You know what's great about book people - once they hear about a particular subject you're interested in, every time they come across something related to it, they can't help but share it with you. I'm guilty of this myself (as many who have had books eagerly foisted upon them by me can attest). And I love love love when it happens to me in reverse. Because let's be honest, even I can't spot every cool book on my lonesome, no matter how hard I try.
Today's pick is a perfect case-in-point, as it's one that one of our catalogers found and alerted me to. Though I like to think I'm pretty savvy with what's coming out in the world of kidlit, this one is an adult title, so it completely passed under my radar. And I'm so glad that Kim pointed it out, because it is an absolute keeper, one anyone with any sort of connection to Africa needs on their bookshelf. Really.
The story behind Joseph Peter's The Book of Happiness: Africa is a pretty terrific one. In 2010 Peter, a photographer and former pro soccer player, traveled the continent of Africa, visiting 50 countries in 75 days as part of the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour. While he was there, he ended up shooting an incredible amount of images. The bulk of these were portraits of the faces of Africa, people from all regions and walks of life. When the project was completed, Peter had a stunning collection of photos, a selection of which are compiled in this volume, a twin to one that Peter made and presented as a gift to Nelson Mandela.
And let me tell you, the photos in this book are stunning. Jaw-dropping, heart-stopping. For all those who refer to Africa as though it were one country, waiting to be rescued by wealthy foreigners -- this book is the rebuttal to that argument. Here is the gorgeous diversity that comes from a continent of extraordinary richness. Here are the faces of Africans, celebratory and joyful, mischievous and sweet, elated and proud. Here is the fabric of life in a world of contradictions and contrasts, bursting from the page to bring a smile to every reader's face.
Peter has given the world a truly incredible piece of art in this collection, something that kids and adults alike will enjoy. I love that he's included a short blurb about each photo in the back, including where it was taken and some thoughts about the photo. All the photos are collected in an incredible montage of Nelson Mandela's face, that closes the book in perfect harmony. We couldn't get enough of looking at this title as a family, and explaining to Sprout that all of these faces were Africans, just like him, as we pointed out the countries where they lived.
Next time someone refers to "African" traditions or "African" people, whip out this terrific book and help them see how truly complex is the makeup of this diverse continent. And help them too see the joy in Africa, the pure and uncomplicated beauty that is manifested by the faces seen here through Peter's lens. Because yes, there's poverty, and yes, there's war. But there's hope too, and honor, and sheer delight in the bounty of life.
And that, my friends, is real happiness.
The Book of Happiness: Africa by Joseph Peter, published by Spiegel & Grau