Title: African Roar
Genre: Anthology of Short Stories
Publishers: Lion Press
Pages: 156 (e-copy)
Year of Publication: 2010 (Coming Out Soon)
Country: Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria, Diasporans etc
My reading this year has not not been as I expected and so I was glad when I found an ecopy of this upcoming book in my inbox for a possible review and having been a follower of StoryTime, a registered magazine/ezine, where all these began, I became even more happy to realise that the electronic versions of the stories have, finally, been put into print.
African Roar is a collection of eleven (11) short stories written by Africans or individuals who have lived in Africa for at least 10 years or who are Africans by naturalisation. The stories ranged from domestic abuse to political vendetta to ruings about love and the cycles of life. It covers many aspects of life as Africans.
The anthology opens with the story 'Big Pieces, Small Pieces' by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. This is one of the pieces I had read before at the blog. BPSP deals with the abuse of a family by the husband and father of that family. It reminded me of Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, yet it was strangely different from this. For in BPSP little innocuous things like a Che Guevara T-Shirt or a Jacaranda flower soon becomes noxious and forebodes evil. The fall of a beer jug leads to the death of a mother, the arrest of a father and the disintegration of a family. The imagery of the story is sharp and it etches itself into the reader's mind with a force that matches no other. BPSP is a chilling piece told in a chilling way without it being too emotional but good enough to draw emotions and goosebumps from the reader. The writing addresses the reader and places him at the very spot where the action is taking place.
The next story after BPSP is Behind the Door by Kola Tubosun. Behind the door is a story about someone who wants to know his HIV/AIDS status. Though the events in the story could have happened in less than 10 minutes, the writer packs enough suspense in the story to such an extent that you begin to feel you were the one testing for your status. It paints the exact picture of the torments an individual goes through when the news he is about to receive has equal probabilities of being bad or good and more so when his very actions points to the former.
Masimba Musoda' Yesterday's Dog is one of my favourite (and Quarterback and Co). YD portrays the cyclic nature of life and the ever-changing positions we enjoy in life. It also asks a universal question, one that begs to be answered: are our politicians and our actions, presently, better than those of our colonial masters? YD tells of how in the sacking of the whiteman the freedom fighters became the fighters of freedom, doing unto the citizenry what they accused the whiteman of doing. It reminds me of a statement by Kamau in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's 'Weep Not Child': "Blackness is not all that makes a man. ... a blackman trying to be a whiteman is wicked.." (to paraphrase). After Stanley was falsely accused of spying for the whiteman he became a freedom fighter and when independence came was rewarded for his part in the struggle as an interrogator employing the very methods that were used on him on his victims. This story was set in Zimbabwe and I believe it is more of an allegory to the present situation in Zimbabwe. In the story both Stanley and the man who whipped him claimed 'they were doing their jobs'. Thus, though the tides have changed the conditions remained unchanged.
In Nestbury Tree (by Ayodele Morocco-Clark) there is the meeting of fate and faith. This story would keep you thinking especially those who see everything as divine. Yet, can the prayer of a church cause a tree, which has wrongly been accused of harbouring witches, to fall prostrate and even lead to the death of its owner? In the end I didn't know what to believe.
Cost of Courage by Beaven Tapureta is also set in Zimbabwe. It tells the tales of unemployment, youth dissatisfaction and frustration in that country but one that is representative of many African countries including Ghana and I can bear witness to this. Energy without direction. Potential without work.
Lost Love by Ivor W. Hartmann is one lovely story. Together with Nana Awere Damoah's 'Truth Floats' and to some extent Ayesha Harruna Attah's 'Tamale Blues', they remain the only direct love story in the collection. Thus, there is some sort of symmetry in the collection. Distress and Love; Dissatisfaction and Satisfaction. In Lost Love, a man in a home for the aged recollects the memories of a loved one, one he never held or had. It really is a lost love for at that point you begin to wonder what else can you do.
A Cicada in the Shimmer by Christopher Mlalazi has a psychological feel to it. It presents a daily occurrence in an interesting way. I have always heard the trills of cicadas in my ears, especially when I am in my room. I have closed my ears and tried as much as possible to determine if it only exists in my mind or it is real but I have never had the mind to put it into words. Are they the works of witches? This is a wonderful piece.
Chuma Nwokolo's Quarterback and Co is one of the very few stories I read on the blog page and it was one that I loved instantly. Emmanuel Sigauke compared it with Kafka and I disagree less with that comparison. QAC is one hell of a story. It is psychological and thrilling. In this short story, an insect sucked a quarter of a worker's brain. Get it? It tells of the stress that most Africans and many workers go through in Europe and the Americas to make ends meet or live a comfortable life. A life whose supposed comfort they never enjoy, for how can one enjoy life if one has to work 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturdays.
Emmanuel Sigauke's Return to Moonlight hits my heart and hurts me most. Most of the time after our sojourn in Europe we pick up behaviours that significantly differs from where we came from. For in this story a man, who has been cared for by his mother, refuses to live in his mother's house for fear of germs. However, the story is more than that. It also shows how later he began to realise the beginnings of his greatness, the period where he learnt by the moon light.
In Truth Floats (by Nana Awere Damoah), the dangers of friendship is brought to bare. Or better still the importance of being truthful is brought to bare. This story borrows a lot from our tradition and it is interspersed with proverbs and wise-sayings. The story is a quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Truth Floats is a modern version of stories told by the fireside. Nana intricately wove the story and the final outcome is a story that would hold you to the end. You knew, whilst reading, that somehow this is what would happen but expect a surprise.
Tamale Blues by Ayesha Harruna Attah is a story that deals with the innocence of youth. In this short story, a city girl makes the tortuous and painful journey to Tamale to visit her grandparents amidst protestations only to realise that there is more to life than city living. This lovely piece ends a lovely collection.
This maiden anthology by Lion Press, which is going to be an annual affair, would have a place in your mind. It is an interesting collection and one whose stories we have all experienced in one way or the other and consequently is bound to live with us for a very long time. It is a good read and would recommend it for all no matter the age group.
ImageNations Rating: 5.5 out of 6.0