Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Book of Negroes, 2007, Lawrence Hill *****

Aminatta Diallo born in Bayo, a small village in Western Africa, while returning from attending to a woman in labour with her mother she was abducted and sold into slavery at the age of eleven.

Her journey begins with the long walk towards the coast of West Africa to be shipped to the Americas. She survived the long walk and the sea, however she witnessed how her people were being dehumanised .

On her arrival, she is sold to the owner of an indigo plantation. Luckily, she reconnects with Chekura, a young boy with whom she walked the long walk and sailed the sea. They fall in love and try to form a family. How do you really form a family when the law turns you into someone's property.

Her husband Chekura is sent away, she is resold and separated from her

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Ama: A Story Of The Atlantic Slave Trade, 2000, Manu Herbstein ****

Ama is a historical fiction that narrates on the transatlantic slave trade, following the coming of age of a young girl from her village where she is kidnapped and raped, to Brazil.

Ama, her first name is Nandzi. She is captured when she is taking care of her brother alone in her village, sold into the Ashanti Empire, fell in love  with the king and re-sold again. Turned into a sexual companion to one of the old Dutch, against her will, though it kept her away from the dungeon. One situation led to another, she found herself sailing in the ship The Love of Liberty on her way to be sold again in Barbados for the 3rd or 4th time.

In The Love of Liberty, she witnesses the reckless death of her colleagues, how

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Wretched Africans, 2016, Joe Khamisi ****

First of all I'd like to thank Joe Khamisi for reaching out to me and sending me his book for review, I really did not know anything about the South-East African slave trade, or the Arab slave trade neither did I know about the Rabai and Freretown slave settlement.
This book narrates on the history of slavery in East Africa. The Arabs ravaged the land, instigate war to make it easier to capture African citizens in order to force them into slavery through the main slave market in Zanzibar.

The British banned slavery,  though that

Monday, 11 July 2016

Beast of No Nation, 2005, Uzodinma Iweala ****

"Beast of No Nation" is the story of Agu a child-soldier whose narrative has a lot in common with  Birahima's in "Allah is not Obliged", both narrators not older than ten were unable to tell their ordeal in a grammatical correct language, nevertheless it was no deterrent to put their message across. However, let me confess  it somewhat slowed down my reading as they were both children narrating atrocities in an unstructured language which makes it  necessary to reread sometimes.

Agu's village is ravaged by war, his mother

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Spring Read 2016

Summer is finally here and Spring has come to an end. What did I read in Spring?

I am on page 87 of 416 of Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke, I am not sure if I

Monday, 27 June 2016

Beyond the Horizon, 1995, Amma Darko ****

Beyond the Horizon, in my opinion, is a disturbing read though a necessary one. I think it should be titled The downfall of Mara, because she kept on falling from the very beginning of the story to the end as she is seen as a victim of her circumstances. She tells her devastating story. Married off to Akobi who  physically and sexually abuses her from day one, the abuse and exploitation continues as they move to Germany.
A provocative and a sad read, indeed. I wonder why Amma Darko portrays Mara as helpless and worthless, I also wonder why Mara follows Akobi to Germany if he is not treating her any better in Ghana, why should he be different in Germany? Perhaps, Amma wants to shed light on the role of women and the result of their social construction in rural Ghana? Trying to show the damages traditionalized male chauvinism does to women. For instance Mara thinks her marriage is

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Becoming Abigail, 2006, Chris Abani ****

Becoming Abigail is the story of  Abigail whose mother died during her birth, her father who couldn't bear the loss of his wife falls into depression. During one of his melancholic sadness he accepts that Abigail would go with her cousin Mary and her husband to the UK as a way of making sure she gets a brighter future.
Unfortunately, a brighter future is not what awaits Abigail in England, instead she is exploited and dehumanised and as a result finds herself in the throes of death, her ability to survive would determine her fate.

Chris Abani's prose as usual is lucid, compelling and graceful. Becoming Abigail

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Una entrevista con Wiriko

Les invito a leer una entrevista que hice con el periodista Carlos Bajos Erro para el magacín Wiriko, haciendo click en su logo de abajo.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Yoruba Girl Dancing, 1991, Simi Bedford ***

1950, Nigeria is on the edge of independence, Remi's father wants her daughter to be one of the leaders of the country and so decides to send her to England to get a proper English training. That is the story of Remi, Yoruba Girl Dancing, the trauma of her uprooting at the age of 6 from her sunny home in Lagos to a gloomy, cloudy and rainy England.

...Then as the sound of her footsteps retreated, fueled by undiluted terror, I started to scream. Nobody came. Eventually I fell asleep. I was six years old and I had been in England four days.

Remi, is left in boarding School in England for a whole six years without contact with

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Jasmine Kumalah

Jasmine Kumalah is the author of Holding Demons in Small JarsBorn in Belgium to Sierra Leonean and Togolese parents. Brought up in Sierra Leone, lived in Ghana, Togo, Benin and finally settled in the United States of America with a Bachelor's degree in Human Georgraphy and African Studies and Masters in City and Regional Planning. A promising writer to be on the lookout for. 

Mary Okeke: I really enjoyed reading your book as you might have noticed from my review. A short narrative, however, so rich in content. I read that you are Belgian born, Sierra Leonean-Togolese-American, could  you please explain your rich heritage?
Jasmine Kumalah: It has always been important for me to honor all the places that have come to make me. I was born in Belgium to a Sierra Leonean father and Togolese mother. After a move back to my father's country Sierra Leone that was interrupted by civil war, my family and I became refugees and ended up in the United States where I became a citizen.

Mary Okeke: Seeing that you have a Bachelor's degree in Human Geography and African Studies and Masters in City and Regional Planning, are you going to pick up writing as a profession?
Jasmine Kumalah: I have come to label myself as writer in the last few years. I'm not in a point in my life where I can sustain as a full time writer. But writing is something I take very seriously and I spend a lot of time building myself in the craft.

MO: How did you come about writing “Holding Demons in Small Jars”?
JK: Holding Demons in Small Jars was a cathartic piece for me. The Sierra Leonean civil war played such an important role in my life trajectory I knew that I had to write back to it. I especially wanted to process what the war had done to me and my community emotionally. What kind of emotional traumas haunt those of us who survived? This was the space the book was birthed out of.

MO: How did you decide upon the title “Holding Demons in Small Jars”? May I also ask the figure of speech? 
JS: I've tried to remember the exact moment the phrase came to mind but I honestly can't remember. I'll like to think it came to me in a dream and I woke up knowing that somehow those words were what encapsulated the book perfectly. Whenever I say the phrase people are arrested by it, it's emotive and visual and it speaks to the discomforts in the novel.
The figure of speech isn't one I've ever seen. But for some reason when it came to me it felt like it spoke to what it means to not speak about one's emotional traumas. We all know the phrase about people holding their demons inside. I imagined that demons would be very uncomfortable in small jars, that they would find ways to do some mischief inside of us.

MO: Correct me if I am wrong, the fictitious country "Bantunia" in your novel refers to Sierra Leone? 
JK: Yes, the fictional country is completely inspired by Sierra Leone. While writing the book I felt a lot of emotional blocks when I tried to write about Sierra Leone. At the time that I started the text I hadn't been back in about 13 years. It felt very difficult to write about Sierra Leone given the place it occupied in my mind. It was distorted by time, space and an array of painful and beautiful emotions. Bantunia is the place of my memories, I couldn't in good conscience call it Sierra Leone.

MO: Why did you feel like telling this story charged with so much social conscience?

Monday, 30 May 2016

The In Between World of Vikram Lall, 1999, M.G. Vassanji

Kenya 1950, racial segregation in full swing. Vikram Lall and his sister are Kenyans of Indian descent, friends to Njoroge a Kikuyu whose grand father is their gardener, to Bill and Annie Bruce who were white British. Mau Mau, mainly Kikuyus, were also in the height of activity, fighting for their freedom.
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall narrates the relationship between these children in a racial segregated Kenya all the way to its independence through the voice of Vikram Lall.

Finally, Kenya got its

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Mary Okeke Reviews is Four Today

I am so excited and grateful to announce my 4th anniversary today.

I will always say Thank You!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Holding Demons in Small Jars, 2016, Jasmine Kumalah ****

Holding Demons in Small Jar is an intense short narrative tale that asks the following questions: what happens to child-soldiers once the war is over and done with? How do they coexist in a society with people whose women and children they have raped and maimed? People whose houses they have burnt to ashes? Can their path and destiny be redirected? How does society deal with a situation like this?

"The Minister of Justice didn’t care about these war boys. They had been useful during the troubles, but now the war was over. Everyone knew it wasn’t only the rebels who used boy soldiers. In the midst of the war the desperate government turned its eye away from the colonels who recruited young boys in the name of saving the country"

Detective Alu has to investigate the murder of

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Madam's Maid & Other Stories, 2016, Ayibu Makolo ***

This  is a collection of short stories, let me say the first story, Madam's Maid is more of a novella,  and the rest Invisible, A Trip to Jamaica, The Point of View are relatively, short stories.

In Nigeria there is a widespread social approval of the use of children from poorer families as house maids. To say that these children are treated with disregard is to say the least. More often than not, they are abused and enslaved, by so doing denying them their right to be children. The worst part of the situation is that it has become an established standard of behaviour to which everyone is expected to conform. Madam's Maid is the story of a young girl who lost her father, the only breadwinner of the family, as a result her mother sent her to the city to a madam (a family friend supposedly) where she almost lost her belongingness.

Another disturbing situation about the country narrated on in the book is the reckless driving of state governors travelling in convoys. For instance, Festus Iyayi,

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Winter Read 2016

Winter this year has come to an end! It was not really cold in Barcelona this year, anyway. I believe it's the global warming effect. What did I read the first 3 months of the year? It somewhat determines how many book I'll end up reading at the end of the year.

2 collections of short stories
The Prophet of Zongo Street by Mohammed Naseehu Ali
Nights of the Creaking Bed by Toni Kan

A novel that I highly enjoyed

A novel I couldn't finish

A novel by one of my favourites writers

A novel about the use of children as soldiers
Allah is not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma

With this rhythm,
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