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Telling African Stories: Bandele and Mengestu

biyi bandelePLAYWRIGHT, NOVELIST AND DIRECTOR BIYI BANDELE

Nigeria’s Biyi Bandele will soon be the talk in the movie industry with the release of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, his first movie as Director. The movie is based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel with the same title.

Biyi Bandele was born Kafanchan, Nigeria, in 1967. He moved to Lagos to study drama at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, before he left for London in 1990. He has won the 1989 International Student Playscript Competition, the 1990 British Council Lagos Award for an unpublished collection of poems. He has worked for the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as writing radio drama and screenplays for television.works include: Rain; Marching for Fausa (1993); Resurrections in the Season of the Longest Drought (1994); Two Horsemen (1994), selected as Best New Play at the 1994 London New Plays Festival; Death Catches the Hunter and Me and the Boys (published in one volume, 1995); and Oroonoko, an adaptation of Aphra Behn’s seventeenth-century novel. In addition, Brixton Stories, Bandele’s stage adaptation of his own novel The Street (1999), premiered in 2001 and was published in one volume with his play, Happy Birthday Mister Deka, which premiered in 1999.

Biyi Bandele was recently featured on CNN’s African Voices

 

ALL OUR NAMES by Dinaw Mengestu

all our namesAll Our Names is the story of two young men who come of age during an African revolution, drawn from the safe confines of the university campus into the intensifying clamor of the streets outside. But as the line between idealism and violence becomes increasingly blurred, the friends are driven apart—one into the deepest peril, as the movement gathers inexorable force, and the other into the safety of exile in the American Midwest. There, pretending to be an exchange student, he falls in love with a social worker and settles into small-town life. Yet this idyll is inescapably darkened by the secrets of his past: the acts he committed and the work he left unfinished. Most of all, he is haunted by the beloved friend he left behind, the charismatic leader who first guided him to revolution and then sacrificed everything to ensure his freedom.

Elegiac, blazing with insights about the physical and emotional geographies that circumscribe our lives,All Our Names is a marvel of vision and tonal command. Writing within the grand tradition of Naipul, Greene, and Achebe, Mengestu gives us a political novel that is also a transfixing portrait of love and grace, of self-determination and the names we are given and the names we earn.

DINAW MENGESTU – The Author

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1978. At the age of two his family moved to the United States. He graduated from Georgetown University and Columbia University in the United States. His first novel was ‘The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears’ published in 2007. His second novel was, ‘How to Read the Air’ published in 2010. He is best known for the way he captures immigrant life in the United States.

The beautiful things that heaven bearsTHE BEAUTIFUL THINGS THAT HEAVEN BEARS 

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents’ jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. He realizes that his life has turned out completely different and far more isolated from the one he had imagined for himself years ago.

Soon Sepha’s neighborhood begins to change. Hope comes in the form of new neighbors-Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter-who become his friends and remind him of what having a family is like for the first time in years. But when the neighborhood’s newfound calm is disturbed by a series of racial incidents, Sepha may lose everything all over again. Told in a haunting and powerful first-person narration that casts the streets of Washington, D.C., and Addis Ababa through Sepha’s eyes, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a deeply affecting and unforgettable debut novel about what it means to lose a family and a country-and what it takes to create a new home.

HOW TO READ THE AIR 

One early September afternoon, Yosef and Mariam, young Ethiopian immigrants who have spent all but their first year of marriage apart, set off on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a new identity as an American couple. Soon, their son, Jonas, will be born in Illinois. Thirty years later, Yosef has died, and Jonas needs to make sense of the volatile generational and cultural ties that have forged him. How can he envision his future without knowing what has come before? Leaving behind his marriage and job in New York, Jonas sets out to retrace his mother and father’s trip and weave together a family history that will take him from the war-torn Ethiopia of his parents’ youth to his life in the America of today, a story—real or invented—that holds the possibility of reconciliation and redemption.

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