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Book Reviews

Sixties Soul Trilogy

Volume 16, Issue 3 | Published 03/03/2020  

DETROIT 67: The year that changed soul

MEMPHIS 68: The tragedy of southern soul

HARLEM 69: The future of soul

Author: Stuart Cosgrove

Publ: Polygon, Great Britain 2016, 2017 and 2019

Reviewer: Diana Lee-Smith

The profound cultural change taking place in the United States of America in the late 1960s is carefully documented in this trilogy, so we can understand its origins, the threads of events that brought it about and its echoes that continue. It is a meticulous social history of a sound. The sound of soul came from somewhere and was made by particular people. It changed meanings, was heard by everyone around the world and remains with us. Stuart Cosgrove’s history is a passionate academic work that has rightly won several awards because it makes clear how social change takes place. Who made what changes in the sound of soul music is described in painful detail. It is indicative of the power of the sound of soul that the person who has written its history, Stuart Cosgrove, is a Briton who was inspired by it in his youth and moved from being a fan to a music writer. 

The books can be read independently, each documenting a single year in the late 1960s, with chapters addressing sequentially what happened in the three different cities. Each chapter can be read as an essay on a topic, such as in Detroit 67, ‘July: Riot’; or Harlem 69, ‘December: King Heroin’. The middle book, Memphis 68, departs from the strict month-by-month beat of the other two, having more chapters, perhaps because too much was happening that year, including the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in that city. There are five chapters set in April, the month of the assassination, including ‘Agent 500’s Busy Afternoon: 4 April’. The chapter that deals with the aftermath ‘Booker T Jones and the Paris Riots: 30 May’ encompasses international events. 

Innocent Prisoners Of Tsavo

Volume 16, Issue 3 | Published 03/03/2020  

Authors: Lalchand Sharma and Vishva Bandhu Lalchand Sharma

Publ: Life Rich Publications

Reviewer: Neera Kapur-Dromsom

‘My book should be called The Innocent Prisoners of Tsavo. The Uganda Railway line passed through Tsavo, where a pioneer engineer, Lt Col JH Patterson, worked. He named his book about the shooting of two horrible man-eating lions, Man Eaters of Tsavo, (a school text book under British Raj). Since the core incident of my life occurred in the same Tsavo area, the title of my story should resonate with Patterson's best seller. The irony is that in my tale, the man eaters were British colonialists....’

With these introductory words in the Prologue, the author Lalchand Sharma, sets the framework for his memoir. Lalchand Sharma was taken prisoner in the Tsavo area during the First World War by the British military in Kenya for a crime he did not commit. He became a victim of crass racism, political and military ineptitude and propaganda by the then British colonial structure. 

Forty years after Lalchand Sharma passed on, his son Visho Sharma has carefully compiled his father's notes written over a period of twenty years, which we are now fortunate to see recorded in The Innocent Prisoners of Tsavo.  

Author: Leonor Figueiredo

Translator: D A Smith

Publ: Frederick Noronha for Goa 1556 Saligao, India.  In Association with Golden Heart Emporium, 2019

Reviewer: Adolfo Mascarenhas

Who Is Sita Valles?

The original book, in Portuguese, was published in 2010, by Ms Leonor Figueiredo, a journalist from Portugal but who reported from Angola.  In January 2019 in a book store in the small town of Margao, Goa, I saw the striking cover of the book in dominant red and black, designed by Bina Nayak. I had not heard of Sita Valles. 

However, there she was, more standing than leaning on a Morris Minor sedan of the 1950’s, tallish, determined jaw, crossed legs, a shortish white skirt topped by a polar necked long sleeved blouse.  The red back cover of the book, had four paragraphs inscribed in white lettering – I was convinced that the book, along with others, should go into the ‘to purchase cart’.  

Sita - the beautiful, Goan communist had an African heart. She and her two brother siblings were born in Angola, not in the hospital but at home where the roof leaked so an umbrella had to be used.  Sita’s mother, Lucia, was born in Mombasa; Sita’s father was raised in Goa, studied agriculture in India and was the Portuguese Consul in Mombasa. His grandfather had lived in Portugal.      

Authors: Karim Murji and Asma Sayed

Publ: Peter Lang Publishing,  Inc.

Reviewer: Farah Qureshi

This book calls for a rebranding of Vassanji’s work by studying the author through a transnational context. The editors Karim Murji and Asma Sayed explain that we must read the author as both emerging from and representative of cross-border and cross-cultural movement. To do this, they explore the nature of ‘transnationalism.’ 

Prominent Vassanji scholars join Murji and Sayed to explore the representations of transnationalism in Vassanji's multifaceted characters or personal accounts. The articles situate Vassanji not only within postcolonial, diasporic, and migration conversations, but a hybrid intercessory space connecting them. 

Murji and Sayed orient the book through two simultaneous thematic directions. The first is a movement through Vassanji’s types of writings: from memoirs in the first part through to fictions in the second. The second is a geographical arrangement, moving from South Asia to East Africa, and finally North America, similar to Vassanji's own movements. This double arrangement of the book is not as jarring as it sounds. Overlapping themes questioning identity, belonging, and movement ensures smooth transitions between chapters. 

Author: Ajay Gehlawat 

Publisher: SAGE Publications Inc.

Ajay Gehlawat is Associate Professor of Theatre and Film at Sonoma State University, California.

This book combines multiple theoretical approaches to provide a fresh perspective on Bollywood-just as a Bollywood film that transgresses multiple genres-and challenges the homogenizing tendencies in much of the ongoing scholarship in the area. It covers five areas of controversial theorization: the religious frame, the musical frame, the subaltern frame, the (hetero) sexual frame and the 'crossover' frame. By deconstructing each of these hegemonic paradigms, it reshapes the understanding of a Bollywood film and restructures its relationships with multiple disciplines including film and theatre studies, postcolonial studies, South Asian studies, queer studies, and transnational studies. 

This fusion is also representative of the larger objective of this work, namely, to destabilize Bollywood's position within any one sphere of reference and, instead, to illuminate how several realms of meaning are at play in its construction. The aim in doing so is to demonstrate how a variety of critical methodologies can enable a more comprehensive reading of the films making up this corpus.

Author: Ramnik Shah

Publ: Austin Macauley Publishers

Reviewer: Zarina Patel

Ramnik Shah is to date the longest serving writer and columnist of AwaaZ Magazine (of which I am the Managing Editor). In these 13 years, his thought-provoking and promptly delivered commentaries have covered a wide range of issues both in subject matter and historical interest; and so it is no surprise that this collection of his writings follows a similar pattern.

Empire’s Child is a banquet, no less. The reader is offered an array of views, comments, exposes, insights and critiques prepared primarily for the diasporan audience; but of interest to those seeking a Third World taste of global, especially US-EU, happenings. Ramnik’s presence in AwaaZ is heralded by the title ‘London Calling’ – from his base in the UK he shares with us his wealth of experience starting within his motherland Kenya and spanning the continents of Europe, Asia and America. And what a spread it is!

Let us start at the beginning: the cover of the book. It depicts London Calling’s very first appearance which was in Issue 1 of AwaaZ 2006; the topic was, ‘They came in Dhows and left in Jets’. The accompanying article on page 59 is preceded by a historical sketch of colonial and post-colonial East Africa and the role of the South Asians in it.