Book Digest

Book Digest: Ishi Robinson, João Melo, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Iris Mwanza

We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest segment with books from Ishi Robinson, João Melo, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, and Iris Mwanza.

Sweetness in the Skin by Ishi Robinson

Publisher:  Harper
Date:  April 23, 2024
Genre:  Fiction
Language: English
Where to find it:  Harper

Ishi Robinson

Ishi Robinson
Ishi Robinson

Ishi Robinson is a Jamaican writer living in Berlin. Her first published work was a short story in the national newspaper when she was eleven years old. Since then, she’s written opinion pieces and short stories of fiction for various publications in Kingston, Toronto, Rome, and Berlin. Sweetness in the Skin is her first novel.

Sweetness in the Skin

Sweetness in the Skin by Ishi Robinson
Sweetness in the Skin by Ishi Robinson

A winning debut novel about a Jamaican girl determined to bake her way out of her dysfunctional family and into the opportunity of a lifetime. Pumkin Patterson is a thirteen-year-old girl living in a tiny two-room house in Kingston, Jamaica, with her grandmother (who wants to improve the family’s social standing), her Aunt Sophie (who dreams of a new life in Paris for her and Pumkin), and her mother Paulette (who’s rarely home).

When Sophie is offered the chance to move to France for work, she seizes the opportunity, and promises to send for her niece in one year’s time. All Pumkin has to do is pass her French entrance exam so she can attend school there. But when Pumkin’s grandmother dies, she’s left alone with her volatile mother, and as soon as her estranged father turns up—as lazy and conniving as ever—the household’s fortunes take a turn for the worse.

Pumkin must somehow find a way to raise the money for her French exam, so she can free herself from her household and reunite with her beloved aunt in France. In a moment of ingenuity, she turns her passion for baking into a true business. Making batches of sweet potato pudding, coconut drops and chocolate cakes, Pumkin develops a booming trade—but when her school and her mother find out what she’s up to, everything she’s worked so hard for may slip through her fingers. . . .

Sweetness in the Skin is a funny and heartbreaking story about a young girl figuring out who she is, what she is capable of—and where she truly belongs.

O Acumulador by João Melo

Publisher: Caminho
Date:  June 4, 2024.
Genre:  Fiction, Short stories
Language:  Portuguese
Where to find it:  Caminho

João Melo

João Melo
João Melo

João Melo was born in 1955, in Luanda (Angola). He completed his primary and secondary studies in that city. He studied Law in Coimbra (Portugal), graduated in Journalism in Niterói (Brazil) and completed a master’s degree in Cultural Communication in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). He was an advertiser, university professor, parliamentarian (1992-2017) and minister (2017-2019). Founding member of the Union of Angolan Writers and the Angola Academy of Letters and Social Sciences. He currently dedicates himself exclusively to writing, dividing his time between Angola, Portugal and the United States. In 2008 he received the Maboque Prize. In 2009 he was awarded the National Prize for Culture and Arts of Angola, literature category.

O Acumulador

O Acumulador by João Melo
O Acumulador by João Melo

O Acumulador (English: The Accumulator) is the eighth book of short stories (or stories, as he sometimes calls them) by Angolan João Melo. In this new book, the author continues his political-literary project: questioning Angolan society and politics. In addition to the history and politics of his country, interpersonal relationships, marked by universally shared feelings, are also dealt with in these stories. Inevitable themes, such as identity and race, are referred to naturally, without major drama. A particular emphasis on relationships between men and women in the Angolan context, a recurring feature in the author’s fictional work.

A trademark of his narrative style, humor – which the Angolan author says is a kind of worldview and, paraphrasing the Kenyan Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, an essential resource for Africans to face the harsh reality of their lives – is present in most of the stories that make up this volume, starting with the one that serves as its title. But there is also room for gentle reminiscences of the author’s childhood in Luanda, as in the story that opens this book.

Lost Ark Dreaming by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Publisher:  Tordotcom, Masobe Books
Date:  May 21, 2024
Genre:  Fiction, Science fiction, Apocalyptic fiction,
Language:  English
Where to find it:  Lost Ark Dreaming,

Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies-Okungbowa
Suyi Davies-Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian fantasy, science fiction and speculative writer and academic. He is the author of various novels, including The Nameless Republic epic fantasy trilogy, beginning with Son of the Storm. His debut was the godpunk fantasy novel, David Mogo, Godhunter.

Lost Ark Dreaming

Lost Ark Dreaming by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Lost Ark Dreaming by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

The brutally engineered class divisions of Snowpiercer meets Rivers Solomon’s The Deep in this high-octane post-climate disaster novella written by Nommo Award-winning author Suyi Davies Okungbowa Off the coast of West Africa, decades after the dangerous rise of the Atlantic Ocean, the region’s survivors live inside five partially submerged, kilometers-high towers originally created as a playground for the wealthy. Now the towers’ most affluent rule from their lofty perch at the top while the rest are crammed into the dark, fetid floors below sea level. There are also those who were left for dead in the Atlantic, only to be reawakened by an ancient power, and who seek vengeance on those who offered them up to the waves. Three lives within the towers are pulled to the fore of this conflict: Yekini, an earnest, mid-level rookie analyst; Tuoyo, an undersea mechanic mourning a tremendous loss; and Ngozi, an egotistical bureaucrat from the highest levels of governance. They will need to work together if there is to be any hope of a future that is worth living—for everyone.

The Lions’ Den by Iris Mwanza

Publisher:  Canongate
Date:  June 6, 2024
Genre:  Fiction
Language:  English
Where to find it: Buy the book

Iris Mwanza

Iris Mwanza
Iris Mwanza

Iris Mwanza is a Zambian-American writer. Now Deputy Director of Women in Leadership in the Gender Equality Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she has worked as a corporate lawyer in both Zambia and the US. Mwanza holds law degrees from Cornell University and the University of Zambia, and an MA and PhD in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In addition to her work at the Foundation, Mwanza serves on the Supervisory Board of Care International and on the Board of Directors of World Wildlife Fund US. The Lions’ Den is her first novel.

The Lions’ Den

The Lions’ Den by Iris Mwanza
The Lions’ Den by Iris Mwanza

Rookie lawyer Grace Zulu does not give up easily. She escaped an arranged marriage to put herself through university. Now she’s got her first case.

Her client is young Willbess ‘Bessy’ Mulenga, who has been arrested for offences ‘against nature’. Bessy works in a men-only bar, loves to dance, to wear dresses and live freely. But in 1990s Zambia, following your own identity can get you beaten, jailed or even worse. Grace is determined to get Bessy out of custody. Then her terrified, bruised client goes missing without a trace. She knows something bad has happened and that someone is trying to cover it up. Along with the most unlikely group of allies, Grace must take on powerful enemies at the highest levels – even risk her own safety – to get to the truth. The whole truth.

A debut novel that soars with passion and humanity, The Lions’ Den is a moving story of prejudice, corruption, injustice, courage and solidarity. It shows us that no cause is ever a lost one.

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