The first few weeks of February has been rather a quiet time for reviews of interest to Black Book News. It was good to see that the Sunday Times had picked up on the Trinidadian author, Earl Lovelace's book - Is Just A Movie - but the reviewer did not really like it - saying that he did not find it compelling. The Financial Times (posted here in Round-up 15) is a more useful review.
Jackie Kay has published a lyrical companion piece to her memoir Red Dust Road that was published last year. The new work is a selection of poems entitled Fiere - an old Scots word meaning mate or companion and it too follows the her search for her birth parents. According to the review in the Guardian it is twenty years since Jackie's first poetry collection The Adoption Papers was published. Jackie is best known as a poet, but I have only ever read her literature, but I do love hearing her perform her poetry. Fiere reviews in The Guardian and The Telegraph
Jackie recently wrote about the renaissance in poetry and in it she referenced the anthology Red as follows:
Last year too, a groundbreaking anthology, RED, came out, which celebrated the work of black writers. It was published by a small press, Peepal Tree. It has been a huge hit – perhaps because at last black writers had been invited to write not about race or racism, but poems sparked off by the colour red.
The Tenth Parallel by Elisa Griswold, received a prominent review spot in The Independent last week. Read it here: The Independent. The author has travelled around the world along the latitude from which the book takes it title, to consider the fault lines where people following Islam and Christianity clash. This means that the book includes historical. geo-political and religious analysis of Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as places in the Far East. Of course the book is out of date already… Sudan is now further divided into two nations, since its recent referendum. Though I would not rule this book out as a useful reference book if you want to know more about these issues, which will be part of all our futures for years to come. The reviewer takes the author to task for not explaining her motives for writing the book, this is not thoroughly explained in the review, but the implication is that she might be pro-Christian. Does she need a motive? The such a fascinating issue to explore. There is a better review of this book in the New York Times: read it here - New York Times.
Bar Balto by Fatiza Guene
French-Algerian author Fatiza Guene's third book has been translated into English. Reviews have appeared in both the Financial Times and The Independent Both reviewers seem much more exercised by the nature of the translation than the story that Fatiza is trying to tell - which is about life in the working class suburbs of Paris. A murder mystery the story is told from the perspectives of the suspects and also the murdered victim, giving the reader the chance to understand what is going between the characters themselves.
Henry Louis Gates Junior in London
I am looking forward to seeing Henry Louis Gates Junior when he arrives in London to take part in a debate at the British Museum on Friday 25 February. The debate is about the the image of black people in western art, and will be chaired by British Museum trustee Bonnie Greer, and also on the panel will be Artist and Filmmaker Isaac Julien, author Aminatta Forna, Book a place here: British Museum
Gates' next book is called Black in Latin America, and will be published in May, I think that is a US publication date actually. In it Gates explores contemporary and historical story of Africans across a range of South American countries and Caribbean islands. There is also a four-part TV programme also called Black in Latin America that is going to be shown in the US on the PBS channel, so may well be a while, if ever, that it is shown here in the UK.
Black in Latin America by Henry Louis Gates Junior. The TV programme starts on Tuesdays, April 19-May 10, 2011, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET : Details from Literanista blog
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Waterstone's has already decided what it thinks are the best books of 2011 - so far - strange given that we are still only half way through February. And the book is not actually published until March. I mentioned it in passing in this blog's first birthday post - here. Download a sample chapter of it here: Chapter
Out and about: Benjamin Zephaniah and Andrea Levy
This week I saw Benjamin Zephaniah at the BBC Radio 4's Book Club's discussion of his book Refugee Boy. It was a lovely session, as the book is on the school curriculum and so a group of young people who'd just read were also there to see him. I'd been invited because they wanted to make sure that there was adult input into the discussion, but it was not at all necessary, since the young people asked very knowledgeable and sophisticated questions of Benjamin. It got particularly lively when one of the other adults, who worked with refuguees accused Benjamin of not being controversial or shocking enough about what life is like for refugees. I think that she was forgetting that the book is now 10 years old, and her everyday work probably means that she knows far more than most. However one of the students corrected her, explaining that he did think that the story was authentic and believable. It is a real shame that BBC Radio 4's Book Club is only half an hour, when it is aired (on Sunday 6 March, with a repeat on Thursday 10 March BBC Radio 4 Book Club website. ) as the recording actually takes over an hour, and so a lot of the discussion will have to be discarded to make the programme that is eventually heard. The real news though, is that it has recently been announced that Benjamin is to become poet in residence at Keat's House in Hampstead and will be there throughout their summer festival - more information: Keat's House.
I was pleased to see Andrea Levy at Kings Place, the newish glamourous venue in Kings Cross, recently. Her book Small Island had been the subject of The Guardian's book club for three weeks before. The articles analysing Small Island were written by the academic John Mullan, who also interviewed her at the event. I have often heard Andrea talk about her work on the radio, but to hear her do the voices of her characters live was just brilliant, I enjoyed her readings so much I am thinking of getting the audio book version of The Long Song, which is narrated by both Andrea and the actor Adrian Lester. Full details of the Guardian book club including a podcast of Andrea Levy talking to John Mullan here: Andrea Levy. Andrea will be at Grazia magazine's Book Club on Thursday 17 February at 7pm at Waterstone's Hampstead Branch. Call 020 7794 1098 to book a place.
Caine Prize 2011 judging panel announced
The panel will be chaired by award-winning Libyan novelist Hisham Matar. Joining him are Granta deputy editor Ellah Allfrey, Georgetown University Professor of English literature Henry Schwarz, publisher, film and travel writer Vicky Unwin, and the award-winning author Aminatta Forna.
This year 126 qualifying stories have been submitted to the judges from 17 African countries. The judges will meet in early May to decide on the shortlisted stories, which will be announced shortly thereafter. The winning story will be announced at a dinner at the Bodleian Library in Oxford on Monday 11 July.
Last year the Caine Prize, described as Africa’s leading literary award, was won by Sierra Leonean writer Olufemi Terry - I wrote about the 2010 Caine Prize last August. Chair of judges Fiammetta Rocco said at the time “ambitious, brave and hugely imaginative, Olufemi Terry’s ‘Stickfighting Days’ presents a heroic culture that is Homeric in its scale and conception. The execution of this story is so tight and the presentation so cinematic, it confirms Olufemi Terry as a talent with an enormous future.” Follow the 2011 news here: The Caine Prize
Commonwealth Short Story Competition
The Commonwealth Foundation has announced a call for entries for the 2011 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. Managed in association with the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, the Commonwealth Short Story Competition is an annual scheme to promote new creative writing for radio. Established in 1996, the competition aims to increase understanding and appreciation of Commonwealth cultures and promote rising literary talents. Entries are invited from all writers, professional and amateur, who are citizens of a Commonwealth country and aged 19 or over. Entries should be original, unpublished, in English, no more than 600 words in length and on any subject. The winner will receive a prize of £2000 and there will be four regional prizes of £500. This year, we will also award two special prizes of £500 each; one for the best short story for children and the other for the best short story about this year’s Commonwealth theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’.
The deadline for entries is 1 March 2011. For more information visit : short story prize.
World Book Night
This major celebration of books is fast approaching. I am afraid that I cannot quite get my head around it, and now feel a little guilty that I did not post about it before. The idea is to get more people reading, by regular and committed readers gifting a favourite book to friends and acquaintances. The giver had to apply to the World Book Night organisers for one of 25 books on the list, [World Book Night list of books.] saying why they wanted to give this book. The chosen people will get 48 copies of the book to share around on World Book Night which is 5 March. Of the books on the list two would be of particular interest to readers of this blog - Chimamanda's Half of a Yellow Sun and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of both authors' work and I have in fact recommended Half a Yellow Sun to friends, who have thoroughly ended up loving it as much as I do. However, these recommendations have come out of quite natural discussions, the thought having to press 48 copies of a book onto people who I never discuss books with - who I don't even know whether or not they love books, just does not make sense to me. That is just me, if you are going to be a giver of books on World Book Night, do get in touch, I would love to know how you plan to go about distributing your chosen book.
Many people are getting really excited about World Book Night, and the party that they have Manor House Library has planned looks fun. Thank you to my friend Sasha for sending me the following information:
4.30-8pm, Saturday 5 March, Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road SE23 3HZ 020 8699 2065
Take part in the largest UK book give-away ever attempted. Special guest readings and performances on an evening at which books can be gifted or purchased. This event is free to attend for adults and accompanied children. Advance bookers have the opportunity to win a free book on the night.
The Forest Hill Library event showcases published local writers and performance poets. Lauded performance poet and celebrated editor in chief of his own independent publisher (Flipped Eye), Nii Ayikwei Parkes introduces his debut novel, Tail of the Blue Bird, published by Jonathan Cape. It's a beautifully written murder mystery set in a rural part of Ghana and built around the relationship between a western trained forensic scientist and an elderly hunter steeped in the folklore of the village.
Winner of the Mail on Sunday novel competition, Bronia Kita, tells of The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum, published by Picador. A tale set in the Wild West during the gold-rush as seen through the eyes of an inspired fictional creation.
Chrissie Gittins is Forest Hill’s resident poet. Her poems have won prizes, been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, animated for Cbeebies television, and are widely anthologised. Steve Smith will introduce his insightful book on the origins and development of gospel music in Britain.
For the writers
Look out for Spread the Word's Spring programme of creative writing workshops, events, professional development and talks is now available to book online at www.spreadtheword.org.uk Highlights include:
Building Blocks, Tuesday 8 March 12pm – 4pm
In partnership with Soho Theatre. Scriptwriting Masterclass with Nina Steiger.
Dramatic building blocks are the pillars of your script – character, setting, story, and style – how do you make the most of them and pull them together towards a finished play? This masterclass led by Soho Theatre’s Associate Director Nina Steiger will guide you through the process, and inspire you to the finish line. This session coincides with Soho’s 2011 Verity Bargate Award which closes on 11 March 2011.
The Verity Bargate Award is Soho’s national competition for the best new play by an emerging writer. The award was set up in 1981 to honour the memory of the company’s founder. The prize is £5000, a residency and the chance to have your play produced by Soho Theatre. Please see Soho’s website for more details www.sohotheatre.com