Imbued with her hallmark humour and heightened sensitivity, Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry (Un homme, ça ne pleure pas) is her latest offering to lovers of good fiction in translation, deftly rendered into English by Sarah Ardizzone. We witness a family struggling with exile and integration as experienced by Mourad, born in Nice to Algerian parents.
He is keen to escape the clutches of his well-meaning but excessively controlling mother who imposes traditional ways of thinking and living on her three children – along with copious helpings of home-cooked food – handing down community values and morality in a bid to fend off the potentially corrupting influence of the host culture, and to impose order on the complexities of modern France. Continue reading Review | Men Don’t Cry, Faïza Guène | Cassava Republic Press
Tell us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up.
It was a very privileged upbringing in the sense of growing up with a mother whose protective love and unquestioning belief in me gave me a strong sense of self and a confident “I can” rather than the terrorising “I cannot” which so many girls are schooled into. This early self-belief no doubt ensured that I came out of an English boarding school relatively unscathed. I grew up with a fiercely intelligent, industrious, and unlettered woman who equated education, financial astuteness, and sartorial elegance with freedom and brilliance! There was no drama of a gifted or damaged child; it was a very comforting childhood on Lagos Island.
Life was lived on the street and from our balcony with Yoruba Fuji, Juju and American soul music, the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer and the evangelists church bells knifing the air, all fighting for our souls, and all winning, because, in that Yoruba accommodative world all have their place. It was a childhood peopled by women of courage and self-possession, errant men, incessant noise, theatre, much laughter and without contamination. I love and appreciate this world and grounding, even as I craved solitude. It is the nucleus by which my identity, especially as a questioning being derives its meaning and purpose.
Were your parents great readers? What were the books that made you fall in love with reading?
There were no oak floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our house. In their place, were hundreds of LPs of different genres of Yoruba music, played on the Grundig Stereogram. These records were probably my first introduction to text without writing. Music was the first thing that held my being in its fold and made me conscious of the evolving social and political landscape of Nigeria in the early 1980s. It was also the first art form that introduced me to the transformative power of storytelling to stir the emotion. So, my parents were not great readers of books, but they came to reading through music, so did I. Continue reading Interview | Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Cassava Republic Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
The king’s fool has had a distinct, privileged and vital role to play at royal courts throughout history. Mahi Binebine’s fool is contemporary, even though the story reads as though it happened in a distant past, since it is inspired by the fate of the author’s father and brother at the court of King Hassan II of Morocco. Continue reading Review | The King’s Fool, Mahi Binebine | MacLehose Press
In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales by Véronqiue Tadjo is a beautifully written and translated, stark collection of concise narratives about the Ebola epidemic of 2014. A short but unforgettable novel, it offers a poetic vision of sustained horror, fear, and excruciating pain. It questions the blindness of humanity in the face of potential catastrophic collapse as rampant greed, willful ignorance and avoidable self-destruction threaten to decimate planet earth.
Originally published in France in 2017, there is something prophetic about these tales in light of today’s coronavirus pandemic, and the grim topicality of potential or ongoing infectious disease threats.
Continue reading Review | In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales, Véronqiue Tadjo | HopeRoad Publishing
The selected poems of Wanda Coleman, edited by the American poet Terrance Hayes, and published in the UK under the title Wicked Enchantment, has brought her back into the spotlight. Considered to be the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles, she died in 2013 age sixty-seven.
“Wanda Coleman, like Gwendolyn Brooks before her, has much to tell us about what it is like to be a poor black woman in America,” Tony Magistrale, Black American Literature Forum Continue reading Review | Wicked Enchantment selected poems by Wanda Coleman (Ed.) Terrance Hayes