We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest feature. Today our focus is books from Helen Oyeyemi, Remy Ngamije, Khalil Diallo, and Yvonne Bailey-Smith.
Peaces, Helen Oyeyemi
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction
Where to find it: Penguin Random House.
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of the story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, along with five novels—most recently Boy, Snow, Bird, which was a finalist for the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She received a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta‘s Best Young British Novelists.
When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment—and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people on board, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together.
A spellbinding tale from a star author, Peaces is about what it means to be seen by another person—whether it’s your lover or a stranger on a train—and what happens when things you thought were firmly in the past turn out to be right beside you.
The Eternal Audience of One, Rémy Ngamije
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: August 10, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction
Where to find it: Simon and Schuster.
Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first literary magazine. His work has appeared in Litro Magazine, AFREADA, The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brainwavez, The Amistad, The Kalahari Review, American Chordata, Azure, Sultan’s Seal, Santa Ana River Review, Columbia Journal, New Contrast, Necessary Fiction, Silver Pinion, and Lolwe. He was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 Afritondo Short Story Prize. In 2019, he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website RemytheQuill.com.
The Eternal Audience of One
Nobody ever makes it to the start of a story, not even the people in it. The most one can do is make some sort of start and then work toward some kind of ending.
One might as well start with Séraphin: playlist-maker, nerd-jock hybrid, self-appointed merchant of cool, Rwandan, stifled and living in Windhoek, Namibia. Soon he will leave the confines of his family life for the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, in South Africa, where loyal friends, hormone-saturated parties, adventurous conquests, and race controversies await. More than that, his long-awaited final year in law school promises to deliver a crucial puzzle piece of the Great Plan immigrant: a degree from a prestigious university.
But a year is more than the sum of its parts, and en route to the future, the present must be lived through and even the past must be survived.
From one of Africa’s emerging literary voices comes a lyrical and piquant tale of family, migration, friendship, war, identity, and race following the intersecting lives of Séraphin and a host of eclectic characters from pre- and post-1994 Rwanda, colonial and post-independence Windhoek, Paris and Brussels in the 70s, Nairobi public schools, and the racially charged streets of Cape Town.
L’Odyssée des Oubliés, Khalil Diallo
Publisher: Emmanuelle Collas
Publication Date: August 20, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction
Where to find it: Amazon,
Mauritania-born Senegalese Khalil Diallo is passionate about literature and says he is “lover of the verb and tailor of words”. He is a lecturer at the African Institute of Management and author of the collection of poems Chœur à cœur and the novel À l’Orée du trépas (L’Harmattan Senegal, 2018).
For his first novel, the author wrote a fiction of love, exile, tears, revolt but also a novel of hope against religious obscurantism. Like a true poet, he paints a lyrical portrait of a disillusioned, frightened world that strives to love and refuses to live on the cheap.
L’Odyssée des Oubliés
How Sembouyané and his childhood friend Idy, both from a small village in West Africa, a world famous writer and a young orphan find themselves without identity on the routes of migration and underground?
Over the course of a terrible and intense odyssey between the western coast of Africa and the Mediterranean, Khalil Diallo tells us the story of Sembouyane and his companions in misfortune and takes us on board in the flow of these thousands of migrants ready for `cross the desert and the sea in the hope of a better future. They will not be spared nothing but, despite the disillusionment and suffering, it is still possible to dream, to make a decision and to fight for their inalienable and universal right to dignity.
In a lyrical and poetic language, where magical realism is never far away, The Odyssey of the Forgotten paints an uncompromising picture of Africa today and nevertheless delivers us a novel of exile and hope.
The Day I fell off My Island, Yvonne Bailey-Smith
Publisher: Myriad Editions
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction
Where to find it: Myriad editions, Amazon.
Yvonne Bailey-Smith was born in Jamaica in 1954 and immigrated to the UK in 1969. She trained and worked first as a social worker before becoming a psychotherapist. She is also a Water Aid Supporter and passionate about providing clean water and sanitation in developing countries. She is the mother of three children: novelist Zadie Smith; actor, musician and children’s book author Ben Bailey Smith; and lyricist and writer LucSkyz.
The Day I fell off My Island
The Day I Fell Off My Island tells the story of Erna Mullings, a teenage Jamaican girl uprooted from her island following the sudden death of her beloved grandmother.
When Erna is sent to England to be reunited with her siblings, she dreads leaving behind her elderly grandfather, and the only life she has ever known. A new future unfolds, in a strange country and with a mother she barely knows. The next decade will be a complex journey of estrangement and arrival, new beginnings and the uncovering of long-buried secrets.
A psychologist and former social worker, Yvonne Bailey-Smith, explains:‘
As an immigrant child, I often wished that someone had been able to take me aside and explain to me that leaving everything I knew to go on a so-called adventure to somewhere way beyond my imagination was going cause me an unimaginable sense of loss and sadness. I also wish that the same person had been there to reassure me that I would survive and even flourish, given half a chance. My work and conversations with children, young people and adults, as well as with many friends, have given me a unique insight into the travails of people who have experienced things for which they felt utterly unprepared at the time.’