Great African Reads discussion

Half Blood Blues
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Contemporary Lit | Books read > Edugyan: Half Blood Blues | (CL) first read: Mar 2012

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message 1: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I haven't started yet, but feel free to begin discussing...it's March!


message 2: by Yejide (new)

Yejide Kilanko | 58 comments Marieke wrote: "I haven't started yet, but feel free to begin discussing...it's March!"

Hi Marieke :) Please did we also chose "Everything Good Will Come" Sefi Atta for this month?


message 3: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Yejide wrote: "Marieke wrote: "I haven't started yet, but feel free to begin discussing...it's March!"

Hi Marieke :) Please did we also chose "Everything Good Will Come" Sefi Atta for this month?"


Well, Sefi Atta's book came in second with 8 votes to Half Blood Blues' 11 votes. i just finished reading Half of a Yellow Sun and was thinking Everything Good Will Come would make an interesting follow-up for me. Are you planning to read it right away? Maybe we could make a runner-up thread...basically i want people to enjoy themselves and participate in lively discussion so we don't have to limit ourselves to one book, necessarily. i also don't super regular members to feel overwhelmed like they have to read every single book we choose as an "official" selection.


message 4: by Yejide (new)

Yejide Kilanko | 58 comments I just bought Everything Good Will Come and I thought it would be good to read along/discuss with others. That is if any one else is interested.


message 5: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (last edited Mar 02, 2012 04:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Yejide wrote: "I just bought Everything Good Will Come and I thought it would be good to read along/discuss with others. That is if any one else is interested."

i can make another thread...i was thinking mathematically that we used both January and February for Agaat, maybe it's okay to have two in March. But then i wonder if I should leave her book in the master list for future voting...

Thoughts from others?

ETA: i could also set up a thread outside of the Contemporary Lit project where we can discuss it and others can join us, but the book would remain in the master list until it's officially selected.


Melanie | 171 comments I am open to anything. You could also use your "moderator power" and deem it April's read :-)


message 7: by Muphyn (last edited Mar 02, 2012 10:58PM) (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments Up to you, Marieke! I won't get a chance to read both, I'll be doing amazing if I manage to 'Half Blood Blues' (which I've now got a copy of at least!)...

Might be best to set up an additional thread for 'Everything good will come', then see how lively the discussion is and then decide whether it's be "adequately" discussed to take off the masterlist?? :)

But whatever you decide, I'm happy with it... :D


David Heyer | 68 comments Just started in Half Blood Blues and now you're talking about the number two of the list? What's going on?
Btw: not bad at all Edugyan's novel athough I agree with Manu's comment before: it has nothing to do with Africa..... But it is an intrigueing story..


Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments David wrote: "Just started in Half Blood Blues and now you're talking about the number two of the list? What's going on?
Btw: not bad at all Edugyan's novel athough I agree with Manu's comment before: it has not..."


You are correct, of course. My understanding though was that we include authors of African background. Both Edugyan's parents are from Ghana, even if she has been raised in Canada.


message 10: by Muphyn (new) - added it

Muphyn | 816 comments David wrote: "Just started in Half Blood Blues and now you're talking about the number two of the list? What's going on?
Btw: not bad at all Edugyan's novel athough I agree with Manu's comment before: it has not..."


Hi David, we'll definitely read #1 'Half Blood Blues' and will be discussing it here. Some people are just so amazingly quick (how do they do it??!) and want to read another one, hence #2 came up. :)

For my part, I'll be excited enough if I manage to read 'Half blood blues'...


Melanie | 171 comments Still waiting for this one from library so I might be a bit behind. Hoping to get before April :)


message 12: by Yejide (new)

Yejide Kilanko | 58 comments Marieke,
Making it April's book (as suggested by Melanie)sounds good to me. I know how busy life is :)


message 13: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (last edited Mar 05, 2012 04:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Hi David--apologies, i was away and without great internet access. i hope friederike and muphyn answered your questions?

about the second choice on the list: some of us seem to be a little over-excited. please don't mind us. :D
i'm still trying to figure out what to do. i'm feeling like a very conflicted moderator.

about whether or not the book has to do with Africa: my intent behind the Contemporary Literature project was to become more familiar with current African writers. The Tour d'Afrique allows for books by non-natives, explorers, visitors, tourists, missionaries, what-have-you in addition to native writers, but the books MUST be about or take place in the country that we are visiting.

with Contemporary Literature, i thought it was a good chance to focus on Africans who write, whether they live in Africa or not, so diaspora writers are clearly included. The books don't have to be about Africa, because writers can write about whatever they wish to write about. As for the definition of "diaspora," i realize that can get dicey, so i decided to draw the line at children of Africans who emigrated to other countries. My thought process there is that in the first-generation there are still very strong ties to Africa (or whatever place of origin) and even if the child feels "Canadian" or "American" or "German," they are also going to feel the identity/culture of their parents' country of origin and it is going to shape their lives and writing, whether it's apparent or not.

i hope that makes sense. I took some liberties with my "Moderator Powers" in that regard. Anyway, i think it will be great to see what Canadian-Ghanaian, Danish-Nigerian, Italian-Ethiopian, Congolese-German writers come up with. I also want to see what Zambians, South Africans, Kenyans, Nigerians, of whatever ethnic backgrounds are writing.


message 14: by S.E. (new) - added it

S.E. Nelson (senelson) I discovered these two lists with African books on them. I added mine and the other two that I have read recently. Are there any other lists that I am not familiar with?

http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/63...
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/69...
Change

Thank you,
Suzanna


David Heyer | 68 comments Hi Marieke, that makes sense so don't feel offended. It's your (our) list and it is great that it is out here. I'm enjoying it so no problem. Keep up the good work. BTW: I left my copy of Edugyan's book in the train yesterday.... bummer


message 16: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
David wrote: "Hi Marieke, that makes sense so don't feel offended. It's your (our) list and it is great that it is out here. I'm enjoying it so no problem. Keep up the good work. BTW: I left my copy of Edugyan's..."

i'm not offended at all, i just wanted to clarify since it seemed like there was some confusion.

re: book on train-- OH NO!


Beverly | 543 comments Sorry to hear that David - maybe it will turn up in the lost & found (hopefully)


Beverly | 543 comments Yejide wrote: "Marieke,
Making it April's book (as suggested by Melanie)sounds good to me. I know how busy life is :)"


I also like the idea of making it the April read as I would not be able to get to it in March.
I have read Swallow by Sefi Atta which I enjoyed. I believe this was her third (and latest bk) - hopefully she will be releasing another book soon.

Well I better get to reading Half-Blood Blues.


Roberta (RobertaSametz) | 4 comments Half Blood Blues is amazing, and gets more amazing as you keep reading, so if you have left it on the train or any other such mishap, better go and get another copy.
I think I appreciated it most when I finished it, as I thought back over and fully appreciated the structure and content, rather than just running with the story. It really stayed present with me for a number of days after. For me it was a whole era and subject with which I was largely unfamiliar - a gap in my knowledge that I didn't even know was there. Don't want to say more at this point as many of you are still reading.


message 20: by Fela (new) - rated it 4 stars

Fela | 23 comments On page 100' this book is very good so far.


David Heyer | 68 comments got a new copy and continue from page 200 today.


Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments David wrote: "got a new copy and continue from page 200 today."

Good for you!


David Heyer | 68 comments Finished it, loved it. Impressive stuff by young female Esi, writing about these three old jazz-guys. That last chapter stays with you for days. Is it about compassion? Letting go? Or is it about the shared love for the music? It took a while to get into it especially because of the slang which can be difficult for a non-native english speaker but boy oh boy that last chapter was the best apotheosis I've read for months.... Glad I've read it and got over my first objections that 'this has nothing to do with Africa...' What the hell, this story must have been told (by Esi) and it is a must-read.....


David Heyer | 68 comments I ordered 'the second life of Samuel Tyne' also.... wanna know of i\her debut was as good as HBB.


message 25: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I'm so glad, David!

Also I can't wait to read it. Soon, soon. :)


Roberta (RobertaSametz) | 4 comments I await your opinion, as I seem to have a lot of books piled up waiting. But she sure impressed me with this one.


message 27: by Fela (new) - rated it 4 stars

Fela | 23 comments Im done, this book is completely amazing.....might even be better than the booker winner "sense of an ending" which it was nominated with.

A great read.


Roberta (RobertaSametz) | 4 comments I agree that it is better than "Sense of an Ending" - more interesting, and it stays with you more.


Angela | 8 comments I also enjoyed this book. It made me want to research life for Afro-Germans during this time period. This is something you don't hear about, at least I haven't. The thing that really resonated with me is the passion for jazz these characters had when their was so much despair around them. The only thing I really did not like was the ending. I really wanted to know what happened to Hiero and how he ended up in Poland.


Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Angela wrote: "I also enjoyed this book. It made me want to research life for Afro-Germans during this time period. This is something you don't hear about, at least I haven't. The thing that really resonated w..."

I agree with you very much. I looked up Edugyan's sources for the Afro-German topic and will order at least one of them. The ending also worried me. I know enough aboht Poland to question how Hiero could have decided to stay there and feel content and even happy. It was a bit rushed at the end.


Melanie | 171 comments Just picked up from library.


message 32: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
And I just started it this morning. :)


Beverly | 543 comments I am sorry that I have not yet read Half-Blood Blues as too many things got in the way of reading this month. I am quite anxious to read and it is sitting on my shelf begging to be picked up - so trying to finish within the next two weeks.

In the meantime - NPR did a short interview with the author and she reads a short piece. Also tells a little why she wrote it and her research.
Here is the link:
http://www.npr.org/2012/03/26/1493949...


message 34: by Yejide (new)

Yejide Kilanko | 58 comments Beverly wrote: "I am sorry that I have not yet read Half-Blood Blues as too many things got in the way of reading this month. I am quite anxious to read and it is sitting on my shelf begging to be picked up - so t..."

Thanks Beverly for this :)


Melanie | 171 comments Really enjoyed this book - author did a wonderful job of transporting me to that time. However, I also wish that the ending wasn't so rushed. There were a couple things that I felt the author should have wrapped up a bit better.


message 36: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Beverly, I'm excited to listen to the interview.

I thought the writing in this book was gorgeous...but I'm not as thrilled with the book as I had hoped to be. I haven't quite finished, so I cant comment on the rushed ending, which seems to be a common complaint among readers.

My main complaint so far may seem like a quibble and I haven't quite finished checking each instance yet, but she seems to have an unfortunate problem with anachronisms. The most glaring one and troubling one (to me) being the reference to the Baltimore Orioles when they were trying to get out of Paris. The orioles didn't come to Baltimore until 1953. Also, this was a segregated time and I'm not sure whether Baltimore would have had a separate seating area for blacks coming to baseball games or not (I need to check on that). Baltimore did have a Negro League team, but it didn't come to Baltimore until 1938...so Chip and Sid would not have gone to those games as kids...my book is at home and I'm blanking on the exact time frame that they were in Berlin, but it seems unlikely that they would have seen baseball in Baltimore. They definitely would not have seen the Orioles.

It bothers me that Edugyan didn't take the time to check on that and it bothers me even more that no one on her editorial team questioned it.


David Heyer | 68 comments good reading!


Beverly | 543 comments Marieke wrote: "Beverly, I'm excited to listen to the interview.

I thought the writing in this book was gorgeous...but I'm not as thrilled with the book as I had hoped to be. I haven't quite finished, so I cant ..."


Interesting - As you know I have not yet read the book. There were several Negro baseball teams out of Baltimore over the years. There were also several Negro baseball leagues before the Negro National League. As you can imagine for the time - leagues would form and then not be substainable - dissolve and other leagues formed.
Also the name "Baltimore Orioles" was used by several times (minor league)teams over the years before the team we now know as the Baltimore Orioles came to Baltimore. Especially since the state bird of MD is the Oriole.

But I will pay attention when reading and check it out.
I will have to dig deep to refresh my memory on baseball history.

But I have noticed that some books that are first published in the UK occassionaly make an error when it comes to black slang/history but they have usually been minor.


message 39: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (last edited Apr 02, 2012 06:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I only had a chance to check the MLB team Orioles and the Negro National League (in its second iteration). The Orioles (as we know them today) were originally the Milwaukee Brewers, then the St. Louis Browns, before arriving in Baltimore for the 1954 season.

The Negro League teams I've found for Baltimore so far are the Elite Giants, which came from Nashville then went to Washington, and played in Balty between 1938 and 1949. There was also the Baltimore Black Sox in 1933-1934.

Anyway, that's my quibble and as Beverly points out, there is a possibility that a team called the Orioles did play in Baltimore back then.

I just finished the book...I have kind of a mixed reaction. There are aspects of it that I really, really loved, such as her gift for language and evoking strong emotions in the complications of friendship. Also, I really liked the ending. To me it didn't feel rushed and I liked that it left me with an optimistic feeling about these elderly men tenderly working through their reconciliation.

But i felt like things were missing from the story and that left me feeling a little frustrated. (view spoiler)

I definitely want to learn more about Jazz in Europe during that era, Afro-German community and history, and Louis Armstrong. I'm also looking forward to more from Edugyan.


Beverly | 543 comments Marieke wrote: "I only had a chance to check the MLB team Orioles and the Negro National League (in its second iteration). The Orioles (as we know them today) were originally the Milwaukee Brewers, then the St. Lo..."

I love it when a book inspires to do more research and to read more. :)

I read In The Garden of Beasts - Erik Lawson last year and it touched on Jazz and the musicians during this era.
There is also a biography by an Afro-German Hans somebody called Destined to Witness.


message 41: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Beverly, did you like In the Garden of Beasts? It seems to get mixed reactions from my GR friends.

I'll look for the Destined to Witness book...


Beverly | 543 comments Yes, I did enjoy In the Garden of Beasts - I do not know if it makes a difference but it was an audio read for me. I listen to audio books when I walk.

But the "slut" daughter did get on my nerves. :)


message 43: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
I listen to audio books when I'm cleaning and such. I'll have to sample the audio version to see how I like the reader's voice. :)


Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Yejide wrote: "Beverly wrote: "I am sorry that I have not yet read Half-Blood Blues as too many things got in the way of reading this month. I am quite anxious to read and it is sitting on my shelf begging to be ..."

I hope you get to it, Yejide.It is a book that stays with you. One of the aspects I admired is Esi's ability to get into the mind of the aging jazz musicians. Also, she captured the essence of feeling trapped by the extreme dangerous political environment.


message 45: by Wowebb3 (new) - added it

Wowebb3 | 2 comments Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues has  arrived, I started to read it last night. I do not know if I am going to love it as you do. I'm just not "into" too much non-standard language. It isn't that I do not appreciate the vernacular, and I have known quite a it of jazz speak. I use a bit of it in  the last part of Weaving the journey, for I was "int the business" for a few years, when I was at Juilliard. I think it is the early reading I did, lots of English tales, and the early novels were all very grammatical.

Several people have recommended the novel, and it may take some time for me to overcome my language bias. When one's formative years are a constant lesson in grammar and elocution  it is a challenge to make the leap As I recall, I did not like Richard Wright's Native Son. That was an assignment that I was reading when I decided, at age 15-16 to write my own novel. My thought's were, as i think i hare written, "Every story I read about my people they are barefoot, pregnant, in the field, I never read about the kinds of people I know." hence novel #one,  Growing up Nigger Rich. I do not think of my choice as elitist, it is simply that the family and community were insistent on "standards. I cringe daily hearing the lazy speech . When I was a kid mother had my sister and me sit  and listen to NBC announcers because, she aid, that their language was excellent Not today. Subject-object, number and tense are gone.

As soon as I get the day's cores completed I will continue to read. I love Jazz, grew up with it, but also classical. Mother knew" Little Jazz" Roy Eldridge, an Dad knew Cab Calloway, and went deep-sea fishing off Cape Cod with Lena Horne. He had a signed photograph from her to him that someone stole after he became old. Folks stole everything from him.

Jazz musicians occasionally stayed with us when they traveled through the south, but, except for slang, like "Copacetic," I do not remember their syntax being uneducated.  Lois Jordan's father was a music teacher I remember one who brought cameo rings for my sister and me from Italy. "Little Jazz" had studied pharmacy, before dropping out for his first love.

I am not claiming that all jazz and blues musician were educated. I just remember the thrust of "upward movement" among  them, as with The Duke. These were the one's offered as worthy of 
being myself. Let's say we're dealing with a generational difference. See page 5, Hochdeutsch means "high German" although some translate it as "people's language," I was taught "hoch"=-high.
 Peace,
 Gwen


message 46: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Hi Gwen, thank you for joining us and sharing your thoughts.

i understand your position on language, but at the same time, i tend to get excited when books are written in the vernacular of any language because spoken language is so rarely written. also, it adds richly to the cultural context of the story, which is why i enjoyed it so much. i wonder what others think?

for this book in particular, i was intrigued by an outsider choosing to write in the vernacular, and while she may not have done a perfect job of it, she did it in a way that added to the story and she kept it consistent, which i enjoyed. my one gripe is that she has Hiero also speaking in the vernacular even though he would not have been speaking English at all, he would have been speaking German. But i guess it would have made the story clunky if all the characters weren't speaking more or less the same. i think that is what caused me to like it, that she rendered the language so smooth throughout the story. usually when we see vernacular in novels, it's just in dialogue, but since she had Sid telling his story, she wrote the entire novel in that style.

Sid may have been very capable of speaking "correctly," but as the narrator, i saw him as being relaxed and being himself and therefore speaking his vernacular. and i really saw it as vernacular, and not coded speech. Vernacular English has its own grammar rules which are quite regular (and sometimes more correct than the rules followed in standard english), so i see it as just different, perhaps as an alternative to standard English, rather than lesser or wrong, or even as an indication of Sid's (or anyone's) level of education.

i think this is a great discussion point, actually...does anyone else have thoughts on the language? i'd love to hear what everyone thinks about Edugyan's choice to write in vernacular/colloquial/jazz (American) english, especially since Edugyan wrote in this style as an outsider.


David Heyer | 68 comments @Gwen: Hochdeutsch refers to the standard german that is taught at schools, quite different from the various dialects in Germany.
@Marieke: The vernacular added value to this story: it was after all the way these guys talked. I also think it was a tool for Edugyan to show that these guys had their own lingo, were a group of people, living a not so standard life, abroad, sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, rough. Outsiders in a way. The vernacular bound them together.


Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments It would be interested to read into the novel in German - how would the translator dealt with the vernacular?

I also remember that there is quite often reference of translation by one or the other and reminding the reader of Hiero's German Diana's speaking in French. I could relate to that.

Come to think of it, while Hiero probably adjusted to the vernacular quite easily he is i fact not given much direct speech.


Friederike Knabe (fknabe) | 162 comments Wowebb3 wrote: "Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues has  arrived, I started to read it last night. I do not know if I am going to love it as you do. I'm just not "into" too much non-standard language. It isn't that I d..."

Gwen, I sympathize with you and the language, it took me a while to get into it. I listened to an interview with Edugyan and she explained that she listened to jazz while writing to get the rhythm of the language... and I read passages loud to myself and that helped greatly to pick up that rhythm.


message 50: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Friederike said, "she explained that she listened to jazz while writing to get the rhythm of the language... and I read passages loud to myself and that helped greatly to pick up that rhythm."

i grew up in the DC-Baltimore area so i guess i'm a bit of a cheater and i have to say the language in the book sounded quite natural to me, except for the dated slang terms that were used since this is essentially a period piece. but the rhythm was there and i enjoyed hearing Sid's voice in my head. I may have subconsciously co-opted the voice of my old neighbor from growing up. :D

while reading i felt a bit guilty because it was "easy" for me but i could easily see how it would be difficult for all the non-Americans in this group, especially those whose first language is not English.

i've also wondered about how a translation would be done...i wonder if there is an equivalent Berlin-slang/dialect from the late 1930s/1940s that a translator could use? i think a lot of regional dialects of german were still being spoken at that time. some of friend's grandparents in Aachen, Germany still spoke "Plattdeutsch" when i was living there in the mid-1990s (for example).


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