Book Digest

Book Digest: Leila Aboulela, Fanta Dramé, Rosanna Amaka, Jarred Thompson

We wrap up book news for our readers in our regular Book Digest segment with books from Leila Aboulela, Fanta Dramé, Rosanna Amaka, and Jarred Thompson.

River Spirit by Leila Aboulela

Publisher: Grove Press          
Date: March 7, 2023
Genre: Fiction
Where to find it: Grove Press.

Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela
Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela is the first-ever winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. Nominated three times for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction), she is the author of numerous novels, including The Kindness of Enemies, The Translator, Minaret and Lyrics Alley, which was Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages. She grew up in Khartoum, Sudan, and now lives in Aberdeen, Scotland.

River Spirit

RIver Spirit by Leila Aboulela

The spellbinding new novel from New York Times Notable Author and Caine Prize winner Leila Aboulela about an embattled young woman’s coming of age during the Mahdist War in 19th century Sudan.

Leila Aboulela, hailed as “a versatile prose stylist” (New York Times) has also been praised by J.M. Coetzee, Ali Smith, and Ben Okri, among others, for her rich and nuanced novels depicting Islamic spiritual and political life. Her new novel is an enchanting narrative of the years leading up to the British conquest of Sudan in 1898, and a deeply human look at the tensions between Britain and Sudan, Christianity and Islam, colonizer and colonized. In River Spirit, Aboulela gives us the unforgettable story of a people who—against the odds and for a brief time—gained independence from foreign rule through their willpower, subterfuge, and sacrifice.

When Akuany and her brother Bol are orphaned in a village raid in South Sudan, they’re taken in by a young merchant Yaseen who promises to care for them, a vow that tethers him to Akuany through their adulthood. As a revolutionary leader rises to power – the self-proclaimed Mahdi, prophesied redeemer of Islam – Sudan begins to slip from the grasp of Ottoman rule, and everyone must choose a side. A scholar of the Qur’an, Yaseen feels beholden to stand against this false Mahdi, even as his choice splinters his family. Meanwhile, Akuany moves through her young adulthood and across the country alone, sold and traded from house to house, with Yaseen as her inconsistent lifeline. Everything each of them is striving for – love, freedom, safety – is all on the line in the fight for Sudan.

Through the voices of seven men and women whose fates grow inextricably linked, Aboulela’s latest novel illuminates a fraught and bloody reckoning with thehistory of a people caught in the crosshairs of imperialism. River Spirit is a powerful tale of corruption, coming of age, and unshakeable devotion – to a cause, to one’s faith, and to the people who become family.

Ajar-Paris by Fanta Dramé

Publisher: PLON
Date: August 25, 2022
Language: French
Genre: Fiction
Where to find it: Amazon.

Fanta Dramé

Dramé Fanta. Photo/Naleane
Dramé Fanta. Photo/Naleane

Fanta Dramé grew up in the 20th arrondissement of the capital. After a master’s degree in modern literature, she obtained the CAPES and taught as a French teacher in a college in Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis). Ajar-Paris is her debut novel.


Ajar Paris by Fanta Drame 3

Ajar-Paris is a brilliant, sensitive and powerful story about emigration, and the strong connection between a father and his daughter. How does it feel to be a stranger in your parent’s country? In her autobiographical debut, Fanta Dramé explores this fundamental interrogation as she travels for the first time to Ajar, a small village lost in the Mauritanian desert, for her grandmother’s funeral. Fanta was born and raised in Paris, she knows nothing about Mauritania, and it is a shock for her to discover how different life is here, compared to hers, back in Paris. Following this intense trip, she decides to question her father about his decision to move to France, 40 years earlier, and the challenges he faced as an illegal immigrant.

This powerful novel deals more with emigration than immigration. Because Fanta Dramé’s focus is more on her father’s journey as a whole, on the person he was before his exile, and the person he is now. What matters to her is to understand her father’s double identity in order to find her own place within her family history, and in the world.

What also makes this book beautiful is its wonderful humor, tenderness and thoughtfulness that will make you laugh but also maybe cry.

Rose and the Burma Sky by Rosanna Amaka

Publisher: Doubleday (Penguin), Masobe Books     
Date: February 23, 2023
Genre: Fiction
Where to find it:  Penguin

Rosanna Amaka

Rosanna Amaka
Rosanna Amaka

Rosanna Amaka was born in the UK and is of Nigerian and Jamaican heritage. She holds both graduate and post-graduate degrees in engineering and teaching from King’s College and University College London, and has spent many years travelling internationally as a chartered engineer. Experiences abroad helped fuel her interest in culture, history and the human condition, which is a feature in her work. Her debut novel, The Book of Echoes, was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club First Novel Award, the RSL Christopher Bland Prize and the HWA Debut Crown Award. Rose and the Burma Sky is her second novel and was inspired by a conversation with her grandmother while they were watching a war film in which all the soldiers were white. Rosanna lives in South London.

Rose and the Burma Sky

Rose and the Burma Sky by Rosanna Amaka

One war, one soldier, one enduring love 1939: In a village in south-east Nigeria on the brink of the Second World War, young Obi watches from a mango tree as a colonial army jeep speeds by, filled with soldiers laughing and shouting, their buttons shining in the sun. To Obi, their promise of a smart uniform and regular wages is hard to resist, especially as he has his sweetheart Rose to impress and a family to support. Years later, when Rose falls pregnant to another man, his heart is shattered. As the Burma Campaign mounts, and Obi is shipped out to fight, he is haunted by the mystery of Rose’s lover. When his identity comes to light, Obi’s devastation leads to a tragic chain of unexpected events. In ROSE AND THE BURMA SKY, Rosanna Amaka weaves together the realities of war, the pain of first love and how following your heart might not always be the best course of action. Its gritty boy’s-eye view brings a spare and impassioned intensity, charging it with universal resonance and power.

The Institute for Creative Writing by Jarred Thompson

Publisher: Afritondo 
Date: February 1, 2023
Genre: Fiction
Where To Find it: Click here.

Jarred Thompson

Jarred Thompson
Jarred Thompson

Jarred Thompson is queer male, Johannesburg-based, South African writer whose poetry has been published in Type House Literary Magazine, Sky Island Journal, New Contrast Journal and the 2017 Sol Plaatje Award and Anthology. His chapbook, Universes and Paradoxes was shortlisted for the Kingdom in the Wild Poetry Prize. His fiction publications include The Johannesburg Review of Books, ImageOutWrite (2018), and The Heart of The Matter (2019) among others. His short story, Changing I’s, was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and his poetry and fiction has been shortlisted for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award and Anthology (2019). His non-fiction work includes titles relating to Queer Pan-Africanism, Violence in Gay Male Intimate Relationships and Non-Monogamy in Queer Relationships among others.

The Institute for Creative Writing

The Institute for Creative Writing by Jarred Thompson

You wouldn’t know it was there, the unnumbered house behind the iron-grille gate, just below the craggy rocks of Northcliff ridge. To the untrained eye the rambling property might seem neglected, with its tangle of trees and untamed indigenous bush. But there is purpose here, and a peaceful, subterranean focus on all that withers and dies.

Five strangers—a model, a former nun, a couple in crisis, and an offender newly released from prison—have come here, to this place, to discover an end to life as they’ve known it. Placing their trust in their hosts, the Mortician and Mustafa, the five open their minds and bodies to an alternative experience. Not all of them will survive—or at least not in the way they imagined—but all of them will be shown the limits of their living.

The Institute for Creative Dying is vivid and visceral, unique in its bold and imaginative exploration of mortality and the interconnectedness of all forms of being.



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One response to “Book Digest: Leila Aboulela, Fanta Dramé, Rosanna Amaka, Jarred Thompson

  1. Fanta avatar

    I’m Fanta Dramé ! Thank you for the article. But it’s not me on the picture… Can you change it ?
    Thank you so much !

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