Saturday, 13 September 2014

Away from the Dead - A New Short Story Collection by Karen Jennings

Another new release for 2014 - this time from Karen Jennings, author of Finding Soutbek which got shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature in 2013. Jennings new short story collection Away from the Dead is published by Holland Park Press and will be published September 24 2014. Here's a synopsis courtesy of Holland Park Press:  

Karen Jennings is a wonderful story writer. In just a few sentences she is able to paint a picture of a community, frame a life, and to make you see and even almost smell a place. Together the stories highlight facets of African society and in particular South Africa. Karen Jennings has a touching way of writing about the lives of underdogs. The distinctions between the different layers in society are beautifully captured.

Several of the stories have been published in magazines or anthologies. From Dark won the Africa Region prize in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition in 2010 and The Shark won the English section of the Maskew Miller Longman short story competition in 2009.

Away from the Dead will be launched at Open Book in Cape Town on Wednesday 17 September. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Longlist for the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes Announced

I have been a fan of Golden Baobab and what they are doing for children's literature ever since I first learned about them in 2012. The Golden Baobab Prizes for literature, organised by Golden Baobab - a Ghana-based pan African social enterprise dedicated to supporting African writers and illustrators to create winning African children’s book - were established in July 2008 to inspire the creation of enthralling African children’s stories by African writers. The Prizes invite entries of unpublished stories written by African citizens irrespective of age, race, or country of origin. The prizes have recently expanded to include The Golden Baobab Prizes for Illustrations to discover, nurture and celebrate African illustrators of children’s stories. 

Well, on Thursday 11th September, the Golden Baobab Prizes for African children’s literature announced the 14 stories that made it onto their longlist for 2014. And for the second year in a row I had the opportunity to be on the Reading Panel and read some of the amazing stories that were submitted in the Early Book Chapter category. The process took around 6 weeks and each week 4 stories were sent, which were read and scored anonymously (there is no prior knowledge of who the writer is behind the stories). 

It's great to see that two of the stories I really enjoyed reading made it onto the longlist - the first by Mary Okon Ononokpono, described as a 'writer and a visual and music artist' and the other comes from Egyptian Dina Mousa. Also on the longlist for the Early Chapter Book Prize are Jayne Bauling (South Africa), who had a short story shortlisted for the Golden Baobab Prize in 2009 and has written YA novels as well as romance novels for Harlequin Mills & Boons, and Bontle Senne (South Africa), who is 'a blogger/content editor/literary activist'.

Congratulations to all writers who made the longlist and here's the announcement courtesy of Golden Baobab:

These stories, which showcase some of the finest African writers and African children’s stories today, were selected from 210 stories which were received from 13 countries across the continent.With four writers each, Ghana and South Africa are the four most represented nationalities on the longlist. Other countries that had writers on the list were Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. The longlist represents stories submitted to the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books and the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books. No story from the Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers made it onto the 2014 longlist.

Speaking on the prizes’ evaluation and selection processes, the Prize Coordinator, Delali Kumapley commented:
“Stories submitted to the Golden Baobab Prizes go through an incredibly exhaustive evaluation process. We have a team of about thirty people from all over Africa and around the world that read and score each story. A winning story for the Golden Baobab Prizes gets evaluated at most six times by different readers. This year’s longlist represents a very strong crop of African writers.” 
Now in its sixth year, the Golden Baobab Prizes inspire the creation of enthralling African children’s stories by African writers. To date, the prizes have received nearly 2000 stories from all over Africa. In 2013, to increase its support of the African children’s literature industry, the organization, Golden Baobab, introduced the brand new the Golden Baobab Prizes for African Illustrators. This prize will complement Golden Baobab's efforts in literature by discovering and celebrating Africa’s most exciting artists and illustrators who are creating images to tell stories to children.

According to the Executive Director for Golden Baobab, Deborah Ahenkorah:
“Golden Baobab is dedicated to the mission of championing the finest African stories for children and celebrating the people who create these stories. In 2014, we dedicated $20,000 to our prizes alone. We hope to do even more. We are wildly encouraged by the promise we see in the 2014 longlist.”
The shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prizes for African literature will be announced on 30th October, 2014.  The winners for the Golden Baobab Prizes for Literature as well as the winners of Golden Baobab Prizes for Illustrators will be announced on 13th November, 2014. Below are the titles and writers on the 2014 longlist:

Early Chapter Book Prize
Ricky Dankwa Ansong (Ghana) – Kweku Ananse: The Tale of the Wolf and the Moon
Jayne Bauling (South Africa) – The Saturday Dress
Mamle Wolo (Ghana) – Flying through Water
Mary Okon Ononokpono (Nigeria) – Talulah the Time Traveller
Bontle Senne (South Africa) – The Monster at Midnight
Hillary Molenje Namunyu (Kenya) – Teddy Mapesa and the Missing Cash
Dina Mousa (Egypt) – The Sunbird and Fatuma

Picture Book Prize
Katherine Graham (South Africa) – The Lemon Tree
Aleya Kassam (Kenya) – The Jacaranda Tree
Kwame Aidoo (Ghana) – The Tale of Busy Body Bee
Mandy Collins (South Africa) – There is a Hyena in my Kitchen
Mike Mware (Zimbabwe) – The Big Ball
Shaleen Keshavjee-Gulam (Kenya) – Malaika’s Magical Kiosk
Portia Dery (Ghana) – Grandma’s List

For further information, please contact Delali Kumapley on

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Book Review: Zukiswa Wanner's 'London Cape Town Joburg'

A couple of months ago, I woke up around 1am - having uncharacteristically fallen asleep at around 11pm. Unable to sleep, I thought I would find a book to read and hopefully fall asleep a chapter or two into it. I went for Zukiswa Wanner's latest novel London Cape Town Joburg and next thing I knew it was 5:30 am, I was on page 334 and I was reading 'The End'.

I knew from the title that London Cape Town Joburg was set in 3 cities and from the synopsis it sounded like it was about love and a relationship between the two main characters - Martin O'Malley and Germaine Spencer. I, however, wasn't expecting this when I began to read. 

Spoiler alert!!!! Lovely reader, please be aware that there is a spoiler coming up. As much as I try to never give away crucial plot points, it was difficult for me to write this review without including this. 

Off to Brighton (Hove, actually)

So, I moved. After 14 months of commuting for 2 hours (on a good day) each way from Surrey to Sussex for work, I finally made the move down to Brighton (well Hove, actually). It was a really tough decision - and if I'm honest I'm still not sure if I've made the right choice. It has been a little over a week and I've been asked the question - how I feel about the move - a few times and I think it's too soon to tell. Plus, I've already signed the contract for my flat so I figure I should at least give it a try.

What I do know is that it takes me 30-40 minutes to get to work (door to door) which is awesome, the weather these past couple of weeks has been absolutely gorgeous for September (and the UK), I love the neighbourhood I am in and I am literally a few minutes away from the beach. All bonuses in my books.

No sand here - Brighton and Hove's pebble/stone beach

Also, with a new city comes new discoveries and as nervous as I am to be in a new place and attempt to make new roots, I am also looking forward to seeing what this move will bring. I am particularly interested in what Brighton and Hove have to offer for this African book lover. I know I did a feature on Brighton bookshops around this time last year when I came down for a weekend. Well I 'm curious to know what else is in store. There is a bookshop super close to where I live - although I haven't been in it yet (I know, I know) and I have already found some cute coffee shops around my place - we don't get internet in the flat for another couple of weeks so I've been coffee shop hopping for free wi-fi. 

Anyways, wish me luck and let's see how it goesI'll try and share my experiences over the next few months as I settle down here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Review of 'We Need New Names' in Selamta (Ethiopian Airlines Magazine)

The latest issue (September/October) of Selamta - Ethiopian Airlines inflight magazine - is out. And I am super excited to say that my review of NoViolet Bulawayo's award winning debut novel, We Need New Names, is in the Style + Culture Section. 

We Need New Names is a coming-of-age story, told from the point of view of a young narrator, Darling, and her journey from Zimbabwe to America. The review can be found here. There is also a piece by Chika Unigwe who writes about falling in love with Brussels, despite being a small-town girl. 

This is my third time contributing to Selamta - my other two pieces were on The Caine Prize and AfroSF - but there is something about seeing my name in print or online that will never, ever get old. Also, how cool is it that my review is in the same issue with a piece written by one of my favourite authors. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

From Book to Real Life: The Small Redemptions of Lagos

A couple months ago (after it sitting on my shelf for over a year), I finally read Americanah and oh how I loved it. I loved that while it was about many different things - race, hair, illegal immigration - it was also a modern-day love story. Even more there were many aspects of the story I could relate to. 

I do, however, have a confession, as much as I loved it, my least favourite part of the book was Ifemelu's blog (I know! I know - quite ironic from a blogger). I'm not sure why, but after a while I became less and less interested in Ifemelu and her opinions on race, hair, the 'returnees' in Lagos and more. It could also have been because I didn't really like Ifemelu as a character - I found her extremely judgemental and a bit selfish. Obinze on the other hand  I really liked and wanted more of him. 

This isn't a review of Americanah - I didn't really want to write one as many have reviewed the book and I really feel like I am not going to add anything to the already existing reviews. It's more about an announcement via Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's facebook page about Ifemelu's blog, which has now come to life. No, not "Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black". What a mouthful of a title!!! It's her other blog - the one she started when she moved back to Lagos - 'The Small Redemptions of Lagos'

Image via

The blog may have been my least favourite part of the book (another confession - I may have skipped through some parts of Ifemelu's blog), but while reading it I did think that it might have worked better if we had bits of it in the novel, but if it was taken out and released separately - as a supplement to the story. Well, they have done just that. 

The Small Redemptions of Lagos is a mix of fiction and fact. Ifemelu and Obinze are still together and they are now dividing their time between Lagos and Enugu. Obinze is also trying to maintain a relationship with his daughter - although his wife isn't really making that easy for him. In between that, there are glimpses into daily going-ons in Nigeria - like Ebola in Nigeria and leaking roofs at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos

I can't help but wonder if this blog is linked in any way to the movie adaptation, which Oscar-winning actress, Lupita Nyong'o, will produce and star in. And regardless of my feelings on the blog in the book, I think this is a great way to continue the story without having to publish a sequel - especially the way in which the novel ended. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

For the Love of Totes

This HuffPost article said it best when they said:
' ... there is one corner of the fashion world that we've [book nerds] staked out and made our own: the canvas tote bag'. 
How I love a good canvas tote - it really is all I carry my books (and laptop) in and it's much lighter to carry these around the long distances I travel daily. For the last few months I've been stalking the net for totes and there are tons out there.

Well, this love for totes has led to a recent collaboration with a really awesome freelance graphic artist and designer based in Lagos - atelier_RONIN. We had a conversation a couple months back about me wanting book related accessories, especially totes, and I really, really love his designs - which tries to find a balance between Nigeria and the West. The works have things in common with pattern making on African fabrics and psychedelic art in the West. Let's call it abstract modern art with a hint of psychedelia. 

This conversation about design and books and totes and more led to dizzzy designs - a creative collective combining our love for pop culture, film, music, design and the arts. Here are a few of the designs, which I absolutely love, on totes:

Totes amazing (pun seriously intended)
The designs can also be printed on canvas, or as a metal poster or on tees and hoodies and more. Find out more and check out the rest of the stuff here: Society6, Nuvango and Displate.