by Rana Asfour
It's February, which means it's African American History Month here in the US from Feb 1- Feb 28. Here's how BookFabulous and Friends are marking the first week of the month. More events will be added week by week.
As I wait in anticipation of Toni Morrison's latest non-fiction 'The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches and Meditations' to be released Feb 12, I'm acquainting myself with 'Tar Baby', her 1981 novel that I never got round to and which has been described as 'a ravishing reinvention of the love story'. The novel charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.
My second choice is 'Washington Black' by Esi Edugyan which was released September 2018 and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. This latest novel by the author of 'Half-Blood Blues' - also a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 - is one boy's adventure that takes him from the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco. It tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?
When I read 'A Brief History of Seven Killings' by Marlon James - a 2015 Booker Prize winner and recipient of the American Book Award - I was blown away by the novel's storyline, its violence, its unique voice and the masterful writing. It was then that I went back and read his first novel 'The Book of Night Women'. To this day, I rate it as one of the the most memorable books I have ever read. Right there in my top four of all time.
On Wednesday Feb 6, a bookclub friend of mine and I are going to hear James speak at a book event hosted by DC's Politics and Prose Bookstore with regards the first instalment in his new Dark Star Trilogy 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf' which hits the shelves on Feb 5. His interview in The New Yorker (Jan 28, 2019) in which he spoke of his forthcoming book as well as his work in general is a powerful read. The article's writer describes the new book as 'not just an African fantasy novel but an African fantasy novel that is literary and labyrinthine to an almost combative degree.'
The organisers of this event wrote on their website: 'Drawing from African history, mythology, and his own rich imagination, Marlon James’ new book is a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorisation and full of unforgettable characters, it is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.'
The Library of Congress in DC have launched the 'Omar Ibn Said Collection' online which is the only known extant autobiography written in Arabic by enslaved person in US. The collection consists of 42 digitised documents in both English and Arabic, including an 1831 manuscript in Arabic on "The Life of Omar Ibn Said," a West African slave in America, which is the centrepiece of this unique collection of texts. Some of the manuscripts in this collection include texts in Arabic by another West African slave in Panama, and others from individuals located in West Africa. Check it all HERE.