The Newlyweds’ Window

The 2022 Mukana Press Anthology of African Writing

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Pub Date 05 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2022

Description

Who are Africa’s most promising emerging short story writers? Mukana Press sought to answer this question by scouting the continent for largely undiscovered talent. The result? This collection! 

Africa’s stories have largely been relegated to themes of poverty, and war; yet there is so much more brilliance, texture, and layers to our stories. This collection seeks to provide a platform for the rest of the world to become acquainted with the excellence of talent outside of the mainstream, as well as tell our stories from fresh vantage points.

A young woman creates an alternate identity on social media in Nigeria, a little girl discovers hidden photographs of the father she never met, a serial killer stalks his victims, a woman watches the evolution of a newlywed couple’s relationship through their window in Zanzibar. The stories in this collection are eclectic, breathtaking, and illuminate readers to an Africa that has largely been left untold.


Who are Africa’s most promising emerging short story writers? Mukana Press sought to answer this question by scouting the continent for largely undiscovered talent. The result? This collection! 

...


Advance Praise

Kirkus Review - A varied but consistently satisfying sampler of emerging artists.


Starred Review- Blue Ink. This exciting short story collection showcasing strong and emerging African writers displays a refreshing richness and depth of experience...In all, this is an impressive display of talent, and proof that the short story genre is alive and well in fresh and interesting ways.

Some of the best short stories I have ever read. Not one of these tales failed to capture my rapt attention over what would happen next. If you enjoy short stories, or stories full of drama, suspense, mystery, and excitement, this book is for you -Seattle Book Review

Starred Review- Reader Views. Truly, a must read!...These incisive, sharply observed stories unfurl the stroke between desire and attainment, exploring the protagonists’ experiences as they face dilemmas and altering life decisions. Buoyed with poignancy and wit, they examine situations where cultural traditions, womanhood, and empowerment are not only probed and doubted, but also enforced. 

I found myself engaged in each and every one of them…These stories come from some brilliant minds. -Manhattan Book Review

Some of the most masterful storytelling I’ve read in a long time…Each new author offers up a different lens through which the reader views a distinct slice of life that showcases wildly different perspectives on life on the African continent, creating a range of tones and themes that together create a vibrant kaleidoscopic image that dazzles the senses and stimulates the mind.- Portland Book Review



Kirkus Review - A varied but consistently satisfying sampler of emerging artists.


Starred Review- Blue Ink. This exciting short story collection showcasing strong and emerging African writers displays...


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Featured Reviews

This was such a fascinating anthology that covered not only a wide range of countries and genres, but also engaging themes to be dissected and examined. I individually rated each story - with a short review - as follows:

1. Border Control
Rating: 1/5
Review: This was (I believe) a contemporary short story, but it was very confusing and I’m not quite sure if this was technically a social horror story or not. I was never entirely sure what was happening, or what was imagined by this woman in a very stressful situation. I feel like I misunderstood this story’s symbolism – especially considering that the name felt like it had no relevance to the story. I was especially confused by the continuous mention of “padlocks” this felt like an odd word choice to describe what the character was experiencing, and I could not understand why this specific term was so frequently repeated.
2. Gasping for Air
Rating: 5/5
Review: This was such a creepy story and for being so short there was an incredible build-up of tension. I really enjoyed this author’s writing style and the big twist in this story left me in absolute shock!
3. The Newlywed’s Window
Rating: 5/5
Review: Another contemporary short story, but this one was so well-developed. It is a story of someone on the outside looking in and just simply observing the world around them, which really resonated with me. I loved the writing style and felt like the examinations of societal roles and expectations were incredibly interesting in the context of the events we witness with this main character’s added commentary and reflection.
4. Mareba’s Tavern
Rating: 4/5
Review: I really enjoyed this story, perhaps especially because of this communal atmosphere that is so integral to the story itself. The writing style was great at expressing the unspoken feelings of the main character and for creating these anxious moments that had some comedic relief. I do wish this story had been a bit longer though because I think I needed more time with our main character - and more scenes with the daughter - to fully connect with the characters.
5. How Are You?
Rating: 5/5
Review: I enjoyed this one not only because it was incredibly well-written, but also because I definitely related to our main character. It can be incredibly stressful to carry the weight of your family and their burdens on your shoulders, while simultaneously having to figure out the course of your own life in the process. I like that this was a story examining the spoken and unspoken understandings between family members and how parent-child dynamics are renegotiated as our parents age.
6. Black Pawpaw
Rating: 5/5
Review: This story genuinely made my skin crawl and then left me with my mouth wide open at the crazy turn of events! This story relied more on shock value rather than a build-up of tension, but it worked so well with this writing style that you never quite knew what the next move would be.
7. The Rain
Rating: 4/5
Review: I liked that this story used such a different format, but I’m not entirely sure if it was right for this story. I was engaged in the story, but it left feeling like I wanted more from it or that I was missing information since we’re only getting one perspective. It was a very interesting story, but one where I think the format hindered the reading experience rather than enhanced it. Also, there were some errors with the formatting and minor grammar errors that were noticeable.
8. Our Girl Bimpe
Rating: 5/5
Review: I loved the social commentary explored in this story. This was also a character that I found very relatable and was able to fully empathize with that feeling of just trying to find your place. There was also quite a bit of context in this story which was great to get a better understanding of certain aspects of social media use in this specific country.
9. The Daya Zimu
Rating: 2/5
Review: This was an interesting concept for a story, and I was initially intrigued. However, there was just too much suspension of belief for the set-up to really work. Also, this story didn’t really build tension for me, I wanted it to just get to the point. Then, when we got there it was wrapped up so quickly that it all felt very underwhelming. I think this story could have benefited from being just a bit longer.
10. Old Photographs
Rating: 3/5
This was an interesting story but left me with a lot of unanswered questions. It felt like it was almost unnecessarily long when focusing on insignificant descriptions. Then, it was so easily wrapped up when there were so many more interesting aspects left unexplored.
11. This is for my Auntie Penzi Who
Rating: 3/5
Review: This is the story I’m most conflicted on because initially I was really into this story, and I still enjoyed the writing style of it. However, as it went on, I felt like the story was getting bogged down by adding so much in without a real guiding thread to the story. It felt very ambiguous and left me questioning, is this actually Auntie Penzi or not? Something about this story felt very unfinished, especially the ending. There were also multiple grammar errors, and the name of a character is spelled entirely differently from one sentence to the next (M’ake/B’ake) so it just felt more like a rough draft than a finished story.
12. A Letter from Ireland
Rating: 5/5
Review: A great story on traditionalist views vs colonist views and the negotiations of both worlds. I liked that this centered faith and traditions in such a unique way where we see generational gaps as well. Something about the writing style in this story just felt very cozy to me and I really liked our characters.

Overall, I rated this anthology 4/5 stars because I enjoyed a substantial number of the stories included. This selection of stories provides different options for a wide variety of readers to find stories and characters to connect with – as well as themes and discussions to examine that I think will start many discussions about the current societal issues across different countries and cultures. I really enjoyed my reading experience with this anthology and look forward to following along with some of these debut writers careers as they hopefully continue to grow!

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The newlywed window – is a collection of twelve short stories all focused on different issues and set in different contexts that is Zanzibar, Malawi, and Nigeria. Black Paw paw is one of the stories that stands out – with vivid character descriptions and an interesting twist at the end. Two other standouts are Daya Zimu and Old photograph which are well written horror / thriller pieces. I found Rain – innovative, written in the form of emails – but it was a bit confusing – the story needed some setup or background regarding the main character to know who she is and her life in the village. Otherwise the stories were well written, and the collection can be used for African literature classes.

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A strong collection of stories. It's interesting to read these experience from a different culture. Nice variety and solid writing.

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!

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Fantastical introduction to up and coming African authors. Will definitely recommend this story to others. I cannot wait to read more from the authors.

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While not usually a short story reader, I really enjoyed this exposure to a wide variety of writers from different African countries and with different writing styles. A great introduction to a number of authors -- some of whom I will follow in the future. A few stories were a little too creepy for me but that is the beauty of a collection -- just skip!

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I was pleasantly surprised to find myself really liking this collection of stories. Some are amusingly bizarre while others are mundanely entertaining. My favourites are Rain, Our Girl Bimpe, and Old Photographs.

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A very interesting collection of stories by upcoming contemporary African writers. These twelve stories have been selected from 512 entries across 23 countries. Half are by debut authors and a couple have been published only online. Thus what you get is a novel and #OwnVoices glimpse into a culture that rarely gets a voice on the international writing stage.

While many short story anthologies are built around a theme, the only thing common to the stories of this collection is the continent of origin of its writers. The writers come from multiple countries across Africa, and the stories come from genres as varied as horror, contemporary drama, fantasy, and crime thriller. This variety might work negatively for those who prefer a strong theme connecting stories in a single volume or for those who don’t prefer darker genres, but I relished the rich medley.

The events in each story range from the boring to the bizarre. The endings aren’t in your traditional HEA style, nor are they complete. Many stories are in the slice-of-life style, thereby making their endings seem like the end of a scene. But to my surprise, the endings work very well for most of the tales. They left me wanting more, in a very good way, by stopping at the right point of curiosity.

What I loved most about this collection was that the stories were infused with the flavour of the land, just as true cultural fiction should be. I hate it when stories are supposed to be set in a location but they could be transposed to any place on the globe without changing anything in its writing. That doesn’t happen here. Every single story is like an ode to Africa and its richness, and every single story can be set only in Africa.

Of the twelve stories, six reached or crossed the 4 star mark for me. Most of the remaining stories were clustered around the 3-3.5 stars point. My favourite tales were:
Gasping for Air – An unusual lead, an unexpected end - 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫
Black pawpaw – Outstanding writing style. Creepy and captivating at the same time - 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫
Our Girl Bimpe – The horrors of online presence experienced through a young girl’s Facebook account. Quite shocking - 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

“Mukana” means “opportunity” in Shona, a language spoken in South Africa. I found this name very serendipitous as Mukana Press seems to have provided a fabulous opportunity to these young writers. I will keep an eye out for their subsequent publications.

3.75 stars, based on the average of my rating for the twelve stories.

My thanks to Mukana Press and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Newlyweds’ Window”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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This is a really unique collection of stories. I have to admit it started with quite the bang with the first story. Most collections of short stories have a theme, but the only thing tying these stories together is that the authors are from Africa. I love that so many of the authors are debut authors and I’m glad to see some new fresh voices getting a more wide spread publication. I found a couple of the stories to drag a little, but overall I felt they were well chosen and powerful. I really loved the way a few of them blended the supernatural pieces in a way that still felt realistic. I thought the diverse ways he stories were told were also good. One story is told all through emails from one friend to another. Another is told with narration and Facebook posts and comments. I think my personal favorite was Old Photographs because it is such a fascinating concept. A young girl wants to learn more about her father and finds a strange picture frame with a picture that she is sure is of him, but what she learns is more than she could have imagined.

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Courtesy of Netgalley I received the ARC of The Newlyweds Window, a collection of short stories by emerging African writers. While I enjoyed reading and learning about African families in these stories, all being a worthwhile glimpse into a culture unfamiliar to me, I did find some more cohesive than others. Authors to watch!

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So far, I am really enjoying this book based on the few stories I've read. Each author brings something unique in their tone or writing style that stands out and this is what I love most about each tale. The first story, Gasping for Air, is about a deranged serial killer. It's my favorite so far.because I love the way the author takes you down certain pathways only to trip you up, leave you hanging or second guessing what might really be going on. It's a great talent when an author is able pull this off so smoothly. I am confident there is a lot more creative content and sumptuous surprises yet to be discovered as I work my way to the end of the work!

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A very lively, beautifully written collection of twelve short stories by new African writers. These were fresh ideas written with confidence. My favorites were "Gasping for Air". by Ogechukwu Emmanuel Samuel, "The Newly Wed's Window" by Husnah Mad-by, "Mareba's Tavern" by Gladwell Palmba, "A Letter from Ireland" by Victor Ehikhamenor, and "Our Girl Bimpe" by Olakunle Ologunro.

What I loved about these stories was their bold announcement of Africanness and modernity, too often still separated in the non-African view. These were stories celebrating the conflation of both in one, the coexistence of Africanness and global identity in one. Some of these stories revolved unabashedly around modern African womanhood and sexuality, celebrating sexuality with pride.

I appreciated that these were not stories of postcolonial angst or stories posing tradition against modernity. Perhaps I read too much postcolonial literature; these were refreshing to me because of the absence of those existential themes. They addressed existential themes we are all familiar with (how to live in a technology-driven world, how to be a modern woman, how to be a modern parent, transition from childhood into adulthood, among others), but from an African perspective, an African experience.

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I really enjoyed reading this short story book. I highly recommend it. The first story deals with a woman in labor to give birth and her thoughts through the whole process. I won't spoil it for you but that one and some of the others I really wished for a longer story. There are some icky parts in some of the stories, but the authors tell a good yarn and I want more.

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This was a refreshing and very intriguing anthology!
As Mukana Press mentions in the blurb, Africa’s stories have largely been told through a colonist lens that views it with themes of poverty, tragedy, war and grief. It was lovely to read Africa through Africans in different countries. Especially because none of these stories have been adapted or 'dumbed down' for a foreign audience.

The stories were as authentic as you can get and I kept looking up what various things meant. This gave me a chance to have a richer and deeper understanding and reading experience, It's something I feel we lose out on when the glossary is just put up or an explanation is worked into the story. For example: brands of soft drink that I ha no idea existed,snacks enjoyed by locals, 'patapatas' which are flip flops and more such things, phrases that I did not know of before!

While there was no common theme connecting the stories, I enjoyed the variety. Crime, fantasy , thriller, slice of life... they were all thrown in there. Not every story was perfect ; I felt like some details and comprehensive elements were missing from a couple of them, but they were all charming and full of heart.
My favorite ones were - Our girl Bimpe, Mareba's Tavern and A Letter from Ireland were my favorite of the lot.

Thank you to Mukana Press for the ARC..

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Again, I am reading a collection of short stories. It's not my favorite genre, but in this case, it is very effective in showing the range of writing coming out of Africa these days. I believe these stories were written in English and not translated by another person, so we are hearing the author's words. They come from different countries; Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The stories reflect the different countries they came from. Each shows a different culture. I added the book to my "Around the world" reading list. I don't actively look for books for this grouping, but I enjoy it when one shows up. I think it helps me better understand the world we live in.
As to the stories themselves, they are a diverse grouping. I'm not sure I would have started out with the tale of a serial killer first. Other stories give us ghosts, demons, class divisions and separations by time and distance. All are very human, showing we aren't that different. I would suggest you give the book a try or three.
I received the copy of the book I read for this review from the publisher through Netgalley.

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As with any collection of short stories featuring different authors, there will be some standouts and some that aren't as memorable. This is a short volume of 12 stories with authors who are fairly new and there are some whose works I'll eagerly await.

These stories showcase life in different parts of Africa sometimes highlighting beliefs and folklore that are vibrantly and colorfully portrayed while also connecting with themes about love, family, relationships, gender roles, societal expectations and community that are universal. Many also touch upon traditions from the past being incorporated into our modern world.

What I enjoy about short story collections is hearing the voices and styles of different authors. Sometimes short stories feel undeveloped or unfinished, but each story in this book is truly a standalone piece - even if I, as a reader, would like the story to continue. Most, if not all the stories, give you a lot of food for thought. Overall this was a strong collection of new and upcoming authors and I appreciate seeing more works from Africa in mainstream, English-language publishing.

Thanks to Mukana Press and NetGalley for this copy.

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This is an anthology of short stories from African writers. I've been making a point to expand my reading horizons, and what I loved about this anthology is that about half the writers are making their writing debut.

This was a great set of stories! There was only one that just didn't hold my interest, but the others were a really great quality. Several of the stories have some kind of mystical/fantastical element, but mostly they're just stories about people going about their days. Our Girl Bimpe by Olakunle Ologunro will feel very familiar to many of us, detailing a story of internet bullying and rape. Gasping for Air by Ogechukwu Emmanuel Samuel is just downright creepy, telling the story of a serial killer in love with his intended victim. I also really liked A Letter from Ireland by Victor Ehikhamenor, about a young man in a remote village not understanding why his uncle chooses to live in Ireland with a young priest instead of coming home to get married.

I know this anthology is available now, and would recommend getting it. It's not a large book, but the short stories are really wonderful.

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I was hoping to pull some excerpts for my 14-year-old students, but they just aren’t the target audience. My demographic, however, must be the target. The selections were well curated and thoughtful additions. They were almost universally engaging. I’m not even sorry that this didn’t work for my students because I loved it so much for myself!

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The Newlywed’s Window is a short-story collection set in various countries on the African continent and features a variety of characters subjected to experiences ranging from admirable quests for a better or different life than what society demands for them to paranormal situations (often rooted in African myth and folklore - curses, malevolent spirits, and witches are mentioned). The narrator’s points of view range from children, adults, the elderly and even insights/observations of a demented predator/stalker.

While I didn’t understand some of the terms used in the stories, I believe I deduced the meaning(s) accurately. Although set on a different continent than my own, there were very relatable, familiar themes and topics within stories involving the mindset of a serial killer, a young girl’s ill-fated foray on social media, a blind mother’s discovery of her son’s truth via the lens of her grandson, a young mother in labor hints at the inequities and tragic ordeals of underprivileged birthing mothers in sub-par health care facilities, etc.

There is a bit of something for everyone in this anthology: speculative fiction, mystery/suspense, social commentary, coming-of-age stories, family relationships (good and bad), and glimpses of culture and tradition in various communities.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an opportunity to review.

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Dynamite stories from Africa!

“I open my fridge and the cornea and lenses are beautiful, the eyes that stare back at me from different transparent containers….”

That’s the line from the first story.

Here’s the opening to the second story:

“Open your legs! I lie flat on my back to sacrifice myself into a wider Y for Nurse Clara, who wants to peer deeper into my nether regions.”

See? How could I resist? This is a collection of short stories by African writers, put together by Mukana Press, which wanted to showcase new African writers. Some numbers: there are 12 stories, which were picked from 512 entries across 23 countries. Man, did they choose some good ones! It’s all I can do not to include a quote-athon! Ha, as soon as I say that, I realize I have to add a couple more gemmy lines:

“I try remembering the last time I crossed my legs. I make a mental note to treasure that moment.”

“Another contraction threatens to kiss tomorrow off my calendar.”

“What she hated was idle time, when she could hear her thoughts.”

“Ma reminds me of a lotus. The kind that grows in muddy ponds: beautiful on the surface, with a lot of ugliness going on underneath.”

“Did I not clear the cobwebs between your legs just last week?”

There were a couple stories I didn’t like (they were about the supernatural, which I hate), a few that were just okay, and the rest I loved. I even liked a couple that had magical realism. A few stories lacked endings, but that often happens in collections. One story (“This is for My Aunt Penzi, Who—") had way too many sentences in an African language, and there was no translation to English; it says something that I still liked the story even though half the time I didn’t know what was being said! Still, the press maybe shouldn’t have picked that one for its international audience.

There are two stories that made me grab my pogo stick:

“Black Pawpaw” had me holding on for dear life. It’s a (literary) thriller about sexual abuse. I loved it so much I took a trip with Google and found out that the author, Paul Ezeodili from Nigeria, had another work available, and I promptly bought it on Kindle. I was surprised that a man wrote this story, the point of view is so very female; I would have bet money that it was a woman writer. His bio at the end of the book is a kick.

“Our Girl Bimpe,” by Olakunle Ologunro (also of Nigeria), also grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It’s about a girl who takes on a new identity on social media. I’m telling you, this story will stay with me a long time. Of course, I went to Google again, and damn, I couldn’t find anything else written by the author. But I did find a picture of him with Adichie, a writer whose short stories I love—I’m so excited that they know each other! Hopefully, we’ll see more by this author. I am waiting in line.
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There’s a serial killer, a woman in labor, a woman watching newlyweds from her window, a couple of girls coming of age, to name a few of the plots. Lots of genres. One character thinks she’s being attacked by an incubus while sleeping. I had to look up “incubus”—it’s a demon who has sex with a sleeping woman. Now that got my attention! All the stories are well-written and really give you the flavor of life in Africa. There’s a list of author bios at the end of the book, and some of them are entertaining as hell.

I’m so glad that Mukana Press put together this collection, giving new voices from Africa some exposure.

What made me request this advance copy? Well, two of my favorite books are from Africa: Stay with Me and The Girl Who Smiled Beads. Also, I like short stories by Adichie (I didn’t like one of her novels, but I’m still in love with her writing), so African short stories appealed to me. I was massively curious about this collection, and it didn’t disappoint.

If you like short stories, especially those from different cultures, check this book out. I’d love to see it get more press.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

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Wow, what an interesting anthology! I hope for my review to do it justice as until recently I've not been much of an anthology reader, and my reading of authors from the African continent has been sorely limited. So much thanks to NetGalley for granting me a free copy.

It's hard to summarize an anthology, and for this one in particular because the stories had such breadth of theme, characters, and mood. I think there's something in this book for everyone. Personally I found the girls coming of age stories (particularly Our Girl Bimpe and Old Photographs) quite relatable despite having grown up on the other side of the world. These are such human stories and even appealed to me as someone with very little knowledge of any African cultures. The characters were varied and well-developed. I was also inspired to remedy that by these stories. Just as interesting as the stories themselves were the author bios. I look forward to seeing the authors out online and finding more of their work.

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One ot the best novel i have read so far.. The character interactions .. The world building is so good!!.. I wish i could get a second book.. But i really recommend reading this.. + Its interesting to learn about African culture

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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Like any anthology, particularly with stories by different writers, each story must be considered separately. As a whole, however, I enjoyed reading all of these, as they were a taste of the new writing from Africa, and led me to making a list of authors that I will be watching for in the future!

Some of my favorites are
Border Control - a pretty rough look at childbirth, through the eyes of the woman in labor.
The Newlyweds Window - about a young woman with a pretty dull life, who chooses to watch the life of Zanzibar as it shows through her window, with a focus on the couple across the street.
Mareba's Tavern - an independent woman who runs her life as she chooses.
Rain - a supernatural revenge on a woman who has hurt others in her unthinking ways, as shown through a series of emails to a friend who she has previously offended and antagonized.
Our Girl Bimpe - - ah, Facebook. What happens when a young woman decides to create a whole new identity on FB, posts there freely, and it all catches up with her.
A Letter from Ireland - how does a tradition grandma deal with the knowledge of her son's new life in Ireland?

A number of the other stories are what I would characterize as horror - not my favorite genre, but they are all interesting and well written.

This is definitely an anthology to dip into, for enjoyment and to broaden your reading horizons!

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Anthologies or short story collections are some of my favorite books to read. The Newlyweds' Window is a great one, featuring African authors. The stories are quite varied, both realistic and speculative. They provide a viewpoint that we don't often see. Very enjoyable.

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Mukana Press considered over 500 short story entries and selected 12 to include in this 2022 anthology. They represent many African countries and tell compelling stories, some very dramatic and others slice-of-life. As might be expected, in their various formats they illuminate the intersection between traditional and modern viewpoints, social expectations and gender roles.

I enjoyed the variety of formats -- email messages, Facebook posts, various point-of-view narrators. And I especially enjoyed the title story - “The Newlyweds’ Window” by Husnah Mad-hy for its demonstration of questionable assumptions when a neighbor who finds no shame in watching the newlyweds comments that they are witnessing the “expectations of Swahili women- cooking, cleaning, raising, tending to her husband, attending weddings and funerals, and the likes."

Not all of the stories are typical dramas -- some are fantasy, crime-related, horror, science fiction, an impressive mix of genres. Some will appeal to particular readers, while other readers will find other stories more to their liking.

Mukana means “opportunity” in Shona; the twelve emerging authors -- whose bios are included -- are here given a great opportunity to reach a wide audience. I thank Mukana Press for the opportunity to read these works when I was given an advance copy through NetGalley.

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Definitely recommend this book as the variety of stories gives something to everyone.

Almost all of the stories were interesting and had the same quality, which made a couple of the stories stand out because they were slower paced.


ARC kindly provided via NetGalley in exchange for a review

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