bfertig's African book 'safari'

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bfertig's African book 'safari'

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Editado: Mar 21, 2011, 1:50am

I've happened to recently read a few books set in or about various African countries/people/peoples, and thought it would be fun to continue the pattern and note books, either fiction or non-fiction from/about the different countries as I read them. Feel free to join me on my 'safari' challenge around the continent and post your own lists of reads around the continent. My goal is to get to as many of the (current) countries as possible with some dabbling into history, fiction, culture, etc. No time limit.

Kenya Wizard of the Crow - Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiongo. Also, Unbowed by Wangari Maathai.
Nigeria Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Sudan What is the What by Dave Eggers
South Africa Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Also A long walk to freedom - Nelson Mandela
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell. Also A long way gone - Ishmael Beah
Botswana The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
Rwanda We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families - Philip Gourevitch
Zimbabwe Zenzele: a letter for my daughter - J Nozipo Maraire
Malawi the boy who harnessed the wind

Jun 8, 2009, 11:44pm

I accept your challenge bfertig. I do have to catch up though. I've only read one appropriate piece so far this year: The Thing Around Your Neck. I'll start my own thread to show my progress and leave this one to yours.

BTW, I'm glad to see someone trying to reinvigorate this group as I've been "watching" for several months now.

This would be a great annual challenge.

Jun 9, 2009, 9:40am

Yay! Welcome aboard, browngirl. This is already a success in my mind, as I haven't heard of The Thing around your Neck before.

Just to clarify that everyone is of course welcome to set their own goals, rules, time challenges, etc. Mine personal goal may be different from others'. I'm just looking to learn, become aware, be entertained, etc. I hope this will spur some interesting and likely poignant discussions as well.

In addition to listing the books, I'll try, as I can, to include some info, opinions, and/or reviews on them, and hope that others will share as well.

Jun 11, 2009, 3:20pm

I started on Africa a couple months back and have made some headway but am happy to keep you posted. My favorite of the items below aside from Wizard of the Crow was I Do Not Come to You By Chance.

Algeria - Assia Djebar - Children of the World

Botswana - Moteane Melamu - The Unweeded Garden and Other Stories

Congo-Brazzaville - Alain Mabanckou - African Psycho

Egypt - Ahmed Alaidy - Being Abbas el Abd

Ethiopia - Nega Mezlekia - The God Who Begat A Jackal

Kenya – Ngugi wa Thiong’o – Wizard of the Crow

La Cote d'Ivoire - Ahmadou Kourouma - Allah is not Obliged

Libya - Hisham Matar - In The Country of Men

Morocco - Tahar Ben Jelloun - This Blinding Absence of Light

Mozambique - Mia Coutu - Under the Frangipani

Nigeria - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani -I Do Not Come To You By Chance

Sierra Leone - Ishmael Beah - A Long Way Gone

South Africa – J.M. Coetzee – Disgrace

Uganda - Moses Isegawa - Snakepit

Zimbabwe - Solomon Mutswairo - Chaminuka: Prophet of Zimbabwe

Editado: Jun 14, 2009, 11:35pm

I have finished Blood Diamonds and highly recommend it, though perhaps not for all audiences, as it does not shy away from the violence and atrocities committed during the diamond wars in Sierra Leone. Actually, this was the second time I had tried to start the book - getting through the first bit which described atrocities committed by RUF rebels was difficult the first time around. Once past that initial part, it was a fascinating, if at times gruesome and appalling, examination of the diamond industry, from the mining, smuggling, trade, wars, artificial pricing, history, and even a look at the De Beers corporation. Very well researched and written. I am looking forward to watching the movie that apparently was based on this book.

Next up is something perhaps a bit lighter and fictional: The number one ladies' detective agency for Botswana.

Jun 15, 2009, 1:56pm

The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is on my tbr. i've had it for like a year, i may bump it up to get it done. it should be a quick read.

i may add Blood Diamonds to my tbr. My father in law was from Sierra Leone. it just seems there was a different work i was more interested in but on the same subject. i can't recall it at the moment.

Jul 3, 2009, 7:10am

I've completed The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency for Botswana. As expected, it was a quick read.

This mystery series is set in Botswana, where the heroine Precious Ramotswe sets up the first (and only) detective agency in Gabarone. A bit like an African Ms. Marple, in the first installment Mma Ramotswe goes about solving cases including a missing husband, a con man, following a wayward daughter, and tracking a missing boy.

It's a light and quick read, the mysteries are fairly easily solved, and the sleuthing is often straightforward, though its clear Mma Ramotswe is a novice and her clients sometimes don't pay and her subjects sometimes outwit her. Detective issues aside its a neat look at Botswana and Gabarone. I found that while enjoyable, this was one of the rare times I can say I enjoyed the TV version better, even though I've only seen the first episode, which corresponds very well to the first book. The HBO miniseries did a better job at fleshing out the characters, particularly the secretary and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and of interweaving the cases as they arose as opposed to spending a brief chapter on each one.

While this was fun, I'm not sure that I'm compelled to read the rest. I will probably put the rest of the HBO miniseries on my queue to see though.

Jul 3, 2009, 10:41am

I agree regarding the tv show. I've also only seen the first episode and plan to watch the rest whenever they release it on dvd. The writers did a good job of kinda rearranging the book to make it more entertaining for tv.

Set 21, 2009, 3:25pm

I'm about 300 pages into Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. It's really interesting and actually goes quickly, but I have to have a chunk of time to focus on it.. I really need to read about 50 pages in a sitting. It's not somethign I can read for a few pages at a time, which is in part why its going so slowly. That and its over 600 pages...

All that being said, its a fascinating read. Really interesting. Mandela really tries to give a sense of what is going on politically, socially, and in his life, with just the right amount of detail.

What I don't understand quite so well so far is why, when the tactics of nonviolence appeared to be working - and in fact was one of the staying powers for his and others to get off the hook during the Treason Trial, - Mandela felt that it was absolutely necessary to form the MK guerrila army and to take the more militant route. Clearly Mandela was becoming a focal organizer for the ANC, and perhaps to steal the thunder from the PAC, a faster/more visible message was being sought. But.. it seemed to me that the ANC was on the right track with its adherence to the principles of nonviolence.

Was it?

Gandhi had been a guiding influence in the early stages of the ANC - why did this change?

I am looking to learn more, since this is my first exposure to South African history. I fully admit I do not know what I'm talking about here :)

Set 23, 2009, 12:53pm

That's fine. This is why we're reading Africa- to learn. I'll have to add it to my tbr. You sound liek you're posing some great discussion questions. If you book blog, you should check out mine as I've opened this perpetual challenge up to the masses on my site. I'll add your link to my challenge page if you do blog.

BrownGirl BookSpeak

Set 23, 2009, 1:35pm

I do highly recommend Mandela's autobiography.

Another thing that amazes me about him is his cognizance (and candor of such) about what his re/actions represent and symbolize to others, and not just for himself. For instance, he does not let his captors on Robben Island see his emotional side or personal side by intentionally pacing himself as he receives a letter (few and far between) from his wife that he is allowed to receive, or his behavior and reactions upon being arrested and not attempting escape or bail when presented with the opportunities. That level of personal control and is impressive, particularly when all eyes are watching.

And yet, his writing is so personal and personable and reasonable. Perhaps this one of those traits that set him apart from other leaders around the world?

I do encourage others to join the discussion - I am interested in learning from others in this group to supplement and discuss what I learn from what I read.

Set 24, 2009, 11:23am

RE: the question of Mandela and non-violence. I think if you read further you'll see that the political organizations in South Africa were banned and mobilization became impossible. Only later, in the 1970s as the South African economy was growing rapidly did some space open up for public actions by trade unions, students and much later -- community and church groups. Those groups faced a lot of repression but still maintained their public profile and predominantly non-violent action.

Editado: Out 4, 2009, 10:55am

On to Rwanda:

"During the genocide, I didn't know - I thought so many people did as I did, because I know that if they'd wanted they could have done so." - Paul Rusesabagina


About halfway through the we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families the author makes a few very simple, should-be-obvious, yet completely overlooked points about the genocide that I think are central to understanding what happened:
1) that the causes were not as straightforward or pithy or about nothing as was commonly described by outsiders or the develped world
2) that essentially the genocide was political strategy, and that it was not simply a case of descent into an anarchic scramble for power, nor was it an end but rather a means.
3) that Rwandans, especially the Hutu Power refugees, are not babes in the wilderness, or naive, and have self-motivations and strategies, and have been able to manipulate and utilize the international community for their own benefit.

The author lays the groundwork for a compelling argument that the international community has a moral imperative to take the side of preventing loss of human life and should be able to committ troops - really commit troops - to do so.

Further, that justice, as of 1998, had not prevailed and was not on a course to do so.

A stronger case for internationalism could be made from the example of Rwanda and its contrast to the Holocaust in Europe.

I am really curious to read something on Rwanda and the aftermath of the genocide in the last decade to bring me up to speed.

Out 4, 2009, 10:54am

Finished Long walk to Freedom, by the way. Here is my review:

Though Nelson Mandela wrote these words about his colleague Oliver Tambo, they are fitting to him as well: "He too epitomized Chief Luthuli's precept: 'Let your courage rise with danger.'"

Nelson Mandela's autobiography is simply a must read. Mandela's writing captures your attention and dares you to disbelieve that he is not in the room telling you these things himself. Though a thumper of a book at over 600 pages, it was impossible for me to read less than 50-75 at a time. I highly recommend it to everyone.

He wrote the first draft while in prison on Robben Island, and it eloquently and deftly tells his story: his noble birth and legal training, the rise of his political consciousness and activism, his struggles against the apartheid regime, his trials for treason and his decades of political imprisonment on Robben Island. No matter the challenge, Mandela's courage rises to meet it: going underground, representing fellow prisoners for grievances for color-blind food rations and clothing, and being separated from his wife and family with visitations separated by years.

Mandela recounts numerous anecdotes to point out lessons learned, disparities impossible to ignore, changing perceptions of the political and social world (both inside and outside prison), and what is required of a leader. “Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.” His cognizance and candor about what his re/actions represent and symbolize to others amazes me. As a person who possesses the inner strength, self-control, and follow-through, Mandela fits the billing of a real-life superhero, on the scale of Gandhi and Moses.

Out 5, 2009, 8:14am

i finished we wish to inform you last night. if i havent said it before, this was one of those books where reading just a few pages was not really an option. I liked this book because the first half tells the story of what happed during the Rwandan genocide, and the second half tells why it happend. Philip Gourevitch doesn't flinch at pulling punches, he doesn't shy away from saying 'x screwed up', or from taking sides, and he isn't afraid to said that intolerance is intolerable or that Rwandans are people with motives and politics, rather than some backward primordial tribal people.

This is not a dry book, but nor is it a weepy book - it presents personal stories through the genocide, profiles of how Rwandans see themselves and the time 'Before' and up to 1998, but also a sharp look at the West and developed nations.

Overall highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart reading at teatime.

Out 7, 2009, 3:12pm

adding it to the tbr. sounds informative and intriguing.

Editado: Nov 10, 2009, 1:57pm

I have read about half of A long way gone by Ishmael Beah.

Nov 16, 2009, 4:07pm

my husband wants to read this. his father was from sierra leone.

Nov 16, 2009, 8:18pm

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Nov 16, 2009, 8:18pm

its very powerful as a personal story - but as Ishmael was a child at the time, and unaware and unconcerned with the bigger picture, there is little in the book about the whys and wherefores of the war.. perhaps he write about it later towards the end (im only 2/3 done), but this is really about his story rather than the story of Sierra Leone

Mar 21, 2011, 1:49am

read and reviewed The boy who harnessed the wind -- I heard about this on the daily show.. really inspiring story of survival through famine in Malawi and then self-education due to poverty enabling him to build a windmill to provide electricity to his home and ultimately pump water for irrigation. simply and beautifully told. his TED talk is great.

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