Africa Summer Reading List

Still feeling worked up over my last post about Darfur, I recently contemplated what books I wanted to add to my summer reading list. I have a few good reading opportunities coming up, including my weeklong trip to Mississippi in June, and I want to make sure that I have some substantive books to take advantage of during that time. I haven’t been reading too many non-fiction books about Africa lately, which is a very unusual occurance for me. So to make up for this shortcoming, I ordered the following three books:
Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar, G. Thomas Burgess. I know this author as Gary. He was my Swahili Professor at BYU and the professor that accompanined Suzanne and I on our trip to Tanzania in 1998. During the course of that trip, we had the rare opportunity to meet Ali Sultan Issa, one of the two persons that this book is about. Ali Sultani, as we knew him, was quite the character. He drove us around the narrow streets of Stonetown in his French car, waving hellos to every other person that we passed on the street. He had the wave of a triumphant politician. The shouts of “Ali!” rang from the lips of the passersby on the street. I had the distinct feeling that I was in the company of someone quite celebrated. His stories were legendary. He also had an eleven year old daughter, named Natasha, after a Soviet Revolutionary. Natasha was identifiable after her afternoons at Koranic School by her flourescent green platform sandles sticking out from underneath her long black veil. She had every ounce of the revolutionary fervor that made her father an integral part of the Zanzibari Revolution and no one of the most successful land developers in Stone Town. On a trip to Changuu Island, Natasha accompanied us, walking around as if she owned the former leper colony turned tourist day trip locale. I have been waiting for the opportunity to read this book, filled with Ali’s memoirs, since 1998, when I knew that Gary was planning such a monograph. I am thrilled that the opportunity to read it is finally here. The only downside is that this book is sure to make me long for a return trip to Zanzibar much sooner than I actually can go.

The Challenge for Africa, by Wangari Maathai. I cannot state strongly enough just how much I admire Kenyan environmentalist and activist Wangari Maathai. I cannot. I cannot state strongly enough how brave and beautiful I think she is. I cannot state strongly enough how much I loved to hear this Nobel Laureate speak and how much reading her words hit me on a gut level. All I can do is continue to read those words and hope that they can inspire me enough to do something more useful than simply being touched by her wonderful spirit.

The Translator, Leila Aboulela – This book isn’t nonfiction. It is my token fiction book on my list. However, the setting for the book is Sudan and the UK, and I am very, very excited to read its themes of cultural alienation, loss and love.

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