Five good reads to en­joy

The books in­clude a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, three nov­els and a great work of non­fic­tion

Mail & Guardian - - Friday - Zuk­iswa Wan­ner

Th­ese five no­table books will help you to es­cape from un­wanted com­pan­ions and will add to that feel­ing of be­ing on hol­i­day.

by Ni­cole Den­nis-benn (One World)

In this stun­ning de­but, Ja­maican writer Ni­cole Den­nis-benn takes us to Mon­tego Bay where we meet a poor but am­bi­tious fam­ily.

Pimped by her mother at a young age, Mar­got has learnt to use what she has to en­sure that her younger sis­ter Thandi doesn’t fol­low her path and be­comes the doc­tor Mar­got may have wanted to be­come. Mar­got has re­alised that she can do this by ma­nip­u­lat­ing men, although there is only one per­son for her, the re­sented Ver­dene, be­lieved to be a devil be­cause she is a les­bian. Thandi, pri­vate-schooled and pro­tected from her older sis­ter’s se­crets, soon re­veals her own sad se­cret to the poor vil­lage boy she is in love with.

With the un­rav­el­ling of that one se­cret, more se­crets are re­vealed. Mar­got, Thandi, Ver­dene and the peo­ple in their small com­mu­nity will never be the same again.

by Mo­hale Mashigo (Pic­a­dor)

Not since Lau­ren Beukes’s Zoo City have I en­joyed fan­tas­ti­cal fic­tion rooted in the African con­ti­nent as much as I did th­ese 12 short sto­ries.

In the col­lec­tion, ad­dic­tion is hu­man­ised. We en­counter a young man try­ing to save his best friend who has lost his hu­man­ity to nyaope. In The High-heeled Killer, a man who mocks a woman loses his life. A third story is about two sis­ters re­luc­tantly pro­tect­ing men from aveng­ing spir­its that de­stroy those who have com­mit­ted gen­der-based vi­o­lence. An­other is about a young woman dis­cov­er­ing that she is not who she thought she was when she at­tempts to get in­ti­mate with a man she is in­ter­ested in. Cli­mate change fea­tures in a story about the sun dis­ap­pear­ing.

The sto­ries are in some ways sci­en­tific and in oth­ers mag­i­cal; just do not, what­ever you do, call them Afro­fu­tur­ism. Mo­hale Mashigo de­nounces this la­bel for her work in a bril­liant in­tro­duc­tion to the col­lec­tion that should make for a fan­tas­tic dis­cus­sion be­tween her and fan­tasy and science fic­tion writer Nnedi Oko­rafor.

by Nthikeng Mohlele (Pic­a­dor)

This novel is pos­si­bly the bravest book of the year. Nthikeng Mohlele, a de­clared fan of JM Coet­zee, gives the reader his take on Coet­zee’s Michael K in The Life and Times of Michael K.

The re­sult is a work of in­tense beauty that I am sure would flat­ter Coet­zee. Where other writ­ers fo­cus on plot and give merely func­tional prose, Mohlele is in­com­pa­ra­ble in the art of words. As one reads Michael K, it is as though the writer has lov­ingly carved each word and placed it right where it should be and the re­sult is some of the most beau­ti­fully crafted sen­tences to be found in South African lit­er­a­ture.

Mohlele’s Michael K is nar­rated by Michael’s neigh­bour, Miles, an as­pir­ing poet. Miles shouldn’t be an as­pir­ing poet though.

Hav­ing re­vis­ited this book at least three times since it came out, I am al­ways richer in lan­guage af­ter read­ing it.

by Chike Frankie Edozien (Ja­cana)

In my favourite non­fic­tion work of the year, Frankie Edozien doc­u­ments ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity among Africans in Nige­ria and in the di­as­pora, start­ing with his own jour­ney.

Edozien bursts the of­ten re­peated myth about ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity be­ing a Western con­cept as he trav­els to ru­ral towns in Ghana where the men we meet have never been out­side their town.

An openly gay man, Edozien has sym­pa­thy for the sub­jects he doc­u­ments in his book and shows an un­der­stand­ing for those who may be down-low and mar­ried yet, to use his own eu­phemism, “do cof­fee” away from home. His ex­pla­na­tion is that African so­ci­eties have be­come too judg­men­tal of peo­ple’s sex­u­al­ity. As an ex­am­ple, a gay cou­ple in Abuja who had plans to in­vest in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try are run out of town be­cause a neigh­bour lets it be known that they prac­tise “ho­mo­sex­u­al­ism”. They are now run­ning a ho­tel in Southeast Asia, a loss to Nige­ria be­cause of ho­mo­pho­bia.

by Tsitsi Dan­garem­bga (Gray­wolf)

The book brings us full cir­cle back to many of the char­ac­ters we met in Tsitsi Dan­garem­bga’s Ner­vous Con­di­tions.

Tam­budzai, though much older, re­turns with an air of quiet dis­dain for any­one she con­sid­ers be­neath her. She sees but does not speak out against in­jus­tices and some­times is part of the in­jus­tice. Main­ini Lu­cia is as feisty as ever and now, as an ex-com­bat­ant, is us­ing the skills she learnt in China to start her own out­fit with a fel­low com­rade. Nyasha, now mar­ried, is still bat­tling pa­tri­archy that some­times leaves her de­feated; for ex­am­ple, when she has to deal with her do­mes­tic work­ers, the mar­ried cou­ple Mai Taka and her hus­band Si­lence, who is any­thing but. Nyasha’s re­la­tion­ship with Tam­budzai shows the lat­ter ex­hibit­ing the same lack of sym­pa­thy that she did when they were still young.

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