18 Fascinating Reads From My Book Club
July 2020 marks iThala Book Club’s two year anniversary.
I am privileged to be a member of this amazing space of book lovers.
One of the most important advantages of being part of a book club is the diverse literature suggestions you get to read and explore.
As we battle the Coronavirus pandemic, we all have had to dig deep inside for the mental resilience needed to keep our heads above water.
Its in small pleasures like reading books that some of us can escape into other worlds, albeit temporarily but it always leaves us the more enriched.
Here are some books iThala Book Club has read that we highly recommend:
HOME GOING by YAA GYASI
Homegoing by Yaa’s Gyasi is a powerful,confident narrative , beginning with Maame who gives birth to Effia and Esi, two sisters who through a series of unfortunate circumstances are never allowed to meet or know each other.
A layered multi-generational family story then unfolds over 250 years during Ghana’s Middle Passage Slave Trade narrates the bonds that forever tie modern day America to Ghana
AN IMAGE IN A MIRROR by IJANGOLET S OGWANG
Ijangolet revealed she’s an incredible writer in her debut novel, An Image In A Mirror.
The story is told through two protagonists Achen and Nyakale, twins separated in childhood to different destinies.
An Image in a Mirror is a richly told and deeply intimate African story about the becoming of two young women, who are, the same as much as they are different.
When the sisters, at the age of twenty-two meet, their worlds collide and each has to determine how they feel about the other.
This book explores complex issues , identity and belonging among others.
Its a short, easy, engaging and meaningful read.
SWEET MEDICINE by PANASHE CHIGUMADZI
Sweet Medicine is the story of Tsitsi, a young woman who compromises the values of her Catholic upbringing to find romantic and economic security through otherworldly means.
The story takes place in Harare at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes in 2008.
The book is a thorough and evocative attempt at grappling with a variety of important issues in the postcolonial context: tradition and modernity; feminism and patriarchy; spiritual and political freedoms and responsibilities; poverty and desperation; and wealth and abundance.
Panashe has since written another book These Bones Will Rise Again.
I love how Panashe Chigumadzi weaves a narrative shaped by two ancestral spirits ,Mbuya Nehanda and her own late grandmother as she tries to make sense of the political revolution that took place in Zimbabwe in , November 2017.
Zimbabweans and the rest of the world witnessed a true drama unfold in Operation Restore Legacy between the 6th of November 2017 when Mugabe fired the then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On the 24th of November 2017 the very same Mnangagwa is sworn in as ‘the new President’ becoming the official President in the 2018 elections.
The coup-that -was-not-coup saw Mugabe toppled over after 37 years in power. These Bones Will Rise Again published in 2018 is part memoir, part history book. An absolutely creative piece of art.
THE YEARNING by MOLAHE MASHIGO
“My mother died seven times before she gave birth to me”
Marubini Khumalo a ‘modern’ young woman living in Cape Town with her gorgeous boyfriend. She has ‘arrived’ by societal standards but a dark cloud is lurking.
Marubini learns about the secrets of her own past requiring her to revisit her trauma and that of her community.
Mohale beautifully narrates Marubini’s yearning, exploring themes on ancestral calling,traditional practices interfacing with modern lifestyle, healing, mental health, identity,family secrets, interracial and intercultural relationships in modern South Africa.
ALWAYS ANOTHER COUNTRY by SISONKE MSIMANG
Always another country published in 2017 is a memoir.
Sisonke candidly walks us through her life and that of her family.
She is born in exile and lives in different countries during and post South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Sisonke explores various themes mainly anchored on the nature of belonging.
She has has since written another non-fiction book, The Ressurection of Winnie Mandela (2018).
This is a short powerful book that examines the complex layers of one of South African’s most controversial political leaders, Winnie Mandela.
STAY WITH ME by AYOBAM ADEBAYO
Published in 2017 this is Ayobami’s heartbreaking début novel.
The protagonist Yejide is desperate to have a baby with a her husband Akin.
Her strong desire for a her miracle baby unravels in the backdrop of Nigeria’s 1980’s social and political turbulence.
Ayobami explores themes on polygamy, infertility, loss,death societal and family pressures experienced in the context of a Nigerian family dynamics.
GHANA MUST GO by TAIYE SELASI
A layered complex story that can be difficult to get into but once in the story grabs you to the very end.
Kweku Sai is a Ghanian doctor in America who loses his job, abandons his wife and children and moves back to Ghana.
A tragic narrative of the breaking apart, coming together and the loss that can never be recovered in an African diaspora family.
THE ONES WITH PURPOSE by NOZIZWE CYNTHIA JELE
After Nozizwe’s highly acclaimed novel turned motion picture Happiness Is A Four Letter Word, the pressure was on!
Fortunately she out-did herself in The Ones with Purpose.
An emotive narrative that is easy to read and free flowing. Rich in themes of family dynamics, death, grief, love, alcoholism and mental health issues to mention a few.
The Ones With Purpose is an extremely relatable story.
THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES by LOLA SHONEYIN
This debut novel is set in a polygamous Nigerian family.
In a home where there is secrecy, hypocrisy, power games and complexity.
Its a page turner to the very satisfying end!
Below is what Nnedi Okorafor a highly acclaimed Afri-futurism writer said in her review about the Book on Goodreads.
” This was one of those novels that takes the well trodden (but almost always readable) path of the African women’s novel and turns it on it’s head.I burned through novels by Buchi Emecheta and Flora Nwapa because of their raw unapologetic honesty in portraying the lives of Nigerian women. Still, after reading six or seven in a row, I’d find myself just fuming with anger and need for justice. Their books weren’t about meting out justice or even a bit of rebellion. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is that book. In this polygamous household there is complexity, hypocrisy, power, weakness, and a plethora of agendas.
These women aren’t just voiceless lumps nor are they all powerful goddesses. This man is the head and butt of his household. This novel was hyper real in that it managed to show so many angles of real life all in one narrative. I couldn’t put this book down until it was finished and what a satisfying ending. Even if you don’t normally read this type of book, I recommend it. You will emerge from this novel with a broadened perspective.”
WE NEED NEW NAMES by NoVIOLET BULUWAYO
Darling , the protagonist in NoViolet’s debut novel ‘escapes’ the poverty of Zimbabwe when she goes to America to live with her aunt.
She is filled with dreams of greatness. Her naivety becomes apparent as life unfolds in the ‘land of milk and honey’.
This book explores the narratives of all those who have left home in search of their destiny.
It deals with what they leave behind, what they carry with them, what they lose in the process , what they gain and who they assimilate into becoming.
Ultimately, We Need New Names is about identity and the dilemmas of an african immigrant living in the diaspora.
HEAR ME ALONE by THANDO MGQOLOZANA
Hear Me Alone is a highly imaginative fictional story of the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ told from a different angle.
A first person narrative by Boy Epher a young boy around sixteen years of age who is in love with Bellewa Miriam a twelve year old girl betrothed to the old woodwork merchant much to her unhappinesss.
Click Here to read further on a well-written review on Hear me alone.
NERVOUS CONDITIONS by TSITSI DANGAREMBGA
Tsitsi Dangarembga has a deep and indelible influence on my love for African literature having read Nervous Conditions for the first time when l was about ten years old.
In this classic debut novel(1988) Tsitsi was ahead of her time as she eloquently narrates a complex story set in1960s – 70s Rhodesia.
“I was not sorry when my brother died.”
The opening line to Nervous Conditions sets an ominous tone as Tsitsi beautifully writes the events that unfold told from the perspective of the main character, Tambu.
All three are a must read.
HARDLY WORKING: A TRAVEL MEMOIR OF SORTS by ZUKISWA WANNER
Hardly working is memoir written in a simple, easy to read , humorous style that’s deeply profound.
Zukiswa takes us through her adventure as she travels with her son and Partner by road across six African borders.
Her contrasting experiences when she travels to Europe are hilarious, yet eye-opening on the prejudices attached to the passport one carries.
Hardly Working is Zukiswa’s 6th book.
It is also an encyclopedia of African authors and literary culture.
With over 30 authors and the literary festivals across Africa, it is a rich experience.
Her other works are The Madams (2006), Behind Every Successful Man (2008), Men of the South (2010), Maid in SA (2013), London Cape Town Joburg (2014).
She has also authored two children’s books, Jama Loves Bananas (2011) and Refilwe (2014).
DANCING THE DEATH DRILL by FRED KHUMALO
The history we’re never taught in school is beautifully crafted in this historical fiction tale.
I cannot praise this book enough.
Inspired by real events, the sinking of the SS Mendi , Dancing The Death Drill is a powerful story of courage, loss, betrayal, identiy, power and what it means to face death.
Pitso Motaung is a young South African who volunteers to serve with the Allies in the First World War. In a tragic twist of events Pitso is aboard the SS Mendi, a ship that sank in February 1917 taking with it more than six hundred South African black soldiers.
BLACK WIDOW SOCIETY by ANGELA MAKHOLWA
This book is set from about 1994 when South Africa gained its freedom.
3 well respected businesswomen – Talullah Ntuli, Edna Whithead and Nkosazana Dlamini – create the Black Widow Society, a clandestine organisation with the aim of freeing women in abusive relationships by ‘rubbing out’ the abusive men.
The organisation functions impeccably for 15 years until the swelling of the member ranks threatens to spill its secrets and spell an end to the group.
Tension escalates as the book comes to a horrifying bloody climax.
THE RESURRECTION OF WINNIE MANDELA by SISONKE MSIMANG
‘I cannot pretend otherwise: I am interested in redeeming Ma Winnie. But acknowledging her role in the fight for freedom, and the violence done to her, is impossible without acknowledging her own violence against others —- the kidnappings, beatings and murders carried out on her orders’.
This book is an attempt by Sisonke in grappling with Winnie’s complexity, to write into her contradictions rather than shy away from them’
Sisonke does a great job in painting the context of Winnie’s conflicts as a woman, wife and struggle hero. It’s a quick read which takes you through various emotions.
It is a sad but beautifully narrated account of a woman who can easily be loved or hated or conflicted depending on your politics.
Its with great sadness that Winnie and Nelson’s daughter Zinzi recently passed away on the 13th of July 2020.
Sisonke briefly mentions Zinzi as young girl in The resurrection of Winnie Mandela when they’re abruptly separated from their mother upon her arrest when they were under 10 years of age.
TRIANGULUM by MASANDE NTSHANGA
The story starts in 2043 with the discovery of documents sent to an astronomer working with the South African National Space Agency which claim that the world will end in ten years.
The narrator, an unnamed young girl in search of her missing mother takes the reader through South Africa’s 1990s Ciskei to Johannesburg 2040s in what can best be described as a fusion of historical, dystopian Sci-Fi, speculative-mystery and modern contemporary literary fiction.
We love Triangulum because its a book that makes you work as the reader.
A complex narrative, challenging read but deeply satisfying.
GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER by BERNARDINE EVARISTO
Bernardine Evaristo is the joint Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2019 on this much acclaimed book to be turned into a motion picture.
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters.
Mostly women, Black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Girl, Woman, Other reads somewhere between prose and poetry. Its creative art at its best, full of vitality. As one review points ‘ A novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible’.
I hope one or more of these books grabs your attention and you will enjoy reading them as much as we did!