Category Archives: Africa

5 Highly Recommended Books

white girls by hilton als  the residue years by mitchell jackson  we need new names by noViolet bulawayo  happiness like water by chinelo okparanta  The Returned by Jason Mott

White Girls by Hilton Als

Hardcover: 300 pages
Publisher: McSweeney’s (November 12, 2013)

White Girls, Hilton Als’s first book since The Women fourteen years ago, finds one of The New Yorker’s boldest cultural critics deftly weaving together his brilliant analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history. The result is an extraordinary, complex portrait of “white girls,” as Als dubs them—an expansive but precise category that encompasses figures as diverse as Truman Capote and Louise Brooks, Malcolm X and Flannery O’Connor. In pieces that hairpin between critique and meditation, fiction and nonfiction, high culture and low, the theoretical and the deeply personal, Als presents a stunning portrait of a writer by way of his subjects, and an invaluable guide to the culture of our time.

The Residue Years by Mitchell Jackson

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (August 20, 2013)

Mitchell S. Jackson grew up black in a neglected neighborhood in America’s whitest city, Portland, Oregon. In the ’90s, those streets and beyond had fallen under the shadow of crack cocaine and its familiar mayhem. In his commanding autobiographical novel, Mitchell writes what it was to come of age in that time and place, with a break-out voice that’s nothing less than extraordinary.

The Residue Years switches between the perspectives of a young man, Champ, and his mother, Grace. Grace is just out of a drug treatment program, trying to stay clean and get her kids back. Champ is trying to do right by his mom and younger brothers, and dreams of reclaiming the only home he and his family have ever shared. But selling crack is the only sure way he knows to achieve his dream. In this world of few options and little opportunity, where love is your strength and your weakness, this family fights for family and against what tears one apart.

Honest in its portrayal, with cadences that dazzle, The Residue Years signals the arrival of a writer set to awe.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; First Edition edition (May 21, 2013)

A remarkable literary debut — shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.

Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.

But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her-from Junot Diaz to Zadie Smith to J.M. Coetzee-while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

Happiness Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta

Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (August 13, 2013)

“Astonishing. Okparanta’s narrators render their stories with such strength and intimacy, such lucidity and composure, that in each and every case the truths of their lives detonate deep inside the reader’s heart, with the power and force of revelation.”—Paul Harding

Chinelo OkparantaHere are Nigerian women at home and transplanted to the United States, building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love. Here are characters faced with dangerous decisions, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties. Here is a world marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, buses that break down and never start up again. Here is a portrait of Nigerians that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving, and across social strata, dealing in every kind of change. Here are stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch. Happiness, Like Water introduces a true talent, a young writer with a beautiful heart and a capacious imagination.

The Returned by Jason Mott

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA; First Edition edition (August 27, 2013)

“Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.”

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time…. Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

THE BLACK SCHOLAR: Journal of Black Studies and Research

theblackscholartwopage640Volume 1 Number 1 November 1969

Mission Statement From the Inaugural Issue:

THE BLACK SCHOLAR has been born out of the struggle of black scholars, black intellectuals, black leaders — all black people —for an education that will provide meaningful definitions of black existence.

So born, THE BLACK SCHOLAR is the first journal of black studies and research in this country.

We recognize that we must re-define our lives. We must shape a culture, a politics, an economics, a sense of our past and future history. We must recognize what we have been and what we shall be, retaining that which has been good and discarding that which has been worthless.

THE BLACK SCHOLAR shall be the journal for that definition. In its pages, black ideologies will be examined, debated, dis­puted and evaluated by the black intellectual community. Arti­cles which research, document and analyze the black experience will be published, so that theory is balanced with fact, and ideology with substantial information.

We cannot afford division any longer if our struggle is to bear fruit, whether those divisions be between class, caste or func­tion. Nothing black is alien to us.

A black scholar recognizes this fact. He is a man of both thought and action, a whole man who thinks for his people and acts with them, a man who honors the whole community of black experience, a man who sees the Ph.D., the janitor, the businessman, the maid, the clerk, the militant, as all sharing the same experience of blackness, with all its complexities and its rewards.

THE BLACK SCHOLAR is the journal for such a man. It is your journal. Support it.

As I flip through the pages of the very first issue (recently purchased for only $20 via Amazon), I’m impressed by not only by the writers included but the depth, quality and importance of those articles.  It was a reminder to me that there was a large community of people who were wrestling with the complex problems that plagued the Black community, who were actively engaged in making fundamental changes, and who did this from a global perspective.   Perhaps this is still true today.  However, from my vantage point, it feels few of us take seriously the problems within our own families or communities — let alone dealing with them on a global scale.

An article by Sékou Touré, who was then President of the Republic of Guinea, immediately drew my attention.  Touré described in great detail what was taking place in Guinea to recover from the impact of European imperialism and the difficulties in nation building.   Articles by John O. Killens (founder of the National Black Writer’s Conference), Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael, and others make this publication an important record of our collective history.

Co-founders Dr. Robert Chrisman and Dr. Nathan Hare

Founded in 1969 by Nathan Hare and Robert Chrisman, The Black Scholar, is one of the first journals dedicated to black studies and research [Journal of African American History first published in 1916 by Carter G. Woodson is perhaps the 1st].  Major African-disasporan and African theorists were represented in its pages.  In a 1995 interview Chrisman attributed much of what exists today to the groundwork laid by the Black Arts Movement [read Kalamu ya Salaam’s article on the Black Arts Movement]:

“If we had not had a Black Arts movement in the sixties we certainly wouldn’t have had national Black literary figures like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alice Walker, or Toni Morrison because much more so than the Harlem Renaissance, in which Black artists were always on the leash of white patrons and publishing houses, the Black Arts movement did it for itself. What you had was Black people going out nationally, in mass, saving that we are an independent Black people and this is what we produce.”

dr-robert-chrismanUntil last week, I was unfamiliar with the work of co-founder Robert Chrisman.   Through professor and poet Tony Medina, I learned of Chrisman’s recent passing.  Chrisman, the former Editor-in-Chief, died on March 10th, 2013, in his San Francisco home.  He was 75.

Dr. Chrisman earned an MA in Language Arts from San Francisco State College, and a doctorate in English from the University of Michigan. He retired from a Professorship and Chair of Black Studies at University of Nebraska, Omaha, in 2005.

Chrisman edited or authored several books including Pan-Africanism (Bobbs-Merrill, 1974), and The Obama Phenomenon: Toward a Multiracial Democracy (University of Illinois Press, 2011).  He was also an accomplished poet and published two books of poetry including, Minor Casualties: New and Selected Poems (Lotus Press, June 1993).

“Rest In Peace to Robert Chrisman, co-founder of “The Black Scholar,” who died yesterday at the age of 75. May his family, friends, colleagues and fellow writers and scholars find solace in the important and necessary institution and legacy he helped to create and foster—and now, sadly, leaves behind. We are fortunate to inherit such a pioneering literary and scholarly journal reflective of the myriad genius of the African diaspora. May we continue to live up to and emulate his level of commitment and example.” —Tony Medina

dr-nathan-hareCo-founder, Dr. Nathan Hare is often called “the father of black studies.”  Hare holds two Ph.D.’s (in sociology from the University of Chicago, and clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at San Francisco).  Dr. Hare’s report on the 1969 Pan African Cultural Festival, held in Algiers, is worth the price alone.

Dr. Hare currently runs The Black Think Tank, which he co-founded with his wife, Dr. Julia Hare, in 1979 to promote a movement for better black male/female relationships.  It has since taken on additional issues including; the miseducation of the black child, spearheading a rites of passage movement for black boys, overhauling the public schools, and educating every black man, woman and child.


Poet, Patricia Jones Spears recently expressed her gratitude to The Black Scholar in reaction to the recent passing of Chrisman;

“The Black Scholar was one of the first of this kind of magazines that connected the work and life of Black Academics with cultural producers. One of my proudest days was to have a poem accepted by The Black Scholar and I know there are many poets, visual artists, musicians were pleased to find their work in the same place as essays on history or social science etc. I thank him for such a broad vision. The generation ahead of us is quietly or not so quietly leaving. I am a Southern woman, I lower my head as they pass.”

The Black Scholar (TBS) Is Still Being Published!

The Black Scholar - Volume 38 Number 1, Spring 2008

Volume 38 Number 1, Spring 2008

The TBS website reports: Effective June 2012, TBS has relaunched, with new editors, an expanded editorial and advisory board, and an expanded vision to reflect a new generation of scholars and activists that has emerged in the last twenty years.

We are responding to the Black Studies revolution and the institutionalizing of black scholarship; the explosion of various forms of racial, ethnic, gender and sexuality studies; vast changes in immigration patterns; the end of Apartheid in South Africa; the election of President Barack Obama; and the burgeoning of a black middle class alongside the metastasizing of an increasingly criminalized black underclass. New questions about the meanings or value of American or global blackness and the operation of racial politics and cultural production are being posed. We are now peer-reviewed.

The new editors—Laura Chrisman, Editor-in-Chief; Sundiata Cha-Jua, Senior Editor; Louis Chude-Sokei, Senior Editor—are committed to continuing the tradition of political engagement while reimagining the journal in keeping with these changes in the field and actively participating in its redefinition.  We will strengthen its position as the primary space for interdisciplinary, cross-cultural black reflection and conversation. Though many of our clientele have come to regard TBS as primarily an academic journal due to our scholarly rigor, we continue to welcome non-specialist writers and to maintain the journal’s commitment to a broader community of readers.  Visit to learn more. wishes The Black Scholar continued longevity and success as they continue to fill a gaping holes in how our story and history are told.