What We’re Reading May 8, 2020 – Posted in: Book Recs, From the Publisher – Tags:

There’s no doubt that this pandemic has either broken your reading stride, or encouraged you to read more than ever before. Here’s what us here at Mawenzi House have been reading lately. See anything you’d want to read?

Nurjehan Aziz, Publisher

The lockdown due to Covid-19 has afforded me a chance to catch up on reading books that have long sat on my bookshelf, a collection that I would look at everyday and shake my head at wistfully. I picked In an Antique Land, by Amitav Ghosh, yearning for far-away places while confined to the home for the foreseeable future. 

Published in 1992, it is an account of the author’s stay in a small village in Egypt in the early 1980s, to develop his dissertation in social anthropology at Oxford. But it is more than an account of his stay; Ghosh delves into the history of Egypt while attempting to unlock the mysteries of a letter written by a merchant in the twelfth century to a friend and fellow trader in India. In so doing, the fascinating history of the Indian Ocean trade of that time is brought to light, with details of the trade routes from northern Egypt, down the Nile to the coast near Aden (the Suez Canal had not been constructed), across the sea to the coast of western India.

Hailing from India, the author learnt to speak Arabic fluently, picking up the local village dialect in addition to the formal, written form of the language. His anecdotes and stories around village life, as well as his travels to the towns and cities, including the capital, Cairo, are very interesting, placed within the rich history of his host country. It is a rewarding experience.

Still dreaming of far-away places, I revisited And Home Was Kariakoo, by M.G. Vassanji, a travel memoir of growing up in East Africa. Coming from that part of the world myself, there is much in this book that is familiar, yet so much that was new to me (at first reading), especially the history, which is well researched and presented in a very accessible way.

Here at Mawenzi House, work continues on making sure deadlines for fall titles are met.

Currently we are editing our forthcoming short-story collection, Maame, by Elizabeth Vaah. It is an intimate account of how women emerged from the strait-jacket of traditional expectations in a fishing village in Ghana.

Sabrina Pignataro, Publishing Assistant

Admittedly, my first instinct when we found ourselves on sudden lockdown due to a pandemic was to break out my worn copy of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, followed by a quick reread of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Masque of the Red Death. But those were maybe a bit too on-the-nose!

So instead of exclusively reading pandemic literature, I thought it might be worth taking the time to read some books that had been on my TBR pile for a while. With that in mind, I’ve been reading Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House, a creative memoir of the author’s experience of abuse. I’ve also been listening to Jia Tolentino’s essay collection, Trick Mirror, the first essay of which (“The I in Internet”) feels very poignant in this moment when we’re all leaning harder on the internet for socialization and validation than we ever have before. And, having suddenly found myself missing my morning commute, I’ve also been paging through Adrian De Leon’s Rouge, letting the poetic verse on each of Toronto’s subway stations take me on a virtual ride across the city.

Next I’ll be reading horror novel Come Closer, by Sara Gran, and listening to the audiobook of Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill.

Maria Zuppardi, Marketing Assistant

The days sure have been going by quickly! Lately I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up with some ARCs that I had, like Little Universes by Heather Demetrios, The Second Chance Boutique by Louisa Leaman, and Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas.

For the most part though, I’ve been sticking to thrillers to escape from reality. Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier is amazing, definitely one of my top mysteries of the year! I also co-host a buddy read on Instagram, so last month our pick was The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware, which is about a newly hired nanny, Rowan Caine, living in a remote area in an old house with young children to care for, and absent parents – and also things that go bump in the night. Definitely don’t recommend staying up late to read this scary book! I’ve also recently re-read through The Youth of God by Hassan Ghedi Santur, because I’m doing a fun Q&A with him for my blog!

Next up for me (besides more ARCs) is Miracle Creek by Angie Kim, and Wildlands by Rebecca Hodge, once it gets to me from a book box I order. I’ve also been yearning for some sort of non-fiction, and I’ll be picking up Munira Premji’s Choosing Hope to satisfy this craving!


Erica Dionora, Publishing Intern

As someone who is big on self-help and personal development, the first thing I did when the pandemic struck was “borrow” my mom’s copy of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s been really helpful with getting me out of my head and remaining grounded during these times. I’ve also been reading a poem a day from the poetry collection, SH:LAM by Joseph Dandurand. Although it’s a little intense, Dandurand’s poetry speaks of the experiences of the Aboriginal People with such honesty that I continue to listen. 

Lastly, because I have commitment issues, another book that I’m currently reading is Dionne Brand’s Theory. It’s quite an interesting novel that reads like a thesis about love based on the protagonist’s romantic affairs which, admittedly, is probably a better alternative than downloading Hinge and finding out for myself. 

A few titles next on my TBR list includes The Youth of God by Hassan Ghedi Santur and America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan.


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