Getting Beyond Colonial Occupation

Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Wednesday, July 20, 2016


During Week 12, we meet a pair of 20th century African headliners who changed the world forever. Both became world renowned while still active in transforming how we understand the world and the legacies of both continue to inform the possibilities that emerge on every continent.


The name Nelson Mandela may sound historic now; there’s good reason for that. MANDELA: An Audio History, produced by HighBridge Audio, gives us listeners the voices of the South African anti-apartheid fighter and leader-from-prison; Desmond Tutu, the South African clergy who was both instrumental in the fight and personal friend to eventual South African President Mandela; and Joe Richman, NPR’s Radio Diaries founder, Peabody Award-winning producer, and reporter. Hearing in their own voices the humans who brought about a change that defeated years of colonization, racial casting, and suppression invigorates hope as well as gratitude. This recording won the 2015 Audiobook Publishers Association’s Audiobook of the Year Award; listening to it will change your understanding of our present as well as South Africa’s past.

Chinua Achebe’s THINGS FALL APART, often assigned in American high schools and, more importantly, a continuing bestseller around the world, is narrated for Recorded Books by Peter Francis James. Written at an early post-colonial time in Nigeria, the novel shows us how the longtime British presence created a colonial culture that literally destroys life, as well as corrupting native traditions. Achebe, like Richman, developed his narrative from personal experience in radio journalism. Here, however, he uses the art of fiction to build and support the reflection of real world history.

While both of this week’s audiobooks come to us from specifically African experiences, their accounts of colonialism’s long-term effects show clear ramifications for many cultures, in many parts of the world, including listeners you know.

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