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Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

“I am African” – Laila Lalami Responds to Being Identified as a US Author on the 2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist

The Moor's AccountThe FishermenThe 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist was announced yesterday, with 13 authors representing the US (five), the UK (three), Ireland, Jamaica, Nigeria, India and New Zealand.

This is only the second year the Man Booker Prize has been open to American authors, a move that many suggest has led to writers from the Commonwealth being “squeezed out”.

The only African author on the list, as identified by the Prize, was Nigerian Chigozie Obioma, longlisted for his debut novel, The Fishermen.

However, after the announcement Moroccan-born author Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account, objected to being identified as not African.

Lalami tweeted a link to The Guardian’s announcement of the prize, and quoted a sentence declaring Obioma the “sole African writer” on the list. Lalami raised an eyebrow at the statement:

 
The author, who has lived in the United States since 1992 but was born and raised in Rabat, Morocco, clarified her reaction in a follow-up tweet:

 
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2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist Revealed – Just One African Novel Makes the Cut

 
Alert! The longlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize has been announced.

There are 13 authors on the list this year, but disappointingly just one from Africa: Chigozie Obioma, for The Fishermen.

Laila Lalami – longlisted for The Moor’s Account, the imagined memoirs of a Moroccan slave who was the first black explorer of America – is identified as being a United States national by the Prize, although she was born in Rabat, Morocco.

Traditionally, the Man Booker Prize was open to authors from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth, and Zimbabwe. However, in September 2013 it was announced that the 2014 edition of the prize would be open to American writers for the first time.

The FishermenDid You Ever Have A FamilyThe Green RoadA Brief History of Seven KillingsThe Moor's AccountSatin Island

The IlluminationsLilaSleeping on JupiterThe Year of the RunawaysThe ChimesA Spool of Blue ThreadA Little Life

The 2015 longlist, or Man Booker “Dozen”, of 13 novels, is:

Press release:

Man Booker Prize announces 2015 longlist
29 July 2015

The longlist, or ‘Man Booker Dozen’, for the £50,000 Man Booker Prize is announced today, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Michael Wood, and also comprising Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize.

This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK. Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

Chair of the 2015 judges, Michael Wood, comments:

‘We had a great time choosing this list. Discussions weren’t always peaceful, but they were always very friendly. We were lucky in our companions and the submissions were extraordinary. The longlist could have been twice as long, but we’re more than happy with our final choice.

‘The range of different performances and forms of these novels is amazing. All of them do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use.’

The judges were struck by the international spectrum of the novels, with the longlist featuring three British writers, five US writers and one apiece from the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, India, Nigeria and Jamaica. Marlon James, who currently lives in Minneapolis, is the first Jamaican-born author to be nominated for the prize. Laila Lalami, now based in Santa Monica but born in Rabat, is the first Moroccan-born.

One former winner, Anne Enright, is longlisted. The Irish writer won the prize in 2007 with The Gathering. She is joined by two formerly shortlisted British writers: Tom McCarthy (2010, C) and Andrew O’Hagan (1999, Our Fathers, and longlisted for Be Near Me, 2006). US author Marilynne Robinson has been shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize twice, in 2011 and 2013.

There are three debut novelists on the list: Bill Clegg, Chigozie Obioma and Anna Smaill.

Four independent publishers are on the list, with Garnet Publishing and Pushkin Press appearing for the first time.

The shortlist and winner announcements

The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday 15 September at a press conference at the London offices of Man Group, the prize’s sponsor.

The 2015 winner will then be announced on Tuesday 13 October in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner that brings together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC.

The leading prize for quality fiction in English

First awarded in 1969, the prize is recognised as the leading prize for high quality literary fiction written in English. Its list of winners features many of the literary giants of the last four decades: from Salman Rushdie to Hilary Mantel, Iris Murdoch to Ian McEwan.

The rules of the prize changed at the end of 2013, to embrace the English language ‘in all its vigour, its vitality, its versatility and its glory’, opening up to writers beyond the UK and Commonwealth. Salman Rushdie commented at the time: ‘I think it’s a really great thing that finally we’ve got an English language prize that doesn’t make a distinction for writers who are writing from a particular country.’

Earlier this month the Booker Prize Foundation also announced a change to the Man Booker International Prize, which has become an annual award celebrating fiction in translation. The newly configured prize will focus on the finest in translated fiction published in the UK, and sees an increased annual prize purse of £52,000, which will be split equally between the winning author and translator.

Winning the Man Booker Prize

The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50,000 and can expect international recognition. Last year’s winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, has sold 300,000 copies in the UK and almost 800,000 worldwide.

Following her second win in 2012, Hilary Mantel topped the UK Nielsen BookScan chart with the sales of Bring up the Bodies, her sequel to Wolf Hall which won in 2009. Sales of her winning novels together exceeded a million copies in their UK editions. The BBC’s television adaptation and the theatre adaptations by the Royal Shakespeare Company of both novels have been widely praised. Other winning novels have gone on to have second or third lives as stage and screen adaptations; examples include Schindler’s Ark (directed by Steven Spielberg as Schindler’s List), The Remains of the Day and The English Patient.

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Image courtesy of David Caines

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Fiction Friday: Rediscovering Lagos in Literature – “How I Became Igbo” by Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke

 

Things Fall ApartThe Dark ChildAmericanah

 
This week’s Fiction Friday is a short story by Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke called “How I Became Igbo”, which was shared by Kalahari Review.

The story is a about a young Nigerian boy and the stories that shape his understanding of life. Early on in the story, the narrator says of the urban legends he hears on the bus in Lagos: “the stories fashioned me”. The same becomes true of the “foreign books” he finds comfort and companionship in.

Because he identifies with the foreign world in English books, the narrator’s home, culture and language all become foreign to him. This is a story of how reading the likes of Chinua Achebe, Camara Laye and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie make the young man African, Nigerian and Igbo again.

Read the story:

I grew up in the disorderliness of Lagos. In the ragged luxury that smelled of stress and looming frustration. I had to learn to leap into moving buses, to “Shine my eyes” before hopping in and clutch at my pockets as I did so for fright of petty thieves-pickpockets. The stories that sifted like grains unbridled into the confines of my ears did not aid in assuaging these fears “Last week, a man had his arm chopped off at Mile two by thieves because he carried a laptop in his bag” or “That girl who sells Agege bread1 has run away from home”. The stories fashioned me, so that soon I anticipated every man to have his arm cut off at Mile two and every girl selling bread to at some point run away from home. I anticipated also the unruliness that came with the name “Bus drivers” and the choking smell of weed from a strip of red eyed males, red like the yellow orange of an improperly fanned coal stove.

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Judges Announced for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature

 
The Etisalat Prize for Literature has announced the panel of judges for the 2015 award, including South African Zukiswa Wanner.

The third annual Etisalat Prize will be awarded this year, with prize money of £15,000 and a fellowship at the University of East Anglia under the mentorship of Professor Giles Foden, the award-winning author of The Last King of Scotland.

African Literature - An Anthology of Criticism and TheoryPostcolonialism - Theory, Practice or Process? The MadamsRefilweLondon – Cape Town – Joburg

 
Heading up this year’s panel is professor Ato Quayson from Ghana, a well-respected literary critic and academic who is currently director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Writer, editor and journalist Molara Wood from Nigeria fills the second spot on the panel. Her work has been published in many anthologies – including her own, Indigo which is available as an ebook – journals and international publications.

The third and final member of the the panel is Wanner, journalist and author of, among other titles, The Madams and London – Cape Town – Joburg. She frequently facilitates writing workshops all over the world and sits on the board of the immensely important Writivism project.

Entries for books qualifying for this pan-African award opened last month. First fiction books of over 30 000 words, published in the last 24 months and written by authors of African citizenship, are eligible. The 2014 award was won by South African Songewziwe Mahlangu for Penumbra, with Noviolet Bulawayo taking home the inaugural award for We Need New Names in 2013.

The prize calendar looks as follows:

Call to enter – 18th June 2015
Entry Deadline – 27th August 2015
Longlist announced – 12th November 2015
Shortlist announced – 12th December 2015
Grand Finale/Winner announced – 13th March 2016

Read more about the judges, and the Etisalat Prize for Literature:

Professor Ato Quayson / Ghana

Chair of Judges

Professor Ato Quayson is Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto. He studied at the University of Ghana and the University of Cambridge and was also a Fellow of Pembroke College, Director of the Centre for African Studies, and on the Faculty of English at Cambridge. He was the 2011/12 Distinguished Cornille Visiting Professor in the Humanities at the Newhouse Centre at Wellesley College; he held research fellowships at Wolfson College, Oxford (1994/95) and at the Du Bois Institute for African-American Studies at Harvard (2004). He is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Royal Society of Canada.

 

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Call for Entries for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature

The 2015 Etisalat Prize

 
The Etisalat Prize for Literature has made a call for entries for the 2015 edition of the award.

The Etisalat Prize is a pan-African award for debut authors of published works of fiction. The winner receives £15,000 and a fellowship at the University of East Anglia under the mentorship of Professor Giles Foden, the award-winning author of The Last King of Scotland.

The winner and shortlisted authors also receive sponsored book tours to promote their books, and Etisalat purchases 1 000 copies of each shortlisted book.

NoViolet Bulawayo won the first Etisalat Prize for We Need New Names, and South African author Songeziwe Mahlangu was announced as the 2014 winner earlier this year, for Penumbra.

Yewande Omotoso (Bom Boy) and Karen Jennings (Finding Soutbek ) completed the 2013 shortlist, while the 2014 shortlist was Mahlangu, Nadia Davids (An Imperfect Blessing and Chinelo Okparanta (Happiness Like Water).

Bom BoyFinding SoutbekWe Need New NamesAn Imperfect BlessingPenumbraHappiness, Like Water

 
This prize accepts debut works of fiction of over 30,000 words, published within the last 24 months. Entries close on 27 August, 2015.


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“We Need More Names” – Taiye Selasi on the Problem of Using the Umbrella Term “African Writers”

Taiye Selasi, Author of Ghana Must Go (3)

 
Who is an African writer? What should the African writer write? For whom is the African writer writing?

Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go, recently posed these three difficult questions in a feature article for The Guardian, calling on people, or more specifically the western media, to “stop pigeonholing African Writers”.

“One might pause to wonder what so-called African novels have in common: does the commercial category function as a creative one, as well?” Selasi writes, defending her discontent with the use of the umbrella term “African writer” to refer to all authors from, or who have a relation to, the African content. “When I warn against grouping African writers together, it is not because I lack pride in the continent’s literary tradition, but rather that I am conscious of the west’s tradition of essentialising African subjects.”

To simplify the justifiably complex debate on what makes a writer African, or not, and what the African writer should, or could, write about, Selasi broke her article into three parts, using the aforementioned questions to frame her argument that shoving all writers who are kind of African in the “African writer” box should no longer be an accepted practice.

Who is an African writer?

Born in England to a Nigerian mother and Ghanaian father and raised in the US, Selasi has great difficulty in answering the question, “Where are you from?“. In her article she writes:

“It seems that every new writer with any remote connection to the continent of Africa, either willingly or unwillingly, has first to wrestle with this question of identity before talking about what should matter most: their book.”

Selasi notes that “the wider literary establishment has trouble with writers who belong to diasporas” and notes that writers from India and diaspora face the same categorisation issues.

What should the African writer write?

“African writers” are often accused of writing “poverty porn” and airing Africa’s dirty laundry where the world can see. With We Need New Names NoViolet Bulawayo was accused of “performing Africa” while Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been accused of suffering from “an African, middle-class aesthetic”.

“The African novelist is rarely granted the privilege of writing, as Toni Morrison famously put it, the novel she wanted to read. Instead, the novelist is assumed to be or accused of writing for the west, producing explanatory ethnographic texts dolled up as literary fiction,” Selasi writes.

For whom is the African writer writing?

To illustrate her point with this question Selasi shares why her own novel, about a Ghanaian-Nigerian family, is not published in either of those countries: “The answer is: we tried. Ghana, where my parents live, has no credible local publisher. To launch the novel in Accra, as I was determined to do, we had to go it alone.”

This points to a big problem facing “African writers”: The lack of infrastructure to support a healthy book industry in most, if not all countries on the continent. Bearing this in mind, is it not unfair to expect “African authors” to write only for “African readers”?

Read Selasi’s article, which ends with a plea to “African novelists, western publishers, global readers” to attend to the issues she has raised:

We – African novelists, western publishers, global readers – must attend to this. We need more writers from more countries, representing more class backgrounds. We need more names.

Perhaps, then, we might grant more freedom to the ones we already have. As Henry James reminds us: “A novel is in its broadest definition a personal impression of life; that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression. But there will be no intensity at all, and therefore no value, unless there is freedom to feel and say.” The diasporic novelist, as much as any other, must be granted that freedom.

Some of the books and authors mentioned in Selasi’s article:

Ghana Must GoAmericanahMeasuring TimeThe Secret History of Las VegasOpen CityDustOne Day I Will Write About This PlaceBlack Star NairobiBeneath the Lion\'s GazeAll Our NamesThe Hired ManThe Book of MemoryWe Need New NamesBoy, Snow, BirdThings Fall ApartThe Famished RoadAfrica39Happiness, Like WaterI Do Not Come to You by ChanceForeign Gods, Inc.

 
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Get Goosebumps this Fiction Friday with an Excerpt from Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen

 
The FishermenRead an excerpt from The Fishermen, the debut novel of Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma that is going places.

The Fishermen, which was published in April, has been longlisted for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Edinburgh Festival First Book Award.

Binyavanga Wainaina recently told Books LIVE he thinks Obioma is “something quite serious”, adding: “I’m on page 10 and already I have goosebumps.”

Read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Fishermen:

We were fishermen:
My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives. His employer, the Central Bank of Nigeria, had transferred him to a branch of the bank in Yola—a town in the north that was a camel distance of more than one thousand kilometres away—in the first week of November of the previous year. I remember the night Father returned home with his transfer letter; it was on a Friday. From that Friday through that Saturday, Father and Mother held whispering consultations like shrine priests. By Sunday morning, Mother emerged a different being. She’d acquired the gait of a wet mouse, averting her eyes as she went about the house. She did not go to church that day, but stayed home and washed and ironed a stack of Father’s clothes, wearing an impenetrable gloom on her face. Neither of them said a word to my brothers and me, and we did not ask. My brothers—Ikenna, Boja, Obembe—and I had come to understand that when the two ventricles of our home—our father and our mother—held silence as the fishermen the ventricles of the heart retain blood, we could flood the house if we poked them. So, at times like these, we avoided the television in the eight-columned shelf in our sitting room. We sat in our rooms, studying or feigning to study, anxious but not asking questions. While there, we stuck out our antennae to gather whatever we could of the situation.

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London: Don’t Miss the 2015 Caine Prize Shortlistees, Ben Okri and Many More at the Annual Africa Writes Festival

Invite: Africa Writes

 
Calling all London-based literature entusiasts to Africa Writes, the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival.

Every year they showcase established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing taking place over an exciting summer weekend.

The festival features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions, youth and children’s workshops, and other activities. The programme spans across three days from Friday, 3 July to Sunday, 5 July. Events take place at The British Library Conference Centre in London.

This year Africa Writes sees Ben Okri, Hannah Pool and the five authors on the shortlist for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing among the many guests on the packed programme.

The Age Of MagicThe Famished RoadThe ReactiveTwenty in 20A Life ElsewhereThe Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesFeast, Famine and PotluckAfrica39

 
The festival offers many free events and promises and exhilarating weekend of African literature. Topics to be discussed includes “Africa in Translation”, “Emergent Discourse on African Literature”, “African Books to Inspire”, “Meditations on Greatness with Ben Okri”, “The 2015 Caine Prize Conversation”, “Observing the White Gaze”, “Mapping African Literature” and so much more.

Don’t miss this!

Event Details

 
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  • Twenty in 20: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s 20 Years of Democracy by , , , , , edited by Mandla Langa
    EAN: 9781928216421
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102 Writers and Illustrators Confirmed for 2015 Open Book Festival (So Far)

Confirmed authors for the 2015 Open Book Festival

 

The Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre have announced the fifth edition of the Open Book Festival, and have released the names of the 82 local and 20 international participants confirmed so far.

The year’s Open Book will take place from 9-13 September in Cape Town. Venues include The Fugard Theatre, Homecoming Centre, Cape Town Central Library and The Book Lounge.

Mervyn Sloman, festival director, says: “We’re thrilled to announce a fantastic line-up for the fifth edition of Open Book. Festival goers have a wealth of stimulating and entertaining experiences to look forward to. South African writers will be sharing the stage with authors from Congo, Denmark, France, Kenya, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Zimbabwe.

“We’re in the process of finalising the events that make up the festival and the programme will be available at the beginning of August.”

Tickets will be available from early August.

Note: The list of participants below is not final

Home RemediesBroken MonstersShouting in the DarkKopskootDevil's HarvestLion Heart

Confirmed South African authors:

Diane Awerbuck

Lauren Beukes

Elleke Boehmer

Lien Botha

Andrew Brown

Mary Burton

Kay Carmichael

Justin Cartwright

PapwaNaweekThe Last Road TripWhat About MeeraBest White and Other Anxious DelusionsThe Chameleon House

Maxine Case

Toast Coetzer

Gareth Crocker

Raphael D’Abdon

ZP Dala

Rebecca Davis

Melissa de Villiers

Jean de Wet

To Quote MyselfThe FetchShades of DarknessThe Impossible FiveThe Ghost-Eater and Other StoriesDance with Suitcase

Khaya Dlanga

Finuala Dowling

Jonty Driver

Justin Fox

Genna Gardini

Dawn Garisch

Lost and Found in JohannesburgA Renegade called SimphiweThe Search for the Rarest Bird in the WorldBeastkeeperThe Dream HouseJozi

Mark Gevisser

Pumla Gqola

Vernon RL Head

Cat Hellisen

Joey Hi-Fi

Derrick Higginbotham

Craig Higginson

Perfect Hlongwane

TakelwerkThe Space Between the Space BetweenAlphabet of DemocracySynapseGood Morning, Mr MandelaThe Texture of Shadows

Nic Hoekstra

Daniel Hugo

Gerhard Human

John Hunt

Anton Kannemeyer

Antjie Krog

Jacqui L’Ange

Zelda la Grange

Mandla Langa

Debbie Loots

CobraDub StepsBlood tiesRusty BellThe Violent Gestures of LifeThe Alphabet of Birds

Danelle Malan

Anthony Marshall-Smith

David McLennan

Deon Meyer

Andrew Miller

Paul Mills

Zimkitha Mlanzeli

Nthikeng Mohlele

Tauriq Moosa

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho

SJ Naudé

One Hand Washes the Other Power PlaySharp EdgesChants of FreedomHere I AmThe Spiral House

Chris Nicholson

Mike Nicol

Su Opperman

SA Partridge

Mathews Phosa

PJ Powers

Shirmoney Rhode

Claire Robertson

Green LionWhat Will People SayWhat Hidden LiesA Slim, Green SilenceTokoloshe SongBanquet at Brabazan

Henrietta Rose-Innes

Rehana Rossouw

Michele Rowe

Beverly Rycroft

Andrew Salomon

Patricia Schonstein

Stephen Segerman

Katleho Shoro

In die blou kampA Man of Good HopeSkuldigThe RaftChokers en survivorsThe Swan Whisperer

Dana Snyman

Jonny Steinberg

Martin Steyn

Craig Bartholomew Strydom

Fred Strydom

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

Nathan Trantraal

Marlene van Niekerk

JudaskusThis One TimeThings I Thought I KnewWastedIt Might Get Loud

Rudie van Rensberg

Alex van Tonder

Anja Venter

Mandy J Watson

Kathryn White

Mark Winkler

Ingrid Winterbach

 
 
International authors:

Never Tickle a TigerSex and the CitadelWe Are All Completely Beside OurselvesA Place Called WinterThe Book of MemoryWords Will Break Cement

Marc Boutavant (France)

Shereen El Feki (UK)

Karen Joy Fowler (USA)

Patrick Gale (UK)

Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe)

Masha Gessen (Russia)

The Hormone FactoryUkraine DiariesThe Lights of Pointe-NoireH is for HawkThe House That Jack BuiltLives of Others

Saskia Goldschmidt (Netherlands)

Andrey Kurkov (Ukraine)

Alain Mabanckou (Congo)

Helen Macdonald (UK)

Jakob Melander (Denmark)

Neel Mukherjee (UK)

Foreign Gods, Inc.Into a Raging BlazeDustThe Sleeper and the SpindleOne of UsFind MeReliquaria

Okey Ndibe (Nigeria)

Andreas Norman (Sweden)

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya)

Chris Riddell (UK)

Asne Seierstad (Norway)

Laura van den berg (USA)

RA Villanueva (USA)

Svante Weyler (Sweden)

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Fiction Friday: Dip into Some African Cyber Punk with Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix

The Book of PhoenixThis Fiction Friday, read an excerpt from The Book of Phoenix, the new novel from Nigerian-American cyber-punk author Nnedi Okorafor.

The Book of Phoenix – which was released internationally in May – is the prequel to Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award-winning novel Who Fears Death (2010), and features some kick-ass cover artwork by our very own Joey Hi-Fi.

Okorafor was born in the United States to Nigerian parents, has a PhD in English and is professor of creative writing at the University of Buffalo. As well as novels, she writes short stories and young adult books, and her work is inspired by her Nigerian heritage and her many trips to Africa. She lives in Chicago.

Tor.com’s Brit Mandelo says of The Book of Phoenix: “It isn’t just well written, and it isn’t just smart as hell; it’s also a damn good story, and it kept me reading almost nonstop all the way through.”

Read a synopsis from SFGate:

In this futuristic outing, she focuses on Phoenix Okore, a “speciMen” created by LifeGen Technologies and sequestered in Tower 7 in midtown Manhattan. An “accelerated being,” Phoenix is only 2 years old chronologically but middle-aged biologically. What she knows about the outside world comes mostly from the voluminous reading she is allowed to do by the attendants who provide her with e-readers and basic care.

Phoenix begins a tentative romance with Saeed, another speciMen, whose altered metabolism forces him to eat metal, glass and other inorganic materials. When Saeed witnesses something unspeakably disturbing within the corridors of Tower 7, he commits suicide, an act that causes an anguished Phoenix to recognize her own true nature. Something unimaginably hot burns within her mind and body, and she makes her escape by giving full rein to her newfound power — and the wings that sprout from between her shoulder blades.

On the run and with little notion of where to find sanctuary, Phoenix heads to Africa to begin a new chapter of her life. But even though she finds acceptance and love in her new locale, it seems as if there is no escaping the attention of “Big Eye,” the all-seeing agents of LifeGen. Unless she commits the ultimate act of revenge, Phoenix may never be free.

Mixing aspects of African folklore, magical futurism and superhero exploits, “The Book of Phoenix” blazes with anger for Phoenix and her predicament, and by extension for all people who suffer at the hands of uncaring scientists, bureaucrats and marketers.

The tale is also a gripping examination of the power of myth and of who is allowed to write and preserve history. Toward the end of the book, a character muses, “Now it was a time for stories that were truer than the truth, stories that spoke to the soul.” Okorafor’s fantastical “The Book of Phoenix” has that ring of truth, a superlative adventure that addresses all-too-harsh realities.

Read the excerpt:

There is no book about me. Well, not yet. No matter. I shall create it myself; it’s better that way. To tell my tale, I will use the old African tools of story: Spoken words. They’re more trustworthy and they’ll last longer. And during shadowy times, spoken words carry farther than words typed or written. My beginnings were in the dark. We all dwelled in the darkness, mad scientist and specimen, alike. This was when the goddess Ani’s still slept, when her back was still turned. Before she grew angry at what she saw and pulled in the blazing sun. My story is called The Book of Phoenix. And it is short because it was…accelerated.

I’d never known any other place. The 13th floor of Tower 7 was my home. Yesterday I realized it was a prison, too. Granted, maybe I should have suspected something. The two-hundred-year-old marble skyscraper had many dark sides and I knew most of them. There were 39 floors, and on almost every one was an abomination. I was an abomination. I had read many books and this was clear to me. However, this place was still my home. Home: a. One’s place of residence. Yes, it was my home.

They gave me all the 3D movies I could watch, but it was books that did it for me. A year ago, they gave me an e-reader packed with 700,000 books of all kinds. When it came to information, I had access to everything I wanted. That was part of their research.

Research. This was what happened in Tower 7. There were similar towers around the world but Tower 7 was my home, so this one was the one I studied. I had several classified books on Tower 7. One discussed each floor and some of the types of abominations found on them. I’d listened to audios of the spiritual tellings of long dead African and Native American shamans, sorcerers and wizards. I’d read the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran. I studied The Buddha and meditated until I saw Krishna. And I read countless books on the sciences of the world. Carrying all this in my head, I understood abomination. I understood the purpose of Tower 7. Until yesterday.

In Tower 7, there was “transformative” genetic engineering, the in-vitro fertilization of organic robots, “rejuvenation” surgery on the ancient near-dead, the creation of weaponized weeds, the insertion and attaching of both mechanical and cybernetic parts to human bodies. There were people created in Tower 7, some were deformed, some were mentally ill, some were just plain dangerous, and none were flawless. Yes, some of us were dangerous. I was dangerous.

Then there was the tower’s lobby on the ground floor that projected a different picture. I’d never been down there but my books described it as an earthly wonderland, full of creeping vines covering the walls and small trees growing from artistically crafted holes in the floor. In the center was the main attraction. Here grew the thing that brought people from all over the world to see the Tower 7 Lobby (only the lobby; there were no tours of the rest of the building).

A hundred years ago, one of the landscapers planted a tree in the lobby’s center. On a lark, some scientists from the 9th floor emptied an experimental solution into the tree’s pot of soil. The substance was for enhancing and speeding up arboreal growth. The tree grew and grew. In a place where people thought like normal human beings, they would have uprooted the amazing tree and placed it outdoors.

However, this was Tower 7 where boundaries were both contained and pushed. When the tree began touching the lobby’s high ceiling in a matter of weeks, they constructed a large hole so that it could grow through the second floor. They did the same for the third, fourth, fifth. The great tree has since earned the name of “The Backbone” because it grew through all 39 of Tower 7′s floors.

The Book of PhoenixKabu Kabu Who Fears DeathLagoon

 

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