Thursday, August 13, 2009

In the Hour of Signs by Jamal Mahjoub

In the Hour of Signs (African Writers Series) In the Hour of Signs by Jamal Mahjoub

Fascinating weaving of tales from multiple points of view: the Sudanese temporary ousting of the British in 1885, followed by British re-capturing of Khartoum in 1898. Interesting echoes with Iraq invasion--the easy fall of the city, followed by disaster. Mahjoub really knows how to pull threads together with great lines like "he [Kadaro--a boy who grew to a man in the novel:] understood then that the battle was not between men of different colours or faiths, but between two different ages. The world beyond, a world he did not know, existed in a different age--an age that was much faster than that which he knew and so much wiser. This was a war between yesterday and tomorrow."

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Poured Fire On Us From the Sky

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Alphonsion Deng

My rating: 4 of 5 stars Interesting weaving of three stories; key moments told from three points of view. Many readers seem to prefer They Poured Fire to What is the What because readers don't seem to trust Dave Egger's narration, but What is the What covers a lot more ground: extensive stories from refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, lots about life in America. Fire is still a compelling, chilling read, but for the "whole" story, go with What is the What. View all my reviews >>

A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Compelling narrative; would have appreciated a bit more political / historical contextualization. I'm interested in the discussion of authenticity and craft around books like this; some nice weaving of flashbacks into the book, especially after Beah got away from the fighting.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

A future article? Sudan's Story by any means possible?

As I have been immersing myself in the memoirs, fiction, films, and work of the southern Sudanese, I'm always (by necessity, by training?) trying to craft an article, an argument, for a paper. For a long time I have been stuck: sure I could do a kind of bibliographic or survey article, which might be useful, but I don't see pieces like that getting published in the journals I read. Perhaps I am just reading the wrong journals.

A more likely approach for College English or Rhetoric Review just occurred to me as a browsed the new College English special issue on Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinidad. A survey of the southern Sudanese texts (in that broad post-structuralist sense) with a focus on both the mediums and the rhetorics employed would be of some appeal (I hope) to those in my discipline. I do think the southern Sudanese (like many refugees) have resettled with the goal of telling their story, but they seem to have been more successful than most recent refugee groups in getting their story told, and using those stories for rebuilding efforts in their villages and regions.

Similar things might be going on with other groups that I am unaware of; the Congolese have "Friends of the Congo" disseminating their story in the US, and a few films and documentaries emerged in the past few years. I'm not aware of as focused an effort within the Somali community, or the Hmong community, although I know of a few books and films about each. Maybe a comparison / evaluation isn't even necessary; I could just focus on what I see being amassed by the Sudanese.

Making the time to get this written, of course, is the real challenge. Maybe I have said enough already.