Biafra’s War: A Tribal Conflict in Nigeria That Left a Million Dead

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Almost half a century has passed since the Nigerian Civil War ended. But memories die hard, because a million or more perished in that internecine struggle, the majority women and children, who were starved to death.

Biafra’s war was modern Africa’s first extended conflict. It lasted almost three years and was based on largely ethnic, by inference, tribal grounds. It involved, on the one side, a largely Christian or animist south-eastern quadrant of Nigeria which called itself Biafra, pitted militarily against the country’s more populous and preponderent Islamic north.”

In this vast picture of the Nigerian-Biafran War showing a comprehensive portrait of Nigeria and, to a larger extent, of West Africa in the 1960s, Al J. Venter not only writes about the war in all its complexity, but also makes the reader live the war. Through his incredible account in which personal experience mingles with historical facts, the multiples faces of the first fully mediatized war in the 20th century become more and more visible to the public as they mix with individual stories about it.

Al J. Venter also accompanies his book with numerous rare photographies of people’s dialy life during the war, from atrocities to domestic scenes. What is also enriching is the enormous number of testimonies and witness accounts from many war pilots and journalists of the time. The personal touch and experience, as well as the insightful analysis of the events and atmosphere of the time, give the book a deeply human dimension- it is, eventually, what makes History an everyday experience and collective contribution.

More than “just another” history book, Venter’s account is a true historical document which allows older as well as younger generations to understand a bit more about this complex ethnic civil war that largely shaped the political present situation of Nigeria.

Biafra’s War: An Tribal Conflict In Nigeria That Left A Million Dead by Al J. Venter

978- 19121747020 / Helion & Company, 2015

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is the author of a collection of short stories and a translator of books from French to Romanian. She is trilingual in Romanian, French and English, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Hearts of Clay

'Hearts of Clay' cover« Shortly after I was born, my dad relocated to the UK, leaving my mum and I behind. Apart from pictures and telephone calls, I didn’t really know my dad. My mum, however, was my world until I turned five-years-old and my dad came to take her away from me. She dropped me off at my grandparents’ house in Ibadan and relocated to the UK with my dad. Mama, as I used to call my grandma, was so happy to have me, in fact it was a dream come true for her but a nightmare for me. Despite loving Mama to bits, I found it difficult to adjust to my new life, and her efforts to fill in the void proved abortive (…) As days turned into weeks and months into years, Mama became the centre of my world, with only occasional reminiscence of Mummy’s love. »

Grace, a young independent woman living in the UK, comes to Lagos only to embark on a thrilling adventure that starts in the streets of Lagos and ends up in London, in a totally different picture.

Dosun Adeleye’s novel is the story of this character’s life: a fearless, ambitious character nevertheless dominated by the fear of being abandoned as well as by the longing of being cared for. From a complicated childhood spent mostly in her grandparents’ house and far from her parents, to a busy and accomplished professional life, Grace also carries with her a haunting secret.

The motif of the baby “stolen” from its biological father, central in Dosun Adeleye’s novel, is questioned as it refers to the “bigger picture” of this socio-cultural element often present in popular literature and cinema. This bigger picture offers us the portrait of a complicated and sometimes painful love life, in which destiny doesn’t often match the idea of life one had in the first place. What is more, it is not only the notion of destiny that is challenged, but also a certain cliché about “genetic” predestination.

What the reader discovers instead is a dynamic story of a quest for love, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifices, whatever the obstacles. Almost like a modern fairytale, the novel draws not a sweet or overromanticized portrait of the main character, but a story full of fearless hope.

Hearts of Clay by Dosun Adeleye

978- 1916466302 / E-book version

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

War of Intervention in Angola (Volume 1: Angolan and Cuban Forces at War, 1975-1976)

Angolan war pictureOver time, a more comprehensive picture began emerging, indicating that a series of three successive wars were fought in Angola in the period from 1961 until 2002. The first of these- variously known as the ‘Angolan War of Independence’, or ‘I Angolan War’- went on from 1961 until 1974, saw insurgencies by multiple Angolan nationalist movements fighting against the Portuguese colonial rule. It ended with the Portuguese withdrawal and nominal independence of Angola. Even before that conflict was over, a ‘civil’ war erupted between three major Angolan insurgent movements and their foreign backers. Lasting until 1992, and including military interventions by Cuba and South Africa, and discrete meddling by the United States of America (USA) and even China, this war is colloquially known as ‘II Angolan War.’”

Out of Africa’s twentieth century wars, this book reconstructs the story of a war that seems to have been too little documented over the last decades. From the analysis of the situation of Angola in the 1960s (in the larger context of the Cold War) to a detailed overview of the allied troops in 1975-1976, this historic insight concentrates more on Operation Carlotta, or the intervention of Cuban forces, during these years.

The analyses also help us understand the complex situation of many African countries at the time who, after independence, went through civil wars, alimented by long-term local rivalries and interests. With a detailed insight on the Angolan context, over 100 rare pictures, and its historical past, especially the period of the Portuguese rule, the authors give the reader a wide perspective on a complex historical phenomenon engaging several internal parties and coalitions as well as several foreign military forces.

Adrien Fontanellaz and Tom Cooper’s book is an interesting and enriching reading, destined not only to historians, but also to non specialists who want to understand one of the most complex historical events in the mid- twentieth century Africa, as well as its implications outside Angola. More than history, War of Intervention in Angola is food for thought.

War of Intervention in Angola by Adrien Fontanellaz and Tom Cooper

978-1911628194 / Helion and Company, Africa@War Series, August 15, 2018.

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

The African Piper of Harlem

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Every citizen in this district is filled with hope. (…) New immigrants have seen the realization of that hope for the African-American icons. And they are here to participate in that dream, including the fictional characters discussed in the following chapters. The family comes from Nigeria- the most populous country in Africa, containing at least 300 ethnolinguistic groups (…) Perhaps this family may have had ancestors who were middle-men in facilitating the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But that, and skin pigmentation are the only physical similarities they conceivably share with the American descendants of slaves. Thus, begins the age-old dance of assimilation, exchanging old stories and acquiring new ones. In a bygone era, connections formed in ethnic enclaves over time, perhaps a generation or more, would have eased these transitions in a welcoming and appropriate manner. ”

When Ola, a Nigerian sixteen-year old girl who just moved to Harlem, finds out that she is pregnant with twins, she knows that she is at a crossroads and that she will have to make it on her own for her family. What she doesn’t know is that she is not as alone as she thinks and that the events in her life will sometimes be the fruit of fate and magic.

The story of Ola’s family is also the story of her coming of age, from a sixteen-year old young girl who wakes up into a tough, unknown world to the mother who, despite her stubbornness and her desire to control everything, discovers that not everything is controllable and that magic is as much a part of life as everyday reality. Above all, she will learn that, to quote one of the chapter titles, “life is a team sport”.

In this novella, Zeena Nackerdien explores the rich cultural identity of the mythical district of Harlem starting with a sensible and beautifully written introductory chapter called “Hope” in which we discover the roots of the multi-ethnic community living there. This district, which is a micro-universe in itself and home to a remarcable diversity of cultures and individual (hi)stories, is the setting of the story of Ola’s family that witnesses how magic can intrude unsurprisingly in daily life.

This “tale of bullies and deception” combines fantasy elements with Yoruba traditions and realistic descriptions in modern-day Harlem to show an extraordinarily diverse yet tough world, in which fantastic fairies sing their pipes to clear the world from bullies, and bring love back to life.

The African Piper of Harlem by Zeena Nackerdien

9-781725911109 / Createspace Independent Publishing Platform (to be published on September 15, 2018)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

The Promise That We Made

40771567You and I are from different worlds, Patrick Keen. You call It giving up. I think I’ve had enough. You have no idea what I’ve had to do to survive; the terrible life I’ve had to live. I’ve had to go forty-eight hours without food because I couldn’t afford it. I know poverty and poverty knows me. We breathe the same air. So, don’t sit here and blame me if I decide to leave all that behind and go back to a life I am certain is better.”

A straight-forward, determined girl from a poor village. A rich handsome man, coming from no where.

So begins a story between two people who live in two different worlds and who only cross each other’s path by accident. Omotara struggles against a life of poverty in her beloved village which now represents a serious menace for her. Patrick struggles to hold back the layers of his own identity, and also to win Omotara’s heart. When they come across each other several times, Omotara understands that she is at a crossoards in her life and that radical decisions await her.

In a world where nothing is what it looks like, where no place is truly safe, however familiar it looks, Omotara goes from Lagos back to her village where her people struggle to resist starvation under a newly-instaured dictatorial regime. Her determination to free her village from corruption and terror is also a way for fight her own destiny and to take back her own chance to become a doctor.

Aderonke Moyinlorun’s book is a pleasant reading that takes you across several places and genres almost at the same time, from the classical first encounter of a romance to an espionage novel. The alert style, both inward-oriented and accurate about the outside world, is doubled by a dynamic plot. The result is an interesting book with strong characters, an insightful first person narrative voice, and an unexpected mix of romance, thriller and political fable.

The Promise That We Made by Aderonke Moyinlorun

978-1722191658 / CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 14, 2018)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Nigeria: A Failed State? (UPCOMING RELEASE IN SEPTEMBER 2018)

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« Scapegoating has not helped any nation to evolve ; Nigeria won’t be the exception. The best approach is to search for the cause of the failures and confront it. A country where politics is the chief means of livelihood is sitting on a time bomb. This perception brings about « national cake syndrome » ; national cake brings equity in public office ; equity in public office reinforces rotational presidency ; and rotational presidency, in turn, nurtures the agitation for national conference. »

Robert Nwadiaru introduces us to the present-day Nigeria, the African Giant, a country with infinite riches, both natural and human, yet which still struggles after more than half a century after the independence.

The book that critics have compared to Chinua Achebe’s The Trouble with Nigeria from 1983 transports its reader to Nigeria and  makes him feel like he knows it intimately ; the fine geographical details, as well as the constant references to the political, historical, and economical context in the past 50 years, offer a large view of what Nigeria is and, more, of what it could be. Understanding Nigeria’s present is a way to understand Africa’s development in the larger context of the contemporary world.

If the book analyses closely the reasons of the country’s failure, the blame is put on the political caste: corruption, poverty, poor infrastructure are all consequences of the bad political organization of Nigeria. However, far from being merely pessimistic, the book also analyses possible solutions, therefore making the politicians even more reponsible for the direction in which the country evolves.

Acclaimed by Kirkus Rieviews in 2015 for its first edition and released again in September 2018 by Mascot Books, Robert Nwadiaru’s book is sharp, critical and realistic. It is the lucid account of an author and citizen who knows the true potential of his country.

Is Nigeria a failed state? The question is open to discussion making the book a necessary reading in the contemporary world. We are therefore invited to meditate on the burning issues it raises.

You can read more on Robert Nwadiaru’s book and order your copy here:

https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/nonfiction/business-and-political/nigeria-a-failed-state-treatise-on-a-crippled-giant/

https://www.amazon.com/Nigeria-Failed-Profound-Treatise-Crippled/dp/1684015766/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531841010&sr=8-1&keywords=Nigeria%3A+a+failed+state 

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Acacia Road

“Memoacacia-road-cover-art_origry Palace”

In my father’s house there are rooms, where I might wander,

Finding in each the rubble of childhood- a reading chair,

maroon rug, cluttered toys-

things on which I could place a memory, if only I could return-

(…) I articulate all memories into one: a toy gun, unstrung bow,

desk with owl feathers, cabinet spilling blood, the spines of books

I never had the time to read. If I lose the way back to this place,

lose it at a wrong turn and into a wrong room, it will never be for the lack

of things to stand in place of other things, but for the will to look.”

In this poetry book full of images and memories willing to bring back the time, the poet tries to capture the most powerful moments of sharing, love, friendship and tolerance: family, friends, loved ones, anonymous people, all are immortalized in the poet’s personal geography.

From the raw violence on the military fronts during the civil war to the quiet of a friend’s house, Aaron Brown takes the reader on a journey into a space and time that belong to a longed-for past: the Chad of his childhood, Ati the town of his growing-up years, almost a lost Paradise -even if this Paradise is also violent, tough and unforgiving.

Encapsulating space and time within words, Aaron Brown’s poetry rushes across a land of vivid colours and people. It also depicts a world belonging to another time and place, to another age, to another person; in this poliphonic poetry where French, Arabic and English sometimes mingle and almost echo each other, the poet creates the “memory palace” of his adult life.

Aaron Brown’s poetry is beautifully written and has a strong sense of description, thus transforming the ordinary into exquisite, blissful bits of writing. From the precious time spent with friends come these poems in which not a particular geographic region, but the land of youth, generosity and love is the true mother country so longed for.

Acacia Road by Aaron Brown

978-1878851697 / Silverfish Review Press (May 15, 2018)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow

39725298The time is 1215 hours, Central Union Base Time. Updating progress on Program Irunmole: attempt to synthesize igioyin cure from antibodies of individuals possessing extranormal ability. There’s been a setback. Extranormals’ perceived immunity to igioyin appears to be limited by a range of variables; most notably, use of their abilities. Usage results in a rapid acceleration of the virus’ maturity. Resultant mortality rate is far greater than baseline for highly vulnerable Normals. We believe the selection of antibodies from higher usage Extranormals may be the root cause for the failure of the current iteration of the formula S1-91-978. After the initial success of trials with patient set 11.1 without the adverse effects seen in prior Normal groups, it appeared we had a viable treatment for the igioyin virus. ”

What would happen if the world was no longer the place you thought it was?

How would one encounter change your life and reveal a destiny larger than your own life?

In the year 93.O.O, Dara Adeleye is a gifted ambitious artist whose goal is to overcome her modest origin by being the best in class. Her life is focused on succeeding at school to provide a better life for her family. Yet when she meets Kris Arvelo, a trazer or a graffiti writer, her life will change forever as she understands that her mission may be much larger than she had initially envisaged. On the brink of extinction, the world as Dara used to know it is now in danger- and she might be just the person to help save it.

Situated in a world where technology and mythology meet, Joseph Adegboyega-Edun’s first book of the Trazer series is boldly written in a language scattered with words and images from the Yoruba mythology to show how harmoniously spirituality and technology can coexist; as the author himself states it, “Yoruba religion has a lot of lore related to travel in between worlds and traveling great distances instantly through secret portals.

Acclaimed by critics, Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow is one of the important works of contemporary Sci-Fi literature that both cherish their African traditional heritage, and look ahead for new forms and modes of representing our over-technologized world. Inspired by authors like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Joseph Adegboyega-Edun’s novel is a powerful read in which Yoruba language, US slang and scientifc utopia weave the literary image of our globalized world.

Trazer: Kids of Stolen Tomorrow by Joseph Olumide Adegboyega-Edun

978-0692995037 / YorubaBoy Books; 1st edition (October 19, 2017)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

Nocturnal Notes

41fti5ijppl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Today, thoughts of you

came rushing like a danfo driver

I must have been in

a hurry for something –

it turned out to be you.

on impulse, I reach for your photo. (…)

at first, I laughed, then I smiled

soon my heart lost its rhythm

my eyes their pride

and my tears washed down your face”

(“Empty Room”)

Love, pain, friendship, political rebellion, homage to the elders and hope for the future are all encompassed in this collection of poems which is like a map of the poet’s interior landscapes painted with his own vision of life.

If the coming-of-age literature is almost exclusively in prose, here is an example of poetry that can draw the road from childhood and youth to maturity and knowledge. It’s also a road that involves the past and the future, the family, episodic encounters, revelations- all this creates the ever-changing identity of the poet.

Bolajoko Olusanya’s poems are lyrical and visual, sensible and sharp, and give the reader the sense of the universality of experience: even if the events illustrated by drawings are rooted in Nigeria, the experience they describe speaks to any reader regardless of his natvie culture. It is here the sign of important writing- that it spreads beyond its language and voice and speaks in the name of a generation anchored not in one country, but in all the world.

Nocturnal Notes by Bolajoko Olusanya

978-1975849184 / CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 16, 2017)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.

My Mind Is No Longer Here

51yakqehhul-_sr6002c315_piwhitestrip2cbottomleft2c02c35_pistarratingfive2cbottomleft2c3602c-6_sr6002c315_sclzzzzzzz_1«  Each time he tried, he fell asleep after a few pages. He stared at it nowand what he saw was the small bookshelf in his childhood home in Enugu whichoverflowed with his father’s books. (…) Filled with this sudden flash of nostalgia, Donatus stretched his arm out and grabbed the book. In his younger years, he would have holed himself up in his room, missing meals and his favourite shows on television until he was done reading it. Tonight, he just wanted something to fill up the time until it was morning. »

In today’s Lagos, four characters are ready to take off to a better place. Donatus, Osahom, Haruna and Chidi prepare to embark for Europe where they will lead the life they daydream about, the life that the rich and influential Yinka promised and arranged for them.

In this four-voiced novel in which the same moment is repeated and recreated through each character’s own experience, we discover the dreams, hopes and pains of young ambitious people who think the world is too small for them. Sylva Nze Ifedigbo‘s beautifully written novel gives us an idea of how much we are capable of leaving behind for a dream and how wrong we can sometimes be. The question then is: is the dream worth it ?

As the four characters get closer to the departure day, time expands more and more to encompass all their hopes, missed opportunities to make up with their loved ones, and burning desire to escape, even if the promise of a better life is shadowed by obscure intentions.

With its clear introspection and its flowing language, My Mind Is No Longer Here is a great work of literature in the line of Chris Abani’s GraceLand in which the Promised Land that lies at the horizon is almost nothing like reality. It is in the narrow space between the decision to leave and departure that the narrative takes place- an in-betweenness that pushes people to make radical decisions and sometimes radical mistakes; a time where the future life and the ghosts of the past mingle.

Last but not least, Ifedigbo‘s novel is not only about Nigeria, but more about a global generation of people who boldly want to built their own destiny and make enormous sacrifices, yet who remain naive before the true nature of things and people.

My Mind Is No Longer Here by Slva Nze Ifedigbo

B06XGYJ562 (Kindle format) / Bahati Books (March 29th 2017)

Review by Ioana Danaila

Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She graduated from University Lyon 2 Lumière with a Masters in African Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She published a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. She speaks Romanian, French, English, and Spanish, and teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.