We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest segment with books from Warsan Shire, Diriye Osman, Fred Khumalo, and Taiye Selasi.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
Where to find it: Penguin Random House
Warsan Shire is a Somali British writer and poet born in Nairobi and raised in London. She has written two chapbooks, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth and Her Blue Body. She was awarded the inaugural Brunel International African Poetry Prize and served as the first Young Poet Laureate of London. She is the youngest member of the Royal Society of Literature and is included in the Penguin Modern Poets series. Shire wrote the poetry for the Peabody Award–winning visual album Lemonade and the Disney film Black Is King in collaboration with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. She also wrote the short film Brave Girl Rising, highlighting the voices and faces of Somali girls in Africa’s largest refugee camp. Warsan Shire lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is her full-length debut poetry collection.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head
Mama, I made it / out of your home / alive, raised by / the voices / in my head.
With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a young girl, who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own way toward womanhood. Drawing from her own life, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women and teenage girls. In Shire’s hands, lives spring into fullness. This is noisy life, full of music and weeping and surahs and sirens and birds. This is fragrant life, full of blood and perfume and shisha smoke and jasmine and incense. This is polychrome life, full of henna and moonlight and lipstick and turmeric and kohl. The long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting contemporary poets, this book is a blessing, an incantatory celebration of resilience and survival. Each reader will come away changed.
The Butterfly Jungle by Diriye Osman
Diriye Osman is a Somali-British short story writer, essayist, critic and visual artist. He is the author of the short story collection Fairytales For Lost Children, which won the Polari First Book Prize 2014. His writing has also been published in varied publications.
The Butterfly Jungle
Migil Bile is a confidently curvy, tea-spilling, super-bright, slightly-dizzy queer British-Somali journalist with schizoaffective disorder and sauce to spare. Ensconced deep in the drama of being a twenty-something, working-class South Londoner juggling one too many gig-economy jobs, wonky mental health and romantic wackness, he takes the unsuspecting reader on an existential meditation on immigration, Brexit, gentrification, sexual assault, the pitfalls of being a digital worker, what it’s like when all your immediate family members are on the LGBT spectrum, and explores what constitutes community and kinship during a global pandemic. Shot through with bombast and badassery, fusing Somali, Spanish, Kiswahili, patois, sheng and hip-hop slanguistics into a sex-drenched, fourth wall-smashing blend of poetry, letters, essayistic excursions and interlinked short stories, THE BUTTERFLY JUNGLE is a tour de force and Diriye Osman is a bad bitch/good-natured motherf*cker who never takes mess (but doesn’t mind splitting his lunch money with you.) Ain’t sh*t left to say. Dig in, reader.
Anasi and the Golden Pot by Taiye Selasi (Illustrated by Tinuke Fagborun)
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Genre: Children’s literature
Where to find it: Penguin Random House
Taiye Selasi was born in London and raised in Massachusetts. She holds a BA in American studies from Yale and an MPhil in international relations from Oxford University. “The Sex Lives of African Girls” (Granta, 2011), Selasi’s fiction debut, appears in Best American Short Stories 2012. Author of Ghana Must Go, she lives in Rome.
Anasi and the Golden Pot
A West African story about the much-loved trickster, Anansi, retold and reimagined for a new generation by award-winning author Taiye Selasi
“Allow me to introduce myself.”
But he needed no introduction.
“Anansi the spider!” said Anansi the boy. “The tales were true!” “Traditional tales are always true,” the spider answered, laughing. “Nothing lasts so long as truth, nor travels quite so far.”
Award-winning author of Ghana Must Go, Taiye Selasi, reimagines the story of Anansi, the much-loved trickster, for a new generation. Kweku has grown up hearing stories about the mischievous spider Anansi. He is given the nickname Anansi by his father because of his similarly cheeky ways. On a holiday to visit his beloved Grandma in Ghana, Anansi the spider and Anansi the boy meet, and discover a magical pot that can be filled with whatever they want. Anansi fills it again and again with his favorite red-red stew, and eats so much that he feels sick. Will he learn to share this wonderful gift?
This charming retelling of a West African story teaches readers about the dangers of greed, and the importance of being kind. Tinuke Fagborun’s colorful illustrations bring the magic and wonder of the tale to life. When you’ve finished sharing the story, you can also find out more about the origins of Anansi folktales. This is a beautiful storybook that little ones will treasure forever.
Two Tons O’fun by Fred Khumalo
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa
Publication Date: March 11, 2022
Where to find it: Penguin Random House South Africa
Fred Khumalo has been described as a ‘reluctant Zulu’, ‘clever black’ and an ‘equal opportunity offender’. He completed his MA in creative writing from Wits University with distinction and is the recipient of a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University. His writing has appeared in various publications, including the Sunday Times, the Toronto Star, New African magazine, the Sowetan and Isolezwe. In 2008, he hosted Encounters, a public-debate television programme, on SABC 2. His books include Bitches Brew, Seven Steps to Heaven and Touch My Blood.
Two Tons O’fun
A charming coming-of-age novel set in a Johannesburg township.
I caught a glimpse of my mother busy stuffing her own loot into a bag. On seeing me, she grinned. ‘Are you on a sight-seeing trip, girl? Come on, roll up your sleeves and work!’ She was a huge woman with the agility of a thin girl. Think of the well-endowed Queen Latifah moving like Sho Madjozi.
A car has collided with a Coca-Cola truck in Alexandra. The overturned trailer is spilling its contents, which residents are carrying off in their plastic ‘Shangaan Gucci’ bags. With two other bystanders, Lerato Morolong, age fourteen, helps the injured truck driver. The woman who drives them to hospital is Professor Ngobese, matriarch of the family at Number 80, the only house in the neighbourhood with a street address, aka Those White People.
Here begins Lerato’s relationship with the Ngobeses – Auntie Gugu and her daughter Janine, who becomes Lerato’s bf and one half of the dancing duo, Two Tons o’ Fun (because life’s too short to spend in a tent dress).
As Lerato’s story unfolds, you’ll meet her quick-fingered, beer-loving, man-eating mom June-Rose, who’s not afraid to use the knife she keeps in her bra, and has passed on her tough survivor’s spirit to her daughters, especially 12-year-old Florence. When June-Rose brings home yet another man, Florence runs away with dire consequences. Revelations emerge, such as the truth about Lerato’s father, who lost his way in the conflicts at the end of apartheid.
Rich and humorous, this vibrant coming-of-age story sees a young woman uncover her skill as a writer, explore her sexuality, travel, and finally understand her mother.