It goes without saying that everyone on the Sooo Many Stories team is an avid reader. Here is a little on the books The Tribe have just completed and some of their reading resolutions for 2018.
Peter Kakoma (Tech Guy)
I have just finished Let’s Tell This Story Properly – An anthology of the commonwealth short story prize, Edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey. It is a collection of short stories by different writers from Commonwealth countries. Commonwealth writers, an initiative of the Commonwealth foundation, scoured through thousands of short stories submitted by published and unpublished writers from the 53 countries in the Commonwealth. The best stories were published in this collection. The best story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly, is by our very own Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Yo! Once one gets over the pride that a Ugandan storyteller beat all those entries, one might need some time to recover from the ride it’ll take them on. As if that’s not enough, there are stories from different parts of the world so you get to travel to Singapore, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and so many other places. I love it.
Main thing I’ve learned? I still love reading fiction! For a few years now, I’ve been reading a lot of work-related books and books on spirituality. It was awesome falling in love again with the journey a good fictional story takes me on, re-reading and excitedly sharing phrases and lines that are so strong, you need to first stop and just throw some imaginary hi-fives at the author. Second thing I learned is that for now, I’m a short story reader. They give me, in shots, the joy a good book brings.
Resolution: I miss reading fiction. Let’s Tell This Story properly taught me that I could rediscover the joy fiction brings me while balancing it with all the other books I want to get through by reading short story collections. I’ll read at least two of them this year. I have an expansive list of Christian books lined up. I also have some books on entrepreneurship and one very huge book on software engineering that I’ll go through this year. I’m done with one on entrepreneurship so the year’s off to a strong start.
Dushiime Kaguliro (Reading Nurturer and Events Co-ordinator)
I have just finished reading Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò. My word, the book is so deeeep! The characters are incredibly believable. Ayòbámi delves into the issue of infertility here in Africa (Nigeria specifically) and how the burden of childlessness is usually the woman’s to bear. She talks about sex in marriage in a way that most African writers might be shy to.
The love story between the two characters Yejide and Akin is one you root for and wish to succeed (WARNING: do not get attached). You see them struggle to handle societal and familial pressure to have children, all the while trying hard to love through it all. The book brings up a wide range of issues; infidelity, polygamy, mental illness and the pain of dealing with loss, all set in a turbulent time in Nigeria. Adébàyò does a wonderful job in making you empathise with the main character; you just want to reach out and give her a hug. An absolutely beautiful story.
Resolution: to read more books by black writers; Caribbean and African-American specifically.
Carol Kagezi (Editorial Assistant)
I recently finished reading Man on Top by Jeremy Byemanzi. I like how raw Byemanzi is when laying out his experiences in life, making it easy for anyone reading to relate to. He is passionate about inspiring and disciplining men but I especially enjoyed how he broke down scripture in the context that we live in today.
Resolution: to finally read all published work by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and at least one or two works by West African authors I haven’t encountered before. I am also on a mission to finish three religious books this year.
Esi Nshakira (Online Storyteller)
I have just finished No Place to Call Home by J.J. Bola. Man, this read has been a long time coming. Been needing to read it ever since I met Bola at Writivism 2017.
It took a while for me to get into but by the time I was halfway through I couldn’t put it down. The story highlights the life of Jean and his family as Congolese refugees in Britain. He does a splendid job of merging the politics of the situation and the everyday stresses faced by any typical family or teenange boy.
The chronology of the story was a little all over the place. There are some events that occured and by the end of the book I wasn’t sure why they did. It seemed like he hinted at the introduction of some themes but did not see them all the way through. (Rape, infidelity and mental illness/suicide to name a few). Overall though it was an enjoyable read. Relatable. Real. It felt like Bola just took a slice out of the lives of all his characters. At the end of the novel I was left wanting the whole cake.
Resolution: to explore more non-fiction stories. I find fiction alot easier to read, for obvious reasons really. Stories from the imagination always seem a lot more fascinating but I want to be able to borrow from the experiences in books that I read and I feel like this is more realistically done with non-fiction books.
Nyana Kakoma (Publishing Director)
I have just finished Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. This book reminded me why I fear meeting people that I greatly admire. I always fear that they will not live up to the image that I have painstakingly built up in my head and this book threatened my admiration for Shonda Rhimes. As a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes, her shows have proved to me that she is a great writer. I have watched scenes in Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy and wanted to stand up and applaud the dialogue (I live for those epic monologues in Scandal) written for the characters. And yet, here I was, a little into the first chapters of the book, wondering what I was reading. The sentences are too short and overly repetitive that it made me think of someone who could not articulate their thoughts. It’s cute in the beginning but it starts to be annoying after a while. I mean, how many “I am old”s can one take in a chapter? I would have excused it if she was an actor trying her hand at writing but it’s Shonda Rhimes, queen of Thursday night TV! Why was she writing like this?
I carried on because I love her. I am sure that if it had been another writer, I would have put down the book. I am glad I didn’t because the writing does get better.
Shonda Rhimes writes about the year she gave herself permission to say yes to all the things that scared her; yes to a Jimmy Kimmel interview, yes to giving a commencement speech, yes to acknowledging that she gets a lot done thanks to her incredible nanny, yes to playing with her kids, yes to taking care of her body, yes to compliments, yes to that time she was on The Mindy Project (my poor heart almost crapped her pants when I saw her!), yes, yes, yes!
The book has incredible lessons. I particularly loved the lessons on motherhood as they resonated with so many things I am trying to learn. But what I loved the most, and what you will love, if you’re a fan of any of her shows, are the bits you will be able to place in her different shows. I just kept having, “Oh so this is why she wrote this” moments. Remember that time Cyrus Beene went on Sallie Langston’s show and delivered the mother of all monologues on motherhood? Well, Shonda Rhimes delves into that some more. I also loved how she wrote about Sandra Oh and what Cristina’s character meant to her as a writer. Also, that she uses some phrases from the shows like “feeling like the sun” “dancing it out” and others.
If you are a fan of #TGIT and Shonda Rhimes, you will love this book (and perhaps the beginning won’t bother you as much as it did me). If you don’t know Shonda Rhimes, get it for the lessons.
Resolution: to read more sci-fi, magical realism and afro-futuristic work by Africans and if I can, squeeze in some Black American writers like Octavia Butler. It’s a genre I don’t read and I want to be deliberate about it this year. Also, a member of the tribe has been treating me like I am unworthy because I have not read Harry Potter so I might sneak that in.
What are you currently reading? What does 2018 reading plan look like? Let us know!
About Nyana’s review ‘Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes,’ I am trying to read more biographies but they almost always disappoint.The writing may not be great or the author may try too hard to come off as humble that they do anything but. The worst are when they rewrite every little incident as a defining moment in their lives. Can the tribe suggest any good biographies?
Now I’m curious to know what you thought of Philippa’s memoir, Flame And Song.