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13 New Books by African Writers to Look Forward to in 2017

Fond d'ecran livres
With a few more weeks to go until we say goodbye to 2016, I thought I would take a look at what's in store on the African literary front in 2017. And it's pretty exciting!!! As in addition to Ayobami Adebayo's debut novel Stay With Me and the US edition of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's Kintu, there's also the UK edition of Nikhil Singh's Taty Went West (I cannot wait to see what this edition will look like). 



Well, here are 10 more books to look forward to in the first half of next year. 

January 
In Onuzo's second novel, when army officer Chike Ameobi is ordered to kill innocent civilians, he knows that it is time to leave. As he travels towards Lagos, he becomes the leader of a new platoon, a band of runaways who share his desire for a better life. Their arrival in the city coincides with the eruption of a political scandal. The education minister, Chief Sandayo, has disappeared and is suspected of stealing millions of dollars from government funds. After an unexpected encounter with the Chief, Chike and his companions must make a choice. Ahmed Bakare, editor of the failing Nigerian Journal, is desperate for information. But perhaps the situation is more complex that it appears. 

In this debut novel, Ifiok, a young journalist working for the government radio station in Lagos, aspires to always do the right thing but the odds seem to be stacked against him. Government pressures cause the funding to his radio drama to get cut off, his girlfriend leaves him when she discovers he is having an affair with an intern, and kidnappings and militancy are on the rise in the country. When Ifiok travels to his hometown to do a documentary on some ex-militants' apparent redemption, a tragi-comic series of events will make him realise he is unable to swim against the tide.

Radio Sunrise paints a satirical portrait of (post) post-colonial Nigeria that builds on the legacy of the great African satirist tradition of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Ayi Kwei Armah.

In the thrilling sequel to the award-winning Binti, it's been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets. A year since she found friendship in the unlikeliest places. And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and her elders. But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace. After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?

PS. 2017 will also see the release of Akata Witch 2: Akata Warrior.

February
Paris, 1958. An Algerian waiter at the famous restaurant La Tour d'Argent is convicted of the murder of two customers. As he is awaiting trial, his long-time friend Jerry Moloto helps an opportunistic and ambitious journalist build a case to defend him. Through Jerry's testimony the reader discover that the waiter is actually Pitso Motaung, a mixed race South African drafter to fight in the First World War. He is also one of the few remaining survivors of the SS Mendi tragedy, which saw the formidable warship sink off the coast of the Isle of Wight, killing 646 people, including many black South African soldiers. So how did a brave soldier become a criminal and will Pitso's name be cleared before it is too late? 

Commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, Dancing the Death Drill is a timely novel about life and the many challenges it throws our way.

April
A dazzling accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home.

In 'Who Will Greet You at Home', a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, a woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In 'Wild', a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In 'The Future Looks Good', three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in 'Light', a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title a story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to 'fix the equation of a person' - with rippling, unforseen repercussions. 

Evocative, playful, subversive and incredibly human, What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky heralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.

June 
An innovative photographic project that explores how we see the world. The shadow of a tree in upstate New York. A hotel room in Switzerland. A young stranger in the Congo. In Blind Spot, readers will follow Teju Cole's artistic vision into the visual realm, as he continues to refine the voice and intellectual obsessions that earned him such acclaim for Open City

Here, journey through more than 150 of Cole's full-colour original photos, each accompanied by his lyrical and evocative prose, forming a multimedia diary of years of near-constant travel: from a part in Berlin to a mountain range in Switzerland, a church exterior in Lagos to a parking lot in Brooklyn; landscapes, beautiful or quotidian, that inspire Cole's memories, fantasies and introspections. 

In more than 150 pairs of images and surprising, lyrical text, Cole explores his complex relationship to the visual world through his two great passions: writing and photography. Blind Spot is a testament to the art of seeing by one of the most powerful and original voices in contemporary literature.

This debut novel, published by OWN IT!, comes from Kinshasa-born and London-raised JJ Bola. In it, Jean has started at a new school and struggles to fit in. His friends, mainly his counterpart James, a rowdy yet likeable lad, get him into many precarious situations; fights, thefts, and more. At home, his parents, Mami and Papa, who fled political violence in Congo under the dictatorial regime of Le Marechal, to seek asylum as refugees in the UK - which Jean has little knowledge of - pressure him to focus on school and sort his act out. Marie, his bright, confident, star-student little sister, who always gets on his nerves, surprisingly supports him when he is suspended from school, which draws them closer together.

As the family attempts to integrate and navigate modern British society, as well as hold on to their culture of origin, they meet Tonton, a sapeur, a womaniser, alcohol-loving, party enthusiast, who, much to Papa's dislike, after losing his job, moves in with them and introduces them - via their church, where colourful characters like Pastor Kiddi, Patricia and Nadege congregate - to a community of fellow country-people, whole they thought were left behind. 

No Place To Call Home is a tale of belonging, identity and immigration, of hope and hopelessness, of loss ... and love. 

July
A novel of forgiveness and reconciliation that shines light on the dark underbelly of South Africa's fight for freedom and democracy.

Estranged at the age of six from her mother, who sent her away from her hometown of Brighton in rural Zululand, brilliant architect Afroze Bhana has carved out an impressive life for herself in Cape Town. But when she receives word that her aging mother is desperately ill, she finds herself compelled to return to her place of birth to find answers about her painful childhood.

Afroze arrives in Brighton to find that her mother, Sylvie - who was a doctor and a fierce activist during the dark days of the anti-apartheid struggle - is a shadow of her formidable self, but Sylvie has still retained her sarcasm and anger toward the she sent away. Somehow, Sylvie cannot draw her daughter close, even facing the looming threat of her own morality. She remains in the cottage of Afroze's childhood, frozen in a world where she surrounds herself in luxurious and garish indulgences, cared for by the fiercely protective Halaima, a Malawian refugee. Especially painful for Afroze is the love and affection that Sylvie showes Bibi, Halaima's pampered and precocious daughter - love which she could never give her own daughter. 

A moving novel about the complexities of family ties, The Architecture of Loss beautifully explores the ways in which the anti-apartheid struggle - a struggle in which the roles of women have been largely overlooked - irrevocably damaged many of its unsung heroes.  

.... and let's not forget about the kids! 

Sleep Well, Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Nagdya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn 
Forgetful sisters Siba and Saba are always losing something. Sandals, slippers, sweaters - you name it, they lose it. When the two sisters fall asleep each night, they dream about the things they have lost that day. Until, one night, their dreams begin to reveal something entirely unexpected ... With playful illustrations and a lullaby-like rhythm, this heart-warming story set in Uganda is truly one to be treasured. 


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Best Books of 2016 by African Authors



It's that time of the year when the 'Best books of [fill in year]' lists are released, and this year (as with previous years), I love to find out which African books made it on to the lists. Well, over on the NYT no African books were on the editors of of the NYT Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2016, but not to worry BuzzFeed - whose list of 24 best fiction books of 2016 is pretty awesome - cites Helen Oyeyemi's What is Not Yours is Not Yours and Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing. Canada's The Globe & Mail also lists Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing as one of their 100 best books of the year, while on the Slate, Laura Miller's 10 Favourite Books of 2016 includes Helen Oyeyemi's What is Not Yours is Not Yours. 




On the FT, Petinah Gappah makes it clear that her favourite books this year are by African authors:
Some of my favourite books this year were published by Cassava Republic ... Particularly striking was 'Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun' by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, a lyrical novel about the pains and pleasures of ageing and lives well-lived. I also enjoyed Elnathan John's 'Born on a Tuesday', a sensitive coming-of-age novel set in northern Nigeria, and I loved Abubakar Adam Ibrahim's wonderful 'Season of Crimson Blossoms', an unexpected intergenerational love story set against the menacing background of political violence. Cassava Republic was also the first publisher to recognise the talents of Teju Cole, whose 'Known and Strange Things' (Faber/Random House) is my non-fiction book of the year.



Nnedi Okorafor's novella Binti and Nick Wood's debut adult novel Azanian Bridges are a couple of the Guardian's best SF and Fantasy books of 2016



While one of the Guardian's best fiction of 2016 is JM Coetzee's The Schooldays of Jesus. 



Clearly it's still early days and over the next couple of weeks there will be more 'best of' lists produced. While it seems like the frontrunners are Homegoing and What is Not Yours is Not Yours, it's really refreshing to see African SFF on the Guardian's Best SFF list. I eagerly await the other lists, but for now - what were some of your favourite (African) books published this year?

Update: So it turns out I didn't have to wait too long for even more lists, as in the last couple of days more have been released. So here are even more best books of 2016. 

No books by an African writer made it on to HuffPost's 18 Best Fiction Books of 2016, but
Esquire's 25 best books of 2016 also featured Homegoing and What is Not Yours is Not Yours, as well as Trevor Noah's Born a Crime and Hisham Matar's The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between. Elle's 33 Best Books of 2016, also lists What is Not Yours is Not Yours and Homegoing




And the greatest of all lists - visually, magnitude, content, categories - comes courtesy of NPR (they may have topped themselves this year - I mean Ta-nehis Coates Black Panther is on the list). When I grow up, I want to make lists like NPR (jus' sayin'). On their list of 309 titles, includes Homegoing, What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Born a Crime, The Return and Behold the Dreamers, as well as Luvvie Ajayi's I'm Judging You and Sofia Samatar's The Winged Histories. 


... there's also Joshua Hammer's The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu (okay so not written by an African writer, but it's about bad-ass librarians from Timbuktu so it's being added to the list).

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Back and Better: 2016 Golden Baobab Prize for African Children's Literature


It's no secret, I am a huge advocate for children's literature - and particularly one that enables children to not only see the many wonderful and not-so-wonderful parts of the world (and life), but to be able to see themselves represented in it (in whatever shape or form - be it human, animal or something beyond). It's also no secret that I am a huge, huge, huge fan of the Golden Baobab Prize for African Children's Literature and the amazing work they do for children's literature, as well as illustration, on the continent. I first found out about them in 2012, and I am in awe of everything they do for children's literature. So when I read that they were taking a hiatus in 2015, I was pretty sad and hoped it wasn't permanent. Good thing it wasn't, because in April I noticed that the Golden Baobab Prize was back - and with a new identity. In its seventh year, the Prize also seems to be growing stronger and stronger and looks like it came back with a bang as they received 150 stories from 11 African countries. 

New logo. Image courtesy of the Golden Baobab


Well, earlier this week, they announced the 2016 winners - for the Early Chapter Books Prize, it was Lori-Ann Preston from South Africa with her story The Ama-zings! and for the Picture Books Prize it was Venessa Scholtz (also from South Africa) with her story Kita and the Red, Dusty Road.  With the win comes a cash prize of USD5,000 and for the first time a guaranteed publishing contract, which is awesome as I would love to know more about these stories. 

Winner! Winner! Image via Golden Baobab

The longlisted stories will also get an opportunity to 'connect their stories to leading African and international publishers'. Indeed, as it's getting older the Prize is about to 'enter a new phase', which as the Executive Director, Deborah Ahenkorah Osei-Agyekum, explains 


... will focus heavily on setting up more publishing partnerships and opportunities for our writers to get more African books into the hands of children.

Golden Baobab have already begun to publish previous longlisted titles, including two from the 2014 Picture Books longlist: Malaika's Magical Kiosk by Shaleen Keshavjee-Gulam from Kenya (for the 7-10 year-olds) and Dad Goes to School by Mandy Collins from South Africa (for 5-8 year-olds). Both are published by Mango Books, an imprint of Quramo Publishing Limited in Nigeria. 

In Malaika's Magical Kiosk, a mysterious woman, Malaika, arrives with her magical kiosk in a vilage at a time of drought and despair. Two sisters, Michelle and Wanjiku, notice that things changed each time the villagers bought items at Malaika's kiosk. The people  began to smile and the village was filled with laughter again. But will her magic be enough to make the villagers happy again? 

Book cover image via Quramo

While in Dad Goes to School, Nandi misses her daddy every time she has to go to school. Her daddy sees how sad she is, and makes a promise to go to school with Nandi for an entire day, just to make her happy. Nandi's classmates get the surprise of their lives when they meet their new classmate. But Nandi gets an expected surprise. Did she have a great day with her daddy in school?

Book cover image via Quramo

Congratulations to the winners, and here's to more African children's literature being created, awarded and published. As always, a huge thank you from me to you - Golden Baobab - for the wonderful things you are doing for African children's literature. 

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56 Years of Nigerian Literature: 56 Nigerian Women Writers


October is over, which means the end of my literary celebration of Nigerian women writers - my way of saying Happy Independence to my fatherland. I had a lot of fun researching and writing these posts on these extremely talented women. I also learned a lot on the way, while also getting to read as much of their work as I could. I had, however, hoped to do one post a day (at one point, I even thought I could do at least one post a day). Sadly, 10 days into the celebratory month, I was off on a work trip (to my fatherland, surprisingly) and where I was they had very erratic internet making it hard to post as regularly as I wanted to. 

Having said that, I was able to focus on 12 writers - who between them showcase the diversity of literature from Nigeria over the last 56 years: from Balaraba Ramat Yakubu writing books of love in Hausa to Kiru Taye and her sensual and passionate romance and erotica stories.Nigeria's literary history also includes Adaora Lily Ulasi and her 'juju fiction, the first published Nigerian female playwright, 'Zulu Sofola, contemporary poets - Jumoke Verissimo and Ijeoma Umebinyuo who are producing exciting works, writer, editor, critic and great contributor to literary arts in Nigeria - Molara WoodMabel Segun - a champion for children's literature, the 'Queen of African Horror' Nuzo Onoh, Chikodili Emelumadu who writes (mainly) SFF short storiesas well as and Suzanne Ushie - who also writes short stories (her most recent on that which we rarely talk about in Nigeria - sexual harassment in the workplace) and Nike Campbell-Fatoki, who writes both historical and contemporary fiction

Still, it was 56 years of Nigerian literature, and in the course of thinking up the series this year, I did find more than 12 writers. So for my (belated) final celebratory post, I bring to you 56 Nigerian women writers - novelists, playwrights, poets, short story writers and more - who have published works over the last 56 years. I have tried to be as diverse as possible in my selection including newer and/or emerging writers, as well as established ones, but of course there will be names that are missing (owing to me focusing on the post-Independent era and to me also looking at 56 women writers). The 12 I listed above and featured over the last month are, of course, included in this list of 56. So in alphabetical order (and from left to right), here they are.



I begin with Ayobami Adebayo, who I featured a couple months ago and whose debut novel Stay With Me is on my must-read list. It's published by (what seems like) everyone: Kwani? in Kenya, Canongate in the UK, Knopf in the States and Canada, Ouidabooks in Nigeria and Pirat Forlaget in Sweden -  and will be out next year (the Kenyan edition should be out soon, I think). Her short stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, she is the fiction editor of Saraba magazine and was shortlisted for the Miles Morland Scholarship on 2014 and 2015. 

Next up is Sade Adeniran - writer, filmmaker, basically a storyteller that can work in multiple media. Adeniran's debut novel, Imagine This, is told by Lola Ogunwoe in journal format. It was originally self-published in 2007 and went on to win the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book in Africa - it's also going to be adapted into a movie (written by Adeniran). The sequel, A Mother's Journey, is a short film which continues the story of Lola Ogunwole. There's also writer, broadcaster and political analyst, Ifeluwapo Adeniyi - whose debut novel, On the Bank of the River was longlisted for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature, as well as the 2016 NLNG Prize for Literature. A story of love and motherhood, Adeniyi started writing it at 17 and finished it when she was 19Of course, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who really needs no introduction (3 novels, 1 short story collection, countless other short stories, film adaptations, Flawless, Dior, Boots No.7 and many many more). 


 


Also on the list is Oyindamola Affinnih - who gave up law to become a writer - is the author of two novels - her debut Two Gone ... Still Counting and the Ankara Press novel A Tailor-Made Romance. As well as Kaine Agary, whose novel Yellow Yellow set in the Niger-Delta and following a bi-racial woman, Zilafeya, won the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2008 and the 2007 ANA/Chevron Prize for Environmental Writing. And Pemi Aguda - winner of the 2015 Writivism Short Story Prize for her story 'Caterer, Caterer' - who writes short stores and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Prufrock Magazine and Munyori Journal to name some. Aguda also co-blogs at Nik-Nak - a space where she and Kovie Parker 'share all the rad things [they] come across'There's Halima Aliyu whose debut short story collection, Fire on the Tip of Ice, was published in 2015. In an article for Daily Trust, the title story - 'Fire on the Tip of Ice' - is described as one that 
captures the frustration of a woman who is disregarded by her husband, except when he has sexual need for her. Her frustration results in her taking some rather shocking actions that affect not only her but her children.

Next on the list is Rafeeat Aliyu, who 'loves food, learning about pre-colonial African history and watching horror movies'. She also 'writes weird and speculative fiction sometimes.' Her stories can be read in the AfroSF anthology and Omenana. Also Zaynab Alkali - who is said to have been one of the first woman novelist from Northern Nigeria - and whose works include The Stillborn (published in 1984 and awarded the Association of Nigerian Writers prose prize in 1985), The Virtuous Woman (published in 1987), the short story collection Cobwebs & Other Stories (published in 1997), The Descendants (published in 2005) and The Initiates (published in 2007). Alkali came from 'an artistic family' - her mother a singer, maternal grandmother a composer/singer and maternal grandfather a drummer; and though she wrote in English, found 'writing in English agonising' ... especially when it comes to dialogue' - as explained in a fascinating interview with Adeola James published in 1990

Among the 56 women is writer and lover of good food, Yemisi Aribisala, who has written about Nigerian cuisine on several sites, including Chimurenga Chronic and her forthcoming book - Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds - contains essays on Nigerian food. Ola Awonubi's first foray into the world of romance fiction was the Ankara Press novel, Love's Persuasion, but her short stories have featured on StoryTime, Brittle Paper and Naijastories.com.

There's also Simi Bedford - best known for her novel Yoruba Girl Dancing - a semi-autobiographical novel about a young Nigerian girl's education in the UK, but she also wrote historical fiction, Not With Silver (published in 2007) - about an aristocratic West African warrior betrayed and sold into slavery. While Maryam Bobi's debut novella Bongel - about a woman who was married off as a child - is one of five books (including Halima Aliyu's Fire on the Tip of Ice) published through the Minna Literary Series (an  initiative where writers based in Minna are published with the government taking responsibility for 70-100% of the production cost). 



Kiru Taye was one of the featured writers, but another on the list is Buchi Emecheta - who also needs no introduction, and has written for adults and children. Her works include Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979). Chikodili Emelumadu was featured in more detail in previous posts, but next on the list is Akwaeke Emeze - whose debut novel, Freshwater, will be published in 2018 (so one to add to your future reading lists) and was awarded a 2015 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship for her second novel. The Death of Vivek Oji. Emeze doesn't only write, as she is also a filmmaker - having shot, directed and edited the 'experimental short', Ududeagu

Another Ankara Press author on the list is Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam, whose first novel with the imprint was Finding Love Again. Iwunze-Ibiam also blogs at Creative Writing News and her stories have appeared in Saraba and Long Story Short to name a couple. A social worker in children's mental health, Yejide Kilanko is the author of Daughters Who Walk this Path and the novella Chasing Butterflies. There's also Sarah Ladipo Manyika, whose novels include In Dependence and Like a Mule Bringing Ice-cream to the Sun (shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize) and recently explained why she chose an African publisher over a western one for her second novel. 

The first African woman novelist to be published in English and also the first African female publisher, Flora Nwapa, is also one of the 56 Nigerian women writers celebrated, along with Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani - novelist and essayist - whose debut novel I Do Not Come to You by Chance won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize Best First Book (Africa) and the Betty Trask Award for Best First Book in 2010. Molara Ogundipe is also on the list - poet, critic, editor and one of the foremost writers on African feminism and literary theories. Then there's writer, curator and arts project manager Irenosen Okojie - and writer of Butterfly Fish and the short story collection Speak Gigantular. As well as Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu - a marketing communications executive and author of The Domestication of Munachi  - about the 'unnecessary pressure on women to take on life partners.'

Amara Nicole Okolo is the author of Black Sparkle Romance - another Ankara Press publication, who is also a young lawyer and lover of cupcakes, green tea and her kitten. There's also award-winning author and professor, Nnedi Okorafor - who also ready needs no introduction (winner of many awards including World Fantasy, Hugo, Nebula, Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature, Africana Book Award) and writer of many, many books for children, young adults and adults. As well as Ifeoma Okoye - who also writes for children and adults. Her debut novel Behind the Clouds (1982) won the Nigerian Festival of Arts and Culture Award, her next novel Men Without Ears (1984) won the Association of Nigerian Author Best Fiction of the Year Award, her short story Waiting for a Son was joint regional winner (Africa) of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition in 1999. Her most recent novel, The Fourth World (2013) was shortlisted for the 2016 NLNG Prize for Literature.

Also on the list is author of the short-story collection, Happiness, Like Water (2013) and award-winning Under the Udala Trees (2015) Chinelo Okparanta; along with Ayodele Olofintuade whose children's book Eno's Story was shortlisted for the 2011 Nigeria Prize for Literature, and focused on the subject of a young girl being accused of being  a witch. Olofintuade also wrote the BrittlePaper eight-part series, Adunni: The Beautiful One Has Not Yet Died which centred on the 'strange and terrifying word of an Abiku.' And South African based writer, architect and designer Yewande Omotoso has published two novels - Bom Boy (2011) which won the 2012 South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Authors, as well as the M-Net Literary Awards 2012 and The Woman Next Door (2016). 

Nuzo Onoh was already featured, but there's also writer and artist Mary Okon Ononokpono, winner of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for Children's Literature with her short story, Talulah the Time Traveller, which will soon be published as novel. Ononokpono was also shortlisted for the 2015 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship. Also on the list is Chibundu Onuzo - author of The Spider King's Daughter  (2012) winner of a Betty Trask Award, and the forthcoming novel Welcome to Lagos (2017). As well as Chinelo Onwualu - writer, editorial consultant, editor and co-founder of the speculative fiction magazine, Omenana, and the chief spokesperson for the African Science Fiction Society. Longlisted for the British Science Fiction Awards and the Short Story Day Africa Award, Onwualu's writing has appeared in Strange Horizons, The Kalahari Review, Saraba, Brittle Paper, Jungle Jim and the SF anthologies - AfroSF vol 1, Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond, Terra Incognito and Africa 500. Her piece, The Unbearable Solitude of Being an African Fan Girl is an ode to well, African fan girls. 





On my list of 56 is internationally acclaimed playwright,  writer and scholar Osonye Tess Onwueme, who has written, produced and published over 15 plays including The Desert Encroaches (1985) and won several prizes for her work - the Association of Nigerian Authors Prize for Drama for many of her plays, including The Desert Encroaches. There's also Helen Oyeyemi - another author of many, many works who needs no introduction, including The Icarus Girl and Boy Snow Bird, a short story collection, What is Not Yours is Not Yours and two plays Juniper's Whitening and Victimese. Writer and publisher, Tolu Popoola, left a career in Accounting in 2008 to pursue writing and publishing  and since then set up Accomplish Press and published the romance novel, Nothing Comes Close, as well as two collection of flash fiction - Fertile Imagination and Looking for Something

Abidemi Sanusi, is another writer on the list (although she does a host of other things - as do most of the talented women featured), who was shortlisted for a  2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Eyo (2009). Her other work's include Kemi's Journal (2005) and the sequel Zack's Story (2006). As well as Aramide Segun - whose debut novel The Third Pimple won the Association of Nigerian Authors Prose Prize and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Prize. Her most recent novel, Enitan: Daughter of Destiny was also one the shortlisted books for the 2016 NLNG Prize for Literature. Mabel Segun was one of the 12 women featured during the celebration, and another poet and writer on the list is Lola Shoneyin - author of The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives (2010), the children's book Mayowa and the Masquerade (2010) and the founder and festival director of one of Africa's top literary festivals - Ake Arts and Books Festival


Playwright 'Zulu Sofola was showcased during the celebration last month, and also on the list is poet and performer Titilope Sonuga whose poetry collections includes Down to Earth (2011) and Abscess (2014). Sonuga also acts and is Intel's ambassador for the She Will Connect Programme in Nigeria. Kiru Taye was featured, but another poet, writer and journalist is Wana Udobang (although Udobang is also a filmmaker). Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Brittle Paper and Al jazeera, her poems featured at the British Library's 'Word, Symbol and Song' exhibition and her spoken word album, Dirty Laundry was released in 2013. 

Also featured last month - Adaora Lily Ulasi and Ijeoma Umebinyuo - and on the list is Chika Unigwe (who also really needs no introduction) - author of four novels and several short stories and essays, winner of awards including the 2012 NLNG Priz  and fellowships. Both Suzanne Ushie and Jumoke Verissimo were also featured, but as I get closer to the end of my list of 56 female Nigerian writers, there's romance writer Myne Whitman - author of A Heart to Mend and A Love Rekindled and founder of NaijaStories - a website for aspiring Nigerian writers; as well as travel writer Noo Saro-Wiwa, who published Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria in 2012, which was nominated for the Doman Best Travel Book Award in 2012, has been translated into French and Italian, and in 2016 won the Albatros Travel Literature Prize in Italy. A 2015 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship Winner, Saro-Wiwa aslo contributed to the 2016 anthologies An Unreliable Guide to London and A Country of Refuge. Finally, the last two writers - Molara Wood and Balaraba Ramat Yakubu were featured last month. 

So that's it, 56 Nigerian Women Writers to celebrate 56 years of Nigerian Literature. 56 amazingly talented writers showcasing different genres (travel writing, SFF, romance, historical fiction and more). Obviously, there are more women writers out there, which makes me think I should probably do a follow-up post soon (because why not). And here are ten more to get me started Catherine Obianuju Acholonu, Karen King Aribisala, Sefi Atta, Ifi Amadiume, Unoma Azuah, Diana Evans, Akachi Ezeigbo, Bilkisu Funtuwa, Chikwenye Ogunyemi and Helen Ovbiagele.
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56 Years of Nigerian Literature: Nike Campbell-Fatoki

Today, as I get closer to the end of my celebration of Nigerian women writers, it's all about Nike Campbell-Fatoki.

Photo via Pulse.ng
Writer of the historical-romance fiction, Thread of Gold Beads - which was published in 2012 - Campbell-Fatoki worked for years in International Development, and now currently works for Municipal government in the Washington DC area. In her own words, Thread of Gold Beads:
... chronicles the fictional character Amelia, daughter of the last independent King of Danhome, King Ghebanzin ... [who] searches for her place within the palace amidst conspirators and traitors to the Kingdom. Just when Amelia begins to feel at home in her role as a Princess, a well-kept secret shatters the perfect life she knows ... A struggle between good and evil ensues causing Amelia to leave all that she knows and loves. She must flee Danhome with her brother, to south-western Nigeria. In a faraway land, she finds the love of a new family and God. The well-kept secret thought to have been dead and buried, resurrects with the flash of a thread of gold beads.






The story is set between the late 1890s and early 1990s,  during the French-Dahomey war of Benin Republic, but also takes place in Abeokuta and Lagos in South-Western Nigeria. Indeed, Campbell-Fatoki's maternal great-grandmother fled the Dahomey kingdom in the 1890s to western Nigeria, (similar to Amelia in the book). On why Campbell-Fatoki wrote the book, on one hand she wanted to 'preserve some of this history' through her writing. She however 'didn't go in planning to write historical romance/fiction - something she raised in this interview on Under the Neem Tree:

I was merely drawn to and inspired by the stories I had heard about the last independent Kingdom of Dahomey, the French-Dahomey war told by her grandmother as told by her grandmother and the research that revealed so much history and legacy. I for one didn't know that there existed an army of female warriors in Africa until I did my research. I knew I had to bring that era to life. 

Thread of Gold Beads has also been translated into French and was published August 2015. Nike is also currently working on her next historical fiction novel set in 1800s Abeokuta, Lagos and FreetownHowever, Campbell-Fatoki does not only write historical fiction. In her recently published short story collection, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon, the lives of contemporary Nigerians (in Nigeria and the diaspora) - is the focus. Or as Campbell-Fatoki explains via an email interview on Nigerian Reporter

The stories address societal issues that we experience of witness daily - mental illness, religious fanaticism, child sexual molestation, domestic abuse, to name a few.

Why were these stories for her new collection? Because they 

... focus on social issues that we face daily but do not readily speak about. We are eager to jump on issues of world hunger, free trade, national GDP - macroeconomic issues, but we fail to address the issues that affect us directly, our daily struggles as individuals. I want readers to look into the face of what they fear and call it by name. Only then can we begin to address them and find solutions. 

In a blog post explaining the inspiration behind the collection, Campbell-Fatoki goes into more detail writing that: 

Each story draws from my witnessing what others have gone through or my own experiences. We must peel back the layers, go beyond the surface to understand others and their personal motives. For those that have been misunderstood, those that do not have a voice, those that have been dealth a bad hand, [BMCSA] is also for you.
The draft of the short story Searching for Miss Anderson, for instance, was written 'while in a hospital room watching over my son in January 2015.' And the others: 

'Losing My Religion' draws from my experiences growing up in religious establishments and how if we as people can be led like sheep to the slaughter if we are not careful. 'The Hunchback' was inspired by the community of Makoko in Lagos and what they endured during the 72-hour vacate notice in 2012 when one of the inhabitants was killed. 

Campbell-Fatoki also founded Our Paths to Greatness - celebrating the accomplishments of Africans within and outside the continent. As explained on the website, 

... it provides access to educational and professional opportunities, leadership training to undeserved Africans in Africa and in the diaspora, fosters and facilitates African arts and cultural education and collaborated on sustainable development projects for the African community. 


Definitely also check out Nike Campbell Fatoki's website to find out more, and her blog to follow her musings
  

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