Tag Archives: literature

Read the World – Antigua and Barbuda Literature

We return to the world of literature with the Read the World Project and the next country is a small one. We head to the Caribbean this time. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Antigua and Barbuda

flag_of_antigua_and_barbuda-svgAntigua and Barbuda is a small island country in the Caribbean with the bulk of the population living on Antigua. Although it only has a population of around 91,000, it is an English speaking country, so no translation is necessary. I was able to discover a few authors, all women. Let’s take a look at the video I made.


Lucy, by Jamaica Kincaid

Goodreads Rating: 3.71

Goodreads Description: Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers’ world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is.

At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unraveling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new character possessed with adamantine clearsightedness and ferocious integrity–a captivating heroine for our time.

Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid

Goodreads Rating: 3.63

Amazon Description: Annie John is a haunting and provocative story of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. A classic coming-of-age story in the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Kincaid’s novel focuses on a universal, tragic, and often comic theme: the loss of childhood. Annie’s voice―urgent, demanding to be heard―is one that will not soon be forgotten by readers.

An adored only child, Annie has until recently lived an idyllic life. She is inseparable from her beautiful mother, a powerful presence, who is the very center of the little girl’s existence. Loved and cherished, Annie grows and thrives within her mother’s benign shadow. Looking back on her childhood, she reflects, “It was in such a paradise that I lived.” When she turns twelve, however, Annie’s life changes, in ways that are often mysterious to her. She begins to question the cultural assumptions of her island world; at school she instinctively rebels against authority; and most frighteningly, her mother, seeing Annie as a “young lady,” ceases to be the source of unconditional adoration and takes on the new and unfamiliar guise of adversary. At the end of her school years, Annie decides to leave Antigua and her family, but not without a measure of sorrow, especially for the mother she once knew and never ceases to mourn. “For I could not be sure,” she reflects, “whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.”

A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid

Goodreads Rating: 3.87

Goodreads Description: Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright, A Small Place magnifies our vision of one small place with Swiftian wit and precision. Jamaica Kincaid’s expansive essay candidly appraises the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up, and makes palpable the impact of European colonization and tourism. The book is a missive to the traveler, whether American or European, who wants to escape the banality and corruption of some large place. Kincaid, eloquent and resolute, reminds us that the Antiguan people, formerly British subjects, are unable to escape the same drawbacks of their own tiny realm—that behind the benevolent Caribbean scenery are human lives, always complex and often fraught with injustice.

Ladies of the Night, by Althea Prince

Goodreads Rating: 3.88

Goodreads Description: Ladies of the Night is set in Toronto and Antigua. With women’s loves and lives as their focus, the stories contain dramatic twists and turns: some humorous, others shocking and disturbing, all leaving a haunting melody behind.

The Toronto stories capture the issues women face as they walk the ground of intimate and family relationships in that city. The Antiguan setting of some of the stories are reflective of Prince’s insight into relationships, captured in her novel and essays. The characters reveal their different ways of managing a range of struggle, pain, rage, love and pure unadulterated joy. The humour of some stories complement the plaintive sadness and emotionality of the strings some other stories pluck.

Unburnable, by Marie-Elena John

Goodreads Rating: 3.76

Goodreads Description: In this riveting narrative of family, betrayal, vengeance, and murder, Lillian Baptiste is willed back to her island home of Dominica to finally settle her past. Haunted by scandal and secrets, Lillian left Dominica when she was fourteen after discovering she was the daughter of Iris, the half-crazy woman whose life was told of in chanté mas songs sung during Carnival: “Matilda Swinging” and “Bottle of Coke”; songs about the village on a mountaintop and bones and bodies: songs about flying masquerades and a man who dropped dead. Lillian knew the songs well. And now she knows these songs—and thus the history—belong to her. After twenty years away, Lillian returns to face the demons of her past, and with the help of Teddy, the man she refused to love, she will find a way to heal.

Set partly in contemporary Washington, D.C., and partly in post-World War II Dominica, Unburnable weaves together West Indian history, African culture, and American sensibilities. Richly textured and lushly rendered, Unburnable showcases a welcome and assured new voice.


It’s an interesting set of books from Antigua and Barbuda. If you’ve read any of these books, please let me know what you thought. If you know of any other books from Antigua and Barbuda, let me know in the comments below.

Next up is Argentina!

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Read the World – Angola Literature

We return to Africa with the next country in The Read the World Project, and it’s our first sub-Saharan country. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Angola

flag_of_angola-svgAngola is located in the southern part of Africa, north of Namibia and south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s interesting taking a look at African literature because we don’t really hear much about it. When researching Angola, I found that several authors are of European descent, though they were born and raised in Angola. There are several books available in English. Let’s watch the video.


The Book of Chameleons, by José Eduardo Agualusa

Goodreads Rating: 3.77

Goodreads Description: This unusual novel about the landscape of memory and its inconsistencies follows Felix Ventura as he trades in a curious commodity–he sells people different pasts. He can create entirely new pasts full of better memories and complete with new lineage or augment existing pasts as needed. Narrated by an exceptionally articulate and rather friendly lizard that lives on Felix’s living-room wall, this richly detailed story explores how people can remember things that never happened–and with extraordinary vividness–even as they forget things that did in fact occur.

A General Theory of Oblivion, by José Eduardo Agualusa

Goodreads Rating: 3.93

Goodreads Description: On the eve of Angolan independence an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her apartment for 30 years, living off vegetables and the pigeons she lures in with diamonds, burning her furniture and books to stay alive and writing her story on the apartment’s walls.

Almost as if we’re eavesdropping, the history of Angola unfolds through the stories of those she sees from her window. As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.

A General Theory of Oblivion is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable.

Good Morning Comrades, by Ondjaki

Goodreads Rating: 3.73

Goodreads Description: Luanda, Angola, 1990. Ndalu is a normal twelve-year old boy in an extraordinary time and place. Like his friends, he enjoys laughing at his teachers, avoiding homework and telling tall tales. But Ndalu’s teachers are Cuban, his homework assignments include writing essays on the role of the workers and peasants, and the tall tales he and his friends tell are about a criminal gang called Empty Crate which specializes in attacking schools. Ndalu is mystified by the family servant, Comrade Antonio, who thinks that Angola worked better when it was a colony of Portugal, and by his Aunt Dada, who lives in Portugal and doesn’t know what a ration card is. In a charming voice that is completely original, Good Morning Comrades tells the story of a group of friends who create a perfect childhood in a revolutionary socialist country fighting a bitter war. But the world is changing around these children, and like all childhood’s Ndalu’s cannot last. An internationally acclaimed novel, already published in half a dozen countries, Good Morning Comrades is an unforgettable work of fiction by one of Africa’s most exciting young writers.

Mayombe, by Pepetela

Goodreads Rating: 4.11

Goodreads Description: Pepetela’s novel is a fascinating study of the tensions produced by racism, tribalism, and sexual morals.

The Return of the Water Spirit, by Pepetela

Goodreads Rating: 3.57

Goodreads Description: Set in Angola in the late 1980’s, a time of war, and when the Marxist-orientated ruling elite became engulfed by corruption, nepotism and rampant capitalism.

Three centuries earlier, a hideous crime occurred, the beheading of a slave who had had inappropriate relations with his Master’s daughter. Now, in the very same Kinaxixi Square in the city of Luanda buildings are falling down one by one baffling the country’s engineers. Many describe this mysterious process as ‘Luanda Syndrome, God’s punishment on a degenerate society.

Drawing on the essence of African mythology which had all but been obliterated by history, could this be explained by the return of a Water Spirit (the ‘kianda’)?

The novel focuses on the interplay between these two forces-the forces of old and new. Just like faith can move mountains, the spirit of the water can move cities.

This book is a scathing critique of Angola’s ruling elite, for abandoning their socialist principles in favour of rampant capitalism.


So, that’s about it for Angola. There are more books, but I limit it to five. If you’ve read any of these books, please let me know what you thought. If you know of any other Angolan books, let me know in the comments below.

Next up is Antigua and Barbuda!

Read the World – Andorra Literature

We return to Europe with the next country in The Read the World Project, but it’s a small one. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Andorra

flag_of_andorra-svgAndorra is the tiny country stuck between France and Spain, surrounded by the Pyrenees, and official speaking Catalan. With its population of 85,000, you wouldn’t expect to find many authors, especially those with books translated to English. And that’s exactly the way it is. I found only one author with books in English. Let’s watch the video first.

The Teacher of Cheops, by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 3.12

Cover excerpt: This is the history of the time of Pharaoh Snefru and Queen Hetepheres, the parents of Cheops, who built the largest and most impressive pyramid of all. It is also the story of the high priest Ramosi, Sedum, a slave who became Cheops’ teacher, and how the first pyramid came to be built.

Sebekhotep, the great wise man of that time, said, “Everything is written in the stars. Most of us live our lives unaware of it. Some can read the stars and see their destiny. But very few people learn to write in the stars and change their destiny.”

Ramosi and Sedum learned to write in the stars and tried to change their destinies, but fortune treated them very differently. This is a tale of the confrontation between two men’s intelligence: one fighting for power, the other struggling for freedom.

The Shadow of Ali Bey Part One: The Mysterious Balloon Man, by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

Cover excerpt: As the 18th century ends and the 19th century begins, changes abound all over Europe. Absolute monarchy is coming to an end, England and Spain struggle for supremacy in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and France is in conflict with all its neighbours. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, a new power is starting to emerge: the United States of America.
In the midst of all these changes, Alfred Gordon, a civil servant employed by the British secret service, makes a discovery that will totally revolutionise global espionage. He realises that the nobility, the traditional spies, are in decline. He turns to the burgeoning middle class instead.

Gordon suggests to the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, that they should employ Thomas Headking, a young Englishman living in Spain who is on the run after killing Lord Brookshield’s son in a duel. They plan to use his business acumen to spy for them in exchange for a royal pardon.

Tom Headking’s ability is such that he gains access to the office of Godoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, where he finds a mysterious treatise on hot air balloons written by Polindo Remigio. Headking investigates and finds out that there is no such person. It is a pseudonym used by a Catalan man named Domingo Badia, a capable fellow with daring ideas who was to become the most intrepid traveller of the 19th century, a spy who has gone down in history with the name Ali Bey.

The Shadow of Ali Bey Part Two: The Prince of Spies, by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Cover excerpt: Lord Grenville asks Alfred Gordon to come out of retirement and return to active service because an old acquaintance of the British secret services has turned up in London. He is meeting scientists, geographers and explorers and has even had himself circumcised. And it is all being financed by the Spanish government. Gordon wonders what he could be after.

Domingo Badia leaves London disguised as Ali Bey. He crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and carries out the plan he proposed to Godoy, the Spanish Prime Minister: conquering Morocco for the Kingdom of Spain because Sultan Slimane refuses to sell the country cereal. All of North Africa would come under Spanish control.

In the midst of all the changes taking place, with the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, the British Crown loses one of its largest colonies and the United States of America comes into existence, looking set to be a great power. Meanwhile war in Europe brings a major defeat for the Spanish Empire by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. An incredible adventure begins and the world witnesses the birth of one of history’s greatest legends: Prince Ali Bey.

The Phaeton Report (Noah’s Secret Diary), by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 3.70

Cover excerpt: A famous writer knows in a party a man who tells her about USC (Universal Scientific Community), secret society created in times of Galileo Galilei that is dedicated to preserving the knowledge and the scientific truth against the attacks of the religions and official departments. In the middle of the feast the man mysteriously disappears and the writer discovers that nobody knows or has seen him. Surprised, the writer researches and locates a member of USC that gives him access to true and remote history of humanity and the lies that have come to us to the present. Even he allows him to get into USC and meet other members. The real surprise comes when they reveal him (and show him!) the existence and destruction in times of Pangea, the only continent, and that the Great Flood was not work of the wrath of God, but the result of a human error made by an ancient civilization that almost kills all humanity. However, even he is going to discover the largest of all the surprises… if we do not, we can commit another mistake and again endanger humanity.

That’s about it. Andorra doesn’t have much to offer in the way of books in English. Which one do you think I should read? Or do you know of any others from Andorra that are available in English? Let me know in the comments!

Next is Angola!

Authors Answer 102 – Graphic Literature

Comic books and graphic novels are very popular. Both children and adults read them. There are comics for children, comics and graphic novel for adults. Although they are filled with pictures, they encourage people to read. But are they literature?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 102 – Do you consider comic books and graphic novels to be legitimate forms of literature?

Linda G. Hill

I’ve never actually read one, but why not?

Elizabeth Rhodes

Yes. They are legitimate storytelling mediums with their own styles. The presence of illustration does not change this. Comics have a history of not being taken seriously, but I don’t think anyone who still holds on to this view has taken a look at a comic or graphic novel from recent times. The mediums have come a long way.

D. T. Nova

Graphic novels, absolutely so.

There’s more of a continuum than a sharp definition of distinct categories, so whether most comics are “literature” has at least as much to do with definitions as it does with “legitimacy”.

Paul B. Spence

Literature? I suppose. I think they are legitimate ways to tell stories, but then so are video games and movies. Not sure I’d call any of them literature…

Gregory S. Close

Yes, but like any medium, some of it is better than others.  My fatigue with comic books and graphic novels began in my teen years, mostly around the depiction of women.  While there certainly are great female comic book characters, in general they are treated as Big Boobs in Spandex and it’s just so objectifying.  I noticed it more once I had daughters and realized how the female heroes were portrayed compared to their male counterparts.  I think changes are happening, but slowly, and the industry needs to do more with its female heroes (maybe starting with clothing them more, so that their appeal is based on character and not sex appeal).

Eric Wood

I do. I think they tell a story through image dialogue. It’s not a genre I ever got into, but I do believe they count as literature.

C E Aylett

I’m afraid I don’t consider them at all. They just don’t interest me. I don’t read them – I’m still unsure as to whether graphic refers to pictures or porn! LOL.

However, I don’t like using terms such as ‘legitimate’ when it comes to areas like this. It smacks of elitism, that one particular group can make a judgement call on behalf of the rest of us in accordance to rules they made up towards their specific tastes.

What we’re really talking about is the term ‘literature’ to mean a form of written art. (Technically, all texts that form and communicate ideas are literature!)

Graphic literature is so hybrid I don’t think you can make a judgement in such direct terms. The rules that apply to visual art or literary art cannot be applied to both in the same way. Graphic literature is an art all of its own and any ‘legitimacy’ should be one form of it ranked against another in the same form. A bit like commercial vs literary novels.

At a push, I guess I would compare graphic literature more in line with film. So, is script writing considered a ‘legitimate’ form of literature?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Absolutely, yes. They are obviously a very different form of literature, being that the vast majority of the written words are dialogue, with the rest of the necessary information being portrayed by the imagery, but literature none-the-less.

Comics and graphic novels aim to do exactly the same thing that traditional novels do: tell a story. And to be quite honest, I’ve read some comics and graphic novels that accomplished that goal much more successfully than some traditional novels I’ve read.

Also, my personal opinion is that reading is a good thing regardless of the exact specifics of the material, so if someone wants to spend their time reading comics…go for it! It’s all literacy!

Beth Aman

They are definitely valid forms of story-telling.  Literature?  Who cares about literature.  If you have a story to tell, tell it in the best way you can.  If that’s a comic book or graphic novel, then there you go.

Jean Davis

I suppose so. Can’t say that I’m a big fan of either, but I have enjoyed one or the other from time to time. If pictures help get people reading, I’m not going to debate about the legitimacy.

H. Anthe Davis

About half of my recorded Goodreads entries are graphic novels or manga, so I absolutely consider them literature.  Setting aside such materials as the X-Men or the Justice League, which most people think of when the idea of comic books crops up, there’s the Sandman series — which won a literary award that was subsequently clarified to be not-for-comic-books — and such materials as Persepolis, Maus and Zahra’s Paradise, which tackle serious memoir- and literary issues that just happen to be best shown through illustration.  Sure, there are plenty of throwaway superhero stories in the genre — but 90% of every genre is throwaway crap.  Comics’ throwaway crap is just more visible because the visuals make them easier to translate to the screen, and the somewhat disjointed stories are more easily massaged into screenplays to support whatever the movie studios want.  Just like it’s hard to find literary mysteries under the pile of James Pattersons, it can be hard to find literary comics under the pile of Avengers and Batman — but they exist.

Jay Dee Archer

In general, I’ll say yes. Maybe my definition of literature is a bit broad, though. I consider it any form of print that use words to convey a story or a message, just as long as it isn’t just a scrap of paper. It should be a book, at least. Even short ones. But if I were to narrow my definition down to books that are written to tell a great story rather than to simply entertain, then it depends. There are a lot of comics that merely entertain and don’t even tell a story. Garfield, for example, although I love it, probably wouldn’t be considered literature. However, something like Sandman would be considered literature.

How about you?

Do you think comic books and graphic novels are literature? Let us know in the comments below.

Read the World – Algeria Literature

In our tour of the world of literature, the Read the World Project has arrived at its first African country. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Algeria

flag_of_algeria-svgAlgeria is a country in North Africa, situated on the Mediterranean Sea. With an official language of French, it has had close ties with France, and was controlled by France in the twentieth century. It’s a culturally rich country with landscapes ranging from the Sahara Desert to the Atlas Mountains to the Mediterranean coast. One of its authors is very well-known. Let’s take a look at the video.

The Stranger, by Albert Camus

Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Cover excerpt: Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.” First published in English in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.

The Plague, by Albert Camus

Goodreads Rating: 3.97

Cover excerpt: A gripping tale of human unrelieved horror, of survival and resilience, and of the ways in which humankind confronts death, The Plague is at once a masterfully crafted novel, eloquently understated and epic in scope, and a parable of ageless moral resonance, profoundly relevant to our times. In Oran, a coastal town in North Africa, the plague begins as a series of portents, unheeded by the people. It gradually becomes a omnipresent reality, obliterating all traces of the past and driving its victims to almost unearthly extremes of suffering, madness, and compassion.

The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud

Goodreads Rating: 3.54

Cover excerpt: He was the brother of “the Arab” killed by the infamous Meursault, the antihero of Camus’s classic novel. Seventy years after that event, Harun, who has lived since childhood in the shadow of his sibling’s memory, refuses to let him remain anonymous: he gives his brother a story and a name—Musa—and describes the events that led to Musa’s casual murder on a dazzlingly sunny beach.

In a bar in Oran, night after night, he ruminates on his solitude, on his broken heart, on his anger with men desperate for a god, and on his disarray when faced with a country that has so disappointed him. A stranger among his own people, he wants to be granted, finally, the right to die.

Swallows of Kabul, by Yasmina Khadra

Goodreads Rating: 3.64

Cover excerpt: Since the ascendancy of the Taliban the lives of Mosheen and his beautiful wife, Zunaira, have been gradually destroyed. Mosheen’s dream of becoming a diplomat has been shattered and Zunaira can no longer even appear on the streets of Kabul unveiled. Atiq is a jailer who guards those who have been condemned to death; the darkness of prison and the wretchedness of his job have seeped into his soul. Atiq’s wife, Musarrat, is suffering from an illness no doctor can cure. Yet, the lives of these four people are about to become inexplicably intertwined, through death and imprisonment to passion and extraordinary self-sacrifice.

The Swallows of Kabul is an astounding and elegiac novel of four people struggling to hold on to their humanity in a place where pleasure is a deadly sin and death has become routine.

Fantasia, by Assia Djebar

Goodreads Rating: 3.64

Cover excerpt: In this stunning novel, Assia Djebar intertwines the history of her native Algeria with episodes from the life of a young girl in a story stretching from the French conquest in 1830 to the War of Liberation of the 1950s. The girl, growing up in the old Roman coastal town of Cherchel, sees her life in contrast to that of a neighboring French family, and yearns for more than law and tradition allow her to experience. Headstrong and passionate, she escapes from the cloistered life of her family to join her brother in the maquis’ fight against French domination. Djebar’s exceptional descriptive powers bring to life the experiences of girls and women caught up in the dual struggle for independence–both their own and Algeria’s.

Algeria has a good deal of books that are available in English. These are only some that are available to read. If you’ve read any of these books, please let me know what you thought of them in the comments below. Also, if you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Next up is Andorra!

Read the World – Albania Literature

Read the World continues with the next country. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Albania

flag_of_albania-svgAlbania is a former communist country located on the Balkan Peninsula near Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia. It was a very closed country, but has opened up and is enjoying a rising standard of living. However, it wasn’t very easy to find books from Albania that are translated into English. There’s one major author, and I added another from a lesser-known author. First, you can watch the video.

Chronicle in Stone, by Ismail Kadare

Goodreads Rating: 4.09

Cover excerpt: Masterful in its simplicity, Chronicle in Stone is a touching coming-of-age story and a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Surrounded by the magic of beautiful women and literature, a boy must endure the deprivations of war as he suffers the hardships of growing up. His sleepy country has just thrown off centuries of tyranny, but new waves of domination inundate his city. Through the boy’s eyes, we see the terrors of World War II as he witnesses fascist invasions, allied bombings, partisan infighting, and the many faces of human cruelty as well as the simple pleasures of life.

Evacuating to the countryside, he expects to find an ideal world full of extraordinary things but discovers instead an archaic backwater where a severed arm becomes a talisman and deflowered girls mysteriously vanish. Woven between the chapters of the boy’s story are tantalizing fragments of the city’s history. As the devastation mounts, the fragments lose coherence, and we perceive firsthand how the violence of war destroys more than just buildings and bridges.

Broken April, by Ismail Kadare

Goodreads Rating: 3.99

Cover excerpt: From the moment that Gjorg’s brother is killed by a neighbour, his own life is forfeit: for the code of Kanun requires Gjorg to kill his brother’s murderer and then in turn be hunted down. After shooting his brother’s killer, young Gjorg is entitled to thirty days’ grace – not enough to see out the month of April.

Then a visiting honeymoon couple cross the path of the fugitive. The bride’s heart goes out to Gjorg, and even these ‘civilised’ strangers from the city risk becoming embroiled in the fatal mechanism of vendetta.

The General of the Dead Army, by Ismail Kadare

Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Cover excerpt: This is the story of an Italian general, accompanied by his chaplain, charged with the mission of scouring Albania in search of the bones of their fallen countrymen, killed twenty years earlier during World War II.

The Palace of Dreams, by Ismail Kadare

Goodreads Rating: 3.97

Cover excerpt: Ismail Kadare once called The Palace of Dreams “the most courageous book I have written; in literary terms, it is perhaps the best”. When it was first published in the author’s native country, it was immediately banned, and for good reason: the novel revolves around a secret ministry whose task is not just to spy on its citizens, but to collect and interpret their dreams. An entire nation’s unconscious is thus tapped and meticulously laid bare in the form of images and symbols of the dreaming mind.The Concert is Kadare’s most complete and devastating portrayal of totalitarian rule and mentality. Set in the period when the alliance between Mao’s China and Hoxha’s Albania was going sour, this brilliant novel depicts a world so sheltered and monotonous that political ruptures and diplomatic crises are what make life exciting.

The Country Where No One Ever Dies, by Ornela Vorpsi

Goodreads Rating: 3.44

Cover excerpt: A young girl’s father is constantly forcing her to kiss him, and her aunt predicts that she will grow up to be a whore. With Albania’s communist regime crumbling around them, sex, dictatorship, and death are inescapable subjects for the girl and her family;though the protagonist of The Country Where No One Ever Dies always confronts the ridiculousness of her often brutal reality with unflappable irony and a peculiar kind of common sense. Her name and age changing from moment to moment, she is an unforgettable portrait of the imagination under siege, while The Country Where No One Ever Dies is itself a one-of-a-kind atlas to a land where black comedy is simply a way of life.

As I said, Albania wasn’t very easy to research. I’d already added The Palace of Dreams to my to-read list a couple years ago, but others look interesting too. If you’ve read any of them, let me know in the comments section below. If you have any other recommendations, also please let me know.

Next up is Algeria!

Diversity Drama on Booktube

Booktube is a pretty fun, very inclusive, and welcoming community on YouTube. There usually isn’t any animosity between anyone. But there are times, just like in a small town, that some issue pops up that everyone gets involved in.

The most recent drama that’s occurred started when someone criticised author V. E. Schwab on Twitter because of the lack of diversity in her fantasy novels. She responded by saying sorry, that she’ll do better. I don’t know why she should be sorry. Authors aren’t forced to have racial, gender, or sexual diversity in their books.

But what about booktube? Well, a booktuber went on a rant that made her look like she was completely against diversity, but I don’t think that was what she meant. The general idea of her video was to defend V. E. Schwab. But she had poor focus, and her message came across completely wrong. Indie Insomniac has a good response to her video about this.

So, what do I think about this whole thing? Drama is something I try to stay out of. What I want to say in this blog post is my view on diversity in books.

I welcome diversity. It’s important. I live in a very diverse neighbourhood, so if I were to write a novel about my neighbourhood, it would have a very diverse cast of characters. However, if I were to write a novel that took place in rural Saskatchewan, the characters would most likely be all white. If I were to write a novel that took place in a small village in Japan, it’s almost guaranteed that all characters would be Japanese. In V. E. Schwab’s case, she writes fantasy. I haven’t read any of her books, so I don’t know what the setting is, but if I were to write fantasy, racial diversity in Earth terms wouldn’t even be on my mind.

If I’m writing a fantasy novel that takes place on a continent somewhere that has people with pale skin and blond hair, am I obligated to include African or Asian people? Why? It doesn’t take place on Earth. The people of this location happen to be blond.

This reminds me of when people were complaining about Disney princesses always being white. Why is Rapunzel white? She’s German, that’s why. Why are all the characters in Brave white? It takes place in Scotland at a time when everyone who lived there was white. You can’t demand diversity when it would be historically inaccurate or highly illogical.

I’m all for diversity in novels, but only if it’s appropriate. I celebrate diversity. My own work in progress has a very diverse cast of characters. That’s because it’s how life is in the future. Should I be required to include characters from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, different sexual orientations, as well as transgendered people? No. Absolutely not. But I do it because that’s what society is like in my writing.

An author shouldn’t be bullied about the kinds of people in their books. They shouldn’t be forced to include certain groups of people in their next book because some people complained. Authors should write the stories they want to read. If it’s good, then others would want to read it, too. Ideally, authors should ignore this, and just write.

In the end, this is what I think: I will not include an African in a book that’s set in Edo period Japan, because they weren’t there. I will not include a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian in a story about 12th century Pacific Islanders, because they weren’t there. I will not include an Asian elf, because elves aren’t human. I will not include a group of Australian Aborigines in an epic Scandinavian historic adventure novel, because they most definitely wouldn’t be there. As for sexual orientation, since gay people have always existed, I could arguably expect them to appear in a good number of novels from any time period or location. Also, gender is an issue. If it’s a period piece, then gender roles would likely be expected. I don’t expect a female knight in a book that takes place in 15th century England. I would expect a female soldier in a book that takes place in the 21st century, though. I could go on.

Don’t include diversity if people say you should, include diversity if it fits the story. That is all.