Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara

Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara


In 2014, UNESCO's World Book Capital is Port Harcourt, Nigeria-the first city in Africa to receive the designation by public bid. 

This makes it a special year for the Port Harcourt Book Festival, which will be in its seventh year, and bigger than ever. They are joining forces with the internationally renowned Hay Festival, which will bring to Port Harcourt its 39 Project-a competition to identify the thirty-nine most promising young talents under the age of forty in sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora. It follows the success of Bogotá 39 in 2007 and Beirut 39 in 2010. Both recognized a number of authors who now have international profiles: in Bogotá, Adriana Lisboa, Alejandro Zambra, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Daniel Alarcón, and Junot Díaz; in Beirut, Randa Jarrar, Joumana Haddad, Abdellah Taia, Samar Yazbek, and Faiza Guene. In Nigeria this year, the esteemed judges include leading-edge publisher Margaret Busby; novelist and playwright Elechi Amadi,writer and scholar Osonye Tess Onwueme, and Caine Prize winner Binyavanga Wainaina.

For the second time, Bloomsbury is honored to be a part of the festivities, publishing worldwide Africa39-a collection of brand new work from these talented thirty-nine.

With an introduction by Wole Soyinka, Africa39 is a must-read for anyone curious about Africa today and Africa tomorrow, as envisioned through the eyes of its brightest literary stars. 


Africa39 was my book club read for this month. Normally I don't start my book club book until a day or two before book club. I read too much so if I read it early I don't have it fresh in my head by the time the discussion comes around. Well with Africa 39 I think that was my first mistake. I read this book in two days. Two. That is a lot of short stories and excerpts to get through. Everything started to just blend together unless it was really good or really bad. Instead of making notes on all the stories I think I will just highlight a few that stood out in a good way. As I said the rest kind of blended together and were just okay.

*Two Fragments of Love by Eileen Almeida Barbosa - This was really short, but absolutely beautiful. It was a heartbreaking love story and I would definitely read more by this author. The imagery, the language used, the story itself was just breathtaking. It is really amazing that this author was able to write such a story in so few pages.

*From Our Time of Sorrow by Jackee Budesta Batanda - This is a part of a larger work that I would really like to read. You get a snapshot of this religious cult which always interests me. The main character seems like a good person, but people will never let her forget she was born of sin so she is not pure.

*The Occupant, from Azotus, the Kingdom by Shadreck Chikoti - I really really want to read the rest of this story.

"For many years Kamoto had not thought of going outside. The world outside offered him nothing that he could not find within the confines of his own home." 

It starts off with this guy who finally starts going outside at sunset, and a girl spies on him. The ideas behind it, how everyone has freedom, everyone could go outside, but no one does was really interesting. It was like well anyone can do anything, but since no one does when one person does is it then wrong? Should the person spying report this guy for going outside, even though he is allowed to? I really would like to finish this story and see what happens. This was one of my favorites from the entire book.

*Number 9 by Nadifa Mohmed - Kind of a sad story about a lady on her way to meet a date she met online. This is to be their first meeting and it was kind of sweet, but kind of sad at the same time. Another short story that the author did a very good job with. It felt like a complete story and made me feel the main characters emotions with her.

*From Harlot by Lola Shoneyin -

"I will never be ashamed of my life because I have lived the way only a few women can. I have lived like a man." 

I LOVED this one. This was my other favorite from this book. I definitely want to read the rest of this story. I loved how open and unashamed the main character was. So what she has sex with a lot of men? She enjoys it so why shouldn't she? Guys can sleep with a lot of women and people don't care so why shouldn't she? I loved how she just didn't care what other thought. She had such a strong voice that I wanted to read a lot more. I am curious where the story goes.

*Migrant Labour by Zukiswa Wanner - One of the last stories, and a stand alone. This immigrant guy from Zimbabwe is working in South Africa and they won't give him a raise or let him out of his work contract. He could possibly find a better job, but it doesn't matter since he has to work at his job for 4 years, one year shy of the residency requirements. So since he cannot get out of his work contract he plans to marry a South African woman - problem solved. Things are going well, until they aren't. I loved where this story ended.

So those were my favorites of the bunch. 39 short stories or excerpts is a lot to read in two days. I probably would have enjoyed them more had I spaced it out some. Read one or two a day until I finished. The rest weren't bad, they just weren't as memorable.

Overall rating: ★ ★

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