We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest feature with books from Colson Whitehead, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Richard Ali A Mutu, and Ayesha Harruna Attah.
Zainab Takes New York by Ayesha Harruna Attah
Ayesha Harruna Attah
Ayesha Harruna Attah is the author of five novels: Harmattan Rain (Per Ankh Publishers), nominated for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; Saturday’s Shadows (World Editions), shortlisted for the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013; The Hundred Wells of Salaga (Cassava Republic Press, UK; Other Press, US), finalist for the 2020 William Saroyan Prize; a young adult novel, The Deep Blue Between (Pushkin Children’s); and Zainab Takes New York (Headline Accent), a rom-com.
Educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and NYU, Ayesha has degrees in Biochemistry, Journalism, and Creative Writing. A 2015 Africa Centre Artists in Residency Award Laureate and Sacatar Fellow, she is the recipient of the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship for non-fiction.
She currently lives in Senegal and loves cooking, green tea ice cream, and staring at the ocean.
Zainab Takes New York
Zainab Sekyi is on a quest to find herself. . .
She’s moving to New York City to pursue her lifelong dream to become an illustrator, but she doesn’t just want to get a job. She’s also on a mission to make enough money to go on a night out, buy a whole bottle of wine (not just a glass) and, most importantly of all, to fall in love.
But as she grows accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life – with the help of her new roommate Mary Grace, and life-long friend, Densua – she begins to hear the voices of her ancestors in her mind. . .
Could understanding her family’s past hold the key to Zainab’s future?
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Where to find it: Penguin Random House
Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, which in 2016 won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the National Book Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, as well as The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. He is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships. He lives in New York City.
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.“Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…”
To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.
Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.
Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.
But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
Wir Gottes Kinder by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
Nana Oforiatta Ayim
Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a writer, filmmaker and art historian. She has written for publications like frieze, ArtNews, African Metropolitan Architecture, and New Daughters of Africa. Her first novel, The God Child, was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2019.She has made several films, a cross of fiction, travel essay, and documentary, that have been shown at museums like The New Museum, Tate Modern, and LACMA.
Wir Gottes Kinder
Maya Mensah is confronted every day in exile in Germany with being different. Her parents are different too. Her father is a shy intellectual and her beautiful mother loves spending the money with full hands and remembering her royal parentage. But when Maya talks about her glamorous family at school, she is mocked. Her only support is her cousin Kojo.
Maya is fascinated by his colorful stories from Ghana, which she can hardly remember. To her, they sound like fairy tales that seem mythical and real at the same time, and open her eyes: for a country that has to find its soul again after all the years of colonial times, for her uprooted parents – and Maya finally recognizes herself as part of them Story.
Poetic, captivating, fascinating – “We God’s children” is true world literature and a hymn to storytelling as a link between cultures.
Et Les Portes Des Bouches! by Richard Ali A Mutu
Publisher: Editions Mabiki
Publication Date: April 13, 2020
Richard Ali A Mutu
Richard Ali A Mutu is a Congolese writer living in Kinshasa who writes in French and in Lingala. His novel, Ebamba Kinshasa Makambo, written in Lingala, one of the most widely spoken languages in Congo and Central Africa, has been translated into French with the same title and into English and published by Phoneme media, under the title Mr Fix It.
He was selected as one of the 39 sub-Saharan writers aged under 40 from the Africa39 Anthology. Richard is winner of other literary prizes including the Mark Twain Prize in 2009. He is the founder of the Association of Young Writers of Congo (AJECO) and currently works as Head of the Wallonia-Brussels Library in Kinshasa.
Among his publications are Le Cauchemardesque de Tabu, recueil des nouvelles, éd. Mabiki – éd. Medispaul, Kinshasa, 2011-2014; – Ebamba, Kinshasa-Makambo, lisolo (roman), éd. Mabiki, Wavre, 2014 – Okozonga Maboko pamba, masolo yab mikuse (nouvelles), Mabiki, Wavre, 2017 – Et les portes sont de bouches, roman, à paraître.
Et Les Portes Des Bouches!