Review | Call Number | June 2017 | Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou


Call Number is a “library-inspired monthly book box that celebrates contemporary Black literature and authors.” It costs $35.00 a month and includes one book and an assortment of bookish goodies. Perfect! Sign me up! Or don’t, because I’m already signed up! Check out all my Call Number reviews if you’d like.

*spoiler alert* The box this month was as amazing as always!

The book is Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou. Mr. Mabanckou is an author I’d never heard of but it looks like he’s got quite the impressive biography. Born in the Republic of Congo as a French citizen, he’s written a whole slew of books and currently teaches literature at UCLA.

Black Moses book cover.jpgThe book was long-listed for the Man Booker International Prize and was described by one reviewer as “Oliver Twist set in 1970s Africa.” Well if that doesn’t sound interesting! The long description from Amazon is as follows:

It’s not easy being Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. There’s that long name of his for a start, which means, “Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors.” Most people just call him Moses. Then there’s the orphanage where he lives, run by a malicious political stooge, Dieudonné Ngoulmoumako, and where he’s terrorized by two fellow orphans—the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala.

But after Moses exacts revenge on the twins by lacing their food with hot pepper, the twins take Moses under their wing, escape the orphanage, and move to the bustling port town of Pointe-Noire, where they form a gang that survives on petty theft. What follows is a funny, moving, larger-than-life tale that chronicles Moses’s ultimately tragic journey through the Pointe-Noire underworld and the politically repressive world of Congo-Brazzaville in the 1970s and 80s.

Mabanckou’s vivid portrayal of Moses’s mental collapse echoes the work of Hugo, Dickens, and Brian DePalma’s Scarface, confirming Mabanckou’s status as one of our great storytellers. Black Moses is a vital new extension of his cycle of Pointe-Noire novels that stand out as one of the grandest, funniest, fictional projects of our time.

I’m pretty stoked to get to this book – though I’m, oh, about a dozen books behind at the moment. Don’t tell my boss. P.S. I am my boss.

As to the things! The theme of this box is “The Influence of Insanity.”

First is a print of a vintage poster from the tourist office in the Belgian Congo. It has some interesting depictions and I do love old tourism posters. I’m just not quite sure what I’ll do with it.

Harriet Tubman 1978 stampNext up is a Harriet Tubman stamp issued in 1978 and sold by My Vintage Post Office. I love this and can’t wait to find a way to display it. The curator notes that it was included because Harriet Tubman is another “Black Moses” that’s brought to mind when reading the book.

Then there’s a Card Catalog notecard from the Library of Congress. Mine is the card for Moby Dick by Hermann Melville.

Moby Dick Card Catalog notecard Library of Congress.jpg

Finally, we have a wooden key chain from Literature Lodge which commemorates the only novel written by the poet Gwendolyn Brooks: Maud Martha. I haven’t read the novel but I’ve read her poetry and I am a fan.

Seriously, could this box be better curated? Could the bookish goodies be more unique and relevant? I am so in love with this box and I wish everyone in the world would subscribe so I don’t have to worry about it ever being discontinued.

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2 thoughts on “Review | Call Number | June 2017 | Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou

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