumas of displaced people over multiple generations. The characters in these poems encounter exile's strangeness while processing the profoundly isolating experience of knowing that that once you are sent out of Eden, you can't go back.



June
Nnedi Okorafor was never supposed to be paralysed. A college track star and budding entomologist, Nnedi’s lifelong battle with scoliosis was just a bump in her plan—something a simple operation would easily correct. But when Nnedi wakes from the surgery to find she can’t move her legs, her entire sense of self begins to waver. Confined to a hospital bed for months, unusual things begin to happen. Psychedelic bugs crawl her hospital walls; strange dreams visit her nightly. Nnedi begins to put these experiences into writing, conjuring up strange, fantastical stories. What Nnedi discovers during her confinement would prove to be the key to her life as a successful science fiction author: In science fiction, when something breaks, something greater often emerges from the cracks.

In Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Nnedi takes the reader on a journey from her hospital bed deep into her memories, from her painful first experiences with racism as a child in Chicago to her powerful visits to her parents’ hometown in Nigeria. From Frida Kahlo to Mary Shelly, she examines great artists and writers who have pushed through their limitations, using hardship to fuel their work. Through these compelling stories and her own, Nnedi reveals a universal truth: What we perceive as limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths—far greater than when we were unbroken.

A guidebook for anyone eager to understand how their limitations might actually be used as a creative springboard, Broken Places & Outer Spaces is an inspiring look at how to open up new windows in your mind.



Accompanying his wife on a prestigious arts fellowship in Berlin, a Nigerian scholar finds there are no walls between his privileged, secure existence and the stories of other Africans on the move: among them: a transgender film student seeking the freedom to live an authentic life; a Libyan doctor who lost his wife and son in the waters of the Mediterranean; a Somalian shopkeeper who tried to save his young daughter from a marriage forced on her by an al-Shabab commander.


His sense of identity begins to dissolve as he can no longer separate himself from others’ horrors, and he realises he is inextricably connected to those lives that have touched his. From a Berlin nightclub to a refugee deportation camp in Sicily to the London apartment of a Malawian poet, his empathy with the lives of other “travelers” brings him to a new journey, a reverse migration in pursuit of the universal dream of love and home.



From the bustling streets of Lagos to the icy moons of Jupiter, the stories in Incomplete Solutions explore accelerating technology, complex histories, diverse beliefs and human potential from my own unique perspective. Incomplete Solutions contains 17 short stories, 2 novelettes, and 1 novella, as well as art and notes on some of the stories for the bonus material section.



July
Since the Orisha War that rained thousands of deities down on the streets of Lagos, David Mogo, demigod, scours Eko’s dank underbelly for a living wage as a freelance Godhunter. Despite pulling his biggest feat yet by capturing a high god for a renowned Eko wizard, David knows his job’s bad luck. He’s proved right when the wizard conjures a legion of Taboos—feral godling-child hybrids—to seize Lagos for himself. To fix his mistake and keep Lagos standing, David teams up with his foster wizard, the high god’s twin sister and a speech-impaired Muslim teenage girl to defeat the wizard.


Be(com)ing Nigerian: A guide is a satirical collection that takes a searing look at how different forms of power are abused, negotiated and performed both in the private and public realm.

Through attempting to satirise those who abuse privilege or power, it recognises that power can be found everywhere: in politics, business, religious institutions and in homes. From the exploration of religious hypocrisy in How To Worship The Nigerian God, to A Letter to My Future Kidnapper which tackles the growing scourge of kidnapping, the collection is a jab at Nigerian society and what it means to be a Nigerian. Beyond poking fun at the holders of power, it is a summon, a provocation and a call for introspection among all levels of society.  As it is often said in Nigeria, when you point with one finger, there are four others pointing back at you. This is an engrossing read for Nigerian watchers, and strangers to Nigeria alike, with its tongue-in-cheek look at Nigeria’s relationship to the world, both culturally and politically.





Who was Molly Southbourne? What did she leave behind?
A burnt-out basement. A name stained in blood. Bodies that remember murder, one of them left alive. A set of rules that no longer apply.

Molly Southbourne is alive. If she wants to survive, she'll need to run, hide, and be ready to fight. There are people who remember her, who know what she is and what she's done. Some want her alive, some want her dead, and all hold a piece to the puzzles in her head. Can Molly escape them, or will she confront the bloody history that made her?




August
Living in small-town Utah has always been an uneasy fit for Tunde Akinola’s family, especially for his Nigeria-born parents. Though Tunde speaks English with a Midwestern accent, he can’t escape the children who rub his skin and ask why the black won’t come off. As he struggles to fit in and find his place in the world, he finds little solace from his parents who are grappling with their own issues.

Tunde’s father, ever the optimist, works tirelessly chasing his American dream while his wife, lonely in Utah without family and friends, sinks deeper into schizophrenia. Then one otherwise-ordinary morning, Tunde’s mother wakes him with a hug, bundles him and his baby brother into the car, and takes them away from the only home they’ve ever known.

But running away doesn’t bring her, or her children, any relief from the demons that plague her; once Tunde’s father tracks them down, she flees to Nigeria, and Tunde never feels at home again. He spends the rest of his childhood and young adulthood searching for connection—to the wary stepmother and stepbrothers he gains when his father remarries; to the Utah residents who mock his father’s accent; to evangelical religion; to his Texas middle school’s crowd of African-Americans; to the fraternity brothers of his historically black college. In so doing, he discovers something that sends him on a journey away from everything he has known.



A deeply personal collection of essays exploring Nigerian-American author Bassey Ikpi’s experiences navigating Bipolar II and anxiety throughout the course of her life.


Bassey Ikpi was born in Nigeria in 1976. Four years later, she and her mother joined her father in Stillwater, Oklahoma —a move that would be anxiety ridden for any child, but especially for Bassey. Her early years in America would come to be defined by tension: an assimilation further complicated by bipolar II and anxiety that would go undiagnosed for decades.
By the time she was in her early twenties, Bassey was a spoken word artist and traveling with HBO's Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, channeling her experiences into art. But something wasn’t right—beneath the façade of the confident performer, Bassey’s mental health was in a precipitous decline, culminating in a breakdown that resulted in hospitalisation and a diagnosis of Bipolar II.


Determined to learn from her experiences—and share them with others—Bassey became a mental health advocate and has spent the fourteen years since her diagnosis examining the ways mental health is inextricably intertwined with every facet of ourselves and our lives. Viscerally raw and honest, the result is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are—and the ways, as honest as we try to be, each of these stories can also be a lie.



The second volume in a magisterial trilogy, the story of Cameroon caught between empires during World War II.
In Cameroon, plum season is a highly anticipated time of year. But for the narrator of When the Plums Are Ripe, the poet Pouka, the season reminds him of the "time when our country had discovered the root not so much of its own violence as that of the world's own, and, in response, had thrown its sons who at that time were called Senegalese infantrymen into the desert, just as in the evenings the sellers throw all their still-unsold plums into the embers." In this novel of radiant lyricism, Patrice Nganang recounts the story of Cameroon's forced entry into World War II, and in the process complicates our own understanding of that globe-spanning conflict. After the fall of France in 1940, Cameroon found itself caught between Vichy and the Free French at a time when growing nationalism advised allegiance to neither regime, and was ultimately dragged into fighting throughout North Africa on behalf of the Allies.
Moving from Pouka's story to the campaigns of the French general Leclerc and the battles of Kufra and Murzuk, Nganang questions the colonial record and recenters African perspectives at the heart of Cameroon's national history, all the while writing with wit and panache. When the Plums Are Ripe is a brilliantly crafted, politically charged epic that challenges not only the legacies of colonialism but the intersections of language, authority, and history itself.





September
A thought-provoking and haunting novel about a creature that escaped from an artist’s canvas, whose talent is sniffing out monsters in a world that claims they don’t exist anymore.

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster - and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also uncover the tru
th, and the answer to the question: How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?




October
Life in the newly independent city state of Rosewater isn't everything its citizens were expecting...

Mayor Jacques finds that debts incurred during the insurrection are coming back to haunt him. Nigeria isn't willing to let Rosewater go without a fight... And among the city's alien inhabitants, a group has emerged who murder humans to provide bodies for their takeover...
Operating across spacetime, the xenosphere, and international borders, it is up to a small group of hackers and criminals to prevent the extra-terrestrial advance. The fugitive known as Bicycle Girl, Kaaro and his old handler Femi, may be humanity's last line of defence.


Set in the imaginary African Republic of Vietongo, The Negro Grandsons of Vercingetorix, begins when conflict breaks out between rival leaders and the regional ethnic groups they represent. Events recorded in a series of notebooks under the watchful eye of Hortense Lloki, show how civil war culminates in a series of outlandish actions perpetrated by the warring parties' private militias—the Anacondas and the Romans from the North who have seized power against Vercingetorix (named after none less than the legendary Gallic warrrior who fought against Ceasar’s army) and his Little Negro Grandsons in the South who are eager to regain control. Award-winning author Alain Mabanckou is at his satiric best in this novel that catalogues the pain and suffering caused by the ravages of civil war. Translated into English for the first time, this novel provides a gritty slice of life in an active war zone.


November
On the noisy Ajayi Crowther Street in cosmopolitan Lagos, neighbours gather to gossip, discuss noise complaints, and faithfully head to church each Sunday. But beneath the surface lies a hidden world of clandestine love affairs, hidden pregnancy, spiritual quackery and hypocrisy, that threatens to destroy the community from within.

On Ajayi Crowther Street peels back the curtains on the lives of Reverend Akpoborie and his family, to reveal a tumultuous world full of secrets and lies. His only son, Godstime, is struggling to hide his sexuality from his parents whilst his daughter Keturah must hide the truth of her pregnancy by her pastor boyfriend to preserve her and her family’s image. But it is the Reverend himself who hides the darkest secret of them all, as his wandering eye lands on Kyauta, their young live-in maid.

On Ajayi Crowther Street is a story of urban and religious Nigeria's contradictions and complexities; of the hypocrisies in middle-class Nigeria.



There's also something for the little ones courtesy of Lantana Publishing out in March: Maisie's Scrapbook by Samuel Narh & Jo Loring-Fisher.

As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada's tall tales. Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba. They come from different places, but they hug her in the same way. And most of all, they love her just the same. A joyful celebration of a mixed-race family and the love that binds us all together.


*Book Synopsis via Amazon, Publisher's website or Author website.

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