Tag Archives: writing

Come soon, June! (books)

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I haven’t read a non-academic book in months! Okay, since March, but it feels like eons ago.

In that time, I have accumulated a handsome list of recommended reads and rave reviews and as a result I am this close to building a time machine that will take me straight to June,* when tests are done and winter break is here and I can curl up with a cup of coffee that I will ignore while I devour a healthy stack of books.

Presenting my Winter Booklist:

1. The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht, a literary prodigy whose first book – a mythological telling of the Yugoslavian war – has been gushed over by critics. I sneak-peeked it and must say I’m super-excited to read the rest of it.

2. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky. Apparently I shouldn’t die without having read this book.

3. The Element: How finding your passion changes everything – Sir Ken Robinson. I love the humor with which he speaks about creativity development and education reform. I’ve only watched his TED talks so far, but I think this read will be worth it.

4. On Black Sisters’ Street – Chika Unigwe.

5. The Masque of Africa: glimpses of African belief – VS Naipaul. I have been meaning to buy this book for a year now, because I like Naipaul’s writing and the exploration of religions is almost always interesting. But after reviews like these, I’m not sure I’ll get it.

In other news, Jane Eyre has been adapted into a movie (again). I have never seen the 1983 version, so I’ll be heading to the cinema for this with a curious anxiety. Fingers crossed Hollywood does not ruin that classic story for us.

*not accounting for all the wild apocalypse theories being flung about lately.

 

LITTLE UPDATE: I added Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love to this list. I am 7 chapters in and I can already see why it got nods from both the Commonwealth and Orange Prizes.

I also added Unburnable – Marie-Elena Jones because I haven’t read a good Caribbean story since…. since the biography of Bob Marley 🙂

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Africa’s new stories

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Few things give me greater joy than reading and talking about African literature. So I had a big fat smile on my face when I opened this week’s East African to find a full-page article on the current direction of African writing. The East African rocks. I hope our local dailies are listening.

Aside: did I just describe a newspaper as rocking? I need a new hobby.

The writer of this article, a Kenyan, doesn’t particularly address anything novel.

Yes, our continent’s new writers are increasingly being given voice by Western publishers – Adichie’s writing comes out of US publishing houses, and even Achebe happily set up camp at Brown University.

Yes, African readers often tend to discover their own talent ironically after said talent is honored with a Western literary prize – the Caine, the Booker, the Orange Prize and so on. I’m not saying our writers don’t deserve international acclaim, but what does it say about our continent’s reading culture that we don’t know who Olufemi Terry is until he wins the Caine Prize?

And yes – whether as a direct result of these factors or not – African writers hoping to be discovered are adopting a more ‘global’ language; beyond war, famine and the ills of colonialism to dates in coffee houses, interracial romance and new technology.

What I loved most about this article was the writer’s acknowledgment of our continent’s vast young talent. In Uganda at least, Achebe, Soyinka, wa Thiong’o; these men are still mandatory reading on any student’s list. And rightly so. The stories of our past are fiercely important and there’s no denying that our “all-time greats” have greatly influenced our young writers’ voices (a la Achebe and Adichie).

I’m just waiting for the day when Adichie and Baingana will be taught alongside the greats. Their stories are Africa now – the Africa that studies abroad and returns mind and heart full of cultural confusion, if they return at all; the Africa that is struggling to find a voice and place among a rapidly-evolving technological playing field; the Africa that has to worry about civil war, about HIV/AIDS, about homosexuality.

The writer was good enough to share a list of his personal 25 favorite authors out of Africa. Before I share a short personal favorites list, I must admit to suffering from the indecision that plagued wa Thiong’o about what or who exactly is an ‘African’ author; to being limited to the Anglophones only; and to being kind of a rookie at this 🙂

  1. Chimamanda Adichie (all 3 books so far)
  2. Doreen Baingana (Tropical Fish)
  3. Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Decolonising the Mind)
  4. Achebe (Anthills of the Savannah; No Longer at Ease)
  5. Ayi Kwei Armah (The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born)
  6. Segun Afolabi (A Life Elsewhere)
  7. Monica Arac de Nyeko (Jambula Tree; Strange Fruit)
  8. Naguib Mahfouz (The Cairo Trilogy)
  9. Wole Soyinka (the Brother Jero plays; The Man Died)
  10. Ben Okri (The Famished Road)

I’d like to know your thoughts on African literature as you’ve come to know it, and which writers make your favorites list!

Update: Naija’s new chapter of literary history, CNN

‘The guiding spirit is creative innovation’

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This morning, I watched my one-and-a-half year old nephew “paint a picture” – that is in quotes because all he did was make a beautiful random mess of colours all over the paper. He was at this for about fifteen minutes; and then he stared at it for a moment, looked at me, grabbed the cup of water (we were using water paints) and poured it all over his masterpiece and walked away. Hilarious!

Every time I see him, I ascribe a new calling for him – today it’s tortured genius 🙂

And now I could launch into a reflective homily on how easily we let go of the consciousness of the beauty of life; of how we lose sight of the what-the-fuck of it all as we grow older, but instead I will be kind and plug and share an opportunity from Kenyan literary magazine Kwani? to be a published short-story author!

Kwani? wants any African under the age of 30 to write and submit a short story on the (very generous, methinks) theme The Africa I Live In. Details here.