Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Africa Reading Challenge

Kinna Reads is hosting the Africa Reading Challenge, and I just had to sign up. I've read some literature from countries in Africa, but not a lot. Of the creative writing books portion of the Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, I've only read four. For the challenge, you have to pledge to read five eligible books. An eligible book is one that is written by an African writer, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. At least 3 of the books must be written by African writers.

I've got my initial 5 books picked out:
  • Palace Walk, Naguib Mafouz (read, 2/5/2012)
  • Butterfly Burning, Yvonne Vera
  • Wizard of the Crow, Ngugi wa Thiong'o
  • A Palace in the Old Village, Tahar Ben Jelloun
  • Maps, Nuruddin Farah

I'd like to read a few more. I've been wanting to read Assia Djbar's Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade for quite awhile now. If I like Palace Walk I'll look into the remaining books in the trilogy. 

One of the difficulties with reading African authors is that the books are not easy to locate. I'm a big library user, but my library doesn't have a lot of these books. It trends towards the latest Carl Hiaasen or James Patterson.

So I broke down and ordered books from Amazon. As much as I love using my local book store, they don't really have the selection I need. And honestly, they're not that local - the closest bookstore to me is in the next county. I know I could ask them to order what I want, but then, I admit, price becomes a factor. I like to be able to sit at my computer, search for a few different titles, see how much they are, see how much alternate titles are, decide how much money I want to spend, etc. I don't expect someone at a bookstore to humor me like that. It doesn't hurt that I still have an Amazon student account, which gives me free prime shipping.

Ideally, there would be a lovely independent book store near me with a great selection, friendly staff, and good prices. Unfortunately, that's just not my reality at the moment. (Oh, Strand, how I miss you!)

Where do you get your books? And do you have any suggestions for African literature for me to read?


Alyce said...

I've read some African Lit, but not a lot either. Good luck with the challenge!

Sherry said...

I am hosting a North Africa Reading Challenge this year, and here are links to some lists of suggested books for all of Africa, listed by country.
I'm glad to hear about this "other" Africa Reading Challenge, and you're certainly invited to join mine, too, and overlap the books for each challenge.

Kathmeista said...

Living in Taiwan, sourcing books locally is a challenge. The nearest book store that stocks English language books is a 20 minute car ride away and they have limited options. For good range, I have to take a bus all the way into Taipei, over an hour away. I go to Taipei for work 2-3 days of the week but not to the right area. Hence I do a lot of Book Depository and Kindle e-books. I can't feel guilty when I have no other option, right?

The African challenge sounds great! I'm a complete novice in that area but don't have time to commit to a challenge. I might try my best to read at least one African Lit novel this year though, for personal satisfaction.

Washington Salons said...

I've read some African words but fail to complete.Feel sad:(

MJ said...

@Alyce: Thanks!

@Sherry: Your challenge sounds really interesting. I don't think that I could commit to quite that many books with those specific requirements, though.

@Kathmeista: Exactly - when you have limited options, you still want books, and have to get them where you can. I definitely recommend trying to read at least some African lit. I've had some really good experiences with it.

@Washington Salons: You can always try more!

RebeccaK said...

I enjoyed So Long a Letter when I was in college, and I hope it was not just because it was easy to write about. It's by Mariama Ba, and I think it's in the Heinemann African Writers series.