At the beginning of last winter, I made a reading list of books I wanted to read for 2011. Looking over  the list, I see that finished two of them (Wild Seed and Half of a Yellow Sun , read partial amounts of others (Omeros and The Odyssey) and put all the others away for future reading. Now, don’t think I only read two books this year!  Below is a list of books read this year:

 

February:

(poetry) Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol – Okot p’Bitek

March:

(poetry) Nappy Edges – Ntozake Shange

(science fiction) Wild Seed – Octavia Butler

April:

(children) Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali – Khephra Burns

(fiction) House of Sand and FogAndre Dubus III

July:

(historical fiction) Someone Knows my Name – Lawrence Hill

(nonfiction)Mississippi in Africa – Alan Huffman

October:

(poetry) Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York and When Winter Comes: the Ascension of York – Frank X. Walker

(fiction) Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison

November:

(poetry) Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate this Ride – Frank X. Walker

(nonfiction) Lewis & Clark Through Indian Eyes – ed. Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. (in progress)

 

I recommitted myself this year to read more poetry and I definitely have. There are poetry books I didn’t include in this list as I’m as still reading them. These books include Prophets by Kwame Dawes, African Sleeping Sickness by Wanda Coleman, Harlem Gallery by Melvin B. Tolson,  Neon Vernacular by Yusef Komunyakaa, Alphabet of Desire by Barbara Hamby, When Light Breaks by Melanie YeYo Carter, Dear Darkness by Kevin Young, the Collected Works of ee cummings, etc.

 

 

 

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres – as I frequently approach history through literature. So it was with excitement that I opened Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie. I knew next to nothing about the backdrop to the novel, the Biafra war. I definitely didn’t know that it was Igbo-based. However, understanding my lack of knowledge, I took what Ama Ata Aidoo wrote in Our Sister Killjoy to be true; that Nigeria "not only has all the characteristics which nearly every African country has but also possesses these characteristics in bolder outline".

I have to admit I was a bit thrown for a loop when the Biafran characters would talk about Nigeria and Nigerians as The Other. Then I remembered a discussion I had with someone about Watch for Me on the Mountain by Forrest Carter. In that book, a fictional rendering of Geronimo’s life, Mexicans were consistently referred to in the negative. I didn’t get that either until I was made to understand that Mexico, as a country, was imposed on Indigenous people from without. Once I understood that, the negative perception of Mexico made a whole lot of sense. It was the same with Nigerian and Nigerians. I have to admit, though, to a little discomfort in understanding (and potentially agreeing with) the Biafran struggle for Independence from Nigeria. After all, one of the giants of African Independence, Kwame Nkrumah, believed strongly in a United States of Africa. Half of a Yellow sun raised questions such as should such a structure be based on the 1885 carving up of Africa?

Originally, I had planned to write an intricate review. However, I must admit, that reading the book soon became a chore. It wasn’t due to book being well over 500 pages. Even though the story was very interesting, the writing itself was unable to hold my interest for a sustained amount of time. Considering all the publicity Adichie has received, I expected a literary masterpiece.Now, don’t get me wrong. It is definitely worth reading; especially for folks like me who look at literature as more than just a good story. It just dragged at several points during the read.