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Showing posts from January, 2011

Vitabu Review | GraceLand and Talking Slums

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Three phrases from the opening paragraphs of Chris Abani's GraceLand took me to my familiar:

Heavy rain...wooden shutter...rickety lean-to made of sheets of corrugated iron roofing and plastic held together by hope.
Abani's award-winning book, removed from a Florida reading list in 2010 because of the sexual content of a torture scene, is a searing insight into violence: Rape, war, lynching, kidnapping, and the gory business of selling human body parts. Chris Abani "gets a little dirty" with a troubling look at darkness, but it's his "unpatronizing record of life" in Maroko, a slum outside Lagos, that stirs my nostalgia:

Abani's fictional Maroko is much like that of the real wharf communities which Sierra Leone's Muctaru Wurie immortalizes in his A Day in the Eastern Slums of Freetown.

From the wharves of Kampala, Susan's Bay, and Marbella, Muctaru Wurie introduces us to 14-year- old Abdul Mansaray. With his mother dead and father paralyz…

Vitabu Review | Revisiting A Long Way Gone

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Attacks on the Press 1999: The Trauma of Sierra Leone


On January 6, 1999, rebel forces entered Freetown and launched a campaign of terror. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters systematically murdered, mutilated, and raped thousands of civilians. During the three weeks that it took for Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping troops to expel the rebels from Freetown, Sierra Leone officially became the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a journalist.

Baltimore, Maryland, January 2011---“Today is J6. Remember!” urged an e-mail head in my box. I opened it, but there was nothing in the body. It seemed the sender from Freetown had only found just enough time (or emotion) to type up a telegram. The short but powerful message brought back an old nightmare that's haunted me every January since 1999: What if I'd extended my stay in Freetown from an initial 2-3 week break in October 1998 to a few months, stretching into the new year?

I was in love with an old love, and…

An Excerpt from The African and True Confessions of a Sierra Leonean Cabinet Minister

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In our offices, however, I think all of us were much less at ease. [E]ach of us had found a bureaucratic web of such intricacy in his portfolio that even to unravel it entailed a long and taxing mental exercise. We spent hours on end during the day being shown round the various departments under our authority, looking very wise and feling very ignorant. Then we spent almost as many hours at night thumbing our way unenthusiastically through files which we had been assured would give us a clear picture of the problems, plans and pojects for which the whole country now held us responsible.

Perhaps our most uncomfortable moments were those spent at international conferences—not those on political or constitutional matters , which we found right up our street, but those on technical subjects such as medical research or fisheries development. When one of those highly specialized conferences was being held...on a matter within one of our portfolios, we ought, of course, to have attempted n…

Vitabu Books Review | The Radiance of the King & My Not so Cogent Connections

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I'm musing. I just read Barbara Genco's Ten Nonfiction Books (For Adults) to Fall In Love With posted on January 1st. Symbolic date because it just so happens the first day of the year is Camara Laye's birthday. Being the mush that I am, I planned to re-read The Radiance of the King and post a 1/1/11 'why-you-should-read-this' review. But I got caught up with end-of-year stuff. Just the kind one gets busy with at the top of a new year. Still, I found time to re-meet Mr. Camara and, after our re acquaintance, I scheduled a Vitabu review for another symbolic date: February 4: On this day in 1980, Guinean-born Camara Laye died in poverty and exile in Dakar, Senegal.

I was all set for a remembrance February. Until I stumbled upon Genco's article: specifically the 10th review: Simon Winchester's Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms,and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories . (Harper Collins). In the interest of full disclosur…

Vitabu Books Review & Interview | The Inverted Pyramid

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Emeka Dike's novel, The Inverted Pyramid (Trafford Publishing) is a must for readers of spy thrillers. Espionage, treachery, and intrigue play pivotal roles in this accurate portrayal of the struggle for power in Nigeria's political arena. The author also lays bare how a black African nation's destiny is determined by the actions of a few.

Azubike (Zuby) Thomas, the main character, flies in from London and lands into the arms of the Nigerian Intelligence agencies – a shadowy group of spies that change the course of history. Driven by unseen forces, Zuby sets out to investigate the power structure in Nigeria. But even before he starts to find answers to the many anomalies, he gets ensnared in a tangled web of deceit where money and sex rule. Zuby's pursuit of an explanation about what has stymied progress in Nigeria—chronic corruption and robbery of the State—ultimately leads him down a path of intrigue, espionage, and murder. Zuby makes his mark as a rookie spy, but…