Nigerian novelist says he resists the tag ‘very, very strongly’ because it obscures the role of many other writers.

To some degree, I agree with him. He states,

“It’s really a serious belief of mine that it’s risky for anyone to lay claim to something as huge and important as African literature … the contribution made down the ages. I don’t want to be singled out as the one behind it because there were many of us – many, many of us.”

It is a huge title to carry. True, his novel Things Fall Apart was essentially the one that set the stage for the world’s recognition of African literature. However, modern African literature, as we see it today, encompasses the contributions of so many.

I can imagine there are lots of opinions on this. What’s your take?

Read the article here.

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Why does it have to be “owned?” It is African Literature. It just is. There really is no owner. That is simply how I see it. Maybe I should have a more complicated answer but I don’t. I would love to hear other views. That is why it just pains me to have missed a recent discussion among three African writers on that very topic. Granted, this discussion happened at Penn State University’s University Park campus, a 200 mile drive from where I live; I would have been there if I had known about it earlier.  Imagine my sheer delight, finding a blog post about the event!

Helon Habila

Helon Habila

Binyavanga Wainaina

Binyavanga Wainaina

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, November 9th three African writers engaged in the discussion of who owns African literature. The three writers, Helon Habila, Binyavanga Wainaina and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, each had ten minutes to discuss who they considered to own African literature. Read more here.

Thank you CULTURE MINING!

Young African Professionals and the Global Development Matters Meetup invite you to this month’s YAP Networking Event featuring  prolific and inspiring author,  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Friday, October 30th.

Venue: 1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Lobby-level Conference Center, Room 1026/28
Washington, DC 20036
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
*Please bring photo identification, per the building’s security regulations.

**Seating is limited, please RSVP early: www.join.cgdev.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=103301

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She is from Abba, in Anambra State, but grew up in the university town of Nsukka where she attended primary and secondary schools. She then moved to the U.S. to attend college, graduating summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State. She holds Masters degrees in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and in African Studies from Yale.

Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The O. Henry Prize Stories, 2003; The New Yorker; Granta; the Financial Times; and Zoetrope. Her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the Orange Broadband Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

A recipient of the 2009 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Adichie divides her time between the U.S. and Nigeria.

Fellow author, Uzodinma Iweala (Beasts of No Nation) will moderate the Question and Answer session.

More information is available at http://www.africacenter.com/yap/events

Politics & Prose bookstore will have copies of the book(s) available for purchase.

As a fairly new blogger (I wonder how long I can use that!), I sometimes find it difficult to decide what to post here. There’s a lot of information out there! In any case, Chimamanda Adichie’s amazing talk at the TEDGlobal 2009 conference held in Oxford, UK is one of those pieces of information that I imagine everyone who has any interest in African writers must have seen or heard about somewhere.  But then again, maybe not.  Is it not my passion and intent to share information on this blog? And isn’t she one of my favorite novelists?
Well. Enough of my musing.  Let’s get right to it.

adichie-TEDChimamanda gave a talk at TEDGlobal.  I was inspired. I didn’t know much about TED so I feel the need to say a little about it here. TED presents “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” That was all the hook I needed. I’ve already spent a fair amount of time there, riveted.

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. One of their conferences, TEDGlobal is now held annually in Oxford. The themes of the global conference are slightly more international in nature.

About this talk
Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. The danger of a single story.

For a little twist, columnist John Iteshi  does not agree with her views in this speech.

Even Chinuachebea Achebe is getting on the African literary renaissance bandwagon! Alright, alright. I know. We’re talking about Chinua Achebe. He, the “grandfather of modern African literature,” needs no introduction and certainly no reason to jump on any bandwagon. But his publishing now, at this time should really give a boost to other African writers, shouldn’t it? I love it.

In October, the celebrated author of Things Fall Apart and winner of the Man Booker International Prize will release his first new book in more than 20 years, “The Education of a British-Protected Child,” a collection of old and recent essays that piece together the arc of his literary life. His story, and that of his native Nigeria, are closely entwined.

Chinua Achebe’s characteristically measured and nuanced voice is everywhere present in these seventeen beautifully written pieces. In a preface, he discusses his historic visit to his Nigerian homeland on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart, the story of his tragic car accident nearly twenty years ago, and the potent symbolism of President Obama’s election. In “The Education of a British-Protected Child,” Achebe gives us a vivid portrait of growing up in colonial Nigeria and inhabiting its “middle ground,” recalling both his happy memories of reading novels in secondary school and the harsher truths of colonial rule. In “Spelling Our Proper Name,” Achebe considers the African-American diaspora, meeting and reading Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, and learning what it means not to know “from whence he came.” The complex politics and history of Africa figure in “What Is Nigeria to Me?,” “Africa’s Tarnished Name,” and “Politics and Politicians of Language in African Literature.” And Achebe’s extraordinary family life comes into view in “My Dad and Me” and “My Daughters,” where we observe the effect of Christian missionaries on his father and witness the culture shock of raising “brown” children in America.

Charmingly personal, intellectually disciplined, and steadfastly wise, The Education of a British-Protected Child is an indispensable addition to the remarkable Achebe oeuvre.

Read about it here.

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.

Right on the heels of a big score for African literature with Oprah’s book club pick comes a Publishers Weekly report that publisher HarperCollins has signed Nigerian author E.C. Osondu to a two-book deal. Book agent Tim Duggan took North American rights to a short story collection, called Voice of America, and a novel, called This House Is Not for Sale, by the Providence College professor who won the Caine Prize for African Writing and has a Syracuse University M.F.A. The short story collection follows a variety of characters moving between Nigeria and the U.S., and Duggan described the novel as “a multigenerational saga centered around a Nigerian king and his court in Lagos.”

A two-book deal! Do you think African literature is becoming mainstream? The short-story wins again.

E.C. Osondu is known for his short stories. He is the winner of the 2009 Caine Prize, for which he was a finalist in 2007, for his story “Waiting.” Osondu’s stories have been published in Agni, Guernica, Vice, and Fiction.

A bevy of recent publications suggests that Africa may be in the midst of its own literary boom.
A bookforum.com article by James Gibbons.

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.

Ed Note: It’s official. Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them is Oprah’s latest book pick. While the literary and publishing world celebrates the selection of a short story collection, we celebrate the giant leap for African literature!

On Friday September 18, Oprah Winfrey will announce her new book club selection. USA Today reports that Ron Hogan of publishing blog GalleyCat predicts (based on Amazon.com and BN.com pre-order data), it will be Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them. The 2008 debut short-story collection received rave reviews for its moving depiction of Africa.

uwem_bookNigerian writer Uwem Akpan was ordained a Jesuit priest in 2003 and graduated with an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006. Akpan’s stories are set in Rwanda, Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia and tell stories about children caught in horrible situations. Two of the stories in his first collection were published in The New Yorker.

Confirmed or not, this is great news for the author. We all know that anything Oprah touches turns to gold! It goes without saying that this will be phenomenal for him. This puts African writers in the forefront. As someone said, Africa and African Writers are in the midst of a remarkable renaissance.