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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Read it! Loved it! African Literature on the Interweb

Summer is officially over, and I realised the last time I shared my round-up of what I've been reading on the interweb was in July (where did the time go?!). Well, I'm back with Read it! Loved it! and this will be a sort-of bumper edition - covering a bit of what I read the last couple of months. So, here we go!

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Let's begin with the most recent reads -Tope Folarin's essay on Achebe, Adichie and Mbue and what he has 'been missing from much of the African fiction [he has] been reading of late':

If you are a black African novelist in the 1960s or 1970s or 1980s or 1990s or early 2000s, you can name a number of writers if you like, you can wax eloquent about the wonders of Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf if it makes you feel good, but everyone - including, no, especially Western publishers and editors and critics - will be waiting for one name. And if you are too prideful to utter it they shall utter it for you, they will hold up your work to the light of Achebe and decide id your work is similar enough to warrant attention.  
This is the case until about 2003.

Followed by this response to the essay by Aaron Bady:


... as a description of structural tendencies in the American marketplace for Anglophone African fiction, I want to say from the start that he's absolutely right: Big publishers are risk-averse and because publishing is always about speculation from precedent and potential, then past successes will be enormously important and influential ...  
And yet ... Folarin's point is so sharp that it becomes narrow, and there's a begged question that holds together everything that follows: What African fiction has he 'been reading of late'? Who has she been reading and finding wanting?

There's also Petina Gappah's short story in the New Yorker - A Short History of Zaka the Zulu, possibly the first ever fiction piece by a Zimbabwean author to be featured in the New Yorker. After reading the story, check out this interview with Gappah - also in the New Yorker - on the aforementioned short story, as well as her new short story collection, Rotten Row out in the UK in November:

'Rotten Row' is the street in Harare on which you find the Criminal Division of the Magistrate's Court. The book is made up of twenty stories about crime, seen from different perspectives. I also experiment with different approaches to storytelling: I use a court judgement, an autopsy report, and an  Internet discussion forum, as well as other voices.

Rotten Row via Faber Books.

Also this review from Gappah on Teju Cole's Known and Strange Things.There's also this review on Route 234 - the collection of African travel writing by African writers edited by Pelu Awofeso. Speaking of Teju Cole, here's a conversation between him and Taiye SelasiOn stories about African immigrants written by, wait for it, African immigrants, with Bim  Adewunmi discussing 'the first immigrant narrative' she remembers reading: 

... Buchi Emecheta's 'Second Class Citizen', cited by many Nigerian-Brits of a certain age as a tour de force in literacy cinema verite. It was, for me, an alien read in many ways. My parents, my grandparents, and my siblings and I lived very different lives from those depicted in the book, the most notable in the casual cruelty that was inflicted on its protagonist, Adah. Adah is one of those women whose lives would be infinitely better without their terrible husbands. Her triumphs and woes are symptomatic of more than what she is (an immigrant) - they become more spectacular or pitiful because of the space she occupies (cold, grey, and wet London) and the time in which she lives (the overtly racist and not-so-great-for-women-of-any-race 1970s).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun turned ten this year and Adichie reflected on this - and more - at the Southbank centre in London. On to Puku's Children Literature Foundation and making books available for children in their first language and decolonisation, as well as this piece on decolonisation, not diversificationChris Abani on a more diverse representation of the continent and the many controversies of the Nigerian Writers series, including its level of commitment when it comes to producing and promoting the 10 books in the series. Then this interview with Chinelo Okparanta on telling her own stories and writing Nigerian LGBT characters:

... I knew ahead of time that many of my fellow Africans would not exactly be thrilled with my subject matter. I was indeed sent some threatening messages via social media, I did not return home for quite a while after my collection was published due to feeling unsafe. Because, of course, anything could happen.  

On Science Fiction's ancient roots in Africa to Somalia's nascent love affair with books and what happened when Ben Okri and Jeremy Corbyn met in London to discuss art, creativity and their dreams of a better world.

On lists, the mother of all lists - a little over 200 books collated by the Media Diversified Library from author Nikesh Shukula's 200+ books by writers of colour on Twitter. This one showcasing 9 publishing companies 'devoted to uplifting marginalised voices and providing quality literature that reflects the diversity of our world'. There's also 10 African countries you can visit through books including Ghana through Murder at Cape Three Points and Equitorial Guinea via By Night the Mountain Burns and this beautiful list of African SFF short stories on Omenana

Also listened to this interview on warscapes with Panashe Chigumadzi on American rap music, Afro-pessimism and literature. There's also Caine Prize winner Lidudumalingani on his win and his documentary about the hip-hop movement in Khayelitsha and this interview on Okayafrica - also with Lidudumalingani, in which he speaks on a number of things, including Binyavanga Wainaina's stance that the Caine Prize is 'not our prize':

The reality of it is that no prize would ever be out prize because it will be run by a few individuals with their own prejudices and agendas. This idea that in the world there is or that someday there will be a prize that represents everyone's interests is a myth. What I would agree is that we need more literature prizes. But none of them, I do not think, will be fully encompassing. It is structurally impossible but the contributions, even with their own limitations, contribute towards the bigger goal. 

Speaking of Caine Prize, Tinder Press acquired a story collection and debut novel of shortlisted author - Lesley Nneka Arimah. Finally this beautiful story from Yovanka Paquete Perdigao on her own journey from Guinea-Bissau to London via Dakar and Lisbon


That's it for Read it! Loved it! and also listened to it. Hopefully it won't take a couple of months for the next round up.

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