Relations: An Anthology of African and Diaspora Voices

Edited by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond. HarperVia, $27.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-308904-4
Brew-Hammond delivers an impressive anthology of short stories, essays, and poetry by writers from across Africa. In the Sudanese writer Reem Gaafar’s “Finding Descartes,” a school teacher becomes an activist after meeting a smart, young boy who ought to be in school, but isn’t. Rwandese-born Namibian Rémy Ngamije follows the protagonist of “Fulbright” to Columbia University from Namibia, where his excitement about the land of Frank Sinatra, the Notorious B.I.G., and getting to “find out what a New York minute is” is tempered by anxiety over white supremacist violence. Other standouts include the sparse and powerful poem “Denouemont” by Nigerian poet Dami Ajayi, which draws haunting inspiration from a discarded face mask: “Your fate reminds me of breath/ & George Floyd lying on asphalt,/ an American knee weighing/ against his neck.” There’s no shortage of strong imagery, such as in Nigerian American Enuma Okoro’s story “The Heart of the Father,” which imagines a pastor whose clothes are “like Moses’s face… when he comes down from the mountain.” As with most anthologies, some entries are better than others—next to the gems are those that run too long or lean on unearned twists. On the whole, though, there’s much to savor. (Jan.)