Sunday, September 02, 2007

Now, where was I?! I was about to blog about my trip to the Africa Book Centre, and indeed here are the titles I rooted out while there:

I have a genuine soft spot for Daly's work, and if you have a child under the age of 10 so should you. His illustrations are a delight. Jamela is now established as a real character with several books to her name. All stand alone, but try and read them in order if possible (she looks like she's grown ever so slightly since the first book!). Jamela's birthday looms and what she really wants is a pair of sparkly shoes to go with her party dress. Her shoes need to be serviceable for school use however, but she has an idea... The look on her face in Daly's illustration as she comes up with her crafty plan is priceless!

A WOMAN ALONE by Bessie Head
Heinemann has re-issued this title, edited and with a new introduction by Craig MacKenzie. It is one of the African Writers Series, but strangely they don't have it listed on their site, so just go straight to the Africa Book Centre if you want it. Bessie Head is a wonderful writer, one of the finest ever to have come from Southern Africa. If you have enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe series then try Bessie Head's WHEN RAIN CLOUDS GATHER as the grittier side of rural Botswanan life. It is captivating reading. From the cover blurb:
A Woman Alone is a collection of autobiographical writings, sketches and essays which covers the entire span of Bessie Head's creative life, up to her death in 1986 at the age of 49. It reveals a woman of great sensitivity and vitality, inspired through her knowledge of suffering in a 'reverence for ordinary people' and finding some healing for her own anguish in a quiet corner of Africa.

'I need a quiet backwater and a sense of living as though I am barely alive on the earth, treading a small, careful pathway through life.'
I am looking forward to reading this immensely, having also recently procured BESSIE HEAD: THUNDER BEHIND HER EARS by Gillian Stead Eilersen. I think I'm in for a Bessie Head reading fest of some description. You have been warned.

Lastly, BURMA BOY by Biyi Bandele
Bandele has an amazing range in his writing, and I am looking forward to this one, the subject matter a topic largely ignored; In June The Guardian ran an article on Bandele for The Family supplement:
Biyi Bandele's father fought in Burma, a forgotten soldier in a famous war. He came home in a straitjacket, a broken man. Years later his wife and children were still paying a heavy price...

...So I went to the Imperial War Museum. And there I found a treasure trove of memoirs by many of the British officers under whom my father and his comrades had served, detailing the considerable part they played. I discovered that there were 120,000 Africans - one in every six members of the 14th Army, the British Indian army that took on the Japanese in Burma. Japanese prisoners-of-war told their British interrogators that the Africans were the best jungle fighters the allies possessed...
This is the inspiration for Bandele's BURMA BOY. The jacket describes it as:
Taut and immediate, at once sombre and exhilarating, Burma Boy is the first novel to depict the experiences of black African soldiers in the Second World War. This is a story of real-life battles, of the men who made the legend of the Chindits, the unconventional, quick strike division of the British Army in India. Horrific and always brilliantly executed, this vividly realised account details the madness, the sacrifice and the dark humour of that war's most vicious battleground. It is also the moving story of a boy trying to live long enough to become a man.
Strangely topical, a memorial service has just taken place for the 649 black South Africans who sank with their ship, the SS Mendi, off the Isle of Wight 90 years ago. A different war, but forgotten heroes too - read more about their extraordinary story in The Independent.

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Blogger A. said...

I can't really understand why the sinking of the SS Mendi received so little publicity. If I hadn't been in the south of England at the time of the memorial ceremony and caught it on local television, I would never have heard of it.

Wessex Archaeology has commissioned a study and there is a recently updated memorial in Southampton which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

9:48 pm  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

I always look forward to your book recommendations, equiano, especially when they have to do with Africa. I so want to buy a copy of "Burma Boy" but "Chapters" (our local store) doesn't have a copy yet. Maybe I'll pick mine up from the Book Depository.

9:51 pm  

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