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Satellite image of Africa Photo of Najat El Hachmi description

Explore Africa! Click here to go to reviews of 20 great books written by African women.

We interview Najat El-Hachmi, author of The Last Patriarch.

Specters by Egyptian author Radwa Ashour, Chapter One

With this issue Belletrista is marking her second birthday! Over the past two years, all of us here at Belletrista have enjoyed bringing to you a diversity of women writers from around the world, so that we might celebrate together the richness and variety of their literature.

In this issue, we are featuring a special section of twenty reviews of books by women from Africa. While not an exhaustive selection, it's an excellent introduction to women's writing from a vast and varied continent. In keeping with our African theme, we have an exclusive interview with Moroccan/Catalan author Najat El-Hachmi, and an excerpt from Egyptian author Radwa Ashour's latest book to be translated into English. Of course, you'll also find our usual review section of interesting books from around the world, and our largest ever New & Notable section, packed with fine books for your reading pleasure. Whether you are a regular to these pages or a newcomer, thank you for being a Belletrista reader!

Click on 'Reviews' to see the full list of this issue's reviews...
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Elin Wagner
Translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death

A runaway bestseller when it was published in Sweden in 1910, and now a classic, Elin Wagner's Penwoman was "the book of the Swedish women's suffrage movement" according to translator Sarah Death. Now 100 years old, Penwoman remains a captivating story that convincingly transports the reader back to the beginning of the twentieth century, but also reaches ahead to the twenty-first and speaks to the gender inequality that still exists.

Reviewed by Jana Herlander
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Gavriela Avigur-Rolem
Translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu

Heatwave and Crazy Birds is a dense and complex, but ultimately rewarding book about one woman's search for 'her' Israel. Rich with historical references but rooted firmly in the present, it is a bittersweet examination of the Israeli people's relationship with the land they live on and the problems it faces.

Reviewed by Andy Barnes
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In Nomad, the 2010 follow up to her earlier memoir Infidel, human rights activist Hirsi Ali gives a brief update on her life since moving to the United States. Through telling her highly personal story, she develops her philosophy and discusses the efforts to ensure that "women everywhere, of all cultures, merit access to education and basic human rights."

Reviewed by Joyce Nickel
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Lara Fergus

This fine novel grows out of the tension between order and chaos. Civil war brings chaos to previously orderly lands, and maps bring order and a finite structure to an endlessly disordered world. Yet seeking perfect order in life can itself bring a sort of chaos. These tensions play out in the lives of two sisters, refugees from a country destroyed by war.

Reviewed by Michael W. Matthew
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Susannah Felts

This Will Go Down On Your Permanent Record defies categorisation; it is not merely a coming of age story, but neither is it a sugary high school drama nor a moralistic critique of the potential pitfalls of teenage life. This debut novel focuses on the importance of friendship and the lessons learned as you grow up—sometimes surprising lessons—about what real friendship means.

Reviewed by Ceri Evans

Ali Smith's
There But For the
Book Cover: There But for the
An extended review by Rachael Beale
If Written By a Woman
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The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011 – shortlist announced

The shortlist for this year’s Caine Prize has just been announced and three women are in the running for the prestigious award. This is always an exciting time of year – the Prize is a great way to discover short stories by excellent writers. Lucky for us, the Prize’s website links to a copy of …Read the Rest