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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Africa, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 204
1. The first blood transfusion in Africa

Does it matter when the first blood transfusion occurred in Africa? If we are to believe the Serial Passage Theory of HIV emergence, then sometime in the early twentieth century.

The post The first blood transfusion in Africa appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. An African tree produces white flowers: The disappearance of the black population in Argentina 110 years later

The 2014 Men’s World Cup finals pitted Germany against Argentina. Bets were made and various observations were cited about the teams. Who had the better defense? Would Germany and Argentina’s star players step up to meet the challenge? And, surprisingly, why did Argentina lack black players? Across the globe blogs and articles found it ironic that Germany fielded a more diverse team while Argentina with a history of slavery did not have a solitary black player.

The post An African tree produces white flowers: The disappearance of the black population in Argentina 110 years later appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. #733 – Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall Written by Anita Silvey Foreword by Jane Goodall National Geographic Kids    6/09/2015 978-1-4263-1518-3 96 pages     Age 8—12 ”At age 26, Jane Goodall was a headstrong young woman fulfilling her dream of living in an African wilderness. She spent her days exploring with the chimpanzees—animals she …

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4. There are many excellent African leaders

A common perception is that the problem with Africa is its leaders. In 2007, Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim even created a major cash prize through his charitable foundation as an incentive to African heads of state to treat their people fairly and equitably and not use their countries’ coffers for their personal enrichment.

The post There are many excellent African leaders appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Compassionate law: Are gay rights ever really a ‘non-issue’?

On his recent visit to Kenya, President Obama addressed the subject of sexual liberty. At a press conference with the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, he spoke affectingly about the cause of gay rights, likening the plight of homosexuals to the anti-slavery and anti-segregation struggles in the United States.

The post Compassionate law: Are gay rights ever really a ‘non-issue’? appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Cecil the lion’s death is part of a much larger problem

Effective wildlife conservation is a challenge worldwide. Only a small percentage of the earth’s surface is park, reserve, or related areas designated for the protection of wild animals, marine life, and plants. Virtually all protected areas are smaller than what conservationists believe is needed to ensure species’ survival, and many of these areas suffer from a shortage of

The post Cecil the lion’s death is part of a much larger problem appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. The future of development – aid and beyond

Just over a year ago, in March 2014, UNU-WIDER published a Report called: ‘What do we know about aid as we approach 2015?’ It notes the many successes of aid in a variety of sectors, and that in order to remain relevant and effective beyond 2015 it must learn to deal with, amongst other things, the new geography of poverty; the challenge of fragile states; and the provision of global public goods, including environmental protection.

The post The future of development – aid and beyond appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Insights into traditionalist Catholicism in Africa

Since the promulgation of the revised missal, popularly known as the Novus Ordo by Pope Paul VI, with the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanun in 1969, a growing call for either a return to the Tridentine Mass or recognition of the legitimate place of such a rite alongside the Novus Ordo has gained an international status. Groups […]

The post Insights into traditionalist Catholicism in Africa appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Uniqueness lost

"When I went to the Iv'ry Coast, about thirty years ago, I remember coming off the plane and just being assaulted with not only the heat but the color." These were the first words of the most moving story I have ever heard—but it wasn’t the story I was there to collect. For me, the best oral histories are the ones that sound a human chord, stories that blur the spaces between historically significant narrative and personal development.

The post Uniqueness lost appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Rhodesia and American Paramilitary Culture

When the suspect in the attack on the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina was identified, the authorities circulated a photograph of him wearing a jacket adorned with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and post-UDI Rhodesia.

The symbolism isn't subtle. Like the confederate flag that flies over the South Carolina capitol, these are flags of explicitly white supremacist governments.

Rhodesia plays a particular role within right-wing American militia culture, linking anti-communism and white supremacy. The downfall of white Rhodesia has its own sort of lost cause mythic power not just for avowed white supremacists, but for the paramilitarist wing of gun culture generally.

The power of Rhodesia for paramilitarists is evident throughout the history of Soldier of Fortune magazine, a magazine that in the 1980s especially achieved real prominence. The first issue of SoF was published in the summer of 1975, and its cover story, titled "American Mercenaries in Africa", was publisher Robert K. Brown's tale of his visit to Rhodesia in the spring of 1974. (You can see the whole issue here on Scribd. Warning: There's a gruesome and disturbing picture of a corpse with a head wound accompanying the article.) For Brown's perspective on his time in Rhodesia, see this post at Ammoland.

SoF continued to publish articles on Rhodesia throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s. They also published articles about South Africa. Here's a two-page spread from the August 1985 anniversary issue (click to enlarge):

The introduction to the first article states:
SOF made quite a reputation in the early years of publication for fearless, firsthand reporting from the bloody battlefields of Rhodesia. Our efforts in that ill-fated African nation and our support of the Rhodesian government in operations against communist insurgents gained us two unfortunate, undeserved labels: racists and mercenaries. We are neither. On the other hand, we have never avoided consorting with genuine mercs to insure readers get the look and feel of Third World battlefields.
It's true that anti-communism was the primary ideology of SoF in the 1970s and 1980s and that they would take the side of anyone they considered anti-communist regardless of their race or nationality — they published countless articles supporting the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Karen rebels in Burma (heroes of Rambo 4), and the contras in Nicaragua. (Ronald Reagan, he of the Iran-Contra scandal, supported white Rhodesia even longer than Henry Kissinger, causing them to have their first public disagreement. See Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge pp. 671-673.) But the kind of anti-communism that supported Ian Smith's Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa was an anti-communism that supported white supremacist government.

The second page there begins an article written by a veteran of the South African anti-insurgency campaigns, and it sings the praises of the brutal Koevoet (crowbar) unit in Namibia. Here's a passage from the next page: "It doesn't pay to play insurgency games with Koevoet. SWAPO had felt the force of the crowbar designed to pry them out of Ovamboland."

It's no great mystery why such campaigns would appeal to white supremacist groups, and why white supremacists would use the examples of Rhodesia and South Africa to stoke the fears and passions of their followers.

Consider the Greensboro massacre of November 1979. Tensions between the Communist Workers Party and the Ku Klux Klan led to the Klan and the American Nazi Party killing 5 activists. The neo-Nazi and Klan members accused of the crimes were acquitted. The head of the North Carolina chapter of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party of America in 1979 was Harold Covington, who was implicated in the massacre but never faced criminal charges. Covington loved to brag that he'd been a mercenary in Rhodesia, though his brother claimed that wasn't quite accurate:
I suppose he wanted to move someplace where everything was white and bright, so after a yearlong stint at the Nazi Party headquarters, he wound up going to Rhodesia, and he joined the Rhodesian Army. In different blogs and writings, he was always bragging, "Oh, I was a mercenary in Rhodesia and I went out and did all this fighting." But to the best of my knowledge, according to the letters he wrote to my parents, he was a file clerk. He certainly never fired a shot in anger. He started agitating over there, and the [white-led] Ian Smith government said, "We have problems enough without this nutcase," and they bounced him.
The myth of the lost white land of Rhodesia has proved resilient for the paramilitary right. It plays into macho adventure fantasies as well as terror fantasies of black hordes wiping out virtuous white minorities. Rhodesia sits comfortably among the other icons of militia culture, as James William Gibson showed in his 1994 book Warrior Dreams, in which he described a visit to a Soldier of Fortune convention:
All the T-shirts had their poster equivalent, but much else was available, too. John Wayne showed up in poses ranging from his Western classics to The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and The Green Berets (1968). Robocop and Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry decorated many a vendor's stall. An old Rhodesian Army recruiting poster with the invitation "Be a Man Among Men" hung alongside a "combat art" poster showing a helicopter door gunner whose wolf eyes stared out from under his helmet; heavy body armor and twin machine gun mounts hid his mortal flesh. (157-158)
Anti-communism doesn't have much resonance these days, and so the support of Rhodesia or apartheid South Africa can no longer be couched in any terms other than ones of white supremacy — terms that were previously always at least in the shadows. Militarism, machismo, and white supremacy have no objection to hanging out together, and the result of their association is often deadly.

See also: "The connection between terrorist Dylann Roof and white-supremacist regimes in Africa runs through the heart of US conservatism" from Africa as a Country.

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11. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition

The story of William Kamkwamba is so inspiring that three books have been written to tell it. I listened to the audio book version of the 305-page, young reader's edition. 

My review of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition
written for AudioFile Magazine, is linked here. 

I cannot recommend this one enough.  I hope you have time to read at least one version of this inspiring true story of a teenager who created electricity for his impoverished, starving village in Malawi with nothing more than garbage, an elementary education, an old borrowed Physics book (in a language that he did not speak or read!), and a will to make things better!
  1. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (William Morrow, 2009)
  2. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Dial, 2012)
  3. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer (Penguin, 2015)

Here are William Kamkwamba's two TED Talks.  They're short and well worth a listen.


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12. #698 – Jack and the Wild Life by Lisa Doan & Ivica Stevanovic


#02 Jack and the Wild Life

Series: The Berenson Schemes
Written by Lisa Doan
Illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic
Darby Creek         9/01/2014
     144 pages    Age 9—12

“After a wild plan by his parents left Jack stranded in the Caribbean, the Berenson family decided to lay out some rules. Jack’s mom and dad agreed they wouldn’t take so many risks. Jack agreed he’d try to live life without worrying quite so much. Then Jack’s parents thought up another get-rich-quick scheme. Now the family’s driving around Kenya. An animal attack is about to send Jack up a tree—alone, with limited supplies. As Jack attempts to outsmart a ferocious honey badger and keep away from an angry elephant, he’ll have plenty of time to wonder if the Berenson Family Decision-Making Rules did enough to keep him out of trouble.” [book jacket]

The Berenson family adults are constantly trying to find an easy way to make a fortune, conjuring up one odd scheme after another. Jack is the one that pays the price for these awful plans, while his parents wander through life unaware of most everything around them, including their missing son. This makes for many comical situations and gives the series its heart. This time, the Berensons fly to Africa, Jack in tow, because, as Dad tells Jack,

“Your mum and I have invented a brand-new kind of tourism . . . a surefire moneymaking opportunity.”

going to kenyaThey plan to build a tourist camp where people can live like a real Maasai tribe. Using mud, sticks, grass, and more mud, Jack’s parents plan to build the Maasai mud-huts tourists will gladly rent to experience tribal life (and a fence to keep out the lions). The best part of their plans, the two adults believe, is they need no money to build their attraction—Mother Nature supplies the materials. Jack is not thrilled. He finally had a “normal” life, a home, parents who held down real 9-to-5 jobs, and a new friend—Diana. Once summer began to fade into fall, Jack’s parents could no longer do that “grind.” But this time things will be different: Jack’s parents will plan ahead, not take any risks, and not lose Jack. Changing their ways proves more difficult than the parents thought, as things do not go as planned, risks are taken, and, well, Jack . . . he ends up in a tree.

Poor Jack, now he is in Africa, stuck up a tree, while his parents—yet to realize Jack flew out of the rented Jeep—are trying to find the guide for their new camp. Jack must protect himself from animals on the ground and the ones that can get past the fence he built around the tree. He sleeps in the tree, eats in the tree, and fears for his life—and the life of Mack, Diana’s stuffed monkey—in the tree. The last time his parents had a get-rich-quick scheme, Jack feared for his life on a deserted island. (#1 – Jack the Castaway reviewed here).

jack pageThe Berenson Schemes is a wonderful series, especially for kids that wish they could take control. With roles reversed, Jack acts more the parent, setting rules and following through. Meanwhile, Jack’s parents act more like spoiled, unruly children, who care about themselves first and Jack second. They do love their son, but cannot get it together as adults. In book #2, Jack and the Wild Life, the family has new decision-making rules in the hopes that Jack’s parents will be parents that are more responsible. As Jack makes a tree-bed out of duct tape and reads his Kenya guide, he thinks maybe the rules are not working as he had hoped they would.

I love the black and white illustrations. Stevanovic does a great a job of enhancing the story, giving readers a view into Jack’s situation and his emotions. I wish I had more images to show readers. The full-page illustrations are fantastic and have been in both books. By the end of the story, Jack’s parents may see the errors of their ways and promise Jack they will try harder to change . . . until the next edition, when they tire of being adults, devise a new scheme, and hook Jack into their plans. The Berenson Schemes #2: Jack and the Wild Life is great fun and I look forward to each new scheme and Jack’s consequences for merely being his parents’ child. Kids will love the mayhem Doan creates and the magic in Stevanovic’s illustrations. Book #3: Jack at the Helm, released this past March, 2015.

JACK AND THE WILD LIFE (THE BERENSON SCHEMES #2). Text copyright © 2014 by Lisa Doan. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Darby Creek, Minneapolis, MN.

Purchase Jack and the Wild Life at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesDarby Creek.

Learn more about Jack and the Wild Life HERE.
CCSS Guide for Teachers HERE.
Meet the author, Lisa Doan, at her website:  http://www.lisadoan.org/
Meet the illustrator, Ivica Stevanovic, at his website:  http://ivicastevanovicart.blogspot.com/
Find more middle grade books at the Darby Creek website:  http://bit.ly/DarbyCreek

Darby Creek is a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

The Berenson Schemes

#1 – Jack the Castaway

#1 – Jack the Castaway

#2 – Jack and the Wild Life

#2 – Jack and the Wild Life


#3 – Jack at the Helm




#01 – Jack and the Castaway 2015 IPPY Gold Medalist for Juvenile fiction


Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 518

jack and the wild life 2

Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: Africa, Darby Creek, family, get-rich-schemes, Inc., Ivica Stevanovic, Jack and the Wild Life, Jack at the Helm, Jack the Castaway, Kenya, Lerner Publishing Group, Lisa Doan

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13. Capital flight from Africa and financing for development in the post-2015 era

The more money you make, the more you lose. That is the story of Africa over the past two decades. Indeed, along with the impressive record of economic growth acceleration spurred by booming primary commodity exports, Africa continent has experienced a parallel explosion of capital flight.

The post Capital flight from Africa and financing for development in the post-2015 era appeared first on OUPblog.

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14. Review: The Promise of Rain by Rula Sinara

May Contain Spoilers


I didn’t read any further in the blurb than “elephant research and rescue camp” before I added The Promise of Rain to my TBR.  Imagine my delight when the library actually acquired a copy so soon after the release date!  It’s one of the first novels in the Harlequin Heartwarming line that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed the story, I have mixed feelings about certain aspects of it.

Anna Bekker’s life revolves around two things: her four year old daughter, Pippa, and the elephants she’s studying.  When the head of the research department back in the States starts exerting pressure on her about expenses and results, she knows that her funding is in danger.  When she’s told someone will be visiting the camp to audit the books, the last person she expects is Jackson Harper, her former best friend and the love of her life.  He’s also Pippa’s father, a fact that she’s kept secret from him.  Jack is beyond pissed that he’s been kept in the dark about his daughter, and he thinks a wildlife camp in the middle of the Serengeti is the last place she belongs.  It’s dangerous!  There are wild animals! Snakes!  GERMS!  Yes, Jack is a germaphobe, but  that’s not the biggest reason I couldn’t connect with him.  He’s also manipulative, emotionally stunted, and clueless. So, yeah, I didn’t much care for Jack.

Anna, on the other hand, I loved.  She’s dedicated to her daughter and to the elephants she’s researching, and the thought of losing her funding is keeping her up nights, sleepless and worried.  Having her future rest in Jack’s hands is galling, especially when he’s so angry with her about Pippa.   When it turns out that he’s keeping quiet about a conflict of interest regarding her funding, she thinks the chasm between them can’t get any wider.  Then Jack threatens to fight for Pippa’s custody, and she realizes just how wrong she was.

The romance didn’t work for me.  Jack is too anal and too uptight, and if there was any chemistry between Jack and Anna, I didn’t see it.  While they both have trust issues, Jack just didn’t seem like he would ever be capable of being the kind of partner Anna needed.  If I hadn’t liked Anna, the elephants, and the secondary characters so much, The Promise of Rain might have been a DFN for me.  Instead, I loved the details of Anna’s work and the descriptions of the camp and the wildlife preserve. The romance, unfortunately, fell flat for me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

He wants to take her child out of Africa…

The Busara elephant research and rescue camp on Kenya’s Serengeti is Anna Bekker’s life’s work. And it’s the last place she thought she’d run into Dr. Jackson Harper. As soon as he sets eyes on her four-year-old, Pippa, Anna knows he’ll never leave…without his daughter. 

Furious doesn’t begin to describe how Jack feels. How could Anna keep this from him? He has to get his child back to the States. Yet as angry as he is with Anna, they still have a bond. But can it endure, despite the ocean—and the little girl—between them?

The post Review: The Promise of Rain by Rula Sinara appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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15. Ebola: the epidemic’s next phase

Although the number of Ebola cases and deaths has jumped dramatically in the short time since we wrote our December Briefing on the epidemic, there are signs of hope. Ebola is slowing down in areas where there was previously high transmission, in Liberia and in Eastern Sierra Leone for example. The lesson from past Ebola epidemics is that learning and local adaptation has played a central role in controlling previous outbreaks; now in West Africa the curve of the epidemic seems to be turning as people alter their behaviour. The apparent avoidance of continued exponential growth is a relief but it is no cause for complacency.

Freetown and the North of Sierra Leone are still suffering heavily. There is likely to be ongoing transmission for some time with sporadic clusters of cases as the epidemic moves into its next phase. The message, that local people should be involved and that their perspectives and knowledge are both valid and valuable, is still essential. Now is the time to find a balance between medical interventions, emergency thinking, and more humane and localised approaches based on collaboration.

As and when the epidemic ends, there should also be no complacency about the structural violence which produced this crisis. Structural violence refers to the way institutions and practices inflict avoidable harm by impairing basic human needs. The long term view — which locates this epidemic in the context of economic, social, technical, discursive and political exclusions and injustices — needs to be at the forefront of recovery and ‘development’ post-Ebola. The stark evidence of violence, in the form of distrust, the collapse of already dysfunctional health services, the catastrophic costs of Ebola on families and countries, the unpaid salaries of nurses and burial teams, the lack of protection – whether in the form of plastic gloves or welfare nets in times of crisis – must not fade with a return to business as usual. The Ebola crisis should be a game-changer for development.

In pointing to structural violence, we aren’t talking of a single social institution, but of overlapping institutions and practices that have produced interlocking inequalities, unsustainabilities, and insecurities. Aid and development have failed to address these conditions. Sierra Leone and Liberia attract considerable foreign direct investment and record some of the world’s highest growth figures yet most of their populations live in continued or worsening poverty. The emerging field of global health emphasizes networks and shared vulnerabilities, but in practice — through disjointed programmes and a tendency towards ‘quick wins’ — has neglected dire inequalities, which mean a virus like Ebola can tear a country up due to an absence of the most fundamental public health and state capacities. These structural and related socio-cultural conditions are not quickly or easily addressed, but Ebola has highlighted how vast disparities, internationally and within countries, are not sustainable. A greater focus on inclusive institutions and economies, and on conceiving of health as a global public good, is needed in order to build trust and resilience. Achieving that will involve asking difficult questions about aid and development as practiced in this region.

Both the crisis response and efforts to address its structural underpinnings are strengthened by recognition of the complex and historically-embedded logics and relationships which shape people’s lives. The Ebola Response Anthropology Platform has been set up to network anthropologists and other social scientists across the world with fieldworkers and communities, and to provide an interface with those planning and implementing the Ebola response so that such perspectives can be integrated into the response. Complementary initiatives, like one supported by the American Anthropological Association, mean that there is now a groundswell of debate and commentary on these critical dimensions. Much of this is building on research conducted over decades of post-colonial development and post-conflict reconstruction that, with the benefit of hindsight, is revealing of the fault-lines of the Ebola epidemic. As ‘the response’ transitions into another phase of reconstruction it is critical that these lessons, and the complexities they reveal, are fully appreciated to prevent further disasters for this region.

Headline image credit: Conakry, Guinea, 2011. Photo by CDC Global. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

The post Ebola: the epidemic’s next phase appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Africa is My Home: 3 Reasons why children’s books about Africa matter

Monica Edinger, author of “Africa is My Home, A Child of the Amistad,” is a former Peace Corps volunteer who began writing children’s books during Sierra Leone’s Civil War. “Sierra Leone and its people were being represented in the media in this really horrendous way,” Edinger said.

She felt it was important to share stories that showed there was more to Sierra Leone than conflict. “Real stories, about real people, make a big difference. But unfortunately that isn’t the standard narrative in children’s books.”

From this article celebrating the Children’s Africana Book Awards.

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17. Learning About Africa: Best Source for Ebola Info? Not What You May Think

I have never agreed with the dismissal of Wikipedia as a source of information, even for students. This is because that while, yes, there are pages that are full of misinformation, others are excellent. The latter are carefully maintained by experts and highly knowledgeable people regarding the topic in question. I’d long ago read about scientists who were seeing to it that Wikipedia pages on their subjects of expertise were being properly maintained. I think that rather than teaching students NOT to use Wikipedia, we’d be better off teaching them to use it and other sources carefully and critically.

And so now with all the ever-growing hysteria about Ebola in this country (sadly reminding me like this person of the early days of AIDS), I wasn’t at all surprised to read the New York Times article “Wikipedia is Emerging as a Trusted Internet Source for Information on Ebola.” And I think those of us who have been negative about Wikipedia need to rethink our position. Here’s a good source that balances out the misinformation going on all over the place. Rather than casting it out, embrace it, help people develop skills to use it in the best way rather than not at all.

(There. Now to get off my soap box.)


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18. Interview with JaNay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell, creators of Imani’s Moon

One of the fun things of being friends with illustrators is getting sneak-peaks at art spreads before the book is published. I fell in love with this story back last Christmas when Hazel was busy working on the front cover, … Continue reading

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19. Death at a Distance

I saw someone’s Facebook status today:



And I was immediately struck with anger.

At first, I wasn’t sure quite why. I get what they meant. It seems like Ebola’s everywhere! It’s constantly on the news, all over the internet, and everyone’s talking about it. It makes sense to be sick of hearing about it.  We’re bound to get sick of hearing about anything that much!

But still, I couldn’t shake the discomfort that rung in my head over that status. Ebola seems far away, after all, it’s only been diagnosed four times in the US. It’s easy to tuck it away in your mind as something distant that doesn’t affect you and forget why it’s a big deal.

It’s even become a hot topic for jokes on social media:

b c



Because so many see this very real disease as a far away concept, we find safety in our distance and it’s easy to make light of it.

But guys….



4,877 deaths. 9,935 sufferers. That’s not funny. That’s not something to ask to “omg shut up.”

The idea of disease never really hit home for me until my little sister was diagnosed with cancer. Yes, Ebola and cancer are two very different things. But I know what it’s like to watch someone I love very dearly suffer. I know what it’s like to hold my sister’s hand while she cries because she can’t escape the pain or the fear that comes with her disease. I know what it’s like to cry myself to sleep begging God to take her illness away. And I can’t help but imagine a sister somewhere in Africa in a situation very similar to my own, watching her loved one suffer, hearing her cries, and begging for it to all be over- but without the blessings of medicine and technology that my sister has access to.

We are quick to throw on our pink gear for breast cancer awareness and dump ice on our head for ALS because that kind of awareness is fun and easy. I’m not trying to diminish those causes- they are great causes that deserve promotion. But I mean to make note of the fact that when another very real disease with very real consequences is brought to light and gains awareness, people groan that it’s in the news again and make jokes about it on the internet. Because Ebola doesn’t have the fun and cute promotional package, we complain and make light of it and its need for awareness and a solution.

People are suffering and dying from Ebola. Just because that suffering seems far away, doesn’t make it any less significant.


This is a guest post from my oldest daughter, Meredith. I begged her to let me post it. 

Filed under: Don't Blog Angry

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20. Imani’s Moon – Perfect Picture Book Friday and GIVE-AWAY

Title: Imani’s Moon Written by: JaNay Brown-Wood Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell Published by: Charlesbridge, Oct. 14th. 2014 Themes/Topics: Maasai, being little, big dreams Suitable for ages: 6-9 Fiction, 32 pages Awards: winner of the NAESP Picture Book Competition Opening: “Look at tiny Imani!” the other children … Continue reading

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21. Looking for Tutankhamun

Poor old king Tut has made the news again – for all the wrong reasons, again.

In a documentary that aired on the BBC two weeks ago, scientists based at the EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman unveiled a frankly hideous reconstruction of Tutankhamun’s mummy, complete with buck teeth, a sway back, Kardashian-style hips, and a club foot. They based it on CT-scans of the mummy from 2005 and their own research, claiming to have identified a host of genetic disorders and physical deformities suffered by the boy-king, who died around age 19 some 3,300 years ago.

The English-language newspaper Ahram Online has aired the views of three Egyptian Egyptologists who are just as shocked by the reconstruction as many television viewers were. There are old and understandable sensitivities here: Western scientists have been poking around Egyptian mummies for more than 200 years, while the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 coincided with the birth of an independent Egyptian nation after decades of European colonialism. The ensuing tussle between excavator Howard Carter and the government authorities, over where the tomb finds would end up (Cairo won, and rightly so), highlighted deep-seated tensions about who ‘owned’ ancient Egypt, literally and figuratively. It’s safe to say that the last century has seen king Tut more involved in politics than he ever was in his own lifetime.

Most Egyptologists can readily debunk the ‘evidence’ presented by the EURAC team – if we weren’t so weary of debunking television documentaries already. (why do the ancient Romans get academic royalty like Mary Beard, while the ancient Egyptians get the guy from The Gadget Show?). What’s fascinating is how persistent – and how misguided – lurid interest in the dead bodies of ancient Egyptians is, not to mention the wild assumptions made about the skilled and stunning art this culture produced. The glorious gold mask, gilded shrines and coffins, weighty stone sarcophagus, and hundreds of other objects buried with Tutankhamun were never meant to show us a mere human, but to manifest the razzle-dazzle of a god-king.

Around the time of Tutankhamun’s reign, artists depicted the royal family and the gods with almond eyes, luscious lips, and soft, plump bodies. These were never meant to be true-to-life images, as if the pharaoh and his court were posting #nomakeupselfie snaps on Twitter. Each generation of artists developed a style that was distinctive to a specific ruler, but which also linked him to a line of ancestors, emphasizing the continuity and authority of the royal house. The works of art that surrounded Tutankhamun in life, and in death, were also deeply concerned with a king’s unique responsibilities to his people and to the gods.

Death mask of Tutankhamun, by. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.
Death mask of Tutankhamun, by ironmanixs. CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 via Flickr.

All the walking sticks buried in the tomb – more than 130 of them, one of which Carter compared to Charlie Chaplin’s ubiquitous prop – emphasize the king’s status at the pinnacle of society (nothing to do with a limp). The chariots were luxury items (quite macho ones, at that), and Tutankhamun’s wardrobe was the haute couture of its day, with delicate embroidery and spangly sequins. Much of the tomb was taken up with deeply sacred objects, too: guardian statues at the doorways, magic figures bricked into the walls, and two dozen bolted shrines protecting wrapped statues of the king and various gods. Not to mention the shrines, sarcophagus, and coffins that held the royal mummy – a sacred object in itself, long before science got a hold of it.

As for the diseases and deformities Tutankhamun is said to have suffered? Allegations of inbreeding don’t add up: scholars have exhaustively combed through the existing historical sources that relate to Tutankhamun (lots and lots of rather dry inscriptions, I’m afraid), and as yet there is no way to identify his biological parents with any certainty. Don’t assume that DNA is an easy answer, either. Not only do we not know the identity of almost any of the ‘royal’ mummies that regularly do the rounds on TV programmes, but also the identification of DNA from ancient mummies is contested – it simply doesn’t survive in the quantity or quality that DNA amplification techniques require. Instead, many of the ‘abnormal’ features of Tutankhamun’s mummy, like the supposed club foot and damage to the chest and skull, resulted from the mummification process, as research on other mummies has surmised. Embalming a body to the standard required for an Egyptian king was a difficult and messy task, left to specialist priests. What mattered just as much, if not more, was the intricate linen wrapping, the ritual coating of resin, and the layering of amulets, shrouds, coffins, and shrines that Carter and his team had to work through in order to get to the fragile human remains beneath.

The famous mummy mask and spectacular coffins we can see in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo today, or in copious images online, should stop us in our tracks with their splendour and skill. That’s what they were meant to do, for those few people who saw them and for the thousands more whose lives and livelihoods depended on the king. But they should also remind us of how they got there: the invidious colonial system under which archaeology flourished in Egypt, for a start, and the thick resin that had to be hammered off so that the lids could be opened and the royal mummy laid bare. Did king Tut have buck teeth, waddle like a duck, drag race his chariot? Have a look at that mask: do you think we’ve missed the point? Like so many modern engagements with the ancient past, this latest twist in the Tutankhamun tale says more about our times than his.

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22. Africa is My Home: Children’s Africana Book Award Celebrations

I was so honored by the celebrations around this year’s Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA). These began with a Meet and Greet dinner at the venerable Bus Boys and Poets (a place I’d always wanted to see) where I met so many wonderful people, among them Ifeoma Onyefulu, a former winner of the award whose books I’ve long admired.


The following day I spoke to a couple of 4th grade classes at the fabulous Capital City Public Charter School under the auspices of An Open Book Foundation. Here’s the description of what they do on their website:

Founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell, An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation was created to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving schools and students book and access to authors and illustrators. We excite children and teachers about reading and send every child home with a signed book.

It was a really wonderful experience. The children were eager, interested, and had wonderful questions. I was most moved by two children from El Salvador. I sign my books “Never forget your home” and one of these two children spoke with tremendous excitement of returning soon to her home of El Salvador while the other came around to tell me privately that he would not be returning to his home of El Salvador because “bad things had happened there.” I told him that his home should be wherever he felt safe and happy. It was an important reminder to me — someone who has, for different reasons, no childhood place to call home —  that home is not necessarily where you originated.

Here are the books beautifully displayed before they were given out to the children.


Saturday morning I wandered the Mall for a bit, having not done so in many years. I wanted most of all to see the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.


And then there was the actual Children’s Africana Book Award Festival at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. After being welcomed by the Curator of Education, Deborah Stokes, we were entertained by the marvelous dance and singing troupe, the Taratibu Youth Association. Harriet McGuire spoke about the Africa Book Project, a terrific initiative to get the award winning CABA books into the hands of African children. The amazing Brenda Randolph, president of Africa Access (which gives the award and who organized everything) spoke and board member Linda White gave the Read Africa Partner Awards.

Then we were given our awards. This was incredibly moving. Each book was beautifully introduced along with the creators who were there for the ceremony. (Not all of us were able to make it for one reason or another.) You can read more about all the winning books here. We were each given a beautiful certificate and then there was a lovely ceremony when we were draped with a kente-like cloth that had been woven by  the Ghanaian master weaver, Chapuchi Ahiagble.


Here I am afterwards with fellow winners Agbotadua Togbi Kumassah, Anna Cottrell (translator and reteller of Once Upon a Time in Ghana: Traditional Stories Retold in English illustrated by Kwabena Poku ),  and A. G. Ford (illustrator of Desmond and the Very Mean Word written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams). Mubina Hassanali Kirmani (author of Bundle of Secrets, Savita Returns Home, illustrated by Tony Siema) was also there. There were many documenting all the events with photos, video, and interviews and when they are done and posted I will provide links.


My great thanks to all who made this such a special experience for me, especially the members of the CABA Awards Committee: Dr. Meena Khorana, Dr. Patricia Kuntz, Dr. Lesego Malepe, Dr. John Metlzer, Ms. Brenda Randolph, Dr. Anne Waliaula, and Dr. Vivian Yenika-Agbaw.

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23. Learning About Africa: Ebola and Everyone

I want to live in a country that understands Ebola. I want to live in a world that cares about those dying from this terrible disease in West Africa. Nobody should’ve had to watch me ride my bicycle out in the open as politicians fed the public false fears and misinformation. I want to live in an America that reaches out to aid workers as they return from West Africa and says, “We loved and stood by you when you were fighting this disease. We will love and stand by you now.”

Me too. From Kaci Hickox’s “Stop calling me ‘the Ebola nurse‘”.

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24. Learning About Africa: Ebola and Everyone

I want to live in a country that understands Ebola. I want to live in a world that cares about those dying from this terrible disease in West Africa. Nobody should’ve had to watch me ride my bicycle out in the open as politicians fed the public false fears and misinformation. I want to live in an America that reaches out to aid workers as they return from West Africa and says, “We loved and stood by you when you were fighting this disease. We will love and stand by you now.”

Me too. From Kaci Hickox’s “Stop calling me ‘the Ebola nurse‘”.

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25. Band Aid (an infographic)

On this day in 1984, musical aficionados from the worlds of pop and rock came together to record the iconic ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ single for Band Aid. The single has gone down in history as an example of the power of music to help right the wrongs in the world. The song leapt to the number one spot over the Christmas of 1984, selling over a million copies in under a week and totalling sales of three million by the end of that year. The Band Aid super-group featured the cream of eighties pop, including David Bowie, Phil Collins, George Michael, Sting, Cliff Richard and Paul McCartney.

The sales target for the single was £70,000, all of which was to be donated to the African famine relief fund. With support from Radio 1 DJs and a Top of the Pops Christmas Special, sales sky-rocketed and Geldof, feeling the strength of public opinion behind him, went toe-to-toe with the conservative government in an attempt to have tax on the single waived. Margaret Thatcher initially refused the plea, but as public outcry grew, Thatcher caved-in to public demands and the tax on sales worth nearly £9 million was donated back to charity.

Bob Geldof and a host of artists old and new have re-recorded the single to help raise funds to stem the Ebola crisis. Our infographic marks the 30th anniversary of the original recording and illustrates the movers and shakers that made this monumental milestone in pop history possible.


To view free articles examining the cause, the people, and the music, you can open the graphic as a PDF.

Headline image credit: Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, 1985. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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