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Sunday, 19 June 2016

Read it! Loved it! African Literature on the Interweb

It's Sunday, and I'm back again with Read it! Loved it! - a round-up of what I've been reading the last couple of weeks on the interweb in the world of African literature. There will also be a little sprinkling of general literary, as well as non-literary, content. So let's go!

Source: Pinterest
Dutch author Mylo Freeman wrote this beautiful piece on what inspired her to create a Black princess, and how the battle for diversity in children's books is far from over. Still, Freeman writes that she is:
 ... happy to find that Princess Arabella transcends race. Proud Surinamese moms send me pictures of their beautiful dark-skinned four-year-olds dressed up as princess Arabella. And when I visited a predominantly white school a few weeks ago, a little blond girl stood up and said: 'Sorry, but I don't think Arabella is a real princess!' I gasped and thought ... here it comes. 'Her dress is orange and not pink', she said. A real princess wears pink!'
Ramadan started on Monday June 6 (Ramadan Kareem to those who are observing) and Arab Lit (in English) shared six different view of Ramadan from different reads (different genres, countries and periods), while Leila Aboulela shared this beautiful quote on facebook from the author, Tayeb Salih on 'how time slows down when we are fasting.'


Source: Leila Aboulela Official
I also listened, and watched a few things. On BBC Radio 4 extra there is a new three-part series - readings of three contemporary stories from the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia). The first - Sulaiman Addonia's new short story, Saba, about a former cinema employee who decides to create a 'cinema' in his own refugee camp. Over on NPR, Yaa Gyasi was interviewed and she spoke about growing up in Huntsville, Alabama; on recreating life in 18th century Ghana; on the complicity of African slave traders and more:
I did a lot of research for this novel. I like to say that my research was wide but shallow: I read a little bit of a lot of book. And a book that really helped me was The Door of No Return by William St. Clair. He took a bunch of archival research about the Cape Coast Castle, so it's a book that really just talks about what life might have been like in the castle in and around the 18th century. And it really helped me wrap my head around what it might have been like for my characters. And then the rest I think is just a wild and vivid imagination
Akwaeka Emezi announced her debut novel, Freshwater, would be published by Atlantic Grove in 2017/18; Imbolo Mbue gave a beautiful and inspiring talk on the importance of public libraries and librarians:
... because libraries and librarians were very instrumental in getting me here today. My journey as a writer began in a public library in Virginia many years ago.
In terms of awards and shortlists, Chinelo Okparanta won Best Lesbian Fiction with Under the Udala Trees at the 28th Lambda Literary Awards, which honoured the best LGBTQ books of 2015 - and Brittle Paper explaining why that win is significant for African literature and the conversation around LGBT+ rights on the continent.  

The 2016 British Fantasy Awards nominations were announced and the anthology, African Monsters, edited by Margret Helgadottir and Jo Thomas was shortlisted for Best Anthology and Nnedi Okorafor's Binti for best novella. Also great to see Fox Spirit Books (who have published works such as African Monsters) and Newcon Press, who published Nick Wood's Azanian Bridges, nominated for Best Independent Press. 

In the world of book - well, short story - to film adaptations, filmmaker and artist Akosua Adoma Owusu has optioned the exclusive film rights to On Monday of Last Week, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Things Around Your Neck. On why this story:
I was compelled to create a new work by adapting the literature from contemporary African writers. The themes of race, liberalism and sexuality in Adichie's short story 'On Monday Last Week' resonated with films on the 'triple consciousness' of the African immigrant as I transitions between avant-garde cinema, fine art and African tradition to complicate the nature of identity.
On Guardian African Network - writer H J Golakai whose debut novel The Lazarus Effect, first published in South Africa by Jacana and now recently published in the UK by Cassava Republic Press - explains how through her writing, she 'is committed to changing international perceptions of writers from her home country.' Speaking of international editions of African books, Emmanuel Iduma's Farad, first published by the Nigerian publishers Parresia, gets a North American makeover with The Sound of Things to Come. Published by The Mantle - it is out sometime this summer, and has an awesome and freaky cover by Victor Ehikhamenor. 



The 2016 Caine Prize Blog-a-thon continues over on Brittle Paper - although Kola Tobuson's review of Tope Folarin's shortlisted story, 'Genesis' led to a divided debate among the African literary community on whether or not the story is too autobiographical to be considered fiction. 


On Twitter Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire writes that the review 'left a bad taste in [his] reading mouth' ... and through 9 tweets explained why; with the reviewer, Kola Tubosun responding that he had a few thoughts on his thoughts on Bwesigye's thoughts on his thoughts on Genesis. On the other camp were writers, such as Obinna Udenwe who questioned if something autobiographical, and in turn creative nonfiction, should even be enterred into a fiction competition. Although my favourite response (call me biased), is from my girl-crush, Ndinda Kioko. I've storify(ed) some of the discussionThe conversation also took place on facebook where Dami Ajayi, Chika Unigwe and Rotimi Babtunde among others weighed in on the review. On the debate, and the tension between fiction and non-fiction, Writivism shared a conversation on Guernica with Jamica Kincaid on 'fiction , non-fiction, history and what it means to tell the truth.'


Literary wars continued, but this time a light-hearted one - #ReplaceABookTitleWithJollof. This fun hashtag - 'a literary twist on the Jollof wars' was covered by okayafrica; and important to say that it started in Kenya with #replacebooktitlewith kegels by @notmutant and @mwazo_mengi, was adapted by @nnanaestherne to #replaceabooktitlewithjollof - and the best titles retweeted by Brittle Paper. 

The books of the Africa Writes 2016 guest - although 'Jollof went West' could be another option for Nikhil Singh's book.
Image via Africa Writes 
... and to those writers and publishers and activists that have many, many, many hats, there's also this interview with 25-year-old Panashe Chigumadzi - feminist activist, writer and corporate media owner on This is Africa; and publisher, feminist, scholar Bibi Bakare-Yusuf on Lemonade and bell hook's critiqueAnd following the mass shooting in Orlando, Teju Cole's commentary on this being more than just 'news', Keguro on queer clubs, refuge, escape and how in those spaces 'affection between queers made quotidian', and Bisi Alimi on the reality of being LGBT and African.  


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