As well as being Amanya Maloba‘s debut book, Harvest is also the grand finalist of the 2014 Vine Leaves Vignette Collection Award.
Time, place, taste and cultural identity are the main themes within these snap-shots. Maloba takes us on a journey through what she recognises as a small world; revealing the diversities and similarities within various countries. One of the interesting aspects of this collection is the focus on being in between cultures; being a visitor and/or being visited. Every seasoned traveller will tell you that you learn more about the place you came from by leaving it, and Amanya is no exception.
‘Airports have never been just landing strips between two places. In fact, with each cup of coffee from an airport kiosk, I become a different person, shuttled not only through space, but also through time.’ (From Cup Of Coffee (1): For The Road, p12)
Place and time are observed through the eyes of our narrator as she reflects on the sights, sounds, smells and tastes produced and experienced throughout the global community. True to form, these vignettes focus on one element while hinting at many. As stand alone pieces, and as a collection, Maloba creates a tangible atmosphere throughout, with quick glimpses which point the reader toward a wide and long view.
Perfect White Rice is an excellent example of this. A cutting, satirical piece which uses an instructional guide to preparing, completing and consuming the perfect white rice as a means to delve into slavery and exploitation. Maloba writes from, and about, many perspectives even giving voice and personality to consumables. ‘I spiral starting from the center and growing outwards towards the edge of your plate, towards your curious tongue and medicated lips.’ (From Chapati, p58).
Versatility in approach to subject matter is always a quality worth mentioning in any collection and while the senses (taste in particular) are a constant, they are the backbone of this multifaceted book rather than the muscle, tendon and flesh that bring the words to life. In All My Friends are Fruits, our narrator’s friends’ personality traits and physical appearances are likened to fruit in delicious and sometimes deflating descriptions. ‘My friend Mango is as you’d expect—large, inconveniently abundant, always attracting flies, bees, and birds alike. She talks loudly, tells stupid jokes, has alot of long, chocolate curls. With Mango, you always have to swat away flies at bars because otherwise she’ll let them suck and suck until there’s not too much ripe meat left.’ (p14).
There is a definite, yet subtle, didactic thread within these pages that could make those set in their ways slightly uncomfortable. None more so than in the final offering, Dinner is Served (Karibu): ‘I exist only for your gluttonous pleasure. You can hoard me, massage me, marinate me, grill me, and serve me to your parents. You will not breathe until you have finished. I will be your favourite meal.’ (p85).
This, the last vignette, is a powerful and thought-provoking ending to the collection which is fitting as each of the pieces, save perhaps one or two of the very short ones, are all rounded up in a way that sparks further contemplation. Speaking of the much shorter vignettes, I have to mention that these seemed more like prose poems than vignettes. Broccoli Stems (p27) is a touching piece about times shared between sisters at the family dining table and could easily fit nicely, with a little tweaking to the formatting, in many a literary magazine’s poetry section.
Harvest is a concise work, written by an author who clearly understands and values brevity. Written with musical rhythm, poetic insight and sharp wit, these vibrant portraits are dripping with fuel for the reader’s imagination. They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words.’ Amanya Maloba uses a few words to paint a thousand pictures.
Page Count: 83
Author: Amanya Maloba
Publisher: Vine Leaves Press
Publication Date: July 2014
Cover Price: $3.99 (ebook) and $9.95 (paperback)
Purchase your copy of Harvest from Vine Leaves Press – now available in ebook and paperback.
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