Book digest

We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest segment with books from Gauz, Tomi Obaro, Chinelo Okparanta, and Saleh Addonia.

Cocoaïans by Gauz

Publisher: L’ Arche Editions
Publication Date:
August 19, 2022
Genre: Nonfiction
Language: French
Where to find it: Decitre, Amazon.

Gauz

Gauz © Michael Meniane
Gauz © Michael Meniane

Born in Abidjan, a biochemist by training, Gauz arrived in France in 1999 for the official reason of finishing his studies in biochemistry, and for the unofficial reason of “seeing elsewhere”. An undocumented time, Gauz aligns professional experiences of all kinds (from gardener to database designer, from vigil to consultant at La Francophonie, etc.) he launched out as a screenwriter in 2004, then became documentary maker, photographer, director of ‘an economic newspaper, editor-in-chief of a webmagazine, promoter of a literary prize … Since 2011, he has returned to live in Ivory Coast and now divides his life between Grand-Bassam and Paris.

Cocoaïans

An extensive historical fresco through the 20th century, Cocoaïans tells the story of chocolate and the world’s dependence on cocoa powder. From the bean to the processed product, the cultivation and trade of cocoa reflect the relations of domination imposed by the West on the producing countries of Africa. Between the fields of cocoa trees and the chocolate bars of industrial groups, traditions, globalization and neocolonialism intersect.

From Côte d’Ivoire, from the Gbaka forest to Treichville, from 1908 to 2031, Gauz’ recounts the project of the Cocoaïans, the inhabitants of Cocoaland to emancipate themselves from the processes of capitalist exploitation. Cocoaïans unfolds in several voices and takes us in the footsteps of those who had to transform their country under the pressure of the settlers, betrayals and compromises, and the decisive influence of socialism within these power struggles.

Gauz’ launches the idea of ​​an Africa that would reclaim the product of its labor and its means of production, to free itself from the alienation induced by post-colonial capitalism.

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro

Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Genre: Fiction
Language: English
Where to find it: Penguin Random House, Amazon

Tomi Obaro

Tomi Obaro
Tomi Obaro

Tomi Obaro is a senior culture editor at BuzzFeed News whose cultural criticism and essays have been published in BuzzFeed News, The Morning News, and The Toast. She lives in Brooklyn.

Dele Weds Destiny

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro

The story of three once-inseparable college friends in Nigeria who reunite in Lagos for the first time in thirty years—a sparkling debut novel about mothers and daughters, culture and class, sex and love, and the extraordinary resilience of female friendship.

Funmi, Enitan, and Zainab first meet at university in Nigeria and become friends for life despite their differences. Funmi is beautiful, brash, and determined; Enitan is homely and eager, seeking escape from her single mother’s smothering and needy love; Zainab is elegant and reserved, raised by her father’s first two wives after her mother’s death in childbirth. Their friendship is complicated but enduring, and over the course of the novel, the reader learns about their loves and losses. How Funmi stole Zainab’s boyfriend and became pregnant, only to have an abortion and lose the boyfriend to police violence. How Enitan was seduced by an American Peace Corps volunteer, the only one who ever really saw her, but is culturally so different from him—a Connecticut WASP—that raising their daughter together put them at odds. How Zainab fell in love with her teacher, a friend of her father’s, and ruptured her relationship with her father to have him.

Now, some thirty years later, the three women are reunited for the first time, in Lagos. The occasion: Funmi’s daughter, Destiny, is getting married. Enitan brings her American daughter, Remi. Zainab travels by bus, nervously leaving her ailing husband in the care of their son. Funmi, hosting the weekend with her wealthy husband, wants everything to go perfectly. But as the big day approaches, it becomes clear that something is not right. As the novel builds powerfully, the complexities of the mothers’ friendship—and the private wisdom each has earned—come to bear on a riveting, heartrending moment of decision. Dele Weds Destiny is a sensational debut from a dazzling new voice in contemporary fiction.

Harry Sylvester Bird by Chinelo Okparanta

Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: July 12, 2022
Genre: Fiction
Language: English
Where to find it: Harper Collins, Amazon

Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta
Chinelo Okparanta

Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. A University of Iowa Provost’s Postgraduate Visiting Writer in Fiction as well as a Colgate University Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Fiction, Okparanta received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University, and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was one of Granta’s six New Voices for 2012 and is a Lambda Award winner for Lesbian Fiction, an O. Henry Short Story Prize winner, a finalist for the Rolex Mentors and Proteges Arts Initiative, a finalist for the Etisalat Prize for Literature, and a finalist for the Caine Prize, among others. Her stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.

Harry Sylvester Bird

Harry Sylvester Bird grows up in Edward, Pennsylvania, with his parents, Wayne and Chevy, whom he greatly dislikes. They’re racist, xenophobic, financially incompetent, and they have quite a few secrets of their own. To Harry, they represent everything wrong with this country. And his small town isn’t any better. He witnesses racial profiling, graffitied swastikas, and White Power signs on his walk home from school. He can’t wait until he’s old enough to leave. When he finally is, he moves straight to New York City, where he feels he can finally live out his true inner self.

In the city, he meets and falls in love with Maryam, a young Nigerian woman. But when Maryam begins to pull away, Harry is forced to confront his identity as he never has before—if he can.

Brilliant, funny, original, and unflinching, Harry Sylvester Bird is a satire that speaks to all the most pressing tensions and anxieties of our time—and of the history that has shaped us and might continue to do so.

The feeling House by Saleh Addonia

Publisher: Holland House Books
Publication Date: May 5, 2022
Genre: Fiction, Short Story Collection
Language: English
Where to find it: Holland House Books, Amazon

Saleh Addonia

Saleh Addonia
Saleh Addonia

Saleh Addonia is an Eritrean-Ethiopian writer. He grew up in a refugee camp in Sudan, where he lost his hearing at the age of twelve. He then migrated to Saudi Arabia and to London some 20 years ago.

The Feeling House

The feeling House by Saleh Addonia

‘There is nothing to forget’ A young girl awakes alone next to a burning truck and befriends a nearby cloud; an Eritrean refugee studies interior design as he attempts to build his new home; a group of illegal immigrants embark on an arduous journey in the city as they desperately seek: Her. Darting from the dark underbelly of London to the sexually impenetrable home, Saleh Addonia writes stories of displacement and frustration. Tinged with isolation and alienation, each tale strikes the imagination as Addonia weaves the surreal into devastatingly human stories. With a fable-like wisdom and poignancy, The Feeling House is a compelling, sometimes moving, portrayal of years of a profound disorientation that has fractured time and memory.