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AUDIOBOOKS: African-American authors

By Sunday, Aug 4, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

Here are four audiobooks written by African-American authors.

Half a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; read by Zainab Jah
Random House Audio, 18 hours and nine minutes, www.audible.com download, $38.50

First released in print a dozen years ago and more recently rereleased on audio, this is a spellbinding account of the formation of Biafra, a small, independent territory in southeastern Nigeria that existed in the late 1960s. Told through five well-imagined characters, this leaves the listener devastated by the effects of war while drawn into the everyday dramas of those furthering the cause and those impacted by it. Though never graphic, Adichie depicts the deprivation, annoyances and disruptions of war on levels both personal and universal. Jah is, simply put, an amazing narrator, easily slipping into various accents, dialects and variations for gender that each sound realistic. Grade: A

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Trevor Noah, read by the author
Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio, one MP3 disc, eight hours and 50 minutes, $14.99/www.audible.com download, $24.95

The host of “The Daily Show” grew up in a home where abuse was the norm and apartheid was the law of the land. His recollections are insightful, intimate and darkly comedic. It is also a love letter to his mother, a deeply religious woman with a fierce stubbornness and an independent thought process. Noah is a polyglot and his pronunciations are perfect as he slips into several African dialects or German pronunciations. His keen, comic timing makes him a natural storyteller and the details of life under apartheid are as horrifying as they are fascinating. Be forewarned: This contains blue language and adult themes. Grade: A-minus

Feel Free
Zadie Smith, read by Nikki Amuka-Bird
Penguin Audio, 14 hours, 11 CDs, $45/www.audible.com download, $31.50

This collection of previously published essays and those new to audio include topics as varied as race, culture, politics, art and interpersonal relationships. Smith’s mind is fascinating; she notices things most of us glide over—her essay about Facebook will have you laughing once she points out the obvious. There is much food for thought contained within—you’ll want to make a list of the writers who influence her and the music she adores. Amuka-Bird, however, was not the correct narrator for this project. She has a cultured British manner and reads quite smoothly, but her voice is much, much too soft, making her sound timid when the material called for a more forthright approach. Grade: B-plus

Madison Park: A Place of Hope
Eric L. Motley; read by Brandon Maloney with a foreword by Walter Isaacson
Zondervan on Brilliance Audio, seven hours and 52 minutes/www.audible.com download, $21.67

Motley grew up in a small Alabama town founded by slaves, one of whom was his great-great-grandfather. Maintained as an African-American enclave that sounds peaceful and nurturing, it conjures up images most of us only experienced through old TV shows. However, this is less of a complete story than a list of descriptions and anecdotes about a place beloved by the author and the inhabitants to whom he is most grateful. The result is charming, if a bit dull. Maloney has a deep, warm voice that sounds authoritative and friendly at the same time and well-suits the material. Grade: B-minus


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