Book Reviews

A Matter of Geography

Volume 14, Issue 2 | Published 27/10/2017  

Author: Jasmine D’Costa
: Mosaic Press
Q&A: By Maya Parmar

Author Jasmine D’Costa is known for her collection of short stories Curry is thicker than water. She now adds to her corpus via the novel A Matter of Geography, which was shortlisted for the Tuscany Prize. Here she responds to questions about her new work, explaining how she drew upon personal experiences in writing the book. From the riots she experienced in Mumbai, to living in India, and migrating to Canada, we see the traces of her life in A Matter of Geography. The novel oscillates around the fictional families who live in Billimoria Building, Mumbai, in the 1990s. The occupants of Billimoria Building are a pick and mix bunch, each apartment with their unique quirks and peculiarities; yet they form a close-knit community. Peter and Anna, and their families, are the focus of the novel, and indeed there is an intimacy and intrigue that draws the reader to their stories. The rhythms of Billimoria Building, and those in it, are however cruelly shattered by sectarian violence. The communities of the novel are destroyed, and Peter and Anna are abruptly separated, for fifteen years.

Author: John Mbaria and Mordecai Ogada
: Lens & Pens Publishing LLC Auburn WA USA 2017
Reviewer: Diana Lee-Smith

I wish the title had been ‘The Big White Conservation Lie’ for that would have been more apt. This book raises fundamental questions about the philosophical basis of conservation, with Kenya as the case study. It also answers those questions, in a scatter-gun tour de force of empirical observation and righteous professional anger. Although the book has flaws, which I shall mention later, it is essentially right in its argument that the basis on which Kenyan conservation has been thought about should be ditched. I would go further and say we should ditch the way we have thought about conservation, period.

Liberating Minds

Volume 14, Issue 2 | Published 27/10/2017  

Author: Nazmi Durrani

Our patriotic history was first distorted by the colonialists and then suppressed by the post-independent dictatorial regimes. The best known example of this is the ban imposed on the Mau Mau movement which was not lifted until 2003. This policy affected many aspects of our history, some more evident than others. The narratives of Kenya’s heroic South Asian freedom fighters belonged to this last category.

I say ‘belonged’ because in mid 1980s, an era often referred to as the Mwakenya years, this lacuna in our history began to be bridged. The late Nazmi Durrani was a librarian working with the US Library of Congress in Nairobi and thus had access to archival material. He researched and wrote short bios of South Asians who had played a part in the struggle of Kenyans for freedom, justice and equality.

The Banana Girls

Volume 14, Issue 2 | Published 27/10/2017  

Author: Karim F Hirji
: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 2017
Review: A blurb

Two talented high school girls, who are also best friends, have resolved to eat bananas every day.

Together with their devotion to the truth and idealistic spirit, this addiction slowly propels them far into the lands of ideas and action. From reserved science students, they evolve to be steadfast fighters for justice, and ultimately find themselves behind bars, convicted of terrorism related charges. This action packed novel traces that evolution through a wide cast of characters that range from school mates, teachers, family members, street vendors to state officials and businessmen, both national and international.

It is a story, based in Africa, of true friendship and the struggle for a decent human existence in the face of powerful adversaries. Though otherwise entirely fictional, it derives from existent and historical realities. Interspersed within its pages, you will find enticing entities from the plant kingdom as well as songs, photos and mathematical ideas relating to bananas. The supplementary material at the end provides an introduction to the factual basis of the story.


Author: Shiraz Durrani
: Mosaic Press
Q&A: By Maya Parmar

Kenya’s War of Independence restores Kenya’s stolen history to its rightful place, stripped of colonial interpretations.  In this expanded and revised version of his 1986 booklet, Kimaathi, Mau Mau’s First Prime Minister of Kenya, Durrani covers Mau Mau’s resistance to colonialism and neocolonialism and reflects on its ideology, organisation and achievements.  He sees Mau Mau in the larger context of Kenya’s War of Independence and looks at the influence of organised, radical trade unions

as the engine of resistance, linking economic with political demands of working people.  New sections then examine post-independence resistance by the underground December Twelve Movement-Mwakenya.

Durrani captures the dynamism of transition from colonialism to neocolonialism: “Capitalism and imperialism flourished; corporations had a field day; neocolonialism replaced colonialism, a comprador government replaced the colonial administration, Black elites took over land from White Settlers while peasants remained landlessness, workers with poor or no employment; poverty everywhere; democratic rights curtailed.   Mau Mau and the trade union movement and their visions sidelined, activists detained, disappeared or murdered. Soon resistance flourished once again: the War of Economic Liberation replaced the War of Independence.  Class struggle became evident everywhere” he says. 

Urmila Jhaveri

Volume 14, Issue 2 | Published 27/10/2017  

Urmila Jhaveri donates historical photographs and documents relating to Tanzania’s struggle for freedom to Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, National Archives and Kavazi la Mwalimu organization.

Member of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) Board of Trustees, Ambassador Gertrude Mongella (right) receives archival documents code named "Precious Moments' from Mrs Urmilaben Jhaveri (left) which highlights the early history of Tanzania that were in her custody and that of her husband, the late Kantilal Jhaveri, in Dar es Salaam on 20 July 2017. The documents shall go to the MNF, Kavazi la Mwalimu Nyerere and to the National Archives. Centre is Indian High Commissioner to Tanzania, Mr Sandeep Arya (Photo by Mohamed Mambo). Story courtesy Daily News, Tanzania.

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