Great African Reads discussion

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I don't know how it's possible, but we are well past the mid-way point of the year and it's time to be thinking about next year. I'd love to hear from you about what you are liking about this year, what doesn't seem to be working, what you'd like to keep or try differently next year...

Although it hasn't been as active as I'd like, I would love to feature another country next year. Contenders in my mind are Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa.

Any thoughts for how to explore contemporary literature? We have tried various things since we started that project and i have yet to find a format that truly works.

I love our Big Read idea, but it hasn't really taken off this year (my apologies that I myself have dropped the ball on that...there is still time, though!) Maybe we need to rethink how we do the Big Read...perhaps choose a book to feature, but set a discussion time frame that doesn't last the entire year.

What are you guys thinking?


message 2: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments I am definitely been MIA this year due to a crazy life this year - not bad stuff but just did not have a lot of time to be actively involved in the group.

But I do like the idea of featuring a country. I need to post comments for the Nigerian threads. I would say that this is the African country where I have read the most literature (especially the contemporary authors).

Of the featured countries that you listed above my first choice would be Kenya - as to go to the other side of the continent. My second choice would be Ghana because of the often comparison between Ghana and Nigeria that we see and Nigeria would still be fresh in my mind.

I definitely like the contemporary author features. Not sure how I feel about the female/male author selection but it feels like a bit much for me. I think I might want to see more genre fiction be included in this feature. Really good mysteries and speculative fiction now being more available.


message 3: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
What about focusing on a couple of genres for the year? I am really trying to figure out how to make it fun. We have tried a lot of ideas in the past and no format has really stuck.


message 4: by Nina (new)

Nina Chachu | 205 comments I do admit that I tend to "lurk" a bit during the actual discussions of books, because I often don't get a copy until after the discussion has "finished" but I still read most of the comments, and really appreciate knowing the titles, as it can help my book buying/borrowing. Keep up the great work!


message 5: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
okay...having an infant in the house really causes a time warp, but i will get this all together this week. both wrapping up this year and polls to get us started for next year. hopefully i will get into the swing of using productivity app to prompt me to keep on top of things. i have always had difficulty with the passage of time. excuses, excuses!

Things to consider for 2016:

--i still need your help brainstorming contemporary literature. genre only?

--Our Tour stops look like this:

2016
Jan-Feb: South Sudan

Mar-Apr: Sudan

May-June: Swaziland

July-Aug: Tanzania

Sept-Oct: Togo

Nov-Dec: Tunisia

--Do we want to do a Big Read again this year? (I will make a poll to determine interest, so think about it!)

--We will feature another country. I will set a poll for us to choose from among at least Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Any other countries you would like to consider before I make that poll?


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments Marieke wrote: "okay...having an infant in the house really causes a time warp, but i will get this all together this week. both wrapping up this year and polls to get us started for next year. hopefully i will ge..."

Woot woot! Don't worry Marieke, there are still two months until January!

I am focusing on Africa in 2016 for two reasons - the World Lit group here in GR is on Africa, and I only have 17 countries left in Africa in my journey to read a book from every country.

Here's what I've found in my poking around for titles for the countries you've selected:

Jan-Feb: South Sudan
I don't have anything specific to the south. This may be a challenge!

Mar-Apr: Sudan
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
The Translator by Leila Aboulela (the character is Sudanese but it doesn't take place there)
Minaret by Leila Aboulela (another tale of a Sudanese woman living abroad)
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (this is in Sudan!)
(I got most of the Sudan titles on this 50 Books by African Women list)

May-June: Swaziland
Bird of Heaven by Peter Dunseith

July-Aug: Tanzania
Memoirs of an Arabia Princess by Emily Ruete Salamah bint Saïd (first known memoir of a Muslim woman!)
Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 1994)
Desertion by Abdulrazak Gurnah
By the Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2001)

Sept-Oct: Togo
An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie (one of the NYRB books, and obviously, not set in Togo!)
The Village of Waiting by George Packer

Nov-Dec: Tunisia
Why the Jackal Won't Speak To the Hedgehog: A Tunisian Folk Tale (childrens)
The Tremor of Forgery by Patricia Highsmith
(Obviously neither of these are Tunisian authors, but this was a harder one to find books for!)

--We will feature another country. I will set a poll for us to choose from among at least Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa. Any other countries you would like to consider before I make that poll?
Do you mean to read from throughout the year? Have we already done Uganda?


message 7: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I think we can find something that focuses on South Sudan! I am excited for that challenge. :)

Jenny, I will add Uganda to the poll for consideration although I'll confess I'm not very familiar with the breadth or depth of the literary scene there, historical or contemporary.

Whichever country we choose to feature, I'm thinking to do it the same way we did last year unless any of you have thoughts on how to improve it...?


message 8: by Liralen (new)

Liralen | 180 comments Mod
Marieke, how do you want to address South Sudan? Only books that have been published about it as an independent state, or also books that deal with the southern part of Sudan before South Sudan's independence?


message 9: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Since it's for the Tour, we can absolutely include books about it written by outsiders. The author does not need to be from South Sudan. That should make it a little easier. Emma's War could count. Oh and yes, we can read things from before the official independence.


message 10: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I have a poll up for next year's featured country!

https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/1...


message 11: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Hi guys...i've been thinking hard about what i can manage and which projects seemed relatively successful this year.

I thought we did pretty well with the featured country and since the poll has been posted, you see that we will definitely have that as a project.

And i'm devoted to the Tour, but wish it would be more consistently active. So i'm going to work harder on that next year...any suggestions on how to make it better?

Although I like the concept of the Big Read, it was hard for me to do and was not active this year (we still have about six weeks!). I'm not sure if we will do it next year...maybe we could select a couple of months later in the year to read a chunky book together instead of spreading it out over an entire year?

I'm at a total loss for how to conduct an engaging project focused solely on contemporary lit. Any ideas out there? Anyone who would like to lead such a project?

So, for now in 2016 things look like this:

Featured Country: yes
Tour d'Afrique: yes
Big Read: likely, but not for the entire year
Contemporary Lit: maybe, contingent on someone else taking the lead?


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments Honestly, for my own reading projects I have always found there is too much going on in this group to even halfway keep up with. :) I think we have enough even without big read and contemporary lit; surely we could at least fit contemporary lit in with the specific countries?


message 13: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Honestly, for my own reading projects I have always found there is too much going on in this group to even halfway keep up with. :) I think we have enough even without big read and contemporary lit..."

it's too much for me, too!
i expanded the projects in the hopes of getting more people involved since we have over 1300 members but only about 20 participate with any regularity. but perhaps that plan has backfired. i also realize i need to set up a better system so we know the books farther ahead of time, so i am working on getting that right in 2016!

we will surely see contemporary lit in the featured country and also on the Tour, but the Tour is open to books about the countries, not just books from the countries.

maybe we could do a Contemporary Special and read from this long and/or short list together, once they are announced:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_So...


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments Maybe simplifying is a strategy, one group read at a time and then others can chime in with related reads!


message 15: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "Maybe simplifying is a strategy, one group read at a time and then others can chime in with related reads!"

true...i do like some serendipity in my own reading life. :D

i plan to do the featured country the same way as this year...generate a list of authors we are interested in, and then feature one per month but not have any organized group reads. but maybe we should select them in batches, so we know several months in advance which authors are coming up?


message 16: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 543 comments I agree I think "we" were trying to do too much.
I know when I got behind it just seemed like it was too much to try to catch up and I got confused when I should be reading what. :)

I like the idea of doing the specific country and the tour.
I know we have two months to read the tour book and that is usually doable for me.

And your suggestion on how to approach the specific country works for me also.


message 17: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
thanks so much, Beverly and Jenny. I already feel better about scaling back. :D


message 18: by Liralen (new)

Liralen | 180 comments Mod
One thought for the Tour -- maybe we should pick the books further in advance? Or at least get the lists going for each of the Tour stops at the beginning of the year, so that there's less work to be done right before each stop.

I love the concept of a big read, but in truth I'm not all that likely to participate for the time being. So much else to read!


message 19: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Yes, Liralen, I have tried in the past to get books chosen well in advance. I have failed repeatedly. But I am determined to get it right this year! I think scaling things back will really help my efforts in that regard. :)

Since we know the countries already, I will start opening suggestion threads and we can have some polls in December and possibly before for that first stop.

For a big read...possibly a mid-year challenge if there is interest. I still want to read this year's book! And finish last year's book!


message 20: by Liralen (new)

Liralen | 180 comments Mod
Well, they always get sorted eventually :) I'm grateful to you mods for keeping these projects running.


message 21: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments I really appreciate this group. I have found I am always behind with reads even when I try to join on time. I am happy with whatever mods feel able to do. I will continue to participate as time and inclination allow.


message 22: by Laura (new)

Laura | 270 comments Marieke, thanks so much for keeping this group going. I havent been active at all in the past few months due to other commitments but Im hoping to make up for it in the coming months. I think scaling back is a good idea. I always struggle to keep up but I really enjoy reading evryones comments and it is a group I cherish checking out at the end of a busy day. I voted Kenya! but lets see what comes up. and the Tour is great.


message 23: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Thank you, Laura, Zanna, and Liralen and everyone! Your patience and appreciation for this group means a lot. :D


message 24: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessica_peter) | 26 comments I'd be up for another Big Read, though I was one of the few participants this year!

I find I intend to participate in a lot of the month-by-month ones but just don't get motivated as often - which may be partially because the monthly "winners" often end up being literary fiction, and I read mainly non-fic (including memoirs) and genre fiction.


message 25: by Zanna (new)

Zanna (zannastar) | 191 comments What put me off the Big Read is that however well intentioned and informed, I am really put off by the author being a white, non-African


message 26: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Kenya will be our featured country in 2016!


message 27: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Jessica wrote: "I'd be up for another Big Read, though I was one of the few participants this year!

I find I intend to participate in a lot of the month-by-month ones but just don't get motivated as often - whic..."


In the past we did two books per tour stop, one non-fiction and one fiction. But this year it was just too much so I polled for one book only. Since we are scaling back, I can begin that again. I also enjoy nonfiction very much.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments Not sure if this is the right place but just saw this mentioned in another group and didn't want to lose track of it:

West with the NightWest with the Night, Beryl Markham's memoir

And a biography (which apparently includes more of the questionable behavior) Circling the Sun

This would be a good picture of British occupied Kenya in the 1920s and 1930s but if I had to CHOOSE I would prefer native authors. Still thought this might be an interesting perspective.


message 29: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Thanks Jenny!

I think I should open a thread for thinking about how we want to feature Kenya, if not the same way we did with Nigeria.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments Can we choose for South Sudan soon? Our interlibrary loan system stops for a few weeks during the holidays.


message 31: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Oh crap! I'm so sorry Jenny. I will try to get the poll up today.


message 32: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
If the poll closes Monday, does that leave you time?


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 124 comments Marieke wrote: "If the poll closes Monday, does that leave you time?"
Yep!


message 34: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Okay good! I will do it tonight. I couldn't get to it at work today.


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