Archives For Africa

 

A Tale of Lost Promise

 
A Feature Review of 

The Fishermen: A Novel
Chigozie Obioma

Hardback: Little. Brown, 2015
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Reviewed by Kristin Williams
 
 

I love a book that transports me to another place and that causes me to stretch outside the bounds of my own personal experience.   Chigozie Obioma’s haunting debut, The Fishermen, features characters and experiences that provide a stark contrast with my own life while highlighting the similarities of the human experience. With lyrical language and Biblical imagery, Obioma uses the experiences of one family to weave a story of tragedy and redemption that holds universally applicable truths while also providing specific parallels for his home country of Nigeria.

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Meeting a Missionary for the First Time
 
A Review of

Running to the Fire:
An American Missionary Comes of Age in Ethiopia

Tim Bascom

Paperback: U of Iowa Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Sarah Lyons

 

I have grown up in an evangelical church. When I tell you this, it will automatically bring to mind a hundred different ideas of what I am like or what I have experienced, even though I have not told you how old I am or what denomination church I attend. Still, a lot of your assumptions will not necessarily be wrong.
 
For instance, there certainly was a great number of missionaries who passed in and out of my church’s doors. It was common for the sermon to open with a prayer over the next traveling family, often a young mother holding a baby while the father’s hand rested authoritatively on the shoulder of an older brother. I had casual knowledge of at least a dozen families who would later put their feet in places like Thailand or India. And yet, saying this implies that I actually knew a missionary, or at least had a conversation with one—which I didn’t.

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A Call to Christian Cosmopolitanism

A Feature Review of

Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar’s Journey from America to Africa

Susan VanZanten

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2013
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Tim Høiland

 

There has been much talk in recent decades about the shift in the center of gravity in global Christianity from the west and the north to the south and the east, and books like The Next Christendom by Baylor historian Philip Jenkins have brought the conversation to a popular level. Indeed, the numbers are indisputable. While churches in much of Europe and North America have seen declining and stagnating attendance levels, respectively, the pattern does not hold elsewhere in the world. Rather, throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America there has been a remarkable degree of Christian dynamism and numerical growth, especially in Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

 
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Mahi Binebine - Welcome to Paradise: A NovelLook Across Jordan:
The Longing and Dreams of the Least of These

A Review of

Welcome to Paradise: A Novel

Mahi Binebine.

Paperback: Tin House, 2011
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Review by Emily Zimbrick-Rogers

Welcome to Paradise, by Moroccan author Mahi Binebine, resembles an African-American slave spiritual—brief, evocative, laden with longing for freedom. Like the singers of “I am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” the characters in Welcome to Paradise believe “there’s no sickness, toil nor danger/in that bright world to which [they] go.” Waiting on the Moroccan shore, seven Africans look across the Strait of Gibraltar, a modern-day Jordan, hoping to escape horrors of poverty and violence.

The novel’s present action is simple: six men, a woman and a baby wait for a trafficker to take them across the dozen miles to freedom in a small boat. Like African-American slaves before them, desperation forces them to depend entirely on traffickers for a crossing, which endangers their lives and rips them from everything and everyone they know.

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A Brief Review of

One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir.
Binyavanga Wainaina.
Hardback: Graywolf Press, 2011.
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[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Rebecca Henderson.

The author bio for Binyavanga Wainaina relates his numerous accomplishments recommending him as a preeminent African writer of our time: founding editor of the African literary magazine Kwani?, winner of the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing, director of the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers and Artists at Bard College. It only takes a few pages of reading his new memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, to see why literary critics love him and why he has become a leader among writers in his region. Wainaina’s skill with words is obvious — he puts them together imaginatively to form intense images of his family memories, to produce the sounds of regional dialects, to paint scenes of Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda that vividly portray the years of his childhood and youth.

 

A Brief Review of

This Our Exile:
A Spiritual Journey with the
Refugees of East Africa
.
by James Martin, S.J.
New Paperback edition: Orbis, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

How high and long and wide and deep is the Kingdom of God!  Most of us need to be reminded of that from time to time, especially those of us within Western culture.  This book is not only a powerful reminder of all the ways God is at work in God’s world, but it is also a reminder of our connectedness with brothers and sisters in so many places.  This is a wonderful, easy-to-read, “don’t want to put it down” kind of book.  The author is a great storyteller and quickly draws us in to the places and lives he is sharing with us.

James Martin, the author and a Jesuit Priest, was sent to Kenya to spend two years (1992 – 1994) working with East African refugees as part of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), a Catholic Relief organization.  His focus was to help the refugees begin small businesses in order to help provide a way for them to make a living and enable them to at least have a start at putting their lives back together.  This two-year experience was to be part of his training as a Jesuit.  This book is a wonderfully written story of those years – the building of relationships and the sharing of life with people in a reality very different from our own.  In the author’s own words:

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A Review of

The Sacrifice of Africa:
A Political Theology for Africa
.
Emmanuel Katongole.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

One of my most memorable experiences of the last year was the opportunity I had to spend a week at the Summer Institute at Duke Divinity School, hosted by the Center for Reconciliation there.  Some of my best memories from that week involve hearing stories of unfathomable faith and courage told by church leaders from the Great Lakes region of central Africa.  Emmanuel Katongole, professor of theology and world Christianity at Duke and Roman Catholic priest of the Kampala archdiocese in Uganda, was one of these African leaders, whose lecture was one of the highlights of the Institute.

I had been familiar with Katongole’s work for a couple years, particularly his narration of the genocide in Rwanda, Mirror to the Church, which I reviewed here in 2009.  I was therefore delighted to see that he recently published a new theological reflection on the African context, The Sacrifice of Africa, in which he probes the meaning of recent African stories of Christian faithfulness.  I can see that this book might easily be overlooked by readers who are unfamiliar or unconcerned with African Christianity.  However, to overlook this extraordinary book would be a grave error.  Following in the footsteps of his Duke Divinity School colleagues J. Kameron Carter (author of Race: A Theological Account) and Willie James Jennings (author of The Christian Imagination), Katongole’s work here serves to spur the church to imagine what faithfulness to the Gospel will look like in a post-Western world.  Katongole’s work is therefore of great significance because it reflects on the meaning of those who – in the poignant words of J. Kameron Carter – “have imagined and performed a way of being in the world beyond the pseudotheological containment of whiteness” (Race 378).

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545442: Resurrection in May

A Review of

Resurrection in May: A Novel

By Lisa Samson
Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Jeni Newswanger-Smith.

Lisa Samson belongs to the newer (but welcome!) generation of Christian authors who write honestly and believably about people’s struggles with faith in the real world. Samson often deals with big topics—alcoholism, psychosis, murders—and Resurrection in May is no different.  In fact, Samson deals with so many big issues (e.g., genocide, drug addiction, PTSD, the death penalty), that the book is almost overwhelming.  May,  a recent college graduate, who is partying away her young life, meets Claudius, an old farmer who has never lived away from his birth home, when he picks her up, drunk and abandoned, from the side of the road.  Claudius is able to see through May’s recent bad choices to who she really is—a bright, talented, but pampered child who makes very bad choices when it comes to romance.  They strike up an unlikely friendship—May moves into Claudius’s home while she waits to go on a mission trip Rwanda; there she plans to work in a small village, while also exercising her journalistic skills.  But May’s trip to Rwanda overlaps with the atrocious genocides of the 1990s, and May witnesses and experiences rage and hatred she can not find words to express.  After barely living through the genocide, May returns home scarred literally and figuratively. Unable to deal with anyone of her former acquaintance, she moves back into Claudius’s home.  There she stays for years, her world quickly becoming just the farm and those people who visit it.  After dealing for years with pathological fear, May is encouraged to reach beyond the farm by writing to a former friend who is awaiting execution on death row.  As the friendship grows through letters, both May and her friend wrestle with the issues of forgiveness and redemption.

Samson’s books are always enjoyable as well as challenging.  Resurrection in May is no exception, however, because of the over-crowding of big issues and the rather sudden shifts in time and perspective, it doesn’t stand up to her best work.  While Samson deals realistically with disappointed dreams and mental illness, Resurrection in May is brimming so full with interesting characters and potential sub-plots, one wonders why no one suggested making it into a series.

 

A sneak peek at one of the books to be featured in our
first print edition…  (Have you subscribed? )

Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven:
Community Practices for Making Peace
(Resources for Reconciliation Series)

by L. Gregory Jones and Célestin Musekura
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

 

A Brief Review of

Why Africa Matters.
Cedric Mayson.
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2010.
Buy now:  [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.

I have always been intrigued with the continent of Africa.  From the silly and false stereotyping days of Johnny Weissmuller and Tarzan (for those under 30 you’re probably asking “Who?”), to the days of “Amistad” and “Roots”, to the amazing Wildlife Parks and reserves, to the more recent developments in Rwanda and Sudan, there’s been much about Africa to think about.   Africa’s incredible and breathtaking beauty, its fascinating mix of peoples and cultures, its sometimes violent and almost unbelievable history are all powerful draws to the mind, heart and imagination.  Certainly there is much we can learn from all human history in all places  –  but I do think that maybe author is correct in thinking that in some ways there might be some particular things that can be seen and learned from the story of Africa, its history, its people, its ancient beginnings.

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