18 December 2017

Zimbabwe: The Reader's 2017 Reads


Christopher Farai Charamba The Reader

As the year comes to a close it is always good for one to reflect on what it is they achieved and where they fell short during the 12 months. Many set themselves goals at the beginning of the year, resolutions that they hope to see through and changes they wished to make to their habits.

Reflection is an important part of human existence. It allows one to measure their growth and strive to be better than they were the previous day. In this piece therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on some of the reads of 2017.

Unfortunately, I did not read as many books as I would have initially preferred, something to be corrected in the new year perhaps. I did however, read a variety of books; fiction and non-fiction, short stories, novellas and novels, biographies, essays, books by Africans, Europeans, South Americans, men and women alike.

Topping the list of my 2017 reads was The Fishermen by Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma.

The book was the first by an African I had read in a while that was wholly set on the continent and was not making an effort to bridge the gap between the continent and the Diaspora community.

It tells the story of four brothers who struggle to deal with the constraints of an absent father, religion and superstition, sibling rivalry, mental health and a changing political and social environment. Obioma's book causes one to think about the importance of communication within families, the struggles of a single parent household and the role traditional religion and beliefs play in African societies.

Also on the list of books, I enjoyed was the anthology Zimbabwe by Tapiwa Mugabe. This book of poetry contained in it a diverse selection of poems that spoke about love, lessons of life, the importance of mothers, the longing for home from the Diaspora, the role of history.

Mugabe's anthology was an ode to women and carried in it important feminist lessons that all people should take to heart. The poetry was well crafted, often a few lines and simple to follow.

In "Chiratidzo Chedu" he writes:

Ganda rako chiratidzo chako.

Inguo yakashongedzwa rerudo

These two lines simply are about black pride and reminding Africans to know and appreciate the beauty of their appearance.

In the world of science fiction, Issac Asimov is considered a guru. His books such as "I Robot" and "The Bicentennial Man" were turned into massive Hollywood blockbusters. A piece of his I read this year was "The Last Trumpet", a short story that looks at the end of days, when the dead rise.

It is well a structured story with a brilliant twist at the end. It causes one to reflect not only on the notion of life and death, but also the construct of time and how we measure our existence.

Sticking to the sci-fi category, making the list of 2017 reads was Nnedi Okorafor's "Who Fears Death". This book was another refreshing read by an African, particularly because there are not many such books that look at alternate realities for African people.

Okorafor managed not only to create a fictional world, but also took elements from African traditions and beliefs and brought them together in a way that gave them great power, changing the narrative from the sinister one Western literature has placed them in.

On the non-fiction side was "The Looting Machine: Warlords", "Tycoons Smugglers" and the "Systemic Theft of Africa's Wealth" by Tom Burgis. In this investigative book, Burgis goes to different African countries and looks at how Africans are hoodwinked of their resources by foreign individuals, most of the time with the collaboration of African leaders.

A number of the books that I read in 2017 were by Africans, other titles include "Sweet Medicine" by Panashe Chigumadzi, "Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter" by Nozipo Maraire and "Dzino: Memoirs of a Freedom Fighter" by Wilfred Mhanda.


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