My favourite reads: Felicity Campbell

Growing up in Botswana, we used to love anything American and British, those faraway places seemed shiny and special to kids in a tiny dusty town. But life in the country you dream about, rarely pans out to be milk and honey, and that can come as a shock, as all these books describe. Felicity Campbell is as Assistant Features Editor at The National

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie published by Anchor. Courtesy Penguin Randon House
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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have read this book countless times, always finding something precious I didn't notice the time before. It follows Ifemelu and Obinze, who leave Nigeria for America and the UK respectively, but both end up back in Lagos. Funny, heart-breaking, poignant and full of devastatingly on-point social observations.

The year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

This sad novel follows the desperate lives of three Indian men and one British-Indian woman who end up in Sheffield. Tochi, a chamar or “untouchable", leaves India after his family is murdered and ends up in a house with Randeep and Avtar. Narinder married Randeep out of pity in order to get him a visa, but wants nothing to do with him, while Avtar has sold a kidney to be there. Painfully raw and the perfect cure for rainbow chasers.

We need new names by NoViolet Bulawayo

In a shanty town called Paradise, in a Zimbabwe that has been brutalised by Mugabe’s regime, Darling and friends dream of immigrating to Dubai or America. Politics, Aids, poverty, hunger – this novel has been criticised for stereotyping the blights of Africa, but the way the stories are told, through a child who is more interested in her friends and scandals, made this less of a concern for me. Darling’s dream is eventually realised and she goes to live with an Aunt in Detroit. Although there is plenty of food, new problems arise.

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

This chilling story begins with Massoud Behrani, an Iranian colonel in exile in America, whose job is to pick up rubbishDespite this, he continues to keep up the façade that all is well, keeping his family comfortable. He seizes an opportunity to get onto the property ladder, but faces a bitter fight and sorrow when the original owner will not give up trying to get their house back. This novel about honour is beautiful, brutal and heart-rending.

My Cleaner by Maggie Gee

Mary cleans for Vanessa, an uptight middle-class English woman, divorced with a son. Ten years after Mary returns to Uganda, Vanessa calls on her for help. Her 22-year-old son Justin is suffering deep depression and has asked for Mary, who comes back. I love the conflicting characters in this book. There is misunderstanding and racism on both sides. Vanessa feels Mary should be grateful while Mary finds Vanessa pathetic. It is wonderfully and hilariously told.


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