Here is a selection of new and about to be published books to read throughout the summer months. Hopefully there will be some balmy reading days here when the good weather finally arrives. Chika’s Night Dancer and Monique Roffey’s Archipelago have been sent to me by the publishers. Jackie Kay’s Reality Reality & Andrea Stuart’s Sugar in the Blood I bought last weekend at the Stoke Newington Lit Fest. I enjoyed meeting both Jackie and Andrea and I am planning interviews with them to appear on the blog over the next few months. I bought Lily Mabura's How Shall We Kill The Bishop online a few weeks a go now, and have really welcomed the chance to read her collection of stories after loving her work when she was shortlisted for The Caine Prize in 2010. I am totally delighted to see that Marie N’Diaye’s Three Strong Women has finally been translated into English (from French) as I have been looking forward to it for the past few years. Here is my review of the Claire Denis film White Material - Marie N'Diaye was the screenwriter: Black Book News.
So what do you think of the list? Are any of these exciting books on your summer reads list?
Night Dancer, Chika Unigwe
Mma has just buried her mother, and now she is alone. She has been left everything. But she's also inherited her mother's bad name. A bold, brash woman, the only thing her mother refused to discuss was her past. Why did she flee her family and bring her daughter to a new town when she was a baby? What was she escaping from? Abandoned now, Mma, has no knowledge of here father or her family – but she is desperate to fine out.
Sugar in the Blood: A family’s Story of Slave and Empire, Andrea Stuart
In the late 1630s, Andrea Stuart’s earliest know ancestor set sail from England, lured by the promise of the New World. On arrival in Barbados George Ashby acquired a small plot of land and with his first sugar harvest, the can revolution was underway, was launching a global industry that would change his family’s fortunes and transform the Caribbean into an archipelago of riches. As it grew, this colonial trade fuelled the Enlightenment and financed the Industrial Revolution, but it also had less palatable consequences, as the new appetite for this sweet ‘white gold’ was fed by a constant supply of black labour.
The descendent of both European planters and African slaves, Stuart brings to vivid life the contrasting experience of both sides of her family, tracing their interwoven destinies through four centuries of turbulent history. Combining original research and vibrant prose, Stuart tells a story of greed, exploitation, endurance and courage, whose consequences continue to haunt her family – and our nation – to this day.
Reality Reality, Jackie Kay
This is a book about memories, love, sex and the power of the imagination to see us through the most difficult times. The women of Reality, Reality are mesmerizing, whether in love or in solitude. Grace and Rose, glowing with pride, are the first to marry on Shetland; Hadassah, named for the Morning Star, burns as brightly. Margaret, alone in her care home, places her hope in a cherry red cardigan; Elina Makropulos, whose voice is the toast of generations, is desperate to be allowed to grow old. Stef cooks for made-up judges on the TV show in her head. Pat diets for one hundred and forty-three days to find her ‘Mini-me’. Dionne longs for a child; Mrs Vadnie Marlene Sevlon for her husband. And Elizabeth Ellen carries her new baby into a future she didn’t know could be hers. Jackie Kay’s newest and most luminous of collections is full of compassion, generosity, sorrow and joy. In fifteen extraordinary stories, she celebrates the richness and power of dream-life to inspire, to repair, and to make real.
Three Strong Women, Marie N’Diaye
Forty-year-old Norah leaves Paris, her family and her career as a lawyer to visit her father in Dakar. It is an uncomfortable reunion - she is asked to use her skills as a lawyer to get her brother out of prison - and ultimately the trip endangers her marriage and her relationship with her own daughter, and drives her to the very edge of madness. Fanta, on the other hand, leaves Dakar to follow her husband Rudy to rural France. And it is through Rudy's bitter and guilt-ridden perspective that we see Fanta stagnate with boredom in this alien, narrow environment. Khady is forced into exile from Senegal because of poverty, because her husband is dead, because she is lonely and in despair. With other illegal immigrants, she embarks on a journey which takes her nowhere, but from which she will never return.
How Shall We Kill the Bishop and other short stories, Lily Mabura
An artist in mourning for a brother who died fighting in Bosnia, a restless young woman alerted to the possibility of life outside her tight knit community, an unemployed lawyer lingering in a Kenyan hospital - Lily Mabura's first collection of short stories deals with characters whose fates fascinate and alarm. Set in Kenya, the USA, Namibia and the Congo, these brief, evocative tales demonstrate an acute sensitivity to the globalised trajectories which increasingly distinguish our world. One of Kenya's most promising authors, Lily Mabura's story How Shall We Kill the Bishop? was shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize for African Fiction
Rhumba, Elaine Proctor
Tottenham, London. Ten-year-old Flambeau waits for his young mother to arrive from the Congo, along the same dangerous route that the human traffickers smuggled him. Homesick and pining for love, he sees a glimpse of life in Knight, a fellow Congolese. Knight, a sapeur - dressed to the nines and dressed to kill - is a gangster who lives for two purposes: to be noticed, and to dance away the immigrants' troubles on a Friday night at Le Pitch, Broadwater Farm. And, who knows, he might just be able to use his contacts to find Flambeau's mother, Bijou. Knight has a girlfriend, Eleanor: a pale Scottish beauty whose love for him is total, but who can never be accepted into the world of Le Pitch. She becomes Flambeau's confidante, and he her mentor in the art of the Rhumba - the dance that will help her steal her lover's heart. But Knight's past is so troubled, and his present so dangerous, that to challenge the traffickers to find Bijou might be more than his life is worth - something a ten-year-old child cannot be expected to understand.
My Song: A Memoir of Art & Race, Harry Belafonte
Written with Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Schnayerson, My Song is an inspiring story of performance and protest, from a superstar singer and actor who was on the front lines of practically every progressive political battle in modern memory. Along the way, he befriended some of the most influential figures of the 20th century, from Tony Curtis, Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier to Martin Luther King, the Kennedys, Eleanor Roosevelt, Fidel Castro, James Baldwin, Bob Dylan and Nelson Mandela. From his impoverished childhood in Harlem and Jamaica, through his meteoric rise as an international calypso star, provocative crossover into Hollywood where he broke down many racial barriers, passionate lifelong involvement in the civil rights movement and myriad other social causes, to his personal struggles and rich friendships, this is a remarkable, multifaceted and hugely inspirational story. "A man whose story should be told for generations to come" (Robert Redford)
Home, Toni Morrison
An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home -- and himself in it -- may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he's hated all his life. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. Toni Morrison's deeply moving novel reveals an apparently defeated man finding his manhood -- and, finally, his home. This is a stunning new novel, by the author of Beloved
Archipelago, Monique Roffey
When a flood destroys Gavin Weald's Trinidad home, tearing apart his family and his way of life, he doesn't know how to continue. A year later, he returns to his rebuilt home and tries to start again, but when the new rainy season arrives, so do his daughter's nightmares about the torrents, and life there becomes unbearable. So father and daughter - and their dog - embark upon a voyage to make peace with the waters. Their journey will take them far from their Caribbean island home, into other unknown harbours and eventually across a massive ocean. They will sail through archipelagos, encounter the grandeur of the sea, meet with the challenges and surprises of the natural world. A miraculous future lies ahead of them, unknown territories await to be discovered. But it will take more than an ocean to put the memory of the flood behind them...
The Boy in the River, Richard Hoskins
On 21st September 2001 the mutilated torso of a small child was found floating beside London’s Tower Bridge, one tide away from being swept into the North Sea. Unable to identify the victim, the Murder Squad turned to Richard Hoskins, a young professor of theology with a profound understanding of African tribal religion, whose own past was scarred by a heartbreaking tragedy. Thus began a journey into the tangled undergrowth of one of the most notorious murder cases of recent years; a journey which would reveal not only the identity of the boy they called Adam but the horrific truth that a succession of innocent children have been ritually sacrificed in our capital city. Insightful and grippingly written, The Boy in the River is an inside account of a series of extraordinary criminal investigations and a compelling personal quest into the dark heart of humanity.
Richard Hoskins has worked on many of Britain's biggest criminal investigations and is the only registered multi-cultural expert on the national police database. He has applied his expertise to over a hundred major investigations by police and social services. He divides his time between London and Devon.
There is a review of this book in The Sunday Times' Culture section on the 3 June, but it is behind the paywall.