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Best of Isele Anthology

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Member Reviews

This is a solid collection of stories from the African literary magazine Isele. While not all of the stories grabbed me, I was happy to see a number of pieces about Black joy and happiness and success--too often, a (white) audience only seeks trauma from Black authors. The mix of poetry and prose was well-balanced, and there's a lot here that can and should be taught in high school and college classrooms.
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Netgalley ARC Educator 550974

A poignant anthology of varied works. Some cover topics that are controversial while others are not. All are thought provoking. It should be featured in English classes and courses everywhere.
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I loved all of the stories in this anthology! There's a very large variety of stories, essays, and poems tackling topics like love, heartbreak, marriage, suicide, police brutality, education, etc. All of the writers in this anthology are gifted with the ability to lead the readers through their stories in a way that transports them into the worlds of their characters or themselves. Highly recommended!
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The Best of Isele Anthology sheds a light on pieces of work from authors who are mostly from different parts of Africa but also from other parts of the world as well. Each piece carries itself in its own way but they have a rhythm that follows each other. The book contains four sections: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and short stories. I always tend to lean towards short stories but I found myself really gravitating towards the pieces from the fiction and nonfiction section. My favorites included Feeling Your Way Home, The Year Of The Son, The Only One I Have Not Lost, What It Means To Be Free, and Serengeti Saga.  It wouldn’t do the pieces I’ve read any justice to solely say they all are moving and bring out a lot of emotions in me. It is true but I don’t think it showcases how each piece is specific and defining in its details. Each piece is like having an orange. Some are sweeter while some have a tang that makes your jaw clench. The writing I’ve read gave me a mix of these feelings but in the end you went in for another bite.

Thank you to NetGalley and Iskanchi Press for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I have just finished reading this wonderful compilation of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from Isele Magazine. The collection is their first, featuring pieces that appeared in the magazine, from its inception to January 2022.

I found most of the contributions excellent, across all the represented genres, making this, for me, an above-average collection. There is a wonderful diversity of voices and story, and everything in here, even the pieces I did not enjoy, is worth reading.

My favourites:

The Year of the Sun, by Esther Ifesinachi Okonkwo, for the beautiful writing, and beautiful story.
Today She Will, by Saratu Abiola for its fun structure.
My favourite poem: Poem In Which A Foreign National Carries Out Activities Of A Political Nature, by Sarah Rebecca Kersley.
Sense of Touch, by Nora Nneka, a painful non-fiction piece about a woman’s relationship to her mother, about bearing a child, and about her own childhood abuse.
Feeling Your Way Home, by Uche Osundu, non-fiction on the conception of home.
Serengeti Saga, by Sylia K. Ilahuka, an amusing and fun true story about being lost in the Serengeti.
This Is Not My Hand On Your Back, by Tyler Orion, which had me thinking about cis men’s control of the way women are present in the world.
An Odd Sort of Thursday, by Ria Dhingra, a brilliant meditation on writing.
Glowworm, by Tayler Bunge, a beautiful and moving short story about loss, love, and abandonment.
Isele’s stated mission, according to their website, is to

publish writers and artists who hold a mirror to … society, who challenge conventional expectations about ways of being, how to be, and who decides who should be.

In this, this excellent compilation succeeds.

Thank you to NetGalley and to Iskanchi Press for this galley.
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I'd never heard of Isele magazine before coming across this anthology on NetGalley but will absolutely be following what they do now I've had a flavour of the work they promote. 

The Best of Isele Anthology is a celebration of the publication, which publishes work primarily from writers on the African continent but also from around the world. The collection showcases the longlisted authors for the Isele prize and is split into Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry with the winning story from each of these categories opening each section. There is also a category at the end for short stories that were chosen as notable mentions. 

This is the kind of anthology you can read cover to cover in a couple of sittings, so well do the pieces flow into one another, each long enough to be satisfactory in their own right but short enough to leave you wanting more. Equally, you could savour the book over a couple of weeks letting each story, poem or essay marinate before moving on to the next. Either way, you're likely to discover something to make you think, gasp or simply revel in enjoyment. 

What I liked most about this anthology was that it did not solely focus on tales of black trauma, there were stories that had elements of the supernatural, romance, queer stories, essays about the black experience in academia and poems about just existing in the world in a black body. As much as it is important to tell stories of black pain, it is equally important to highlight black joy, love, ingenuity and creativity and Isele does this to great effect. Some of my favourite pieces were The Year of the Sun, Witch Hazel and The Children of No. 39 Faulks Street. 

As with any anthology, there were pieces I liked more than others, I also think the notable mentions should have been dispersed throughout the book. By putting the notable mentions together at the end, the collection seemed to fizzle out after I had already read the, generally stronger, longlisted pieces. There was no one piece that I didn't gain something from, however, and I am grateful to NetGalley and Iskanshi Press for the opportunity to be an early reader of this thoroughly enjoyable work.
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Best of Isele Anthology is a breathtaking collection of poems, essays, and short stories from many creators. A very beautiful collection of African writers and a must for every library.
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