Thursday, April 7, 2011

News Out of Africa and a Few Other Tidbits

You'll be hearing way too much about this in all likelihood but it's only 6 months now until I embark on what I expect will be the biggest adventure of my life - three weeks in Africa. The New York Times had an apropos cover story in Sunday's paper this week titled "Why We Travel," which fit me to a tee. I love to learn! As a matter of fact, I get almost as much pleasure out of preparing for a trip as I do from actually taking it. I think I'd be a fantastic travel writer - another retirement possibility?

You can imagine what a daunting task it is to even begin to get a handle on the largest continent in the world. Our original plans simply became overwhelming logistically so we've sensibly limited our visit to three locations in South Africa with a respite from the long flight with a stop over in Senegal.

My friend Don introduced me to an author who was able to distill the more recent history into an accessible book called New News Out of Africa; Uncovering Africa's Renaissance. Charlayne Hunter-Gault's name will be well-known to NPR aficionados for her work on a special called "Apartheid's People," which won a Peabody award. She was also CNN bureau chief, living and working out of Johannesburg for many years and has decried the lack of news available in the United States about the continent.

With her impeccable credentials, Ms. Hunter-Gault has been given exclusive access to all the big players in Africa's recent history, including Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and even Qaddafi. She accompanied President Clinton on his trip to Rwanda and has written at length about what Archbishop Desmond Tutu refers to as the "new apartheid," HIV-AIDS.

A big disappointment is that we simply cannot spend enough time away to include Ghana on this trip but Ms. Hunter-Gault's book, and most other African historians, give kudos to Ghana's conversion to a democratically elected government. I've heard such wonderful things about the Ghanaian people from one of our volunteers at the library who lived with the Ewe tribe for six weeks while teaching computer and grant writing skills.

Believe it or not, another fun way to get a feel for a culture is through crime literature, police procedurals in particular. When we were in Greece - and wherever we go - bookstores are one of our first stops. A bookseller there recommended Petros Markaris. I've now discovered Deon Meyer whose homicide detective Benny Griessel mentors a mixed race group of South African cops as they navigate Cape Town's darker side. Blurbed by none other than Michael Connelly, Thirteen Hours kept me up last night. More on that this weekend.

Meanwhile I've finished and reviewed my latest gift from Barbara Hoffert at Library Journal, a really unusual debut novel with the great title Daughters of the Revolution. Somehow she almost always knows just what will work for me. Also printed in the April 1st edition is my starred review of Helen Schulman's "ripped from the headlines" novel of a family in free fall after a web video goes viral. Read it here: Just scroll down to the author's last name.


Phaedosia said...

Congratulations! A trip to Africa sounds amazing--I hope you post lots of pictures! Thanks for the review. I hadn't heard of Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Can't wait to give her a go.

Sallyb said...

Thanks for still reading! Yes, it will be in Sept. Will try not to overdue the site with photos but....beside myself with excitement.