Paleontology, intellectual disagreements and the lure of Africa

“I have never understood the lure of Africa; at the end of this novel, I did. […] landscape descriptions are exquisite and closely observed. At the end, I felt I had been there, in these intense, parched African places, tasted the food, smelled the wind and the sea.”

See the whole review of Arianna Dagnino’s “The Afrikaner” by Monika Ullmann here.

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Join me for a chat and book signing of my novel “The Afrikaner” (Guernica, Toronto, 2019)
WHERE: Indigo Robson Bookstore (1033 Robson St, Vancouver)
WHEN: Saturday, June 29, 1.30 pm-7.00 pm.
The Afrikaner: “A tale of hate, love, guilt and redemption under African skies”
The book was inspired by the five years I spent in the southern African region as an international reporter for the Italian press. I now live in Vancouver.
Check it out and share wildly!
Cheers, Arianna
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Life, Possibilities, and the Kalahari’s Many Secrets in The Afrikaner by Arianna Dagnino

“The Afrikaner (Guernica Editions, 2019) is a powerful novel set in extraordinary locations in Africa, where we encounter some mysterious people […]”

Arianna Dagnino was born in Genova, Italy. After Moscow, London, and Boston, she worked in South Africa as a foreign correspondent. In Australia, she earned a PhD in sociology and comparative literature. She currently teaches at the University of British Columbia. Like many of her characters, she shares the nomadic experience.

You can read the rest of Joseph Pivato’s review of “The Afrikaner” in Accenti Magazine here: hashtagtheafrikanerbook hashtagtheafrikanernovel hashtagbooktoscreen

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Yes, Mama Africa left its sign on my skin and in my soul

Excuse this nth bout of self-promotion but among all the beautiful reviews “The Afrikaner” has received on Goodreads, I really felt the urge to share at least one of them with all of you Africa’s lovers – or soon to be:

“Thank you NetGalley, the author Arianna Dagnino and the publisher for an E ARC of ‘The Afrikaner’.

As a White English-Speaking South African now living in the UK, I couldn’t wait to start this book. It’s written so well it transported me home.

So many lines made me stop and close my eyes so that I could fully immerse myself in the feelings the imagery evoked. I ended up googling Ms Dagnino as I was confused to see she was Italian, living in Canada. She had to have lived in Southern Africa, as it has bewitched her to her soul. I could see it in her beautiful writing. I was right. She did indeed spend 5 years living and writing as a reporter in SA.

This book centres around Zoe, an Afrikaner paleontologist struggling to come to terms with the horrific murder of her partner in a hijacking in downtown Joburg. It’s set in 1996 and this resonated with me hugely. I was completing my Master’s degree in South Africa at this time and wrote my thesis on the Social Identity of White English-Speaking South Africans versus the Social Identity of Afrikaans-Speaking South Africans, a theme that is highlighted in this book.

I could write pages and pages on how brilliantly this book depicts transcultural, racial, romantic and magical elements, all woven into an evocative story. But all I will say is if you have lived in South Africa you will love this book, as it will pull at the magic Mama Africa has left in you and if you haven’t ever visited South Africa you will fall in love” (“Mommy Reads and Reviews”)


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Book Signing of “The Afrikaner” at Indigo Granville in Vancouver (May 24, 3.00 pm-7.00 pm)

Join me for a day of book signing and conversation, on Friday, May 24, at Chapters/Indigo Granville Bookstore in Vancouver. I will be there from 3.00 pm to 7.00 pm, with a box of chocolates and personalized bookmarks.

Here is the BOOK TRAILER of “The Afrikaner”: a story under African skies that asked to be told.
Check it out and share wildly!

Faceboook Event Page here:

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Lessons learned during my book tour. Lesson n. 3: Smell your audience and follow through

Smell your audience and speak/read accordingly: This is Lesson n. 3 learned during my book tour across Canada.
I must confess I was a bit disappointed with myself at the book launch  in Toronto, which took place on May 16 at the Columbus Events Centre.
In each city of my book tour, I have tried to read different passages, not to repeat myself and, most of all, to understand what readers might better relate to.
In Toronto, though, I got the feeling of having misread my audience. I had chosen for my reading a passage that may have sounded too socio-political. While I was reading it, I felt the audience was not really with me (or was it just my impression?). In retrospect,  I  should have chosen a passage that went directly to the heart, that could stir inner emotions and speak to one’s feelings rather to one’s intellect. I assumed that Toronto, the so-called cultural capital of Canada, would appreciate a more intellectual approach: preconceptions, once again.

Indeed, I smelled the audience but then I did not follow through; instead, I stubbornly went ahead with what I had decided to read. A little flexibility and an extra touch of improvisation would have served me much better on that occasion.

Perhaps I am too harsh on myself, too self-critical. In fact, when I posted these reflections on my FB page, an attendee of the Toronto reading wrote this: “I was at the launch and enjoyed your reading. Given that at least four of the books launched that night are explicitly political, in keeping with Inanna’s mandate (and Guernica’s too), I don’t think it was the socio-political passages. But people may have had reader fatigue. Several of the readers went on overly long, and without a break this was tiring. As an attendee I thought all the books sounded interesting and were well-received.”

Surely a break between readings might have helped. Also, it would have helped if all writers had kept their presentations within the 10-minute time limit, as requested. I wonder, though, if we couldn’t find new, more interactive ways to structure group book launches. For example, I missed the interaction with the audience, the possibility of having a Q&A, or an open discussion on the themes, motifs and issues dealt with in the readings. Some other food for thought!

The main question, however, remains the same: What shall we do with all our acquired lessons once we are at the end of the road?

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Lessons learned during my book tour. Lesson n. 2: Never pre-judge

Never pre-judge your potential readers: this is one of the many lessons I have learned in this 2-week book tour across Canada to launch my novel “The Afrikaner” (Guernica, Toronto, 2019). During the book signing event at Bay Bloor Indigo in Toronto (on May 15) this basic rule of book marketing suddenly stunned me with its simple, delightful truth. For example, I was hesitant to approach young people to talk about my book, assuming they would not be interested in nor able to afford buying books for pleasure (rather than for their studies). The same happened with an old man who wore eye glasses with very thick lenses (he would have difficulties reading…) and with a middle-aged woman in a business suit walking briskly across the lobby (no time, no patience). Once again, I was proven wrong. Among the people who bought the book were: an artist who liked its cover, a couple who had planned a trip to South Africa, a French teacher who had lived for 10 years in West Africa, a lady who had just returned from an Italian holiday (in my hometown!), a Law graduate student, and a fellow writer from Portland, Oregon. At the end of the event I even got a big thumbs up from the Indigo people behind the cash register So, thanks again to all of you readers and Indigo shop assistants/managers. Last but not least, a big thanks to the musicians who beautifully played all along on the nearby grand piano. In particular, thanks to piano player Sandra Frieser and red clarinetist Leroy Mark Edwards (see pics hereby + article on his playing in bookstores). This was a real privilege!

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Lessons learned during my book tour. Lesson n. 1: Hospitals are OK

Everything seemed so terribly wrong… but I was wrong!

“What am I doing here?” Bruce Chatwin’s memorable question came to my mind when, on May 10, I looked at myself standing at the entrance of IndigoSpirit Mount Sinai Hospital bookstore where I was supposed to sign copies of my novel “The Afrikaner”.
The bookstore is indeed located in the lobby of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. As much as I think that providing books to people needing to evade from pain, grief, and anguish might be a good idea, that day I couldn’t really see myself promoting my book there. I watched people pass by and all I could think of was that they might be too sick, too desperate, too lost to be bothered by an unknown writer and her unknown book. But I was wrong. The moment I engaged those passers-by in conversation, I understood how in fact my luring them into a world of words and African landscapes worked for them as a balm, a sudden respite from their troubles, and an unexpected communion with another soul.
It was a heart-warming experience. Among the people who bought the book and asked me to sign it were: a lady who had just been told she had got rid of her cancer, a doctor who had worked in emergency in Africa, a retired nurse who still felt part of Mount Sinai community, an Italian psychiatrist who had spent more than 30 years in Canada, a bookseller who looked like an angel, and a film producer – traveling incognito – who asked me the classic question: “Why should I read your novel?”
I thank my publicist Anna van Valkenburg for having organized this book signing event and IndigoSpirit bookstore for having hosted it.

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Homage to Public Libraries and Their Custodians

Whenever I am in a new city, I make a point of visiting its public libraries. I consider public libraries temples of knowledge and sources of perpetual creative inspiration that need to be worshipped, preserved and nurtured with utmost care. I took these pictures of Toronto Reference Library (the biggest) and Yorkville (the historical) walking in Toronto downtown during my across-Canada book tour.
I would like here to acknowledge all those librarians who across the centuries have worked and are still working “behind the scenes” as silent and trustful guardians of our true and shared richness.

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“The type of novel I appreciate the most: One where I feel much better informed by the end”

“Some may think that writing a novel about a country [South Africa] not her own and so plagued by identity politics strays into the area of cultural appropriation. I would strongly disagree. Dagnino’s writing demonstrates the value of restoring to the storyteller a fundamental mandate, i.e. to chronicle the Zeitgeist wherever it may be, and especially in a country, whose history has touched all of us. In this, “The Afrikaner” is an exceptional novel by an exceptional writer.” Thanks to writer Ian Thomas Shaw (Con Cú), author of the newly published “The Quill of the Dove”, for his generous and thought-provoking review of “The Afrikaner” in “The Ottawa Review of Books”. You can read the whole review here:

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