Theme: Africa Past and Present

Abina and the important men: A graphic history

Author: Getz, R. Trevor and Clarke, Liz (2016)
Type: Graphic novel
Illustrations: Some
Description: Abina and the Important Men is a compelling and powerfully illustrated “graphic history” based on an 1876 court transcript of a West African woman named Abina, who was wrongfully enslaved and took her case to court. The book is a microhistory that does much more than simply depict an event in the past; it uses the power of illustration to convey important themes in world history and to reveal the processes by which history is made. Following the graphic history in Part I, Parts II-V provide detailed historical context for the story, a reading guide that reconstructs and deconstructs the methods used to interpret the story, and strategies for using Abina in various classroom settings. ©Author

Africa is my home: A child of the Amistad

Author: Edinger, Monica (2013); Byrd, Robert (illus.)
Description: When a drought hits her homeland in Sierra Leone, nine-year-old Magulu is sold as a pawn by her father in exchange for rice. But before she can work off her debt, an unthinkable chain of events unfolds: a capture by slave traders; weeks in a dark and airless hold; a landing in Cuba, where she and three other children are sold and taken aboard the Amistad; a mutiny aboard ship; a trial in New Haven that eventually goes all the way to the Supreme Court and is argued in the Africans’ favor by John Quincy Adams. © Africa Access


Child of dandelions

Author: Shenaaz Nanji (2008)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: This work of historical fiction tells the story of Sabine, a 15-year Ugandan citizen of Indian ancestry whose life of luxury falls apart once Idi Amin comes to power. Her father thinks they’ll be safe because they are citizens, but they soon realize that they are not safe from the terror, violence, and prejudices that dominate the times. The story is a suspenseful tale with realistic, yet loveable characters.







Author: Stassen (2006)
Type: Graphic novel
Illustrations: Yes
Description: The 2000 winner of the Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script, this is the harrowing tale of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Deogratias. He is an ordinary teenager, in love with a girl named Bénigne, but Deogratias is a Hutu and Bénigne is a Tutsi who dies in the genocide, and Deogratias himself plays a part in her death. As the story circles around but never depicts the terror and brutality of an entire country descending into violence, we watch Deogratias in his pursuit of Bénigne, and we see his grief and descent into madness following her death, as he comes to believe he is a dog. © Africa Access

No turning back: A novel of South Africa

Author: Beverley Naidoo (1995)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: No Turning Back addresses the problems of post-apartheid South Africa. Although a new regime governs the country, changes in the economy, society, and education have not filtered down to the poor as quickly as anticipated. Young adolescent boys still find that poverty and crime in the townships are too much to endure. Sipho like other boys flees Soweto and goes to middle class neighborhoods in Johannesburg where he can live with a group of young sidewalk entrepreneurs. His payment is in kind (food, lodging, and schooling) rather than money. Despite his improved lifestyle, this arrangement keeps him still dependent. Finally, Sipho goes to a shelter where he can live and attend school, he returns to Soweto only to visit his mother. No Turning Back contains a hopeful message for South African youth, portraying Nelson Mandela’s vision through Sipho for a more tolerant country. © Africa Access


Now is the time for running

Author: Williams, Michael (2011).

Description: Fifteen-year-old Deo and his older, developmentally disabled brother Innocent barely survive a massacre by government soldiers in their Zimbabwe village. In the aftermath, they head for South Africa, making the dangerous crossing into that nation with a guide and a handful of other refugees. They eventually end up in Johannesburg, where they are taken in by a small group of refugees living inside a bridge. Deo’s world is shattered a second time when anger and xenophobia explodes in a series of violent attacks against refugees. Jump ahead two years and he is living on the streets of Cape Town, getting high as often as he can to keep memories at bay, when he’s spotted by a coach of the South African Street Soccer Team. Soccer had been one of the joys of Deo’s life in Zimbabwe. Now he is given a chance to train with and try out for the team that will represent South Africa in the Homeless World Cup. But in order for this group of young men and women comprised of native South Africans and refugees from other African nations to become a South African team, they must revisit their painful pasts together, sharing their stories as a means of understanding how much they have in common. Told in Deo’s compelling voice, author Michael Williams’ gripping and ultimately uplifting story illuminates the strength and vulnerability of the human spirit while skillfully navigating and ultimately challenging xenophobia in South Africa. Williams provides additional information about xenophobia in South Africa and the Homeless World Cup in author’s notes. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

The bite of the mango

Author: Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland (2008)
Type: Biography
Illustrations: Maps
Description: As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. As told to her by Mariatu, journalist Susan McClelland has written the heartbreaking true story of the brutal attack and its aftermath. © Africa Access


The middle of somewhere: A story of South Africa

Description: This contemporary novel, set in South Africa, reveals how that government’s policies affect a black child, her family and their friends. When plans are made to raze Rebecca’s village in order to build a new suburb for whites, officials try to force residents to move to a dismal settlement many miles away. Although her father and brother refuse to be intimidated, Rebecca is terrified that white men will bulldoze her house. Her fears increase when friends begin to disappear in the night and her own father is arrested after making a public speech. Gordon offers a graphic portrayal of life in a troubled nation as she depicts Rebecca’s experiences at home and in the white community, where her mother works as a maid. Rebecca is initiated into a world filled with prejudice, but before she grows as embittered as her older brother, she witnesses some signs of positive change. © Africa Access

Things fall apart

Author: Chinua Achebe (1958)
Type: Novel
Description: Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.


Year of No Rain

Author: Alice Mead (2003)
Type: Young-adult novel
Description: Stephen, a young Dinka, lives in a village in Sudan with his mother and his elder sister, Naomi. His father has vanished, gone off to the war. Stephen’s concerns are those of any older child in such a village: his family, the cows he tends and on which the village depends, and his sister’s impending marriage. The echoes of the distant war build, until suddenly the village is raided by soldiers looking for food. Stephen and two other boys escape to the forest; his sister Naomi hides. The next day, Stephen and the other boys return to find the village destroyed, Stephen’s mother dead, and Naomi vanished.
The book ends on a hopeful but realistic note as the children start to try to re-establish life among the ruins. © Africa Access


A long way gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier

Author: Ishmael Beah (2007)

Type: Autobiography
Description: This memoir offers an inside view of how lives are transformed when war sweeps through a country. Beah was living an ordinary life in a loving community with no personal knowledge of armed conflict. The only wars he knew of were those he heard about on the BBC, read of in books or saw in movies like Rambo. When war found Beah, he was traveling to a nearby community to perform rap music in a talent show. He and the other members of his group were abducted and forced to fight alongside other young teens in the government’s army. Beah details the difficult situation that the child soldiers face when released from the army, their homes destroyed and family members dead or missing. At fifteen Beah was selected to represent the children of Sierra Leone at a United Nations conference on children in conflicted countries. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

What is the what?

Author: Dave Eggers (2007)
Type: Fictionalized biography
Description: The heartrending but remarkable story of one of Sudan’s Lost Boys. It is a somewhat fictionalized version of the life of a real lost boy, Valentino Achak Deng. He eventually made it to the U.S., finding that the U.S. offered its own obstacles and problems for immigrants.