We wrap up book news for our readers in our Book Digest feature. Today our focus is books from Kei Miller, Koleka Putuma, TJ Benson, and Sharon Dodua Otoo.
Things I Have Withheld, Kei Miller
Publisher: Canongate Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2021
Genre: Essay collection
Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet, essayist, and novelist, shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and winner of the prestigious Forward poetry prize for his collection The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. His story collection Fear of Stones was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, and his most recent novel, Augustown was a finalist for the PEN Open Book Award, and won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Prix Les Afriques, and the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde. In 2010, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him the Silver Musgrave medal for his contributions to Literature and in 2018 he was awarded the Anthony Sabga medal for Arts & Letters.
Things I Have Withheld
In this moving and lyrical collection of essays, the award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller explores the silence in which so many important things are kept. He examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it: to risk words, to risk truths. And he considers the histories our bodies inherit – the crimes that haunt them, and how meaning can shift as we move throughout the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.
Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Liam Neeson, Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, white women’s tears, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice.
With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why – our actions, defence mechanisms, imaginations and interactions – and those of the world around us.
Hullo Bu-Bye Koko Come In, Koleka Putuma
Publisher: Koleka Putuma; PublishDrive
Publication Date: April 29, 2021
Genre: Poetry collection
Koleka Putuma is a South African award-winning theatre practitioner, writer and poet.
Hullo, Bu-Bye, Koko, Come In
The title of the book is inspired by a South African phrase made famous by the legendary musician Brenda Fassie in her 1992 song, Istraight lendaba.
Like the legend who inspired the book title and the song from which the name of this poetry collection was selected, Putuma wanted to build on the themes she explored in her first book, Collective Amnesia, and go straight to the heart of tackling the legacies of black femme erasure from society as well as in the arts.
The success of Collective Amnesia, a bestseller that has sold over 6000 copies and been translated into eight languages around the world, saw Putuma perform for audiences across the continent as well as in Europe.“
In writing Hullo, Bu-bye, Koko, Come in, I wanted to reflect on my personal experiences of travelling and performing outside of South Africa and more specifically, Europe. I wanted to understand different aesthetics and forms of memory, documentation, performance, hyper-visibility and erasure. I wanted to look at how those things frame our understanding of women in the archive, legacies of archiving, celebration, fame, culture and black women on and off the stage,” Putuma says.
The book is divided into four chapters dealing with subjects related to history, the erasure of black women from the archive and more personal poems where Putuma resuscitates the stories of women in her lineage who have had an influence on her life.
“I wanted these excerpts to serve as a conversation between the poems and an archive of sorts – an archive of black women (living and dead) who are looked at, celebrated, uncited, erased and exploited. I wanted to make visible the words of black women who have had to navigate the complexities of a constant gaze that often renders the “looked at” invisible. In my quest, I wanted to further understand and challenge my own methods of citation, documentation and seeing – and in doing that – invite others to do the same,” she says.
The Madhouse, TJ Benson
Publisher: Penguin Books (South Africa)
Publication Date: March 5, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction
TJ Benson is a Nigerian writer and portrait photographer whose work has appeared in several online journals like Jalada Africa, Expound and Bakwa magazine: in print magazines like Harvard’s Transition Magazine, Saraba’s ‘Transitions’ issue, Catapult and more recently Gay Magazine a partnership between Roxane Gay and Medium.
A house brings two unique people together by the unlikeliest of chances. In their union, that of an almost priest and a prodigal daughter, two brothers whose bond transcend the laws of nature are born.
André and Max have a seemingly blissful life until the boys start sharing dreams and their lives begin to unravel. Murderous thoughts, manic dreams, and their somewhat unbreakable wandering between reality and reverie, would lead them down unknown paths that threaten to severe their family ties.
In this exhilarating and dreamy narration set against the backdrop of a tumultuous era of military rule in Nigeria, TJ Benson weaves a spellbinding tale about the clashes between cultures, the impact of fragile political situations on everyday people, and the lengths we are willing to go in order to save our loved ones.
Publisher: FISCHER, S
Publication Date: February 24, 2021
Genre: Literary fiction
Sharon Dodua Otoo
Since winning the Bachmann Prize in 2016, Sharon Dodua Otoo has become a fixture in German-language media, and the charismatic voice of a new generation: Black, self-confident, feminist. Her opening address for the 2020 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize was a sensation. Born in London in 1972, she now lives with both the English and German languages in Berlin. Her first novellas, the things i am thinking while smiling politely and Synchronicity, were written in English; since the publication of her Bachmann Prize-winning short story Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin, she writes primarily in German.
The long-awaited first novel from Ingeborg Bachmann Prize-winning author Sharon Dodua Otoo.
Sharon Dodua Otoo’s courage and passion for narration and her curiosity for understanding the present day are breathtaking. Everything in her world hangs by a silken thread: threatening to fall at any moment, floating in wondrous suspense.
So, too, with Ada, the protagonist of Otoo’s first novel. Ada is not one, but many women: She revolves in orbits between Ghana and London before eventually landing in Berlin. But she is also all women — because these loops transport her from one century to the next. And so, she experiences the misery but also the joy of womanhood: she is a victim, she offers resistance, and she fights for her independence.
With vivid language and infinite imagination — with empathy and humor — Sharon Dodua Otoo’s novel Ada’s Realm paints an astonishing picture of what it means to be a woman.