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“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.

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.

I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I absolutely love her work. I was first introduced to her writing when I volunteered with a literary agent who happened to be her agent on Purple Hibiscus. (I worked just out of sheer love of reading!) I read a galley copy of Purple Hibiscus and I was hooked. It is a coming-of-age story that I could relate to on so many levels. From that point on I’ve tried to find and read ALL of her published works.

adichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of the Orange Prize-winning novel Half of a Yellow Sun (HarperCollins, 2006), has now compiled a collection of compelling short stories in The Thing Around Your Neck (Fourth Estate, 2009).

Maybe it has something to do with my (sometimes) short attention span but I do have a special fondness for short fiction.  And from the reviews I’ve read, I can imagine seeing myself or people I know in many of these stories.  I’ve also already read some of the stories when they were previously published. I’ve listed some of them below with their original publication and alternate title if applicable:

“Jumping Monkey Hill” in Granta 95: Loved Ones
“Cell One” in The New Yorker
“The Headstrong Historian” in The New Yorker
“The Thing Around your Neck” in Prospect 99
“Ghosts” in Zoetrope: All-Story

I’m still anxiously awaiting my copy of the book, however.

Listen to Irritation And Space: A Nigerian Writer In America – a recent NPR conversation with Chimamanda Adichie.

GodsandSoldiersI just received my copy of Gods and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing. Edited by Rob Spillman of Tin House, this collection promises to “capture the energy, vitality, and immediacy of the continent today.” I’m just basically thrilled about this one because it gives readers an opportunity to “sample” a number of  African writers’ works in one collection.  The Anthology includes writings from the well-known like Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, and the less- known — Yvonne Vera, E. C. Osondu.

Read a review here.