Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April in Review, Projections for May

April was an okay-month. I read a total of five books: two non-fiction, one play, and two novels. Withe the exception of Ian McEwan's Saturday, I read most of the books I projected to read this month. In place of McEwan's book, I read The Government Inspector for The Book and Discussion Club book of the month.
  • Antifragile - Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This book continues from Black Swan - the Impact of Highly Improbable Events. In this extraordinary, myth-busting book, Nassim discusses how we can position ourselves as individuals, organisations, companies to benefit from such Black Swan events. He also proposes that predictors should have their skin in the game if they are to continue to predict and that the gradually increasing phenomenon where some people take the upside of events whilst others take the downside should be eliminated with we are to build systems that would be antifragile. Economists, forecasters, banksters, and the believers or followers of these folks are Nassim's greatest target.
  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. This is a parallel story of a child - Saleem Sinai - and the story of India. Saleem Sinai is one of the thousand and one children born on the stroke of midnight or seconds away from it on the eve of India's independence. Midnight's Children is about the fate of the children especially, Saleem, Parvati, and Shiva. Consequently, it is also the story about India.
  • The Government Inspector by Nikolai V. Gogol. This is a comedic and satirised story about Provincial life in Russia in the early nineteenth century. It dramatises the endemic and institutionalised corruption of the time. It also shows the deterioration that occurred due to the corruption.
  • My First Coup D'etat by John Dramani Mahama. This is a memoir of the life of the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama. It concerns his childhood and to the period that he went to Russia to study. The book shows how his family was affected by the 1966 coup - Ghana's first coup - and other subsequent coups. It however left out the president's political life, hence my expectation of another book.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac. The novel is about the wanton search for joy, happiness, freedom. It is fraught with sex, drugs, jazz, and spontaneous decision-making. It is about searching for experience, informal learning, and the subterranean life of America or its pop-culture (if I know what this is). On the Road is a compendium of thrill-seekers not bogged down by the concept of tomorrow. Life to them is now.
Projections for May:
The gradual decline in the volume of unread books is gradually making it difficult to select the books I will be reading for the following months. I intend to visit either the EPP Bookshop or the Legon Bookshop for some books. However, I have selected a few for May.
  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey. This won the Booker Prize in 1988, the Miles Franklin Awards in 1989 and shotlisted for the Best of the Booker (which was won by Midnight's Children) It was made into a movie in 1997.
  • Saturday by Ian McEwan. The book won the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005. I schedule to read it last month but will have to try again this month.
  • A Question of Power by Bessie Head. I read this book in 2011. If I should read it, it will be the first book I've reread since I started blogging, excluding Weep Not Child. The book is the selection of The Book and Discussion Club for the month of May.
I will purchase two or three Russian books to complete the five books for May and to also boost my plan of making this year the Year of Russian books. What did you read in April and what are you planning to read in May.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Call Out: Write for Light

Write for Light is a writing programme that seeks to raise money from book sales towards Light for Children Ghana, a charity that helps disadvantage children in Ghana. To do so, the programme invites individuals from all parts of the world to write a story about a time in their life when they found light in the darkness. This could be overcoming obstacles, finding inner strength to succeed in hard times, finding hope in a hopeless time, etc.

Stories sent to Write for Light will be published as a paperback book and also sold as an ebook on Amazon's Kindle. All of the money raised from the sales of the books will go to Light for Children Ghana. Participants of all age groups are encouraged to submit their stories; however, children below 18 will need consent from a parent or guardian before submission. The deadline for submission is May 31, 2013. 

Guidelines:
  • The story must be submitted as a Word or PDF document. 
  • It should be at least 500 words (longer submissions are welcome). 
  • It must be a true story and your own work.
  • The work must not already be available in an existing publication.
  • You need to give your story a title.
  • Your story must be a response to the prompt - 'Tell us about a time when you found light in the darkness.

Also attache to a Submission and Copyright Release Form along with your story. For more information visit the organisation's official website.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Yari Yari Ntoaso: Continuing the Dialogue – An International Conference on Literature by Women of African Ancestry


The Organization of Women Writers of Africa (OWWA) and New York University (NYU), in collaboration with Ghana-based Mbaasem Foundation and the Spanish Fundación Mujeres por África (Women for Africa Foundation), will present Yari Yari Ntoaso: Continuing the Dialogue – An International Conference on Literature by Women of African Ancestry. This major conference will put writers, critics and readers from across Africa, the USA, Europe, and the Caribbean in dialogue with each other in Accra, Ghana, from May 16-19, 2013.

More than a dozen emerging and established Ghanaian writers and scholars, including Ama Ata Aidoo, Amma Darko, Ruby Goka, Mamle Kabu, Esi Sutherland-Addy and Margaret Busby will speak about their work on topics ranging from identity, to the craft of writing, to literary activism. These authors will be joined by other international writers such as: Angela Davis (USA), Tess Onwueme (Nigeria), Natalia Molebatsi (South Africa), Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (Puerto Rico), Sapphire (USA), Veronique Tadjo (Côte d’Ivoire), Evelyne Trouillot (Haiti), and many others (a list of participants is below). Local organizations participating in this exciting gathering include the Pan-African Writers Association, the Ghana Association of Writers, and the Writers Project of Ghana.

Yari Yari Ntoaso will consist of panels, readings, performances, and workshops, and will be devoted to the study, evaluation, and celebration of the creativity and diversity of women writers of African descent. Yari means “the future” in the Kuranko language of Sierra LeoneNtoaso means “understanding” and “agreement” in the Akan language of Ghana. Fifteen years after OWWA’s first major conference, Yari Yari Ntoaso continues the dialogue of previous Yari Yari gatherings, connecting writers, scholars, and readers.

The conference program includes an entire panel devoted to Ghanaian literature, a Saturday morning “storytime” for children, and workshops for adult and youth. All events are free and open to the public, and all Ghanaians interested in literature – whether as readers or as writers, both youth and adults – are encouraged to attend. Register at http://owwainc.org/gettingthere.html. Most events will be held at the lovely facilities of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (No. 54 Independence Avenue, near the Ridge Roundabout) in Accra. A draft program is available in the “Gallery” section of www.indiegogo.com/owwa
  
Participants have received national and international awards from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, England; Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, the USA, and other countries. They have been poet laureates and are provocative bloggers. They teach at – and have received degrees from – universities in Ghana and around the world; and they have also created and work with grassroots community organizations.

Why now?
So far, the 21st century has witnessed the creation or reestablishment of women’s and writers’ organizations throughout Africa and its diaspora. Often these organizations both support and are staffed by emerging writers or those whose writing has yet to receive international recognition. Yari Yari Ntoaso marks this moment and provides an opportunity for these organizations, as well as individual writers and scholars, to share information and to build international networks.

About The Organizers
Founded in 1991 by African-American poet, performing artist, and activist Jayne Cortez and Ghanaian writer and scholar Ama Ata Aidoo, the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, Inc. (OWWA) establishes connections between professional African women writers around the world. OWWA is a nonprofit literary organization concerned with the development and advancement of the literature of women writers from Africa and its Diaspora. OWWA is also a non-governmental organization associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI).

The Institute of African American Affairs (IAAA) at New York University was founded in 1969 to research, document, and celebrate the cultural and intellectual production of Africa and its diaspora in the Atlantic world and beyond. IAAA is committed to the study of Blacks in modernity through concentrations in Pan-Africanism and Black Urban Studies.

Mbaasem (“women’s words, women’s affairs” in Akan) is a foundation created by Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo to specifically support African women writers and their works through addressing problems that all Ghanaian and African – but especially women – writers have to struggle with, including the absence of appreciation of the essential role creative writing and other arts play in national development, and women writers’ diffidence in showcasing the results of their creative efforts.

The Fundación Mujeres por África is a private organization. It was founded with the intention of becoming an exemplary body in Spain and internationally with its commitment to sustainable economic and social development, human rights, peace, justice and dignity for people and especially for women and girls in Africa.

Jayne Cortez was the driving force behind the first two Yari Yari conferences. Yari Yari: Black Women Writers and the Future (1997) and Yari Yari Pamberi: Black Women Writers & Globalization (2004) were the largest events of their kind, putting hundreds of women writers and scholars of African descent in dialogue with thousands of people, and resulting in two award-winning documentaries.

In late December 2012, amidst organizing this third conference, Cortez passed away. The conference organizers are presenting Yari Yari Ntoaso in her honor. Described by The New York Times as “one of the central figures of the Black Arts Movement,” Cortez often performed with her band The Firespitters, was identified as a jazz poet, and was honored with the American Book Award and many other accolades.

CONTACTS:
Kinna Likimani, Mbaasem Foundation
klikimani@gmail.com
(233) 027 742 6045

Rosamond S. King, Organization of Women Writers of Africa
OWWAYariYari@gmail.com
718-219-3473

Jaïra PlacideNew York University
Institute of African American Affairs
jp2050@nyu.edu
212-998-2981

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

237. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Midnight's Children (Vintage, 1981*; 463) by Salman Rushdie is a magical realism cum historical novel about India and its partitioning. It is also the story of Saleem Sinai, born at midnight of India's independence. However, Sinai was not the only one who was born on the stroke of midnight - the eve of India's independence. Altogether, there were one thousand and one children born at or seconds after midnight and these children have been endowed with the special powers. There is a direct relationship between the time of a child's birth and the strength of the powers he or she receives. The closer the time is to midnight the stronger the powers. Saleem and his arch-nemesis Shiva were born on the stroke of midnight and consequently consider themselves as defacto leaders of the children. However, their vision for the children are in direct conflict with each other; whilst telepathic, runny nose Saleem wants to work with all the children for the common good of India, Shiva of the knees, knees which make him dangerous and which will bring him laurels, wants to use their gifts for themselves. This choice between individualism and communalism is one that many newly-independent countries faced as the traditional system of common property was replaced, during colonisation, with individual property rights. Thus, Shiva represented the mentality of the units, which would later define the future, whereas Saleem represented India's past. But Saleem and Shiva are not just diametric in their views, they are bound by a secret at their births that would likely break them and smash the children into smithereens.

The life of the Midnight's children, especially that of Saleem Sinai and Shiva (and later Parvati-the-witch), runs parallels with the life of post-independence India. The children are the actualisation, the physical manifestation, of the people of the region, exhibiting all the characteristics of the people. However, Saleem believes he has a special role to play in the determination of his country's future. He believes that a mission to aright and straighten India's future has been bestowed upon him; his only threat being the villainous Shiva. However, it turned out that Saleem is the country and that he bears the physical and emotional brunt of his country's misdeeds as the struggle for power and control engulfs the elites and aristocrats. Saleem becomes the grass of their elephantine struggles. The country's political turmoil is the travails of the his family. The partition of India, which led to the formation of Pakistan and the partition of Pakistan which led to the formation of Bangladesh divided his family and also took him through a dreamy journey through the magical Sundarban forest. One can say that Saleem's family's problems are the effects of the country's political and socio-cultural upheavals or that they run parallel with the upheavals. Whatever the argument may be, it cannot be denied that as the hopes of the newly-independent country fade and disillusionment spreads to all, Saleem's family's fortunes, its aspirations and hopes, its essence of living also fell accordingly. The family migrated from India to Pakistan when Ahmed Sinai's businesses failed and a group of women - the Narlikar women - set out to takeover his estate for development.

The fate of the children will be determined by Shiva working with Indira Gandhi in her quest to hold on to power. This led to the killing and castration of several of the children. Thus, the story contains some historical figures.

Midnight's Children is a complex story filled with unexpected twists and turns. The narrative style is unique; Saleem narrates his life's story to a woman he has come to love, Padman. He tells the story of his life like an omnipresent observer; he knew everything that was done and said by his grandfather, Dr Aadam Aziz, even when he had not yet married.

This novel is full of allusions, allegories, associations. The religious symbolism is numerous, in addition to creating an exotic mosaic, enriches the story.
____________________
* Year of First Publication

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Call for Papers - Chinua Achebe: Father of Modern African Literature

There is a call for scholarly articles and papers from Scholars, Critics and Academicians before 31st May 2013.

Requirements: The work should be on A4 with Times New Roman font type of size 12; it should be single-spaced and a margin of one-inch on all four sides. The title of the paper should be in bold, centred and in sentence case. the text should be justified.

References should the MLA style (only Author-Date or Number System) strictly. Don't use Footnotes, rather use End Notes. The titles of the books should be italicised and the number of pages should range between 6 and 11. The paper should evince serious academic work, contributing new knowledge or innovative critical perspectives on the subject explored.

Mode of Submission: Each contributor is advised to send full paper with brief bio-note, declaration and abstract as a single MS-Word email attachments to vishwanathbite@gmail.com.

Selection Procedure: All submissions will be sent for blind peer reviewing. Final selection will be made only if the papers recommended for publication by the reviewers. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kwani? Manuscript Prize Longlist

Nairobi, 12 April 2013: The Kwani? Manuscript Project, a new one-off literary prize for unpublished fiction from African writers, is delighted to announce a longlist of 30 titles.

The Kwani? Manuscript Project was launched in April 2012 and called for the submission of unpublished novel manuscripts from African writers across the continent and in the diaspora. The prize received over 280 qualifying submissions from 19 African countries. The 30 titles are spread across 10 countries in West Africa, 3; East Africa, 3; Central Africa, 1; and Southern Africa, 3. Kenya led the pack with 7 titles; followed by Nigeria with 6, South Africa with 4, Ghana with 3, Zimbabwe with 3,  and Botswana and Cameroon with 2 each. Liberia, Uganda, and Tanzania both had a title each in the longlist.
  1. A Night Without Darkness (Nigeria)  
  2. Across the Mongolo (Cameroon) 
  3. Azanian Bridges (South Africa / UK)
  4. Becoming God (Nigeria)  
  5. Born Different (South Africa)
  6. Carnivorous City (Nigeria) 
  7. Diary of a Criminal (Botswana)
  8. Dining with the Dictators (Kenya)
  9. Ghettoboy (Kenya)
  10. Homebrew (Botswana) 
  11. Invincible Nubia (Kenya / Norway) 
  12. Monsoon and Miracle (Kenya / UK) 
  13. My Mother’s Breasts (Zimbabwe)
  14. One Day I Will Write About This War (Liberia)
  15. Penny for an Orphan (Nigeria)
  16. Pilgrims from Hell (Tanzania) 
  17. Ramseyer’s Ghost (Ghana) 
  18. Saturday’s People (Ghana / US)
  19. Stay with Me (Nigeria)  
  20. Taty Went West (South Africa) 
  21. The Blacks of Cape Town (South Africa)
  22. The Colour of Oil (Nigeria)
  23. The Haggard Masturbator (Kenya)
  24. The Inheritors (Cameroon) 
  25. The Kintu Saga (Uganda / United Kingdom)
  26. The Mad Brigadier (Ghana) 
  27. The Water Spirits (Kenya) 
  28. They are Coming (Zimbabwe / US)
  29. Useful Knowledge for the World Class Detective (Zimbabwe)
  30. Zephyrion (Kenya)
The longlist of 30 selected by a panel of 9 readers, made up of writers, editors and critics from East, West and Southern Africa, as well as the UK and the US. The longlist represents 10 African countries and showcases literary fiction across and between a range genres from fantasy to crime to historical fiction. According to  Kwani Trust’s Managing Editor, Billy Kahora 
This longlist begins the actualization of a long-held Kwani? ambition - to build a significant novel series of new original voices across the continent. To replicate the work we've been doing for the last 10 years with the short fiction form, creative non-fiction, spoken word and poetry in East Africa when it comes to the novel form.
The longlist has now been passed to the panel of judges, chaired by Sudanese novelist Jamal Mahjoub, deputy editor of Granta magazine Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, leading scholar of African literature Professor Simon Gikandi, Chairman of Kenyatta University’s Literature Department Dr. Mbugua wa Mungai, editor of Zimbabwe’s Weaver Press Irene Staunton and internationally renowned Nigerian writer Helon Habila. The manuscripts will be read and debated anonymously by this high profile panel, as the judges look for new voices that explore and challenge the possibilities of the ‘African novel’.  

A shortlist will be announced at the beginning of June 2013 and the three winners announced at the end of June 2013. The top three manuscripts will be awarded cash prizes totaling Ksh 525,000 (c. $6000). Kwani? Trust’s Executive Director, Angela Wachuka said
This prize speaks to a core pillar of our institution; the identification, development and production of literary talent. Our short story competition in 2010 introduced 15 new voices from Kenya, and this prize aims to increase opportunities for contemporary writers on the continent and elsewhere when it comes to the novel.

Friday, April 19, 2013

236. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Black Swan - the Impact of the Highly Improbable, the second book in the trilogy referred to as Incerto, discusses rare and consequential events, which, because they occur at the tails are almost always ignored and easily explained away after they have occurred. The experts, in the fullest exhibition of their epistemic arrogance, predict that such events are one-time events and would never occur again and so are always fooled by the randomness of their occurrence. These events, in the 4th quadrant, are extremistan events. In Antifragility - Things That Gain from Randomness (Random House, 2012; 519), Nassim explains how we can benefit from these rare and consequential events by decreasing our downside to it or by employing the technique of skin-in-the-game. The book shows how we can avoid becoming the turkey which was surprised on the 1000th day after having been fed consistently for 999 days. 

According to Nassim, Black Swan events are needed to make a system antifragile by weeding out weaker units of the whole. He operates on the philosophy that what kills me makes others stronger and describes any system that gains from variability, randomness, uncertainty as antifragile; that is, anything that has more upside than downside from random events. He describes how economic systems can imitate nature in its treatment of life by learning from random events where harm to a sub-unit makes the unit stronger; for instance, the sinking of Titanic saved more lives by preventing the building of larger and larger ocean liners; also, every plane that crashes makes the next plane crash less probable. When the unit is harmed and dies its death (through the transfer of information to the others in the group) makes the group stronger and relatively antifragile.

He explains that smoothing annual business cycles hide errors which in the future causes Black Swans (events with consequential or devastating effects such as the Great Depression, Black Death, the Irish Great Famine, to the entire system). For instance, Nassim believes that the banking sector should not be different from the restaurant business. Banks should be allowed to fail and in failing will provide the necessary information (such as remaining smaller and avoiding the inefficient mergers and takeovers they embark upon) for the other banks in the sector to survive, just like restaurants. However, government interventionist programmes such as the Bank Bailouts hides and piles the errors which explode upon the least appearance of a random line of weakness, leading to an uncontrollable chain reactions where the entire sector collapses. Usually, the sum of the impact of all the individual crashes or collapses, which are mediocristan events (or common occurrences with little impact) occurring before a jump or depression is always less than the consequences (or impact) of an extremistan event after a long period of suppression. 
The longer one goes without a market trauma, the worse the damage when commotion occurs. [101]
In Ghana, the government's intervention in petroleum pricing by providing subsidies and by not allowing the automatic price adjustment formula to work produced consequential events where the budget deficit expanded and power-generation became erratic to the extent that the monolithic power-generating company had to embark on load-shedding (schedule outages to conserve power or power rationing) because the government could not meet its financial obligation on time for the purchase of crude for the Thermal Plants to produce electricity. This affected, especially, small businesses who were most often without power and in turn affected government's revenue generation. Besides, the removal of the subsidies also had a spiral inflationary consequences through a the price-transmission mechanism and had significant effects on people than would have been had the price increases been gradual and in small amounts. Thus, smoothing mediocristan variability will lead to extremistan jumps. According to Nassim, Post 9-11 US political strategy in the Middle East has been geared towards suppressing political fluctuations, which has instead increased and strengthened the Islamists by going underground. Also, countries like Egypt after Mubarak and Iraq after Saddam are examples of an extremistan events following suppression of variability. Besides, recent economic collapse of countries like Greece and Cyprus should make us rethink of how countries and businesses are currently run. Similarly, the effect of a single power failure, in a place where power failures are very rare, could affect so many things such as hunger (in people's homes), traffic accidents, deaths in hospital, than in countries where power failure is a common occurrence. Nassim refers to the situation where benefits from interventions are less than the harm that results as Iatrogenics.

Funny enough, when these economic collapses occur, after the intervention, those who prescribed the cure that led to the doom, those whom Nassim refers to as Fragilistas and who confuse what they do not know with its non-existence (the absence of evidence with evidence of absence), in the full glow of their epistemic arrogance are those who offer, or are called upon to offer, solutions. In spite of the fact that they proffer further complicated interventions they do not understand, they also do not have their skin in the game and so suffer no consequences of their actions. If they are banksters, society will take the negative fallouts; if they are politicians, they will move into other lucrative positions.

However, this is not to say that by allowing mediocristan variability or randomness you automatically eliminate Black Swans. Rather, consistent exposure to mediocristan variability builds antifragility within a system. A shock to a system or body prepares the body to expect and tolerate another shock bigger than previous: information transmission from the genes to the tissues to the organs to the organism to the community.

Nassim provided some actions that predisposes economic systems to negative Black Swans; he also discussed the means to reducing the downside of fragile systems to them. Globalisation, mergers and takeovers leading to the creation of humongous companies, centralisation of governance, create fragile, black swan-prone systems. Globalisation creates massive interconnectivities and interdependence; these hide massive errors and cause greater harm in the end. An error at one node is transmitted through the system leading to devastating consequences. This is due to the non-linear responses to time and cost. For instance, the least delay in the delivery of materials could exponentially increase the cost of bigger construction projects. An over-optiminsed system is prone to negative Black Swan. In summary, growth in sophistication and complexity increases the vulnerability to collapse (downside).

He proposes that countries should be decentralised and powers devolved. At a municipal level (or counties) volatility is high, all arguments are brought to the surface and dealt with. Thus, a nation made up of a collection of such independent municipals with their own localised volatility form a stable country. However, for a centralised governance system, troubles are impersonal and remain hidden, creating inefficiency, and if suppressed, lead to collapse. Similarly, countries with tumultuous politics are generally more stable than those top-down governments that pile concrete on their lines of weakness; in the latter, the first explosion is usually very devastating leading to uncontrollable chain reaction.

According to Nassim it is easier to predict if events or things are fragile or antifragile than to predict what events will harm them. In extremistan one is likely to be fooled by the stream of past events since Time Series data cannot be used to predict the occurrence of a black swan. He believes that any company which is liable to bail-out should be nationalised and the people be paid like any other civil servants. He calls for the Balkanisation of Banks, breaking their interconnectedness, to allow each to work or stand on its own and be responsible for its actions. Operating as independent units, the variability (randomness) is distributed across the units leading to frequent rise and falls and in situations where a Black Swan occurs leading to the death of one or two with information  sent to the others to make them stronger.

Finally, Nassim calls for the skin-in-the-game approach to solving the increasing trend where some individuals, especially those he refers to as Banksters, are antifragile because they get the upside from positive Black Swans and society gets the downside from negative Black Swans. This system, he argues, is flawed. He who gets the upside must bear the downside. Why should profits be privatised and losses, socialised? He sees it as fraud. Our ability to forecast or predict events especially Black Swan events is zilch; people should therefore desist from it. Else those who dabble in it should be made to bear the consequences of their predictions - they should necessarily have their skin in the game for the game to be fair. Skin-in-the-game addresses invisible and delayed iatrogenics and ensures that those who have the upside get the downside. It is similar to the Akan proverb that if the Chief does not go to war, the servant stays behind; if you are a chief and you want war, take lead and the servant will follow (get the upside of victory and the downside of death). A decision-maker must be made to bear the consequences of his decisions.

The book is divided into seven parts or books. It contains both very literary works and very technical (or even mathematical) explanations. One reviewer of Nassim's Black Swan complained of how easy and simple the write is and that it could be understood by anybody; however, instead of giving the author a plus, the reviewer thought it as bad and a symptom of frivolity. From that reviewer, books are meant to be difficult; she confused complexity with quality. And it is people like this that Fat Tony will say 'F*** off' to. Those filled with a certain sense all-knowingness. The author himself directs the non-technical reader to skip certain chapters because they are mere technical repetition of what had literally being explained. He also provides very technical notes at the appendix. If nothing at all, Nassim's chapter and section headings will draw the reader into reading. They are unique and catchy. This is a book that will make you think, think, and think again. For those of us who dabble in econometric modelling and talk a lot about forecasting economic events with the models we have and talk about Confidence Interval and others, if only you are not stubbornly entrenched, you will think about what you do. The author draws extensive examples and analogies from various fields. He talks about Seneca, his favourite philosopher, he talks about Mithridates, Socrates. And there are Nassim's fictional characters Fat Tony and Dr John. This is a book worth reading. The principles in there, if practiced, will change the world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

235. Breaking Silence - a Poetic Lifeline from Slavery to Love by James Robert Myers

Breaking Silence (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013; 148), edited by James Robert Myers, as the subtitle suggests, is a collection of poems about slavery and also about love. The anthology has contributions from many varied sources such as Australia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, India, Spain, United States, South Africa, Belgium, Nigeria and others; however, the majority of the poems is by Ghanaians. The anthology contains such experienced and well-known poets, such as Mbizo Chirasha and Phillip Oyinka (Nana Asaase) and completely new and young voices. However, these youngish voices are not innocent with their words.

The idea of bringing love and slavery together is unique and one that could be difficult; for juxtaposing love and slavery requires a lot of balancing and subtle transition. What this anthology portrays is that though massive wrongs were done against a people, though they were inhumanly treated and traded as properties and tools, though on them their masters unleashed their hitherto latent animalistic tendencies and expanded it in a human psychological experiment in a bid to determine how low the human being can fall, though all these and much more worse things were done, their descendants have risen above them. 

The collection begins, somewhat, with poems on slavery and builds up towards love. Most of these are written in the first person with the writer (or persona) either a victim or an omnipresent observer providing commentaries on the plight of the slaves. In the former, the personas could be described as weak (or inactive) victims and are doing what they are doing because of blood extension or umbilical linkages (as in Nii Ayi Solomon's The Forgotten Soul). The plural 'we' represents the personas' associations with their slave ancestors. Some of the poems tend to question the crime committed requiring slavery as punishment; others also narrate the events as they perceive it. 

The pain of separation of brothers, of clan; a divergence at the confluence, a break in the umbilical linkage (mentioned earlier) seeped from some of the poems. The persona in Kwabena Agyare's Jero, My Brother, tells the one leaving, the divergent, not to change, but to be in remembrance, of his roots. To not be swallowed by forgetfulness. In one of the more striking stanzas he writes:
Distant relatives we seem to be
But time will welcome you
Back to the heart of your motherland
But will this work? Will the memory hold? Have they not already been swallowed up by the change? After all are we all not migrants from far and wide whose ancestors paused in their journey, perhaps only to water themselves, and finding the land accommodating settled? In the same way, haven't these 'brothers' become a new creation? Today, there are those who feel insulted when described as African Americans, wanting nothing to do with their slave past, describing the continent as a backwater they will want nothing to do with. But, like the poet, we can hope.

In categorisation, some of the poems could be said to belong to the Pre-Independence Literature (or Colonial) canon, like Turkson Adu Darkwa's poems; these mostly enumerate colonial wrongs and the romanticise lost or past pastoral life. Such poems, including others, are usually structured in the us-them dichotomy where the finger-pointing is unidirectional. For instance, Emmanuel Kwabena Woyome's To Host an Enemy begins with:
We served you find hospitality,
When you sold us a pot of slavery
Monuments such as slave castles, dungeons, shackles, cannons, Elmina, Cape Coast, (with its attendants blood, tears, and sweat metaphors) are symbols that run through the poems and which have come to represent slavery in Ghana. Sadly enough, one of these castles - the Christianborg Castle - is a symbol of power and authority and has been the seat of government since independence. It is therefore in order when Charles 'Kwame Write' Aidoo, in Head Nigger in Charge, rebuked those chiefs who betrayed their people. This provided the necessary balance in all stories of the slave trade; for some of our ancestors, wanting to see their greed-laden bulbous faces, sold their own people for mirrors. But Aidoo's poem is more like a spoken-word piece and would work better when performed.

Shittu Fowora questioned cultural imperialism, especially that of language, in Father Tongue. The poet questioned the Englishman's reason for insulting him (or her) for speaking poor English when he (the Englishman) cannot speak a word in his native Igbo language. Shittu's use of geometric metaphors in Usurpers is fresh and interesting.

In Dza Nyonmo, one of my favourites in the collection, Ghanayobi Nii Saki Sackey called Africans to rise up and above the situation. Perhaps in reference to the popular saying that you can blame some for pushing you down but cannot blame him for not getting up, the poet says 'The days of slavery are over'. And if we do, if we pay heed to this call
...no one can stand in our way.
No one, absolutely none
Dza Nyonmo 
Phillip 'Nana Asaase' Oyinka is a master weaver of poems; his poems, interspersed with Twi, is a delight to listen and to read. His writing is calm and melodious and are expected to be read as such. His poem, Sojourner, is about a life-journeyer in search of a resting place. This metaphorical journey is filled with tiredness, dithering, and near-give-ups. The encouragement comes when he realises that such is the journey of life and that even though it is long, surely he shall get there. This poem marks the transition from slavery to love. 

The love poems were varied: love for a mother, love for a deserted lover (To my Araba by Shakiru Akinyemi), an unrequited love (All the Man that I am by James Robert Myers), love won and lost (Sunset at Noon by Alhassan A. K. Jacob), about love unattainable (Ode to Akosua by Alhassan A. K. Jacob), stupefying love (Madora by Caleb Kudah), love for Africa (Africa in Me by Cheryl Faison) and others. This section has one of the most beautiful lines and images: 'But I would kill to be able to hear what a blind man sees' (in My Head by Ransford Nana Kwame Boateng); and 'Angels are mothers cleaved out of spirit' (in Insolence by Richard Henry Quist Sr), to mention but a few. Gabriel Edzordzi's localised metaphors provide strong imagery and connects with the reader; also listen to the sounds:
I sit under this leafless coconut trees
And give my tears to trees in tatters
Gopal Lahiri's Heart and Soul is another interesting piece structured in non-rhyming couplets. There were some poems which could not be placed in this dichotomous themes. For instance, Redscar MvOdindo K'Oyuga's It's the Africa in Me is not about slavery and love but about identity. 

The Breaking Silence is about the oppression blacks suffered at the hands of the colonialist but it is also about the love of its descendants. The anthology contains some brilliant pieces like Dreams from Atlantis by Dante Poet and Rhapsody on a Windy Afternoon by Madhumita Ghosh. However, the collection would have fared better with fewer poems. A strict editing - to correct some of the mistakes in semantics, diction   and improve on the structure - and stricter selection procedure - to remove weaker, somewhat infantile poems - would have produced a stronger anthology.
_________________
About the editor: James Robert Myers is a Ghanaian writer. Currently, he schools at O'Reilly Senior High School in Accra. James' literary work often centre around romance and life circumstances as he utilises his unique blend of imagery, symbolism and sentimentality to convey his thoughts to his audience in a personal and creative way. His poetry have been published on most literary platforms around the world including One Ghana One Voice and Write to the World.

Friday, April 05, 2013

SHORT STORY: The Lump in Her Throat by Aba Amissah Asibon

This year's reading objective did not include short (single) stories; this excludes short story anthologies. However, when I clicked on the link to this short story, I knew I would read and talk about it. 

The Lump in Her Throat (Guernica, 2013) by Aba Amissah Asibon is the story of an unnamed but young girl dealing with the effects of her father's death as she goes through her day as any other child with childish tendencies. She, and her suddenly-taciturn standoffish sister, play with their friends in the neighbourhood, as usual, as they share stories (and sometimes the lies) about their lives. Preparations towards the burial of her father is underway; their hair have been shaved, the coffin has been purchased, except that it is of such low quality - unpolished plywood nailed together into the required rectangular box - that she wished she could have purchased the fancy type - polished with golden handles.

What makes this story interesting and reminiscent is Aba's detailed portrayal of early 1990s Ghana and the kind of games the children play; very much unlike today where everybody hides away in his room doing his or her own thing. She plays the spinning top (or alikoto - Twi) with her friends and later go tree-climbing, perhaps in search of mangoes or oranges. A true remembrance of things past; only a few Ghanaians - those who grew up living behind gated communities, isolated residential areas with tall walls and strict fathers - could not imagine this. Her similes are also derived from this period. She says
Lately, the paths look emptier, with the city drawing people away like a magnet draws sewing needles to itself.
There was an epoch in Ghanaian family life where the Singer sewing machine was a feature in every home, either as a usable object or a decorative piece, indicative that the man (husband, mostly) did actually pay the full (or complete) bride price. It was a requirement.

With one swoop of her pen (or better still, her keyboard) Aba takes the reader through several issues of both personal and national consequences. At the national level, the deterioration of infrastructure and factories that followed the overthrow of the first president could be felt. It is still a wonder that the country used to produce its canned tomatoes and beef, produced its jute sacks, textiles, shoes and the rest. Aba's father used to work in one of these factories until he lost his job when the factory collapsed. Today, it is an graveyard of metals where children, the narrator and her friends, go to play. Aba writes:
The tomato factory is closed down, ... We sometimes sneak in through the broken windows of the abandoned factory to play with rusty, cobwebbed machines...
Certain peculiar funeral traditions was also covered. This include the beautification of the dead person's house, the mandatory crying (whether one knows the dead person, or not; or whether the dead was a nuisance when he was alive and therefore his death is a blessing, or not), the almost compulsory viewing of the dead by close relatives, shaving the children's hair as a sign of respect towards the dead, burying the dead in expensive clothes, and the sharing of the deceased's properties (if he left any and if they are worth sharing). The beauty of the write is that Aba does this without digression or saying more than it was necessary. Most often these are just what our narrator had seen and she herself might not even interpret it as this. And this makes it natural and the reading smooth.

Again, with just one compelling image (the image of a gray baggy shorts), Aba showed the poverty status of the deceased (who took to drinking after he lost his job).
Father Joseph's incense makes my eyes sting, and all the wailing makes my head pound, so I walk off to Maame and Papa's room and sit on the hard bed, sniffing around, hoping to still smell Papa's tobacco. The tobacco smell is gone but the gray shorts he always wore are still hanging on a plastic hanger suspended on a rusty nail in the wall.
This image also depicts man's mortality and the ultimate uselessness of wealth aggrandisement. Papa could not even take his only gray shorts with him in death. This shows how true the statement that 'we came with nothing and shall go with nothing' (a paraphrase, of course) is. This religious extension of the gray baggy shorts and the man's quickness to hit his wives, perhaps after infusing his nerves with the local gin, show the importance of Religious leaders in funerals (this being a world wide event). Regardless of all the things he did, a pastor was called to pray for him.

However, there is a lot that Aba is not saying (or more importantly that her narrator is not revealing) and this created the necessary solemnity required during such periods. Though she talked to her friends, the reader would believe she is not saying enough. This might be the result of writing from the narrator's head directly, so that she deals more with thoughts than words. There was also a gradual build up of tension and sorrow in the narrator until it burst into cries even though Ato, her friend who had suffered her fate before, told her that strong people do not cry when their father dies; but, as the narrator found in the end,
[N]o matter what kind of person your Papa is, when he dies, your face becomes a waterfall.
This is an interesting short story and Aba Amissah Asibon, who is working on her debut novel is one to watch out for.
________________
About the Author:  Aba Amissah Asibon is a young Ghanaian writer constantly inspired by the uniqueness of her African upbringing and currently lives in New York. She has had short stories published or forthcoming in Guernica, The University of Chester's Flash Magazine, The Sentinel Literary Quarterly and African Roar. She enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, and is currently working on her debut novel. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

234. Smouldering Charcoal by Tiyambe Zeleza

Smouldering Charcoal (Heinemann, 1992; 183) by Tiyambe Zeleza belongs to the immediate post-colonial African literature, which includes such texts as Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o's A Grain of Wheat. More specifically, it belongs to those collection of works which exposes the disillusionment of independence and questions the integrity and vision of the post-independence leaders, usually the first presidents, who became harsh, corrupt, and more cruel.

However, published in the early 1990s, when the equalisation of the genders had become the song and aim of government policies and therefore major themes of every work, the novel could equally be pushed into the social commentary sub-category of African literature aimed at instigating a social change. Consequently, Smouldering Charcoal is a socio-political novel. But its deficiency is the subliminal and sometimes conspicuous social commentaries it makes. In a word, it is misandrist and functions perfectly within that set template that has made a lot of novels 'successful' in recent times. That template which makes the men in novels inhuman, flat, non-emotive (or specifically exuding only negative emotions), and above all beastly. This mis-characterisation of men has taken roots in African literature and has come to define it. Any novel that lacks it is considered 'not African enough'. This is pernicious message need to be examined. Its consequence will be felt some years from now. For today, one can only ask questions. For example, assuming that the roles were turned and all these mis-characterisations were of the women, how would the book and its author had been received? Definitely, the book will be blacklisted for its misogynistic tone; its sexist writer would not get any publishing contract, even from male publishers again. What therefore makes it necessary, imperative, even germane to lampoon one sex but highly unethical, and career suicide to to do same to the other? These are necessary questions that need to be asked. Suddenly, novels have become NGOish in their content, following the popularity trail.

Smouldering Charcoal tells the story of Chola and his girlfriend Catherine and Mchere and his wife Nambe. These two belong to different social strata: Mchere and Nambe are lower class (dirt poor) and Chola and Catherine middle class. The unnamed country they lived in is ruled by an unnamed dictator simply referred to as The Great Leader. He is wicked and does nothing for the people. He praises himself for unimportant projects, which the The Party members consider development. The Great Leader is surrounded by bootlickers and grovellers working tirelessly to outdo each other in their praises to him, leading to outrageous behaviours. Meanwhile, the country is draped in dilapidation, misuse and abuse and one meets poverty at every turn of a bend. In the midst of all this, the people always told there is development - they are developing. Chola, a been-to (some one who has travelled abroad before), works as a journalist. He is frustrated with a system that interprets rot as development and does nothing to uplift the people from their deteriorating predicament. This frustration finds themselves infused into his daily reports to the annoyance of his Editor. Together with Catherine, Chola represents the new and educated young men and women who are not ready to tolerate an impotent system. They demand real change, real development and are ready to overthrow everything, including archaic traditions, to achieve this. Nevertheless, Chola is a pacifist and a Marxist. Catherine, however, is in her final year at the university. She is intelligent and do not give a hoot about certain traditional practices. The two have plans to marry after she completes her studies.

Mchere and Nambe on the other hand live on the outskirt of town, 8 miles from the capital, in ramshackle wooden structure that leaks during rainfall. They are the lowest of the lower class and has nothing to offer. Nambe is not employed; Mchere works at a bakery. They have five children, the eldest Ntolo is eight, and Nambe is pregnant again. Mchere's weekly salary cannot even buy two loaves of bread. He owes his landlord several weeks of rent. Furthermore, he has brought grandmother to live with them; the old woman is usually reticent. At the bakery, a strike is being organised to insist on salary increases and improved working conditions. The leaders of the bakery are not ready to give in and had asked the workers to work whilst they negotiate. The leaders of the strike, knowing that this is a ploy to get them to work, insisted on going on the strike until their grievances are addressed.

Chola chanced on this impending strike and decided to investigate and report on it as it unfolds and use it as the basis for his book. Chola's coverage of the event will bring the two - Mchere and Chola - together and the meeting will change both of them in ways they never expected. They will go on to meet at the hospital and in prison.

The major problem with this is its misandrist tone. There was not a single dialogue between and among women where men were never insulted. They were all liars, wicked, womanisers, or other equally negative associations. There was a man who was cheating on his wife. One day the girlfriend and the wife arranged for the wife to take the place of the girlfriend and meet the man at their usual place, which happens to be a church. Now when the man came to meet the 'girlfriend', he said nothing - no greeting, no preliminaries, no conversation. He moved straight to sex. It was after the sex, in the darkness of the church, that the man began praising the 'girlfriend' of her beauty; the 'girlfriend' then asked why he does not say such nice things to her at home. The man realising that it was his wife ran and left her. How much more unemotional, unfeeling and beastly could a man be not to even greet a person he was meeting for a rendezvous? That his mind was  so hooked on the sex that he neglected the social chit-chat is highly impossible.

When Nambe's son Ntolo was stung by bees and fell from a tree, when they went into the forest (against their mother's advice) to pluck mangoes, Nambe had gone to see the priest to help her transport his son to the hospital for medical attention; but the Priest refused claiming that he had a scheduled meeting and proposed to pray for Ntolo. From there Nambe went to see the Party Chairman (the two are the only ones with non-public transport in the entire Njala community, and public transport was not working at the time). However, the Party Chairman was not different from the Priest; he also refused to help claiming that his car was filled with fish.

However, it was Mchere who epitomises all that was wrong with the men in the book. He was dirt poor, could not pay his rent, owed his friends, could not provide for his family but found ways to be a drunkard, a smoker and a womaniser. He goes to a bar to drink, is informed that there is a problem at his home, yet he still finds time to have sex with his bar girl. After, he quickly rushes home and suddenly descends on his wife for no apparent reason. He beats his pregnant wife mercilessly before he asks what the problem is only to be told what has happened to Ntolo. How suddenly, Mchere is stupendously transformed. He carries Ntolo at his back and journeys the 8 miles, through the rains, to the hospital, where he stays in a queue for almost two days.

When Mchere's wife, at the early stages of their marriage, started producing local gin for sale, (and here too she was approached by the Party Chairman and other male party members who wanted to sleep with her before allowing her to sell that gin) he would always drink more than his fair share of the gin distributing some to his friends and topping the bottles up with water until Nambe's business collapsed when customers complained that her gin is not 'hot'. When Mchere was questioned, he claimed that as the head of the family he can do what he want. Could there be anyone more moronic than Mchere?

There was not a single emotive, thinking male character. Even the educated Chola, who knew all the books and was all modern was not left out. When his friend, Dambo, was murdered Chola discovered that he could be next and so planned on going into exile. He suggested to Catherine that they go together; but when Catherine asked if she should quit her education and join him, Chola suddenly exploded into a never-seen-before anger with bloodshot eyes sending Catherine into shock. In fact, Chola's lovemaking to Catherine was even questioned, that it lacked some passion. Later it was their houseboy, whom they have taken in as family and had overpaid who betrayed them to the authorities.

Bota, the leader of the strike at the bakery, was so dumb and stupid that he could think of no other alternative to his plan, even though he knew well that they were living in a dictatorial regime where the Great Leader does not countenance such 'wayward' behaviours. This lack of alternative plan would later send them to prison. In prison, Chola would be tortured by prison wardens and he would later be killed by Bonzo, a convicted murderer. In prison, the strikers lost their unity and great animosity fell amongst them. Two groups emerged, those who joined the Movement (a reactionary group that Chola became its leader in prison though he was not a member when he was outside) and those who did not.

The lecturers were not left out. First, her lecturer maltreated her when she 'over answered' the question in her assignment. Later this same lecturer would attempt raping her when on the pretext that he wants to support save her from dismissal, the university's punitive measure meted out to spouses of a political convict.

Even Nambe's children were not left out. They did nothing at home and could insult their mother at will. They refused to be sent, did what they wanted and fought at random. When Nambe was ostracised from Njala, she had had moved with Mchere's grandmother to their village, where she was was raped by Mchere's cousin, Gwapa, whom she later burnt, with four others, to death. In short almost all the male characters, both minor and major, were like these.

Apart from these, there were several structural inadequacies in the novel. For instance:
  1. The author rushed to complete the novel. Thus, the arc is steep towards the end. Sentences became packed with events that the reader virtually had to gallop along, especially after Mchere was released after a year in prison. This also created a fairy tale ending where a certain manuscript (which turned out to be the story) was discovered; Catherine married Ndatero, a lecturer-convict who happened to be part of the political prisoners who were released after their mistreatment was published in international newspapers. Ndatero was Catherine lecturer before he was jailed and he met Chola in jail. Because of the rush, Nambe's escape into exile, whilst pregnant, occurred in a single sentence, though from all likelihood the conditions of the time would not have made this escape smooth;
  2. There were certain missing messages of information. For instance, when Nambe went to the Priest's house, there was no mention of her taking an umbrella or borrowing one (which would have more likely been the case), but suddenly when she left the Party Chairman's house, the reader finds her holding one against the rains;
  3. There were also certain inconsistencies. When Mchere was recollecting certain incidences in his childhood, he said he was not sure if the policeman (askari) had a gun; however, several sentences later he described how his father was hit with the butt of a gun. One would have thought that the presence of a sure statement will render the unsure statement void;
  4. Mchere was nothing more than a dullard (or that's what the reader is made to believe); he relished his father's strength and boldness but was himself timid and afraid of participating or not participating in the strike. It was only in prison that he metamorphosed into a hardened member of the Movement, contributing actively to the writing of the letter whose publication in international newspapers led to their release;
  5. Chola was never a member of the Movement; he never joined until he was put into prison. Thus, it was surprising that he suddenly got to understand and appreciate the vision of the Movement to the extent that he recruited some prisoners into it and formed units (or cells) within each cell;
  6. We are told that Mchere left school at Standard Five but was the one who led the writing of that long letter that detailed how they were being treated and whose publication led to their release;
  7. Chola belonged to the middle class, worked as a journalist, though not as an editor. However, Chola could afford an apartment, a servant and a car. This is not a characteristic of a rundown country as was described in the novel.
  8. Working as a journalist Chola was suppose to report on issues, but chose to fill his reports with his personal beliefs; however, unless one is doing an opinion piece, which is entirely different, a journalistic report should capture the essence of what is being reported and not the journalist's expectations or beliefs.
There were other issues as well:

Nambe was dirt poor but his husband's cousin Biti, a seamstress, was so much burdened with job that her male competitors were envious (again, see how the males behaved?). So - and the two were friends to the extent that Biti sometimes give them food - why did it not occur to Nambe that helping Biti would make her earn some money, if she was really bothered about their poverty? Couldn't Mchere have asked for the direction to the wards or the OPD when he got to the hospital, instead of carrying his son on his back and going round in circles at the mortuary? Why would a prison warden torture an inmate for choosing not to eat when the prison guards themselves had not enough to eat and were usually bribed with food?

There was also a question of development. Chola did not understand why a country which could not manufacture a hoe would establish a car assembly plant or open a brewery and call it development. This is somewhat baffling. Should a country go back to produce the minutest of things before it moves up the chain? Besides, which of the two will create more employment? Perhaps the issue is that assembling cars for a people who can't afford does not make sense and that hoes would better serve the peasantry. Even if this is the aim, assembling of cars and exporting it within the sub-region will produce enough resources to spur on development and engender the manufacturing of hoes through its positive externalities. 

These issues could result from my own parochial reading and my stand on this male-bashing literature. Regardless of these, Zeleza's description of the rot in the city and in Njala especially was detailed and imagistic. He also unsheathed Mchere's poverty one skin at a time. It was like lighting a dark hall one candle at a time until the two hundredth candle is lit. Though this novel did not work for me, you could equally read it to find out for yourself.

Monday, April 01, 2013

March in Review, Projections for April

In my last monthly update, I projected to read only two books: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and Smouldering Charcoal by Tiyambe Zeleza (for our Book and Discussion Club). The sheer size of Tolstoy's book made it impossible to meet the average monthly books of 6, for that book alone is worth four books (at an average of 348 books). Per my plan, if I stuck with at least 50 pages a day, it would have taken me 28 days. In the end, it took me a day or two less. In addition to these books, I read one poetry anthology and one short story. The following are the books read:
  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. At the macro-level it is a story about a nation; at the micro-level it is a story about some aristocratic families. But there is more to this book than this. It gives an excellent window into life during that Napoleonic war period. Tolstoy also brought in his personal essays on predetermination, free will, power, causes of events, and more. War and Peace is more than a novel. The reader lives it.
  2. Smouldering Charcoal by Tiyambe Zeleza. Tiyambe's novel belongs to the immediate post-independence literature (forget that it was published in 1992) and deals with issues of corruption, cruelty, mis-development, and general societal malfunction. There are however several structural deficiencies in the novel.
  3. Breaking Silence - A Poetic Lifeline from Slavery to Love by James Robert Myers (Editor). This is a collection of poems from several individuals most of whom are from Ghana. As the title indicates, the anthology covers two basic themes - slavery and love. There are some good pieces in the collection.
  4. The Lump in her Throat by Aba Amissah Asibon. In this short story, a young girl narrates the events leading to the laying in state of his dead father. She is somewhat not very abreast with what was happening around her though she tells her story as best as she understands them both to the reader and to her friends. Through her narrative, flashes of past life, of decayed culture, of religion and of abuse could be glimpsed. Though just a short story (and the writer does not digress), Aba Amissah provides enough information for one to know about about the cultural setting of the story. A brilliant piece.
If I am to make up for numbers, which I wouldn't push myself to or sacrifice quality for quantity, I will have to improve the rate. I expect to read the following books in April:
  1. Antifragile - Things that Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  2. My First Coup d'etat by John Dramani Mahama
  3. Saturday by Ian McEwan
  4. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
  5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Any other readings will be e-books that I've received for review purposes. I find it difficult to read e-books and though I keep saying this, I keep receiving them and reminders from the providers. Besides, I keep an 8 to 5 job, which sometimes include long travels. I hope I will be able to read all these books, thoroughly. 

What did you read in March and what do you hope to read in April?
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