by Annie Clarkson
is an anthology of stories from Malaysia, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, South
Africa, Botswana, Bangladesh, US, Cameroon, Wales, Greece, Zimbabwe,
Kenya, India, Australia.
These stories were written
by a group of writers, invited by Nigerian journalist Ovo Adagha to
gather on the writer-webspace Zoetrope.
Their stories explore issues around poverty, mental ill health,
childhood, loss, war, depression, isolation, identity. They are richly
varied, exploring for example, the lives of a widow who is seen not to
be grieving enough by her mother-in-law, a Nigerian boy forbidden to
speak Igbo so he can develop good English, and an Inuit girl who is
rowed to the mainland by her parents to an unknown fate.
Jhumpa Lahiri, author of the Interpreter of
Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth,
and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun,
both contributed excellent stories. The
Third and Final
Continent depicts some
beautifully poignant moments between an Indian man who has arrived in
America for the first time, and his 100 year old landlady. My Mother, The Crazy
African is another story of
immigrant experience, exploring the difficulties a child has growing up
with two languages and cultures, and the clash between daughter and
mother is devastating.
But there were other stories by
unfamiliar writers that resonated as
much if not more. I loved Leng
is for Pretty
Lady, by Elaine Chiew. It is
the story of Alina who is from Manila and works in Kong Kong as an amah
for a rich family. We are given brief insight into the experiences of
immigrant workers, separated from their families, and trapped in jobs
that at times might subject them to abuse. The story is wonderfully
written, full of character, chatter and noise, with a real sense of
Alina's character in her voice.
I loved Henrietta Rose
Innes' story, Porcelain.
The imagery of the ocean, milkwood and broken pottery is beautiful:
"debris of the Indian Ocean had gathered over centuries: cracked pieces
of fie old porcelain along with rubber flip-flops and sand frosted
bottlenecks". It is a story of mothers, daughters, aunties and sisters.
It shows how mental illness can be like the broken vases on the beach
that the women try and jigsaw back together. It is a surprisingly
gentle and brutal story.
Another strong story is Melancholy Nights in a
Tokyo Cyber Café
by Sequoia Nagamatsu. It deals beautifully with feelings of loneliness,
isolation and the brief connections that occur between Akira and
Yoshiko. There are so many references in this story, including an
incident of group suicide in Japan, and the Sarin attacks that occurred
in Tokyo. This painful desolate story will stay with you a long time,
and grounds you in Tokyo with details of markets, Ueno Park, the
internet café where Akira eats rice balls stuffed with tuna
Since reading this anthology, I've
been trying to work out how I feel
about the concept of "One World". It sounds too simple, this idea that
the world is one entity and unified. Yet, as I read the stories, I
found concepts, themes, emotions, and types of relationship that
travelled between stories, described common experience, conveyed issues
that are understood cross-culturally, essentially because we are human.
A story about a Filipino
maid who is working for an employer who takes her for granted is very
different from the story of a man in Tokyo who goes on the internet to
try and counterbalance his loneliness by connecting with similar-minded
people. Their landscapes are very different, their language and
customs, their daily existence, and yet there is something in both
these stories that made me as a reader connect with them both in a
similar way. Perhaps it is because each character wants to be "normal"
in some way, just like everyone else. Perhaps it is because each
character struggles in some way to understand their experience, and is
striving for more, by either wanting to be treated differently, or
wanting to connect with others.
There were a few stories I
didn't like, didn't get carried away with and it was interesting that
there were seven stories from Nigerian writers; a confluence which
perhaps unbalanced the notion of "one world" that the collection was
seeking. But, overall, the quality of
storytelling in this anthology is exciting. The anthology seemed
especially strong in conveying the experiences of children, either
through a child's voice, about childhood or looking retrospectively
back at memories of being children. Before
Tonde After Tonde
by Petina Gappah for example, is brilliantly authentic. It mixes Parka
jackets, EastEnders and playstation games with memories of living in
Zimbabwe where maid Sisi-Annie sang songs in Chimbeti. A powerful story
about family, identity, loss, it is unexpected, playful, and harsh.
World is an anthology to
immerse yourself in, diverse in its story-telling, emotionally
resonant, and a great introduction to unfamiliar and well-known writers
from around the world.
Read the title story
from this collection in the New Internationalist
Clarkson is a poet and short story writer
Manchester, UK. Her first chapbook of prose poems Winter Hands was
published by Shadow Train Books in 2007
website: One World Stories
Chiew, Molara Wood, Martin A Ramos,
Henrietta Rose-Innes, Lauri Kubuitsile, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,
Shabnam Nadiya, Ravi Mangla, Chika Unigwe. Dipita Kwa, Vanessa
Sequoia Nagamatsu, Jude Dibia, Konstantinos Tzikas, Petina
N Kamoche, Lucinda Nelson Dhavan, Adetokunbo Gbenga Abiola, Skye
Brannon, Wadzanai Mhute, Ivan Gabriel Reborek, Ovo Adagha, Jhumpa
authors' royalties from the sale of One
World will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières.)
this book (used or
Publisher's Website: New Internationalist
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you liked this book you might also like....
Lahiri "Interpreter of Maladies"
M Kamoche "A Fragile Hope"
Elegy for Easterly"
from a Glass Bubble"
Ngozi Adichie "The Thing
Around Your Neck"
In Progress and other stories (The
Caine Prize for African Writing 2009)"
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