I recently read two books by authors whose deep love for countries in Africa shines through their writing.

The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.” from Goodreads

I loved, loved, loved Who Fears Death. It was my favorite book I read in 2014. I was so excited that there was a prequel. Maybe my expectations were too high. I didn’t have the same love for this one.


The one thing that I kept feeling while reading this book was the author’s rage about how African people and their descendants have been treated. In this book all of the subjects of the medical experiments are African. In cause you are missing the reference to the history of medical experimentation on black people in the United States, one character is even named HeLa which will be familiar to anyone who has read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


The only time Phoenix finds any peace is when she is living for a time in Ghana. It doesn’t last long but she feels loved and respected in Africa, unlike in North America. The author’s love for Africa comes through in the descriptions of the kindness of the people.


We Need New NamesWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“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.” from Goodreads

I have mixed feelings about this book too.  This is more a series of episodes in Darling’s life than a story with a continuous plot.  Some of the stories are interesting like the joy children can find in imagination and play even when their circumstances are dire.  She talks about the distance that comes between childhood friends when one moves away.  She talks about American immigrants trying to balance the expectations of relatives in Africa with their lives in America.

But, there are other stories that are just weird.  Once in America Darling has a fascination with watching porn with her friends.  The book ends with a story about a dog being killed.  I didn’t need that.

The writing in the book could be wonderful though.  This is a description of being in Detroit during her first winter.

“When the snow falls it doesn’t even make a sound.  That’s why I am watching it — because it is just so sneaky.  You can wake up to find even more heaps and heaps of it without you ever hearing it.  How does something so big it shrouds everything come down just like that and you don’t even hear it coming? No sound — a crash, slam, bam, clatter, something, anything, so that this snow can carry a proper story.” pg 156