Its that time of year when the various forms of media are filled with endless lists of the “best of” the year. I usually try to push against following the crowd but this particular list is worthy of repeating “The Alternative, The Underground, The Oh-Yes-That-One List of Favorite Books of 2011” I start with my own choice which isn’t part of the list [made up of well-known and not so well-known authors but at least people I do read]. I realise now that I have hardly read any fiction this year but the one book which stands out for me is Migritude: by Shailja Patel.
Through her own life journey and mixing prose and poetry, Shailja’s Migritude exposes and shares the tears of history merging personal stories with reflections on violence, colonisation, and migrant journeys which flow horizontally and vertically, through the lives of women…….Read the rest of my review hereDark Continent of our Bodies by E Francis White is an exploration of the roots of Black feminism. By focusing on the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and Black nationalism, Francis critiques the works of Black literary figures such as James Baldwin, Bell Hooks, Toni Morrison, Molefi Asante, Patricia Hill Collins and many others. Introduction online here. Also worth mentioning and which I am still working my way through is the excellent ‘European Others: Queering Ethnicity in PostNational Europe‘ by Fatima el-Tayeb The Millions List of favorite books
While sending out calls for contributors, one writer responded to my email with the observation that these lists “seem to be the new fashion.” True. In the past few weeks, on Twitter and Facebook and wherever else I went to play hooky, these lists – 100 Notable Books, 10 Best Novels of 2011, 5 Cookbooks Our Editors Loved, etcetera – were lying in wait, or rather, Tumblr-ing all over the place. Of course, as an eternal sucker for the dangled promise of a good book, I had to read this one, to see what was on offer, and that one, to get it out of the way, and oh yes that one, because . . . justbecause. I’m not complaining, far from it. I’m just establishing that I have read a lot of these lists, in only the past few weeks, and shared them myself on Facebook and Twitter, usually at times when I should have been working; and now, since I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of seeing the same books on list after list after list, lists drawn up by respected, respectable folks in the same circles of influence, I have reached out to a band of fresh voices (some new, some established, some you know, some you will soon) and compiled the alternative, the underground, the “oh-yes-that-one” list of favorite books of 2011. Simidele Dosekun, author of Beem Explores Africa: My favorite read this year was The Memory of Love (Bloomsbury, 2011) by Aminatta Forna. Set in Freetown, Sierra Leone before and after the war, it tells of intersecting lives and loves thwarted by politics. I read it suspended in an ether of foreboding about where one man’s obsession with another’s wife would lead, and could not have anticipated its turns. As for children’s books, I have lost count of the copies of Lola Shoneyin’sMayowa and the Masquerades that I have given out as presents. It is a colorful and chirpy book that kids will love. Shailja Patel, author of Migritude: In this tenth anniversary year of 9/11, the hauntingly lovelyMinaret by Leila Aboulela is the “9/11 novel” I recommend, for its compelling story that confounds all expectations. Hilary Mantel’s epic Booker Prize winner, Wolf Hall, had me riveted for a full four days. It shows how a novel can be a breathtaking ride through history, politics, and economics.Everybody Loves A Good Drought: Stories From India’s Poorest Districts by P. Sainath should be compulsory reading for everyone involved in the missionary enterprise of “development.” Chika Unigwe, author of On Black Sisters Street: Contemporary Chinese Women Writers II has got to be one of my favorite books of the year. I recently picked it up in a delightful bookshop in London. When I was growing up in Enugu, I was lucky to live very close to three bookshops, and I would often go in to browse, and sometimes buy books. It was in one of those bookstores that I discovered a dusty copy of Chinese Literature — and I flipped through and became thoroughly enchanted. I bought the copy and had my father take out a subscription for me. For the next few years the journal was delivered to our home, and I almost always enjoyed all the stories but my favorite was a jewel by Bi Shumin titled “Broken Transformers.” I never forgot that story and was thrilled to discover it (along with five other fantastic short stories) in this anthologyMore of the list here. The Public Archive also has a list of Radical Black Reading 2011 which includes selections from Pambazuka Press
Let’s not forget the independents. 2011 saw a number of wonderful releases from those presses that have fought to forge a public discourse on Black politics and Black culture that is unencumbered by either corporate imperatives or academic distractions. Black Classic Press continued their righteous mission of keeping Black history’s sacred volumes in press by re-issuing Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Pambazuka, who gave us an incredible dossieron the anniversary of Frantz Fanon’s death, released Jacques Depelchin’sReclaiming African History, a slender but powerful volume on the history and political economy of pan-African dispossession. They also published Africa Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions, a compendium edited by Firoze Manji and Sokari Ekine examining the 2011 uprisings from the perspective — finally — of Africa. The legendary PrÃ©sence Africaine published MoÃ¯se Udino’s meditation on the condition of Antilleans in France, Corps noirs, tÃªtes rÃ©publicaines: le paradoxe antillais. While London’s Peepal Tree Press has made available theSelected Poems of Una Marson, the great West Indian poet, publisher, broadcaster, and pan-Africanist.