I have known Casca on Facebook for sometime and I guess we became friends because after scanning his profile I saw we share a lot of things, a lot. He loves to read and to talk about them. Then we met at one of the monthly Writers Project of Ghana's book discussions for the first time.
About Casca Amanquah Hackman: Casca 'Comrade' Amanqua Hackman is a graduate of the Universtiy of Ghana, a former school teacher and past editor of the Golden World Magazine. His short stories and articles have been published in Daily Graphic and Mirror.
Below is Casca's top ten African books. Note that I have linked the titles and authors to posts within ImageNations, where available. My views and his might not be the same and so beware when reading and judging them.
Yes, a good book is a good book, and it’s enjoyed anywhere; yet it's enjoyed better by persons who find the setting, characters and themes familiar. There are good books from Africa too. And so, as an African, reading African stories are most convenient to me, primarily because the environment, challenges and events are familiar, and so I find it easy to adopt the story as mine and also understand the messages naturally.
There is a vast array of African books. I know that as I read more, the list is likely to change, but for now these are my top ten in no particular order.
MATIGARI (Ngugi wa Thiong'o). I am fond of the main character of this book, Matigari ma Njiruungi. Personally, I share his conviction for justice and his abhorrence for oppression. It has a strong message for the capitalist system that has made indigenous people slaves in their own land.
HEAD ABOVE WATER (Buchi Emecheta). Of course Buchi Emecheta has always written from her personal experiences and in this autobiography she delves deeper into her roots, to the extent of even going as far back as the period before she was born. From her native town of Ibuza, through her luck in getting admission at the Methodist High School, her marriage at sixteen and sojourn to England, she has chronicled her life in 33 beautiful chapters. I can only say her life has been a miracle.
DIPLOMATIC POUNDS AND OTHER STORIES (Ama Ata Aidoo). Released just last year, this book contains twelve thoughtful short stories. Women are at the center as usual. It’s a blend of the success, challenges and expectations, whether reasonable or not, that stare at women both home and abroad.
NO LONGER AT EASE (Chinua Achebe). Obi Okonkwo, the grandson of the famous Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart, is not able to escape the trap that Africans who had returned from studying abroad in pre-independence Nigeria had set for themselves. The economic and social expectations that welcomed him back home to Nigeria from studying in England, corrupts him against his own stance on morality. Although, it lives under the shadow of Things Fall Apart, its prophetic occurrence is not invisible.
MY FIRST COUP D'ETAT (John Dramani Mahama). It’s great to have political leaders writing their stories. Objectively, it helps the follower to know who their leader is and better assess his actions and ideas. Eighteen compelling chapters under different titles make this fine book. Mahama takes us through a tough and unforgettable journey from Damongo through Accra, Tamale, Nigeria and Russia. It’s an autobiography with very serious historical, social and political information that has either been hidden or misquoted all this while.
NEIGHBOURS (Lilia Momple). Have I heard any good thing about apartheid? This sad account of innocent people caught up in a bloody conspiracy they have nothing to do with adds up to all the evil of apartheid. In a quest to destabilize Mozambique, where ANC exiles were operating from, the South African government launches vicious campaigns, and peaceful people like Narguiss are caught up in the conspiracy they have nothing to do with. It’s an emotional story with a straight lesson; the fact that you don’t want trouble doesn't mean trouble wouldn't come your way.
THE THING AROUND YOUR NECK (Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie). Twelve nice short stories set in both Nigeria and USA, in which the complexities of love, career and many others are exposed to unexpected minds. The messages are straight and binding.
SO LONG A LETTER (Mariama Ba). It’s the most moving and emotional book I have read. This book can be placed alongside Buchi Emecheta’s Head Above Water, because of its candidness and emotional evocations. The style is skillful and the language is like music to the mind.
THE MEMORY OF LOVE (Aminatta Forna). Even in times of war and quagmire, people always fall in love. The difficult decisions to make and the complications in such situations are strongly highlighted by Aminatta in this lengthy novel. The style is subtle yet the theme is terse.
GATHERING SEAWEED (Jack Mapanje). All what we need to know about African freedom fighters are in this book. Even knowing the personal account of people like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Ngugi wa Thiongo and many others is gratifying enough. In this collection, we have deeper insight into the challenges of fighting to free natives and lands from oppression and foreign rule.