I realize this is short notice but a couple of  appearances this week:

As  part of a 3-day celebration honoring Chinua Achebe, March 4-6, Wellesley College presents an evening of readings by contemporary Nigerian novelists Helon Habila and Sefi Atta, moderated by Newhouse Visiting Professor of Creative Writing Colin Channer.  The readings will be held on Thursday, March 4, at 7 pm in the Clapp Library Lecture Room.
More information here — Wellesley College Honors Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe with Three-Day Celebration March 4-6

Sefi Atta will also appear as a keynote speaker at A Feast of African Literature, Languages, Fine Arts, and Performance at the University of Kansas’ African Studies Center. Friday March 5, 2010 Kansas Room, KS Union 3:30 p.m.

I’d like to do a full profile of Sefi Atta sometime soon as she is one of my favorite authors, but I feel the need to provide just a bit of background here.

Nigerian-born Sefi Atta’s short stories have appeared in journals like Los Angeles Review and Mississipi Review and have won prizes from Zoetrope and Red Hen Press. Her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC. She is the winner of PEN International’s 2004/2005 David TK Wong Prize and in 2006, her debut novel Everything Good Will Come was awarded the inaugural Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.


The South African Centre of International PEN (SA PEN) has issued its call for entries for the £10 000 2011 PEN/Studzinsky Literary Awards – which are judged by South African author JM Coetzee.

The 2011 PEN/STUDZINSKI Literary Award aims to encourage creative writing in southern Africa and will offer talented writers an exciting opportunity to launch or develop a literary career.

Get more information from Book SA News here.

Last week was an interesting week here in Washington, DC. The city was paralyzed by a record-breaking snowfall. I had to do something to cure the cabin fever! While there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book, so much more can be found online. I found some short stories that I thought I’d share.

Quality Street by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, guest-edited by Claire Messud

Baptizing the Gun by Uwem Akpan

Waiting by Chika Unigwe

Going Home by Chika Unigwe

Simpatico by Sefi Atta, guest-edited by Claire Messud

{via Guernica, The New Yorker, Per Contra, NEXT}

Fellow Zimbabwean Emmanuel Sigauke explores issues of the writer’s identity and more…at African Writing Online.

Petina Gappah won the Guardian First Book Award, 2009 for her debut fiction An Elegy for Easterly. Zimbabwe’s National Arts Council recently announced that An Elegy for Easterly is in the running for a National Merit Award.

Liberian writer and Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writing’s literary editor, Vamba Sherif’s novel Bound to Secrecy has been selected as one of the best foreign books of 2009 in Germany.  Bound to Secrecy was actually published in 2007 but in Dutch, and is now set to be released in English in May 2010.

Vamba’s story is an interesting one. He is from Liberia, an English speaking country, but has written best-selling novels in Dutch, a language he did not grow up speaking. He spent a substantial part of his youth in Kuwait, where he completed high school. While there he immersed himself in Arab, European and African literature. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, because his country Liberia was at war, he was forced to flee for his life to the Netherlands, where he read law. The dual thrusts of exile and loneliness combined with an intuition that his memories and anxieties should be committed to paper drove him to writing: “…I reached back into my memories and wrote down stories. Stories that my grandmother had told me in Liberia.” The result was his first novel, Het Land van de Vaders (The Land of the Fathers1999), published at the age of 26.

William Mawolo, a stranger from Monrovia, arrives in the border town of Wologizi on a secret mission to investigate the disappearance of the local paramount chief. His mission is complicated by the suspicion with which the local population treat him, and his infatuation with Makemeh, the mysterious daughter of the chief. Her apparent indifference to her father’s disappearance serves only to draw him dangerously closer to Makemeh. In the tradition of supernatural detective fiction, William’s task takes second place to his role in the community, and the more he discovers, the closer he brings himself to his own demise. He asserts his authority over the townspeople, as envoy of the President, but this only serves to bolster his ego and antagonize the locals even further. While built around the structure of the traditional detective form, Bound to Secrecy is as much about the use and abuse of power in dysfunctional states as it is about the quest for truth. As Liberia still recovers from a brutal civil war, this work offers a surprising view of the insidious grip of absolute power and its corruptible nature, and the forces, and ordinary people, trapped within its web.

Bound to Secrecy by Vamba Sherif
Published: April 2010
Pre-order HERE.

Visit Vamba’s website at: http://www.vambasherif.rlhub.com/

Edited By Helon Habila and Binyavanga Wainaina, this anthology will bring together the best of the best African short stories published in the last 50 years. You are invited to recommend any great short story you have read in a collection, a magazine, online, or heard on the radio, but it has to be by an African author.

The story could be in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, or any major African language, but the final language of publication will be English. Send story title, author’s name, and any publication information you have to help us track your recommended story. Send before April 30, 2010, to: africastories2010@gmail.com

I’m really disenchanted about the fact that I haven’t blogged in so long. Life gets in the way sometimes. Horrible excuse seeing as I consider this a big part of my life. In any case, let’s not drag this on. I know it is already February but Happy New Year!

Granta’s Deputy Editor Ellah Allfrey interviews Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, at New Beacon Books about his childhood in rural Kenya and his piece in the new Granta – an extract of upcoming memoir Dreams in a Time of WarGet it here.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a novelist and theorist of post-colonial literature and Director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, essays and scholarship, criticism and children’s literature. He published his first novel, Weep Not, Child, in 1964.His work includes novels, plays, short stories, essays and scholarship, criticism and children’s literature. He published his first novel, Weep Not, Child, in 1964.His work includes novels, plays, short stories, essays and scholarship, criticism and children’s literature. He published his first novel, Weep Not, Child, in 1964.

On my internet travels I happened across a memorial tribute to Cameroonian writer Mbella Sonne Dipoko. I had never heard of him and was highly intrigued by his seemingly fascinating literary life. I found this tribute, titled Mbella Sonne Dipoko – The Bard Who Dared To Be Different, by Dibussi Tande, at palapalamagazine.com – another fascinating discovery in itself. The memorial begins:

Mbella Sonne Dipoko, one of the leading first generation Cameroonian writers and, without doubt, the most internationally recognized Anglophone writer, died on December 5, 2009 in his hometown of Tiko. His death not only leaves a huge void on the Cameroonian literary landscape, but also marks the end of a most storied and colorful life that began 73 years ago on the banks of the River Mungo and continued through the Southern Cameroons, Nigeria, Europe and then back to the banks of the Mungo.

Read the full epitaph here.

“Bending the Bow extends the parameters of African poetry into an area that has hitherto been neglected and marginalized in order to afford the reader a fuller appreciation of African literature, which has been dominated by overtly political themes and texts. It constitutes an archaeological effort aimed at reclaiming and reinstating into African literary discourse a poetic genre that is indigenous to Africa, having been invented in ancient Egypt, a fact many Egyptologists have asserted over the years. It exposes the reader to a diverse and varied body of love poetry, an important dimension that has until now been missing from the literature.”

So reads a part of the introduction in Frank M. Chipasula’s Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry.

This anthology gathers together both written and sung love poetry from Africa.

It is a work of literary archaeology that lays bare a genre of African poetry that has been overshadowed by political poetry. Frank Chipasula has assembled a historically and geographically comprehensive wealth of African love poetry that spans more than three thousand years. By collecting a continent’s celebrations and explorations of the nature of love, he expands African literature into the sublime territory of the heart.

Among those represented are Muyaka bin Hajji and Shaaban Robert, two major Swahili poets; Gabriel Okara, the innovative though underrated Nigerian poet; Léopold Sédar Senghor, the first president of Senegal and a founder of the Negritude Movement in francophone African literature; Rashidah Ismaili from Benin; Flavien Ranaivo from Madagascar; and Gabeba Baderoon from South Africa.

Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry was released in July 2009 by Southern Illinois University Press.

The Caine Prize for African Writing is Africa’s leading literary prize and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere. This edition, published by New Internationalist, collects the five 2009 shortlisted stories, along with twelve stories written at the Caine Prize Writers’ Workshop in spring 2009.

Nigeria’s EC Osondu won the 2009 Prize for his short story ‘Waiting’ from Guernicamag.com, October 2008.

Previous winners and entrants include Segun Afolabi, Leila Aboulela, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Brian Chikwava, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Mary Watson, and Binyavanga Wainaina.