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Update on Mohale Mashigo’s “Intruders”—love it, read it in a day 🙌🏽 🧚🏾‍♀️⁣ Mashigo begins her collection of short stories with a reflection on #afrofuturism. Her futuristic stories are not Afrofuturism, she says, because ‘Afrofuturism is not for Africans living in Africa’ [rather, she maintains it’s for black Americans, and that’s it’s own important story]. Mashigo believes that Africans living in Africa need is ‘to imagine a future in their storytelling that deals with issues that are unique to us…that focus[es] on the Now and not just The Future.’⁣ 🧚🏾‍♀️⁣ The stories in “Intruders” are her offering toward this goal. Divided into three sections [the good, the bad, the colourful], they feature mermaids, zombies, spaceships, monster killers, and rogue scientists. But they also tackle tough questions: racial politics in the Rainbow Nation, the ways national histories are built on big and small forget-ings, who ‘does’ science and who benefits from it. ⁣ 🧚🏾‍♀️⁣ These stories are short, imaginative, deep, and interwoven—together they are a quick and impactful read. And check out Shubnum Khan’s artwork—so lovely 😍⁣ 🧚🏾‍♀️⁣ – Kelsey McFaul ⁣(@kelsey_mcfaul)

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Two covers, two titles, same book?!⁣ ⁣ I ended up with the right-hand copy of Lola Shoneyin’s novel after googling “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.” I must not have been looking closely, because I was surprised when this copy titled “The Secret Lives of the Four Wives” arrived. It took some extra sleuthing to find the left-hand copy with the original title in the U.K.⁣ 🔆⁣ Both copies tell the story of a modern Nigerian woman who elects to enter a polygamous family as Baba Segi’s fourth wife. A college graduate, she at first thinks she can ‘educate’ her co-wives, but soon learns there are womanly knowledges at play with which she has no experience. At the same time, her ignorance reveals a promiscuous secret the co-wives kept for years. The novel challenges modern ideas about the ‘backwardness’ of polygamy, suggesting how a practice many view as repressing women *may* in some versions bring freedom and empowerment. ⁣ 🔆⁣ But back to the two versions: the left-hand copy was published first in Nigeria and the U.K. by independent publisher Serpent’s Tail (in partnership with Cassava). Its cover features African women of various body shapes dressed in traditional lappas; its title incorporates the traditional way of referring to a Nigerian male, as the ‘baba’ of his first son. ⁣ 🔆⁣ The right-hand copy, by contrast, was published by HarperCollins in the U.S. While it claims to be a reprint, it has not only removed the ‘African’ signifiers from the cover and title but also changed the novel’s content, including reversing the first two chapters. The changes seem intended to make the novel more appealing and accessible to an American audience, but in the process they romanticize, white-wash, and erase many of the qualities that locate the novel within its specific context, modern Nigeria. ⁣ 🔆⁣ All this goes to show that PUBLISHING—the decisions of what gets published and how—IS POLITICAL, and we should try to be mindful of this, as much as possible, when we choose what to read. I highly recommend both novels, especially the “Baba Segi” version if you can find it!⁣ ⁣ —Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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“If a library came alive, and spent ten thousand years walking up and down upon the earth, exploring and dreaming and falling in and out of love, it might write stories like these.”⁣ —Ben Loory⁣ ✨⁣ Ben Loory’s words perfectly capture the magic of Sofia Samatar’s short story collection “Tender.” The stories span from medieval Egypt to colonial Kenya to the stars and are strung together almost like a novel with threads of loss, longing, curiosity, memory, and resilience. Reading Samatar’s stories is to escape and return to a world beautifully and disturbingly tilted, pocked with shadow and gilded with light. ⁣ ✨⁣ – Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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In « She Would Be King, » Wayétu Moore reimagines the history of Liberia, the African country founded by freed black American slaves in 1822. ⁣ 🌀⁣ The novel begins with three distinct voices: Gbessa, an outcast from the Lai tribe in West Africa who cannot die; June Day, a plantation slave in Virginia who can withstand bullets; and Norman Aragon, the son of a British colonizer and Jamaican slave who can disappear at will. In the second half of the novel their stories and voices blend as they all arrive in Monrovia (the colony’s original name) and witness the tense relationship between the black settlers and indigenous tribes. ⁣ 🌀⁣ « She Would Be King » also doesn’t shy away from the difficult dynamics surrounding Liberia’s founding: the American Colonization Society’s claim that a black colony would solve the problem of slavery and racial incompatibility, the land grab from indigenous west Africans, the uncanny replication of colonial practices by claims of intellectual superiority and the withholding of equal rights. ⁣ 🌀⁣ Part revisionist feminist history, part superhero story, « She Would Be King » is challenging, evocative, and magical. Plus who doesn’t love reading about a historical, irl #LukeCage?! Thanks, @wayetu, for this glowing novel 💙. ⁣ 🌀⁣ – Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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“Finally, I put on as many of the necklaces as I could, moving them over my head in worshipful dance movement, head bowed solemnly, then up with secret ritualistic pleasure…I stared at the girl in the orange-reddish glow. Who was she? …She could be anyone: a queen, a bishop, a rich loved wife…here to make the room shine, to turn the world to happiness.”⁣ 💎⁣ These are the shimmering, sparkling moments of Doreen Baingana’s novel “Tropical Fish.” Through a collection of short stories strung together like beads of a necklace, Baingana captures the coming-of-age of three sisters in Entebbe, Uganda, after the fall of Idi Amin’s dictatorship. In addition to the quotidian moments of boarding school rivalry and first love, the sisters also navigate their father’s alcoholism and infidelity, questions of magic and religion conversion, and contracting AIDS. ⁣ 💎⁣ The star of “Tropical Fish” is Christine, the youngest. All three sisters actively search for identity, but her move to the United States that seems to free her from the passivity and ambivalence Baigana suggests are indicative of post-Amin Uganda. But both Christine and the country change, and when she returns to Entebbe, it is to “this new old place called home.”⁣ 💎⁣ I’d never heard of Baingana until about a week ago (!) but I’m so glad I did. Her compact and vibrant style reminds me of Adichie’s short story collection “The Thing Around Your Neck;” the difference is in the layering of national politics, identity formation at home and abroad, and a fearless tackling of globalized sexuality and AIDS. ⁣ 💎⁣ – Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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On a tropical Island in the Indian Ocean, three women share a prison cell built for two. As a storm builds outside, Juna, Leila, and Mama Gracienne tell each other stories—the crimes of which they are accused and recipes to keep the hunger at bay. As the storm grows in power, so too do the bonds of friendship and seeds of rebellion, until mutiny breaks out in the eye of the storm. ⁣ ⛈ ⁣ Lindsey Collen’s « Mutiny » is set in Mauritius and inspired by its chronic labor unrest, including the 1979 general strike movement among workers and political prisoners and 1999 youth riots. Its themes of segregation, protest, the police state, and mass incarceration will be familiar to U.S. readers and yet offer an important counter-example of different political stakes, priorities, and solidarities.⁣ ⛈ ⁣ « It’s the storm that has got into us today, galley slaves all. It’s the fear of mutiny…What if we break our chains and shout, over the noise of a tempestuous sea, thunder and lightning: […] What cares these roarers for the name of King? »⁣ (Shakespeare, « The Tempest », quoted in Collen’s « Mutiny ».)⁣ ⛈ ⁣ -Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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An old one but a good one, Mariama Bâ’s “Une si longue lettre” (“So long a letter”) is brief and bittersweet, an extended letter between two dear old friends. Writing to Aissatou, Ramatoulaye reminisces on a lifetime of emotional struggle, the betrayal of her marriage, and her troubled status as an educated Muslim woman in a society that continues to allow polygamy. ⁣ 🌿⁣ Published in French in 1980, “Une si longue lettre” has been translated into at least 16 languages. It won the first Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, an honor that surprised Bâ both because she had heard of the prize and didn’t know she was being considered. ⁣ 🌿⁣ Still one of the most widely read books in Francophone African literature, Ramatoulaye’s voice is a powerful expression of friendship, lament, and hope for a world in which the best of old traditions and new freedoms can be combined. ⁣ 🌿⁣ – Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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I wanna say my favorite part of “Binti” is the sea-creatures-turned-spaceships that are powered by gardens of breathing plants, but let me just say: there’s soooo much more.⁣ 🚀 ⁣ A female protagonist who’s the first member of her minority tribe admitted to a prestigious intergalactic university, Binti takes her community’s values of family, science, and an embodied connection to the land with her on a journey across the galaxy. She navigates natural hair styling, social ostracization, romance—oh, and the massacre of all her fellow classmates in a Hogwarts-like hall in deep space. ⁣ 🚀 ⁣ Through it all, she discovers she holds the key to communicating through trauma and across difference—in this case, to majestic and terrifying beings called Meduse.⁣ 🚀 ⁣ Nnedi Okorafor packs all this into just 90 pages, an afternoon escape read that raises deep questions about colonization, uses of technology, otherness, and futures imagined by and for POC. All that action doesn’t even get us off the spaceship, but I’m not mad—that’s what Binti 2 and 3 are for. ⁣ 🚀 ⁣ – Kelsey McFaul (@kelsey_mcfaul)

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What are your favorite #bannedbooks? “Burger’s Daughter” by Nadine Gordimer is one of mine. Set in the mid-1970s, it follows the daughter of an anti-apartheid activist modeled on Bram Fischer, Nelson Mandela’s trial defense lawyer. The novel’s Rosa must come to terms with her father’s legacy as a member of the South African Communist Party that tries to overthrow the government. Rooted in the anti-apartheid struggle, the novel features actual events and people from the period, including Mandela and the 1976 Soweto uprising. ⁣⁣ 🇿🇦✊🏾⁣⁣ “Burger’s Daughter” was published in London, but its import and sale to South Africa was banned in July 1979. After a three-month review period the ban was lifted, but the chairman of the Publications Appeal Board told the press the book was poorly written and not worth buying. Nevertheless, a copy was smuggled into Mandela in prison, who “thought well of it,” and in 1991, Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.⁣⁣ 🇿🇦✊🏾⁣⁣ What are you reading for #bannedbooksweek? Comment below!👇🏾⁣⁣ 🇿🇦✊🏾⁣⁣ -Kelsey McFaul ⁣⁣(@kelsey_mcfaul)

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Thanks to @bookandrhymes for the fabulous recommendation of Emmanuel Iduma’s « A Stranger’s Pose » and @nabookpodcast’s reminder about the importance of supporting small literary presses. Presses like @cassavarepublicpress based in Abuja, Nigeria, and London, U.K. are committed to developing and publishing young writers and it’s soooo important to support them financially (rather than buying from amazon) so they can keep doing this work! ⁣ 📷 ⁣ Iduma’s collection of travel writing, poetry, and photography moves from Addis Ababa to Bamako and Casablaca and many stops in between. In the introduction Teju Cole writes that the book is like a dream-like ballad you awake to find in your hands, and it’s true—« A Stranger’s Pose » is luminous, piercing, enchanting. ⁣ 📷⁣ ALSO, if you’re not already listening to @nabookpodcast, check out their first season of juicy convos about the African literary scene, as well as the individual accounts of their co-hosts @postcolonialchild, @booksandrhymes, and @bookshybooks. Are there any independent presses or literary podcasts whose work you love? Comment below!👇🏾⁣

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“Here’s my story. Use it now or later. When you need it, it’ll be there for you. Maybe someday you’ll be facing a challenge, and you’ll think of my story. You’ll think of Claire. You’ll remember to put your ego in a bag and throw that bag away. You’ll remember to be kind and generous and a better human.”⁣⁣ ⭕️⁣⁣ A story like Clemantine Wamariya’s, or perhaps any story, is impossible to review. What are we doing when we review anyway, what questions are we asking ourselves? Did I enjoy consuming this story? Did it tell a narrative I’m familiar and comfortable with? Did it challenge me just enough to make me to feel “woke” and socially active while persisting in my status quo?⁣⁣ ⭕️⁣⁣ Whatever one’s previous experience with memoir or knowledge of the Rwandan genocide and the little refugee girl reunited with her family on Oprah, “The Girl Who Smiled Beads” brushes all these away. With honesty and tenderness, Clemantine writes her own coming of age across Africa and in America. When we don’t want to ask her favorite question, “what happened next?,” she takes us there and asks us to look, unflinching, at her and the world to see that there is no single story of suffering, that all are being told in their various forms if only we listen. @clemantine1, thank you for sharing your courage, your persistence, and your truth ❤️⁣⁣ ⁣ – Kelsey McFaul⁣ (@kelsey_mcfaul) ⭕️

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ADEN ➡️ HARGEISA ➡️ DJIBOUTI ➡️ ERITREA ➡️ SUDAN ➡️ EGYPT ➡️ PALESTINE ➡️ WALES ➡️ SOMALIA⁣ ⛵️⁣ Nadifa Mohammed’s debut novel “Black Mamba Boy” visits these locations (and more!) as she tells a fictionalized version of her father’s childhood journey, shared with her through interviews and family stories. In a search for his own father, Jama navigates the treacherous life of a street kid, the Somali hawala system, and Italian and British colonialism in 1930s Horn of Africa. ⁣ ⛵️⁣ My favorite part of “Black Mamba Boy” is the way it acts as a vivid and visceral travelogue of East Africa. Even if you’ve never been to this part of the world, Mohamed’s rich descriptions of sights, smells, tastes, textures, and ways of living will make it come alive. ⁣ ⛵️⁣ I was surprised and challenged by the intersection of Jama’s story with the “Exodus 1947” ship of post-Holocaust Jews turned away from Palestine by the British and left adrift on colonial ships worked by Africans, including Jama. Mohamed doesn’t shy away from hard questions like, Were African (and other) sailors complicit in the decision to sink the ship and deport Jewish refugees? What does it mean to make a living for yourself and your family by working for a colonial government that extracts, dehumanizes, and kills?⁣ ⛵️⁣ “I am my father’s griot,” Mohamed says. “This is a hymn to him. I am telling you this story so that I can turn my father’s blood and bones, and whatever magic his mother sewed under his skin, into history.” ⁣ ⛵️ ⁣ “Black Mamba Boy” is full of magic, blood, and bones, in a mysterious and beautiful way that weaves Jama’s experience of spirits in the stars together with the safety net of family, and the extreme violence of racialized colonialism. Adventurous, unflinching, and sweet with innocence and magic—highly recommended! 🙌🏾⁣ ⁣ – Kelsey McFaul ⁣(@kelsey_mcfaul), photo on a dhow like the one Jama travels on in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean

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