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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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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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Michelle Latiolais

Michelle Latiolais has a rapacious love of words. She plays with them, rolls them around in her mouth, ruminates on their meanings and their origins, reads them backwards even, and links them to other words, constantly coming to different insights and enjoyment of the language.

Reviewed by Akeela Gaibie Dawood
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Adriana Lisboa
Translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Green

It is interesting to read a book that you are certain will be a love story—though you aren't sure whether happy or ill-fated, requited or unrequited—only to find yourself perpetually poised, waiting for that romance to start. Haruki, an illustrator of books, and Celina, an embroidery artist, meet by chance on a subway in Rio de Janeiro.

Reviewed by Tad Deffler
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Ana Menéndez

How does one escape? From what one does one need to escape? Why? Ana Menéndez's new collection of interlinked tales is all about escape artists, starting with the author herself. Each tale is attributed to a concocted author, for whom Menéndez has supplied an appropriately imaginative biographical note, including one for herself: "Ana Menéndez is the pseudonym of an imaginary writer and translator, invented, if not to lend coherence to this collection, at least to offer it the pretense of contemporary relevance."

Reviewed by Jane A. Jones
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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

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