March 2017 Book Club Selection

China's Second Continent
French, Howard W.: China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa (2014)

Discussion: Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the houseboat of Liz Samuels, 3737 NE Marine Dr in Portland. Someone will be there to let people in the gate from 6:15 to 6:30. Park anywhere in the Rose City Yacht Club parking lot. At 6:30 we will walk together to the venue. Call 503-701-6218 if you arrive later. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Although several recent books have discussed, in variously alarmist fashion, China’s recent incursions into Africa in pursuit of resources and profit, former New York Times journalist French (A Continent for the Taking, 2004) has the advantage of significant personal experience in both Africa and China. He also speaks Mandarin, so he can converse directly with some of the million or so members of the Chinese diaspora in Africa. They are a diverse lot—doctors, engineers, farmers, entrepreneurs, lobbyists, laborers, and prostitutes, among others—and accounts of their experience are often absent from analyses of Chinese-African relations, which typically focus on infrastructure building and resource grabbing. Interacting with Chinese and Africans in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Namibia, and elsewhere, French capably illustrates that although the Chinese omnipresence in Africa may be a form of soft imperialism, it is also a result of the crushing pressures—lack of space, merciless business competition, pollution—of modern Chinese society. For many Chinese, he suggests, Africa means opportunity and relative freedom that cannot be had at home. If French is sympathetic to the plight of many Chinese immigrants, however, he remains critical of their casual racism and general callousness about their African hosts. And as he laments the seeming inevitability of corruption and environmental degradation, French’s disappointment in his cherished continent is palpable.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

February 2016 Book Club Selection

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight
Fuller, Alexandra: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (2003)

Discussion: Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Carol McCormac Wild, 7865 SW Parrway Dr in Portland, 503-292-3385. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: Fuller, nicknamed “Bobo,” grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the civil war, and she watched her parents fight against the local Africans to keep their farm. Fuller writes from a child’s point of view, masking neither her family’s prejudices nor their passions. Fuller’s father, Tim, is a determined and strong man, married to Nicola, who is gradually cracking under the pressure of the civil war and also of the deaths of her children. The Fullers lost three children; only Alexandra and her older sister, Vanessa, survived. The losses take their toll on Nicola, who turns to alcohol to combat her overwhelming depression. After the white colonialists lose the civil war, the Fullers’ farm is taken away, and they move to Malawi, where Bobo begins to get a sense of the life of an average African. But the overbearing Malawian government motivates the Fullers to move on, and they finally settle in Zambia. Fuller is a gifted writer, capable of bringing a sense of immediacy to her writing and crafting descriptions so vibrant the reader cannot only picture the stifling hot African afternoon but almost feel it as well. Writing a memoir powerful in its frank straightforwardness, Fuller neither apologizes for nor champions her family’s views and actions. Instead, she gives us an honest, moving portrait of one family struggling to survive tumultuous times.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

December 2015 Book Club Selection

Long Walk to Freedom
Mandela, Nelson*: Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (1995)

* Winner of 1993 Nobel Peace Prize

Discussion: Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Bill Stein, 4308 SE Lexington St in Portland, 503-830-0817. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Library Journal: This is an articulate, moving account of Mandela’s life from his “country childhood” following his birth on July 18, 1918 to his inauguration as president of South Africa on May 10, 1994. Mandela traces the growth of his understanding of the oppression of the blacks of South Africa; his conviction that there was no alternative to armed struggle; his developing belief that all people, black and white, must be free for true freedom; and the effect that his commitment to overthrowing apartheid had on his family, who “paid a terrible price.” Over a third of Mandela’s memoir tells of his 27 years in prison, an account that could stand alone as a prison narrative. He ends his book with the conclusion that his “long walk” for freedom has just begun: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble