Author: Rob Wallace

Publ: Monthly Review Press. 2020. Pp 266. ISBN eBook: 978-158367-904-3

Reviewer: Bettina Ng’weno

In a complex and detailed collection of essays that span the period of January through July 2020, Dead Epidemiologists asks a deceptively simple question: what are the origins of COVID-19? To demonstrate the complexity and depth of the question and possible answers, epidemiologist Rob Wallace takes us on a journey examining how we came to be dealing with COVID-19, that include investigations of viral spread, viral host biology, global agricultural systems, systems of discrimination, global capitalism, nationalistic science, environmental destruction and bats. In so doing, he argues that the answer to the question of the origins of COVID-19 is structural.  That is to say, it is produced by us – all of us and our acceptance and engagement in global networks of capitalism.  This global capitalism has structured our agriculture and our environment in ways that enhance the crossover of virus from other animals to humans and then easily spread the crossed-over virus around the world. Understood this way, COVID-19 is neither unique nor surprising.  Rather, it was just a matter of time, as is any other viral pandemic that thrives in the same structure.

 Author: Caroline Davis

Publ: Cambridge University Press

Reviewer: Farah Qureshi

 This book feels almost unreal, like you’re reading a compelling fictional mystery, the plot of which seems to be complete fantasy rather than true events. But these are the content and claims organised by Caroline Davis in this short book: the history and influence of the CIA in structuring the extensive network of subversion which oriented the process of literary management in Africa.

The book is an engaging and compelling read, with contents that are both distressing and mind-blowing. Davis presents a series of revelations which continued to surprise me as I kept reading. Her accounts are both detailed and concise, making this a short but important read.

While I was shocked, perhaps I should not have been. Scholarship (Douglas, Pietz, Kwon) has defined how the Cold War influenced a US interest in the postcolonial process in Africa, so perhaps it should be obvious that African cultural capital would be a target. It’s  saddening, but unsurprising.

The Life of A Reformist Bohra

Volume 18, Issue 1 | Published 27/03/2021  

Author: Haki Kapasi

Publ: Inspire

Reviewer: Zarina Patel

The Life of a Bohra Reformist is the story of a small group of religious reformists which tries to swim against the tide of capitalist reality; and the life of its visionary leader, Fazlehusein Hassanbhai Kapasi. It is a microcosm of the struggles taking place worldwide on a much larger scale and with global consequences. It demonstrates how even the most noble and sincere intentions and policies become corrupted by the human-eat-human ideology in which we are embedded.

Following a brief history of the Dawoodi Bohra Community, the narrative focuses on a group in Uganda, East Africa. Bohras from India first visited East Africa in 1750 and at some point ventured as far as Uganda. With a reputation of trustworthiness, thrift and good business they settled and prospered.

"Covid Stories from East Africa and Beyond" edited by Njeri Kinyanjui, Roopal Thaker, and Kathryn Toure (Langaa Publishing, 2021)

"This compelling collection of 29 short stories and essays brings together the lived experiences of covid19 through a diversity of voices from across the African continent. The stories highlight challenges, new opportunities, and ultimately the deep resilience of Africans and their communities. Bringing into conversation the perspectives of laypeople, academics, professionals, domestic workers, youth, and children, the volume is a window into the myriad ways in which people have confronted, adapted to, and sought to tackle the coronavirus and its trail of problems. The experiences of the most vulnerable are specifically explored, and systemic changes and preliminary shifts towards a new global order are addressed. Laughter as a coping mechanism is a thread throughout."


Author: Zarina Patel

Publ: Zand Graphics, 2010

Reviewer: Diana Lee-Smith

It is worth reviewing this book – more than a decade after it came out – because we now have better tools to discuss its message in wide popular debate. The events carefully documented by the book occurred around one hundred years ago: early organizing against not only colonial rule but also the formal enforcement of white supremacy in Kenya.

Who was Desai?

Desai was labelled ‘the stormy petrel’ by the British as he was like the small bird whose appearance is thought by seafarers to signal a coming storm. Although the book is not only about him, but rather about a movement, his life is the framework for the story told. Born in Surat, India, Desai had high school education and worked in a legal firm before moving to what was called the East African Protectorate in 1915 in his early thirties.

His skills quickly propelled him to leadership in East Africa’s freedom struggles, especially through the East Africa Indian National Congress (EAINC). He also knew the value of the press and started the East African Chronicle in 1918. The newspaper was shut down in late 1921 due to government pressure and lawsuits that bankrupted it. But there was a proliferation of newspapers. The East African Standard, started as the African Standard by A M Jeevanjee and still going today, was sometimes a vehicle for right wing British opinion, but the EA Chronicle and the Democrat, ‘the people’s paper’ where Sitaram Achariar wrote articles promoting causes of the Asians and Africans, demonstrated another trend. Principles of equality, liberty and justice were promoted in the EA Chronicle and the Democrat.  

One Day

Volume 18, Issue 1 | Published 27/03/2021  

Authors: Parin Rattansi and Shobna Rattansi

Publ: Shilka Publishing

Reviewer: Aleya Kassam

This heartwarming and witty collection of short stories depicts the experiences and challenges of life in the UK, East Africa, and India. The reader will gain insight into the lives of the main characters, who range from a psychotherapist helping a woman to heal using the Emotional Freedom Technique, another woman in the grip of an alcoholic and manipulative spouse, the new head of the humanities department in an educational institution, and a young woman who gains wisdom from a wooden African sculpture, Dhirango, which comes to life. Then there is Big Ben who explores Europe to seek friends and to gauge the possible impact of Brexit on his popularity.

This is the first time I’ve ever read a book with two authors credited in this way. As I read the stories, I found myself curious about who wrote which story - did they write them separately over time and collate them at the end, or did they write each story together finding their way into the characters as they went along? I wondered what the genesis of this collection was - did they plan it like one would a menu, deciding on the themes they wanted to cover, or were the stories inspired by people they had met along their lifetimes? One thing is for sure, this collection felt like a love project. You can sense where the authors were having fun in the writing process, and the tenderness they feel for their characters sparkles through the writing.