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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.

Description:
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
Publisher: AFLAME BOOKS
Pre-order HERE.

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

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.

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.

I Do Not Come to You By Chance is next on my must read list. Based on the plot summaries and reviews that I’ve read, Adaobi Nwaubani’s debut novel strikes me as one that would have me laughing out loud throughout! She takes the notorious Nigerian email scams and spins, what I would imagine, a hilarious tale showing the world what it is like on the other side.  That, in my view, is simply brilliant. Who hasn’t received at least one of those “my corrupt former banker uncle in Nigeria is trying to smuggle 20 million out of the country and we need access to your bank account to get it out of the country, will you help me?” e-mails?

I do not come to you by chanceI am one of those people who tries (to a fault!) not to offend anyone so naturally I wondered if Ms. Nwaubani was concerned about stereotyping Nigerians as being sleazy and untrustworthy.  Well, she addressed it best in her interview with African Writing online:

“I didn’t feel the need to do anything apart from tell a story the way I knew it to be—things I had observed in a world I lived in.  I wasn’t worried about those Westerners who think everything Nigerian is 419; I wasn’t worried about those Nigerians who are obsessed with changing the impressions of the West.  I wasn’t too worried about stereotypes, either.  Just like the lady crying because people are calling her fat.  Is she crying because she is fat or because people are calling her fat?  If we are so bothered about the way we are or the way the world perceives us, the first step is to change.”

Well, there you have it.  Read the interview here.

I like this review from novelist Jude Dibia.

From Publishers Weekly

In this highly entertaining novel about Nigerian Internet scammers, Kingsley Ibe is an engineering school graduate who can’t find a job and still lives at home with his family. After his girlfriend rejects him and his father dies, Kingsley is taken on by his Uncle Boniface (aka Cash Daddy), who is in the business of Internet scams, otherwise known as 419s. Soon, Kingsley is writing e-mail solicitations to the gullible of cyberspace, and any qualms he may have had about ripping off innocent people evaporate as he steps into the good life with a big new house, a Lexus and a new love interest (who doesn’t know how Kingsley earns his money). Meanwhile, Cash Daddy develops political ambitions and gains some ruthless enemies bent on crushing him. As the plots converge, Kingsley must decide whether to sell his soul to build a 419 kingdom. Although the narrative follows a somewhat predictable trajectory, Kingsley’s engaging voice and the story’s vividly rendered setting prove that while crime may not pay, writing about it as infectiously as Nwaubani does certainly pays off for the reader.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a graduate of Psychology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She made her very first income from winning a writing competition at the age of thirteen. She’s based in Abuja, Nigeria. I Do Not Come to You by Chance is her debut novel and was published in May 2009 by Hyperion Books US and will be published and released in Nigeria by Cassava Republic in November 2009.

elegyforeasterlyZimbabwean writer Petina Gappah has posted first lines of each story in her new book An Elegy for Easterly. Just enough to make you want to go out and buy the book! I love that.  Read it here.

From editorial reviews: In this astonishingly powerful debut collection, she dissects with real poignancy the lives of people caught up in a situation over which they have no control, as they deal with spiralling inflation, power cuts and financial hardship – a way of life under Mugabe’s regime – and cope with issues common to all people everywhere; failed promises, disappointments and unfulfilled dreams. Compelling, unflinching and tender, “An Elegy for Easterly” is a defining book, and a stunning portrait of a country in chaotic meltdown.

She was shortlisted for the prestigious Frank O’Conner prize in short stories.

Petina Gappah is a Zimbabwean writer with law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University, and the University of Zimbabwe. Her short fiction and essays have been published in eight countries. She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as counsel in an international organisation that provides legal aid on international trade law to developing countries. Her story collection, An Elegy for Easterly was published by Faber in April 2009. She is currently completing The Book of Memory, her first novel. Both books will also be published in Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.