Bookish distractions (PoCo Lit)

Hello postcolonial literature students (and maybe fellow fans),

If you want some for-fun novels that also count as intellectual work (says the person who taught a course on Beyoncé), here are some literature recommendations that connect (some more loosely than others) to the issues, theories, and histories we’ve been discussing this semester in Postcolonial Literature. I’ll add to this list as I come up with more ideas.

Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, the Serial Killer
Braithwaite’s thriller is pure pulp in the most wonderful way possible. I listened to this on audiobook for free using my public library’s Libby app last summer, and the reader for it was really good as well (and can give you a good sense of the pronunciation of names and places – I think the actor’s name is Adepero Oduye). Super enjoyable if you like this kind of story.

Braithwaite worked at a Nigerian publishing house before publishing this book, and currently lives in Lagos. Here’s a 5-minute author interview: https://www.npr.org/2018/11/17/668856445/book-review-my-sister-the-serial-killer

Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood & Bone
This YA fantasy has all of the elements that you’d expect of the genre (star-crossed romances and friendships, family drama, ALL THE FEELINGS, etc.) but set in a time and place that interacts with Yoruba culture, West African myths, and more.

It’s the first in a series called the Legacy of Orïsha, of which there are currently two at the moment. Negotiations are in progress for a movie version.

Alexander McCall Smith – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (series)
My BFF is so obsessed with this series that she has now started to drink the redbush (rooibos) tea enjoyed by the many characters in this mystery series. I can think of no higher recommendation than this.

Nnedi Okorafor – Binti
I know this is a cheat because this was already on your syllabus anyway, but this space drama about the title character – the first of her Himba tribe to attend one of the finest universities in the galaxy – is just great, and at 90ish pages, it’s also a quick read. It’s the first in a wonderful trilogy, but I think the ending of the Binti #1 is satisfying enough that you can opt to continue or not depending on your interests. (We’ll discuss this one online in connection with a short film later this semester.)

Okorafor has a number of other books that you may enjoy, including her Akata Witch series and a quirky and politically-timely comic called LaGuardia.

Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children
Remember how I was complaining that we just don’t have time in the semester to read this gorgeous and important book? Well, guess what…? You can still read the book for fun!

Seriously, this one is a classic and you’ll learn from the first few pages whether or not you will enjoy spending time with the verbose and witty narrator, Saleem. If you are a Rushdie fan, I also highly recommend his novel, Shame (on Pakistan, with a breathtakingly memorable female protagonist), and his children’s adventure, Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

Malaka Gharib – I Was Their American Dream
This Egyptian-Filipino artist created this cute and touching graphic memoir, and also shares her zines and other artistic endeavors on Twitter and on NPR. And bonus! – there’s an arts and craft section in the book.

An interview and sample pages can be found here: https://psmag.com/ideas/malaka-gharib-on-growing-up-between-cultures

NPR Code Switch: When Xenophobia Spreads Like A Virus

In this episode of Code Switch from NPR, the amazing historian Erika Lee (author of The Making of Asian America: A History) breaks down the connections between xenophobia and the coronavirus known as COVID-19. By the way, that’s me speaking in the first 12 seconds of the episode.

Issues of contagion and concealment go hand-in-hand, especially when the contagion involves viruses unseeable by the naked human eye, or what one author who I won’t name referred to as the “the faceless brown mass” of those entering the US from Mexico. Associating contagion with a particular group of people allows some to place blame without taking on responsibility.

Of all the things I said for the episode, I’m really glad the assistant editor chose to use this particular snippet on visibility. I’ve been contemplating issues of in/visibility for years now. Here, for instance, is a blog post from when I was connecting invisibility to race and gender in literature: https://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/invisibility-race-and-ethnicity-in-american-womens-writing-throughout-the-twentieth-century/ (More of my articles and online posts are located here.)

Click this link to listen to the episode of Code Switch on NPR, “When Xenophobia Spreads Like a Virus”: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/02/811363404/when-xenophobia-spreads-like-a-virus

NPR Code Switch Erika Lee coronavirus COVID-19 Leah Milne