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Veteran Poster
Username: Crystal

Post Number: 474
Registered: 01-2004

Rating: N/A
Votes: 0

Posted on Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - 04:11 pm:   

Maybe not what most would consider historical novels in the manner of James Michener but more of a contemporary historical novel. African contemporary history. Stories written in/about the late 1950’s to early 1970’s. Some observations: drama is universal [duh] – the cultural differences are shown in how it’s resolved; the struggle people have in reconciling the European and African traditions, mindsets and bigotry continue to cause havoc on the continent and beyond; for the most part women the world over throughout time are treated like sh*t [and sometimes less than sh*t because dung is very useful ya know]!

A Grain of Wheat – Ngugi Wa Thiong’o [James Ngugi] - set in Kenya during independence. A good story of betrayal and guilt. A man turns his revolutionary friend over to the white folks who kill him. The other revolutionaries believe someone else did it but guilt forces the real culprit to confess at the village’s revolutionary celebration.

The River Between – Ngugi Wa Thiong’o set in Kenya at the time of the coming of the white missionaries. A man tries to be a bridge between the 2 worlds. He goes to a missionary school but still believes in the tribal way of life. He wants the Christians and tribalists to get together to keep the white man out but it doesn’t work.

Petals of Blood – Ngugi Wa Thiong’o [imprisoned when this was published due to the books indictment of the country’s leadership] – a murder mystery set in post colonial Kenya. That description doesn’t really say anything for the book . . . it’s the characters! And a glimpse of what happened when the African people re-took power and the effect of capitalism. Highly recommend!

Nervous Conditions – Tsitsi Dangarembga – set in 1960’s Zimbabwe, an adolescent girl goes to live with her uncle and his family to go to school when her brother dies. Her cousins have been educated in England for 5 years and return home no longer able to speak the language and having a hard time trying to reconcile their life in England and their home life. Major family drama.

Dew in the Morning – Shimmer Chinodya – set in Zimbabwe a few years after independence. Story of a young boy whose family partially resettles in the countryside and builds a farm with the mother working in the fields while the father continues to live and work in the city to provide funds for the children’s education.

The Bride Price – Buchi Emecheta – set in early 1950’s Nigeria, a 13 year old girl living in Lagos with her mother, father and brother. Her father dies and she and her mother and brother must move back to their village where she meets and falls in love with a teacher whose recent ancestor was a slave and therefore forbidden to marry her. She and the man run away and get married but things don’t bode well because: “a girl whose bride price is not paid will not live to survive the birth of her first child”.

Second Class Citizen – Buchi Emecheta – Nigerian woman’s father dies and she is sent to live as a servant in her uncle’s family. To get away she marries and she and her husband move to London. He is supposed to be studying to be an accountant but fails his exams and refuses to work and treats her like crap. She works and provides for the family including eventually 4 children. Very hard to read about the way he treats her and her acceptance of it as the way things are.

Call Me by My Rightful Name – Isidore Okpewho – set in 1960’s. An AA college basketball player starts falling into trances and speaking a language nobody understands. Psychiatrists and linguists says it’s a Nigerian chant from Yoruba. He goes to Nigeria with his Dad and finds his family and the story of his ancestor who was stolen, turned into a slave and sent to America.

Minaret – Leila Aboulela – A Sudanese young woman’s rich and aristocratic father is killed in a political coup. She and her mother and brother move to London. Her mother gets sick and dies and the brother ends up in jail on drug charges. Girl goes to work as a nanny, falls in love with the young brother of her employer and is offered a pay off by the boy’s mother to leave him alone.

The Translator – Leila Aboulela – a young Sudanese widow working as a translator in a British university falls in love with a Scottish lecturer. She wants to get married but he has to convert to Muslim. At first he says no and she goes home but then . . .

Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – set in the 1960’s immediately preceding and during the Nigerian/Biafran civil war. The story of Igbo twin sisters, their family, their lovers and their lives during the war. Loved It!


Our Nig – Harriet E. Wilson – the first novel published by a female AA author in the U.S. – 6 year old Frado’s black father dies and her white mother moves away leaving Frado with the white Bellmont family as an indentured servant. Mrs. Bellmont treats her so badly her health fails to the point of almost death. She survives [barely] until the end of her indentured service at age 18 then moves out. Eventually marries and outlives all the Bellmonts.

The Narrows – Ann Petry – set in 1950’s Link Williams falls for a wealthy, married white woman. But their story is only a small part of the book with its usual black man should know better than messing with a white woman ending. It’s the wonderful characterizations that makes this book.

I have Ann Petry’s The Street up next.

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