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Specially commissioned reviews, interviews and reading lists

South Haven

‘A Just War’

An extract from, South Haven, the first novel by Hirsh Sawhney
As they drove to Deer Run Elementary School on that chilly February evening, a light snow wet the windshield of their rust-coloured car. His stomach gurgled with dread, which mounted as they approached the town centre. Soon they were passing the Carter Family Horse Farm, which was adjacent to South Haven’s public library. Over the past few months, Mohan Lal occasionally picked him up from school and they would get doughnuts and eat them in the library parking lot. They parked as close to the horses as possible and Siddharth got out of the car and laced his fingers through the chain-link fence. One of the ponies, which had a blond mane, sometimes came over and licked his fingers, and they started referring to it as Buddy. Whenever they visited Buddy, Mohan Lal remained in the car, sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup and listening to reports about the aftermath of the Gulf War. Siddharth stood outside alone, inhaling the musky air, staring at the desolate fields and graceful horses. He occasionally looked over his shoulder to check on his father, who responded by blowing him a kiss or just smiling. Siddharth felt good in those moments. He hadn’t said a word about them to anyone — not to Arjun, nor to Ms Farber, his school psychologist. He hadn’t even said anything to his only friend at Deer Run, Sharon Nagorski. 
It was thanks to Arjun that he had enrolled in Deer Run Elementary back in September. Arjun had said he needed an after-school programme now that they were a single-parent family and Deer Run was the only South Haven school that had one. That term – single-parent family – made him feel like punching a wall. It was a term that should have applied to the people on television, not to real people who he knew and loved. 
At first, Mohan Lal had been dismissive of Arjun. But he later said that Arjun had a point and instructed him to handle all of the arrangements. Siddharth looked on as his brother pretended to be their father and phoned the principal of Robert Treat Elementary, where he had attended first through fourth grades. Once all the arrangements were finalised, Mohan Lal told Arjun that he was proud of him for sorting everything out. He said that one day Arjun would make a good father. 
‘Yeah, thanks,’ said Arjun. ‘One day you might make one too.’ 
Siddharth said, ‘Take it easy, Arjun. He was just trying to be nice.’ 
The rest of the summer, Siddharth had dreaded the prospect of beginning at a new school, but once the year actually started, he saw that transferring definitely had an upside. At Deer Run, he was no longer the little brother of the great Arjun Arora, straight-A student and flag bearer. At Deer Run, he was no longer the kid with the dead mom. The problem was that at his new school, he was the new kid, a nobody who people avoided. At his new school, he only had one friend, Sharon Nagorski. The other kids called Sharon a loser. Luca Peroti and Eddie Benson called her ‘Sharon, the Friendless Wonder’.
Mohan Lal pulled into Deer Run five minutes before the PTA meeting was supposed to start, parking beside the derelict tennis courts. For Siddharth, being at school for the second time in one day was a prison sentence. But accompanying his father had still seemed like the best option. Arjun was putting the school newspaper to bed and Siddharth wasn’t in the mood to be alone. More importantly, going with his father meant he could prevent him from doing something stupid. 
As they navigated the slushy asphalt, he clutched his father’s woollen overcoat. That way, if Mohan Lal slipped, Siddharth could break his fall. When they reached the school’s entrance, they dried their winter boots on a large red mat inscribed with the word Owls. Owls were the Deer Run mascot. 
Mohan Lal muttered, ‘Owls? This is a place of learning, and owls are the stupidest of birds.’ 
Siddharth rolled his eyes. He saw a sign that read, PTA Meeting in Cafeteria, and led his father in that direction. As they walked, he told himself to look on the bright side, just as Arjun was always telling him. His mother used to say the same thing. The bright side was that he would get to show his father where he stood in line for chocolate milk and foot-long hot dogs. The bright side was that he would get to show him where he ate lunch with Sharon Nagorski. To Siddharth’s surprise, the positive thinking did the trick, loosening him up. 
The cafeteria had dizzyingly tall ceilings and twenty tables with attached orange benches. One of its walls contained a glass case displaying student artwork and class pictures. Another wall was made almost entirely of windows. It looked out onto a blue Luciani Carting garbage dumpster and two flagpoles, one for the blue state flag and the other for Old Glory. Mohan Lal dashed in front of him and headed to the back of the room, near the spot where you cleared your lunch tray. A little stand had been set up there, with two coffee urns and a tray full of pastries. He made himself a cup with cream and sugar, then picked up a glazed doughnut. 
‘Eat something,’ he said. ‘We’ll have dinner later tonight.’ 
‘I had a big lunch,’ said Siddharth. He was waiting for his father to ask him a question about school — about where his classroom was or which was his lunch table. As soon as his father asked him a question, he would tell him everything. 
Mohan Lal chose an empty table, far from the other people, far from the wooden podium that had been set up on the other side of room. Siddharth scanned the cafeteria. He felt stupid when he didn’t see any other students. Thankfully, his teacher Miss Kleinberg was also missing. He spotted Mr Grillo, the moustached school principal. He was wearing a three-piece suit, as usual. Larry, the old janitor, was hunched over a broom and chewing on one of his fat cigars. He always had a cigar in his mouth but never actually lit them. All the other parents were chatting. They seemed to know each other and they seemed to be having fun. Siddharth wished his father knew how to make small talk to the other parents. Most of them were women, but there were a few men, dressed in jeans and sweatshirts. Mohan Lal had on a cardigan sweater over a ribbed turtleneck. He looked like a dinosaur compared to these other guys. 
Mohan Lal tapped him on the shoulder. 
‘What?’ said Siddharth. His voice was harsh, but he was actually relieved. It was happening. His father was finally asking him about school. 
‘Where is that woman?’ asked Mohan Lal. 
‘Which woman?’ 
‘That shrink lady — that psychologist.’ 
‘You mean Ms Farber? Why would Ms Farber be here, Dad? This is for parents — parents and teachers.’ 
Mohan Lal shrugged. ‘She should be here. She was the one who told me I should come.’ 
‘You talked to Ms Farber? When did you talk to Ms Farber?’ 
A woman with black hair went up to the podium and said, ‘Excuse me, everybody. I think it’s time we get started.’ 
He poked his father in the arm. ‘Dad, you talked to Ms Farber? When did you talk to Ms Farber?’
Mohan Lal widened his eyes and put a finger to his lips. 
Siddharth shook his head and stared up at the pockmarks in the tiled ceiling. He felt like an asshole. He felt like his father had betrayed him. 
‘Welcome, everybody,’ said the black-haired woman at the podium. She was wearing a denim jacket. Her curly hair rose upwards, not down. She tapped on the microphone, then started speaking. ‘Most of you know me already. I’m Joe Antonelli, David’s mom. And Joey’s. And Ricky’s. Mindy’s too.’ Everyone let out a snigger and Mohan Lal laughed as well. Siddharth was glad. At least his father could laugh when he was supposed to. 
Mrs Antonelli thanked John Faruci for the coffee and doughnuts. ‘Let me tell you,’ she said. ‘Faruci’s is the only place in town where my mother would have bought her groceries.’ She asked everyone to hold off on refreshments until they adjourned and Mohan Lal took the remaining half of his donut in a single bite, using the collar of his turtleneck to wipe his mouth. Siddharth put a hand to his forehead and peered down. He hoped that no one had noticed his father scoffing his food. He hoped that nobody here knew about his visits to Ms Farber. He didn’t mind visiting her in the ‘retard room’, as Luca Peroti called it. He didn’t mind, as long as it was private. 
Mrs Antonelli stared right in their direction. ‘I’m pleased to see we have a newcomer tonight. Welcome.’ She flashed a wide smile. ‘What’s your name, sir?’ 
Siddharth swallowed. 
‘Greetings, ma’am,’ said Mohan Lal. ‘My son is a new student here. I’m Dr Arora.’ 
“We’re so glad you could join us,” she said. “Ah, and I see you’ve brought your boy.” 
Siddharth shrunk in his seat. 
Mrs Antonelli thanked everyone for last week’s baked ziti dinner, then provided the results of December’s canned food drive. Everyone clapped and a man in a checked shirt and baseball cap stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Siddharth recognised him. He was Eddie Benson’s father. Siddharth turned to his own dad, who was sipping coffee and staring into space. Why did he bother coming if he wasn’t even going to pay attention? 
Mrs Antonelli cleared her throat. She said that with so many positive things going on, it was easy to ignore the harsher side of life. ‘I’m sure you all know what I’m referring to. Our boys are making such big sacrifices out in the Persian Gulf. And here we are, living the good life in South Haven. I find myself sitting on the sofa, staring at the television, and wondering what I can do. How can I make a difference?’ 
Mohan Lal leaned forward. Crap, thought Siddharth. 
Mrs Antonelli said she wanted to make a motion to use three hundred dollars of PTA funds to buy each Deer Run student a yellow ribbon. The students could fasten these ribbons to their mailboxes in order to show support for Desert Storm. 
Mohan Lal’s eyes were now glued to the podium. Please don’t, thought Siddharth. 
A woman with blonde bangs raised her hand. She said that Mrs Antonelli always had such wonderful ideas. The man with the checked shirt and baseball cap – Eddie Benson’s father – was in agreement. 
‘We’re all watching it from the couch,’ he said, ‘but these kids — they’re actually putting their lives on the line for our freedom. Heck, I wish we could do something more — something bigger.’ 
Siddharth noticed his father begin to smile. He nudged Mohan Lal. He wanted to grab him and get out of there. A large woman with glasses stood up and said that the money could be better spent on an extra set of encyclopaedias or colour monitors for the computers. 
Mrs Antonelli said, ‘We’re kinda short on time here, Laurie. Let’s table the encyclopaedias until next time.’ 
It was then that Mohan Lal raised his hand. ‘Excuse me, Miss Joe?’
A vein in Siddharth’s neck started pulsing. 
Mrs Antonelli turned toward him, her eyebrows curved like the wings of a seagull. ‘Yes?’
‘I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to add my two cents.’ 
Siddharth bit the inside of his cheek. 
Mrs Antonelli flashed her fake wide smile. ‘Absolutely. We would love it if you shared.’ 
Mohan Lal handed his empty coffee cup to Siddharth, then stood up. ‘Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to share a few small thoughts.’ He cleared his throat. “You all seem like such intelligent people. This is why it is all the more urgent for us to really think this through. Before taking action, we must think this through and ask difficult questions.” Mohan Lal grinned as he spoke, which infuriated Siddharth. His father was always moping, always fighting off tears. His voice would even crack when he said goodnight. And now he was smiling. Now? Here? 
Mohan Lal kept on going: ‘Everyone here is an educated person, so you won’t mind if I ask you a hard question. Is this war in the Gulf truly just? Is this a war we should be actually be fighting? Because if we buy these ribbons, we are making a statement about this war.’
Siddharth dug his fingers into the back of his father’s brown trousers. 
Mrs Antonelli interrupted Mohan Lal. ‘Dr … Arora, right? Dr Arora, I don’t think I know what you mean. We are making a statement.’ Her voice was now sharper. 
Mohan Lal continued smiling and said, ‘Let’s review our history, ladies and gentleman. Who gave Saddam his weapons? Who gave him his money? We did. We did these things because it served our interests. Folks, I am a firm believer in the use of force. But if we support this war, what message are we sending to the world?
What message are we sending our children?’ 
The room was totally silent for a moment, one of the longest moments in Siddharth’s life. But soon other parents started whispering. Soon people were scowling and yelling, and a chaotic uproar swept over the cafeteria. Siddharth tapped his forehead against the table. When he looked up, his father’s eyes were gleaming in a way they hadn’t for months. 
Mrs Antonelli banged a gavel. 
Eddie Benson’s father stood up. He walked up to the podium and pointed at Mohan Lal. ‘With all due respect to him – Dr whatever-his-name-is – everything that guy said, it’s … it’s totally baloney.’ Mr Benson turned toward Mrs Antonelli. ‘Pardon my French, but that’s a bunch of crap.’ The entire audience started clapping, except for the large woman with the glasses who had wanted the encyclopaedias. Mr Benson removed his baseball cap and patted down his hair. ‘My cousin was in ’Nam, and when he got back, they spat all over him. That’s not gonna happen this time — not on my watch.’
After some more applause, the blonde with the bangs made a motion to spend six hundred dollars on the ribbons, not three hundred. That way they could buy two for every student. 
Siddharth stood up and yanked his father’s arm. 
Mohan Lal shrugged him off. ‘Let go of me,’ he said. 
He released his father and fled the cafeteria. He ran towards the car and wanted to keep on running. He wanted to run all the way home — but to his old home, the one where his mother had lived. For a moment, he wished it were his father who had gone. If he could, he would trade in his father for his mother. But he immediately regretted this line of thinking. He told himself that if his father were to die now, it would be all his fault. 
© 2016 by Hirsh Sawhney. This extract from South Haven is published by kind permission of Akashic Books.

Hirsh Sawhney

Hirsh Sawhney’s writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Financial Times, Outlook and numerous other periodicals. He is the editor of Delhi Noir, a critically acclaimed anthology of original fiction, and is on the advisory board of Wasafiri. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and teaches at Wesleyan University. South Haven is his debut novel. Visit his website at


Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfictionedited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey
Wasafiri is delighted to feature a second exclusive extract from the exciting new anthology Safe House: An Anthology of Creative Nonfiction. Published by Cassava Republic Press on 26 May 2016 in partnership with Commonwealth Writers, the cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation, the book’s editor, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, says:
'In their individual expressions, the contributors to Safe House define a specifically African genre of creative nonfiction, one inflected by the geography and politics, the cultures and histories, of this continent.
'Their pieces represent as wide a range in experience as they do in subject and form. There are seasoned nonfiction practitioners, writers who are beginning to make their mark in their home countries and those established in other genres who are trying nonfiction for the first time.'
The Mission at Verona
Beatrice Lamwaka
Today, my father has returned early. I see him on the road, coming home on his bicycle. Sing: 
Ligi ligi Baba oo [Ligi ligi Daddy has arrived]
Ligi ligi Baba oo [Ligi ligi Daddy has arrived]
This is the song I sing with my half-sister Adyero, who is one year younger than me. Father always brings something home for us all: lagalagala, boiled maize, sim sim melted with sugar. 
The path leading to our homestead is wide, so you can always see whoever is coming towards the house and anyone on the path has a clear view of our home. My father brings seedlings and the seeds of different plants. We have giant pine trees, bamboo and eucalyptus. Fruit trees – mangoes, avocados, banana, oranges, lemon, jackfruit, jambula, durian, adunnu – and flowers — frangipani, jacaranda, cassia, jasmine.
The trees surround our homestead and we are woken every day by the loud chirping from the trees. Sometimes we incorporate our words in the bird’s song:
Agakakak meni otedo ngo? [Raven, what has your mother cooked?]
Boo boo boo boo boo, the bird answers.
My mother has planted boo as well as eggplant, malakwang and otigo around our home; vegetables she sends me to pick whenever she needs them. Our farmland is a kilometre away. That is where we grow sweet potatoes, maize, lapena, beans.
In 1986, when Yoweri Museveni became president, he brought peace to Uganda. During the coup there were rumours that he was going to kill all the Acholi because Acholi had killed people in Luwero, a stronghold for his rebel activities. But since we don’t hear of any killings or reprisals, we have begun to relax and hope there will be no retribution.
That evening when my father returns from work, he seems tired. There are no patients waiting for him with their chickens or goats, so I bring his chair, rwot onino – the chief is sleeping – and unfold it under the mango tree. He brings his radio from his room and sits listening to the news.
‘Lamwaka, go get me water,’ my father says. I was going to get his water even without him asking, but he always asks anyway.
My mother is cooking lapena with sweet potatoes. The smell of the food wafts across the compound. The kitchen is full of smoke from the burning wood and I don’t want to stay in there for long. Our kitchen is directly at the end of the path leading home, only blocked by a metre of the main road. I look up and I can see men walking on the road but, because of the smoke I don’t pay much attention.
‘There are men coming,’ I tell my father when I bring his water.
‘Are they carrying a patient?’ he asks.
Before we can say more, the men arrive and walk straight to my father. My mother comes out of the kitchen.
The men have guns slung over their shoulders. They are wearing lacaka caka trousers but no shirts. They wear sapatu, not shoes or boots, on their feet. All the soldiers I have seen before wear lacaka caka trousers and matching shirts with heavy boots.
When we see them we sing:
Lacaka caka meno bongo lweny [Camouflage clothes are for infighting]
Lacaka caka meno bongo kolo [Camouflage clothes are for provoking]
The men who come today to greet my father as he sits under the mango tree are friendly; they greet us as if we are old acquaintances. My mother offers them water to drink and chairs to sit on. They refuse the seats but accept the water. My mother goes back to the kitchen, but I am sure that she is following what is going on. I sit on the ground beside my father. I want to know what is going on here. 
The men stand around as if their mothers never taught them that when you stand around someone seated, you suck their blood. My father begins to look uncomfortable in his chair.
Mzee, itye maber?’ They ask over and over again as if they have not just greeted him.
There is a play on the radio. If these men were not around, we would have listened to this play without interruption. The men introduce themselves: Okello from Laliya, Otim from Anaka, Larem from Koch Goma, Nyeko from For God and Mwaka from Lacekocot. Although it was years ago, I remember the names of this first group of men. Their faces have never faded from my mind.
‘My daughter is Lamwaka. She was born on the first. What about you?’
‘Lamwaka, you must give me chicken, since you are younger,’ Mwaka tells me. Then, to my father, he says, ‘I don’t know when I was born, my mother never told me.’
I am not allowed to stand around my father or any adult. I am afraid to suck their blood. If I want something from him or if my mother sends me to ask him for something, I have to kneel and then ask. Seeing the men standing there makes me wonder what they are really saying.
‘Lamwaka, come into the house,’ my mother calls to me.
I quickly follow her voice into the kitchen.
‘Why do you want to listen to adult conversations? This child of mine!’
I am not in the kitchen for long when my father calls me to catch one of the chickens walking around the compound. My father has never asked me to catch any chicken; that is my mother’s responsibility. She is the one who knows which chicken is ready to be eaten.
I go straight to the bamboo trees where I know there will be more chickens and I can sneak up on them. They all run in different directions. I have always hated running after chickens because they never stay still when you need to catch one. My brother Richard joins and finally he is the one who catches one.
‘Why are we giving them a chicken?’ Richard asks.
‘I think the men with the guns want it,’ I tell him.
‘I saw some men at Korina’s also getting chicken.’
‘Eh.’ I do not know what else to say.
When we return with the chicken, my father’s friends Apa and Orub are seated with him. The other men are still standing. Now they seem anxious to leave. Richard hands the chicken to one of the men and the bird squirms as the man holds it away from his body and gun. It defecates on the ground.
Apwoyo,’ he says. The men thank my father and then they are leaving, walking back along the path before turning to the left towards Bwobo.
Richard and I stand there for a moment, neither my father nor his friends saying anything.
‘Things might be getting bad,’ Apa says after a while.
My mother appears from the kitchen. She is excited. Earlier in the day, the women at the well had said there are many men in Bwobo and many more are joining now. We must be careful now.
(c) Beatrice Lamwaka, republished by kind permission of the authors and publishers
Beatrice Lamwaka is a recipient of the 2011 Young Achievers Award. She was shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing and was a finalist for the South African PEN/Studzinski Literary Award 2009. The anthology of short stories Queer Africa: new and collected fiction (2013), which includes her short story, won the twenty-sixth Lambda Literary Award in the fiction anthology category in 2014. She was selected as one of the Young African Scholars for the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation’s special programme in 2009. Her stories have been translated into Spanish, Italian and French. 

Read an extract from Isaac Otidi Amuke’s title piece ‘Safe House’ below.
Safe House
Isaac Otidi Amuke
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Nairobi, Kenya
That Saturday morning I wore faded blue jeans, a pair of well-worn but still in vogue brown suede loafers I’d bought from the flea market outside City Stadium on Jogoo Road and a black long-sleeved shirt tucked into my pants. The thing about the City Stadium loafers was that, as much as they were pre-owned by someone in either Europe or America, they were still in pristine condition, and whenever I wore this particular pair, which I had owned for over a year, I got the same feeling of comfort and self-assuredness I’d felt the first time I put them on. 
I had obsessed about owning a solid black shirt for a long time and when I bought this particular one I’d spent more time admiring it in my wardrobe than daring to put it on, fearing it would wear out. But that morning I didn’t worry about any of this. All I wanted was that fitted-shirt-fitted-jeans-leather-lined-loafers feeling, one that made me feel ready for the weekend. That’s what I went for. 
It was that rare time of the month when I had money on me. I had received my $300 stipend from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights a few days earlier, which was supposed to cater for my monthly groceries. The commission was housing me in a $1,200 furnished and serviced one-bedroom unit at Ler Apartments on Chania Road in Kilimani, where I had now lived for over five months, starting in April 2010. I had struck a deal in which they had offered to house me on condition that I didn’t let anyone know about the arrangement. If anyone got to learn of it, I was told, the deal would be off, immediately, with no room for renegotiation.
Technically this was supposed to be a safe house, for which the commission was willing to pay an arm and a leg, since one had to pay ‘neighbourhood tax’ in Kilimani — the go-to neighbourhood for young Kenyans who wanted to show social arrival, some announcing their new middle-class status, real or perceived, and others working to maintain whatever status had been handed down to them by their parents. The price of this middle-classness was paying exorbitant rents for apartments with wooden floors and sliding French windows leading to balconies with ashtrays placed on garden tables, where they’d come out to have a smoke after a long day of chasing money to keep themselves living in the neighbourhood. 
I lived in apartment B2, which was the door on the right as one came up the stairs on the first floor of the block of one-bedroom apartments. The sliding door leading to the balcony gave a view of the other apartment block within the property, with its office, kitchen and gym on the ground floor. 
A huge abstract painting and a mirror mounted in wrought iron were all there was to the walls of the small lounge area of my apartment, where a 45-inch flat screen TV set sat in the corner next to the balcony. Two couches covered in orange linen seat covers formed a 90-degree angle facing the TV set, with one of the seats leaning against a wall. A stout, brown, square wooden table placed on a beige rug sat at the centre of the lounge, with a round four-seater dining table adjacent to a fully equipped open plan kitchen. The bedroom had a huge bed – which I’d comfortably share with my three cousins whenever they visited – and on the side was a floor-to-ceiling mirror mounted on a wooden frame made of driftwood.
To some, this would be the life. To me, life was in limbo.
Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nairobi, Kenya
My journey to the safe house began on the slow-moving Thursday evening of March 5, 2009. 
I was standing outside the Yaya Centre, the imposing shopping mall and high-end apartment tower block at the junction of Argwings Kodhek Road and Ring Road in Kilimani, waiting for my friend Zoe, with whom I was to watch Notorious, the newly released biopic on the life of American rapper Notorious B.I.G. We had both watched Redemption, the life story of B.I.G.’s main rival, Tupac Shakur, and we’d spent many evenings talking about it over coffee. When I got tickets for Notorious, Zoe was my natural choice for company. 
She was taking too long to get from Westlands to the Yaya Centre, where we were to proceed to the movie theatre at Prestige Plaza, Ngong Road. She called and said she was running late. There was no public transport and so she’d had to take a cab. Between wondering how Zoe would be dressed and speculating over how the evening would unfold, whether we’d enjoy the movie as I hoped and possibly grab a meal thereafter and wander into deeper conversation about anything and everything – as we always did – my thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from our friend Wachira. 
Amuke, GPO amepigwa risasi,’ Wachira said. 
Our friend George Paul Oulu, known as Oulu GPO, had been shot. Wachira sounded out of breath, panting on the other end of the line as if he was being chased. We had always felt invincible as student activists, imagining that the worst that could happen to us would be getting kicked out of school. 
GPO had been suspended from the university by the time Zoe, Wachira and I were freshmen. He had led a student protest against fees increments, and the university had slapped him with a three-year suspension. He had been barred from student politics upon readmission and used us as proxies in fighting the repressive administration. GPO had been shot on State House Road, next to the University of Nairobi, alongside Oscar Kamau Kingara, a civil society benefactor we had befriended. Wachira had been having a beer at Senses, the pub at the student centre a few metres away, when he had heard the gunshots. It was 6:00 p.m. 
GPO was dead.
(c) Isaac Otidi Amuke, republished by kind permission of the authors and publishers
Isaac Otidi Amuke lives and writes in Nairobi, Kenya. He was selected to participate in the 2014 Commonwealth Writers creative nonfiction workshop in Kampala, Uganda, and the 2015 Farafina Creative Writing Workshop in Lagos, Nigeria. He has written nonfiction for the literary journal Kwani? since 2012, and his literary journalism has appeared on the Commonwealth Writers website. He received the 2013 Jean Jacques Rousseau Fellowship from the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, and is working on a two-part memoir on student activism and life as an asylum seeker. 
Safe House: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey
In a collection of creative essays that ranges from travel writing and memoir to reportage, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey brings together some of the most talented writers of creative nonfiction from across Africa.
A Ghanaian explores the increasing influence of China across the region; a Kenyan student activist writes of exile in Kampala; a Liberian scientist shares her diary of the Ebola crisis; a Nigerian writer travels to the north to meet a community at risk; a Kenyan travels to Senegal to interview a gay rights activist and a South African writer recounts a tale of family discord and murder in a remote seaside town.
This anthology contains a range of unforgettable stories by authors from across Africa and presents personal views of contemporary issues in an accessible and thought-provoking manner.
Genre: Non-Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-911115-16-8
Publication Date: 26th May 2016
Click here to visit Commonwealth Writers.
Click here to visit the Cassava Republic website


Helon Habila on The Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

Gabriel Gbadamosi on There was a Country by Chinua Achebe and In the House of the Interpreter by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Maya Jaggi on Zadie Smith's NW

Nii Ayikwei Parkes reviews the Commonwealth Book Prize 2012

Razia Iqbal on Anita Desai's Artist of Disappearance

Michael McMillan on Migrations: Journeys into British Art at Tate Britain

Courttia Newland on Caryl Phillips' Colour Me English 

Bernardine Evaristo on Binyavanga Wainaina's One Day I Will Write About This Place 

Robin Yassin-Kassab on Leila Aboulela's Lyrics Alley 

Aamer Hussein on Hanif Kureishi's Collected Stories 

Beverley Naidoo on Salman Rushdie's Luke and the Fire of Life

Interviews and Features

In the Same Cage (From the novel Elijah’s Chair) by Igor Štiks

Attia Hosain: A Distant Traveller - an essay by Ritu Menon and Aamer Hussein to mark the centenary of Hosain's birth and the publication of A Distant Traveller

London's South Asian Radical Writers - Retro Style
Shyama Perera, Daljit Nagra and Bidisha share their original works in response to radical writers of yesteryear.

More Interviews and Features

Book Lists

Summer Reads 2012 - Books for younger readers

Christmas Lists

Summer Reads 


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