Friday, 3 July 2015

What are your Africans Books to Inspire?

Tonight (Friday 3 July) I will be sitting, along with a host of other people, at the British Library listening to journalist Hannah Pool in conversation with Africa39 writers Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Ndinda Kioko, Nadifa Mohamed, Chibundu Onuzo and Nii Ayikwei Parkes, as they speak about books and inspiration. I've had my tickets for this event since around May, so to say I am excited is an understatement!!!! What's cool is that in the lead up to the event, the Africa Writes blog have been sharing contributions from journalists and writers on their African books of inspiration

Broadcast journalist, Zeinab Badawi, writes about how Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is her choice - as it 'captures the complexities of an era that gave rise to the colonial governments in Africa and laid the ground for the subsequent struggles that ensued.' While writers photographed for the awesome #100DaysofAfricanReads series also shared their top 3 titles from African literature. Writer and Editor, Toni Kan names Ben Okri's The Famished Road, Sefi Atta's Everything Good Will Come and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun. For Kan, The Famished Road makes his list 'because of its epic scale and the riotous mix of myth, magic and realism.' As for Wanjeri Gakuru, her top three are Yvonne Adhiambo Owour's Dust, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus and Mariama Bâ Scarlet Song. Why Scarlet Song? Well, 'Mariama documents Cinderella's Unhappy Ending with muted melodrama.'

I'm really loving this series and the theme around inspiring books from the world of African literature. Through it we get glimpses of the variety of African literature out there - both classics and contemporary: a spirit child navigating the real world; love, life and everything in between during civil war; the life of a great warrior before and during colonialism; experiences from an adolescent girl and more.  And now in less than 12 hours, I (along with many others) get to listen to authors whose works I've thoroughly enjoyed reading, share with us their own books of inspiration. What better way to spend my Friday evening! Can't wait!!!!! 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

African Literature and Literary Magazines

Towards the end of last year, I put together a list of African (and diaspora) literary magazines which I was then meant to turn into a post on the landscape of African literary magazines. Well, a few weeks ago when looking through the AfricaWrites programme, I spotted that one of the sessions will be on the place of literary magazines in African literature. And just yesterday, WhatsOn Africa told us about Three African and African Diasporan Literary Magazines Everyone Should KnowThese included Black Orpheus, Bakwa Magazine and Brittle Paper. 

Honestly, sometimes all you need is that little nudge to get you to finalise a post you've been wanting to do. Some of the literary magazines out there include Chimurenga, Kwani?, Saraba, Transition and Wasafari to name a few, and as I wait in anticipation for the Africa Writes event (and a host of other others) - and to complement WhatsOn Africa's list - here's are ten more Literary Magazines from Africa and the Diaspora. Some are new, others have been around for a while - and there are a few which look like they are on hiatus, but they are all definitely worth a read.  

Banipal is a magazine of translation, exclusively featuring authors from the Arab world. Most of the works transalted are commissioned from works that have already appeared in the original languages in a published form, in books, magazines, newspapers or in online media. 

The Kalahari Review is a web-based, 'African-centric magazine' which publishes fiction, poetry, essays and humour piece. It 'provide[s] a space for Africa to speak for herself ... in all its triumphs and faults, beauty and ugliness'. It's interested in material that explores Africa and Africans in 'unique and avant-garde ways' and tells new stories from everyday life as told by the people that are living it. Overall, it aims to seek out voices of unique quality and provide them a space to show and develop their talent and is filled with a variety of styles of writing and art.

Klorofyl is an online magazine founded in 2009 'out of a
deep desire to create a magazine we would love to read'. It puts together the founders favourite things - poetry, brilliant photography, fiction and prose. youth, urbanity, Africa, the search for truth and a better life, and a devotion to REPLANTing with wholesome values. 

Lawino is an online magazine which began in 2014 and started by writers, to promote
writing from Africa, with particular focus on Uganda. It aims to be a platform to launch the careers of many writers, and to take advantage of developments in online publishing to deliver African short stories and poetry to readers all over the world. 

Mosaic Magazine was launched in 1998 and is a print tri-annual magazine that explores the literary arts by writers of African descent, and features interviews, essays and book reviews. Mosaic has featured writers such as Chimanda Ngozi Adichie and Teju Cole among others and provides a unique space to preview upcoming releases through book reviews and author interviews - past interviews have been with Chinelo Okparanta and Nnedi Okorafor.

Munyori Literary Journal is a Zimbabwean-American literary platform that features work from global writers and artists. While munyori is shona for writer or author, the journal extends this meaning to represent all writers. The journal receives the bulk of its submission from Zimbabwe and the United States, but it has also featured works from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and the UK. 

New Contrast, which published its first issue in the Summer of 1960, is said to be South Africa's longest surviving literary journal. It started off as Contrast until 1989 when it became New Contrast. New Contrast is devoted mainly to publishing original work by South African writers and aims to provide a platform for writers (of poetry, prose and other literary works) to get their works published and to get help, if needed, to improve their writing. 

Omenana is a tri-monthly speculative fiction magazine featuring fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora. Omenana, Igbo for divinity, embodies an attempt recover Africa's wildest stories. Omenana bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and aims to 'shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into'.

Prufrock is a South African literary magazine launched in 2013 by four University of Cape Town graduates, which publishes fiction, non-fiction and poetry in all of South African languages. 

Q-zine is a bilingual (English and French) quarterly online magazine from Burkina Faso, by, for and about LGBTI and queer Africans and allies living both on the African continent and the Diaspora. Q-zine aims to provide an inspiring and creative outlet for LGBTI and queer Africans and allies to celebrate, debate and explore the creativity and cultural richness of queer life in and outside of Africa. Their ambition is to encourage LGBTI and queer Africans and allies to decide for themselves how they should be represented in the media and popular culture by being their own storytellers.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Next Weekend in London: Africa Writes 2015

Next weekend I'll be at the British Library in London enjoying the wonderfulness that is Africa Writes

Over the course of 3 days, the Royal African Society will return with its annual (African) literature and book festival. This year Africa Writes turns 4 and - I didn't even think this was possible - but it looks even more exciting than in the previous years!!!! From the headline acts - In Conversation with Ben Okri and an evening of inspiring books with Hannah Pool - to a host of free events, here are some of the many free sessions I am looking forward to attending next weekend.  

African Creative Non-Fiction (Saturday 4 July, 14:30-15:30) with Ellah Wakatama Allfrey  in conversation with four non-fiction writers - Pede Hollist, Jackie Kay, Kwasi Kwarteng and Noo Saro Wiwa - where they will look at the creative possibilities of non-fiction. 

The 2015 Caine Prize Conversation (Saturday 4 July, 16:45 - 17:45) where the five shortlisted writers will be in conversation with 2009 winner E.C Osondu and Guardian First Book award winner Petina Gappah. 

New Nigerian Fiction (Sunday 5 Jul, 12:15 - 13:15) launching four debut novels - A. Igoni Barret's Blackass, Irenosen Okojie's Butterfly, E.C. Osondu's This House is Not for Sale, and Obinna Udenwe's Satans and Shaitans. These 4 authors will be in conversation with Ike Anya on their new releases and what new Nigerian fiction is. I'm just going to say upfront - a lot of books will be bought, so I better not forget my book bag :).

The Place of Literary Magazines in African Literature (Sunday 5 July, 13:30 - 14:30) with editors from SCARF, Sable, Kwani?, Chimurenga Chronic and Jalada, and chaired by Nana Yaa Mensah of New Statesman, this session reflects on the form and influence of literary magazines for African writing today. 

A stage reading of Sunday by Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor (Sunday 5 July, 16:00 - 17:00). Same-sex marriage was declared legal across the US on Friday, facebook is celebrating pride with profile pictures, and Pride was yesterday in London. Seen through the eyes of a family based in London, Sunday is a powerful exploration of love between Nigerian women, sexuality and religion. 

PS. This is just a preview of some of the awesomeness that will be happening next weekend in London. Head over to the Africa Writes website for the full programme.

PPS. I've got a pair of tickets for Friday's event - African Books to Inspire - which I'm just waiting to give away :). 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

bookshy giveaway: Two Tickets for 'African Books to Inspire' on Friday 3 July

On Friday 3 July, as part of the Royal African Society's Africa Writes festival, journalist Hannah Pool will be hosting an evening of books and inspiration, welcoming a special selection of writers and personalities to share their favourite titles in African literature - from classics to the latest published work. At the event will be Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Ndina Kioko, Chibundu Onuzo and Nii Ayikwei Parkes. I am super excited about this event (and all of Africa Writes to be honest) and I will be sharing my own favourite titles, in the lead-up to the event.

... and if that wasn't exciting enough, I've got a pair of tickets to give away to my fellow lovers of African literature. So if you're in (or near) London, or are going to be London in July, and would love to attend this session, then why not join the giveaway.

For a chance to win, all you need to do is answer in one sentence the following question: Why do you want to attend the event, African Books to Inspire? 

It's also really easy to enter - all you need to do is share your answers either via Twitter (#bookstoinspire) or on my Facebook page (commenting on the post that will accompany this giveaway). 

Competition ends on Sunday 28 June and the winner will be announced Monday 29 June. Good luck and see you on Friday 3 July for a fun evening of books and inspiration :).

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Another New Release: Leila Aboulela's 'The Kindness of Enemies'

... and the new releases just keep on coming. Here's another one from three times Orange Prize longlistee and winner of the Scottish Book Award and Caine Prize, Leila Aboulela. Aboulela's new novel, The Kindness of Enemies, is out August 2015. 

Moving from present-day Scotland to the court of the Tsar, The Kindness of Enemies is an epic of love and betrayal, reconciliation and war. Natasha is researching the life of Imam Shamil, a nineteenth-century warrior who battled to defend the Caucasus against Russian invasion. She uncovers a story of bravery and loss, and of captives traded between wild mountain hideouts and the refined court of the Tsar. The tale of Shamil and his lost son comes shockingly to life when Natasha realises that her star student, Oz, is descended from the warrior. Quickly, she becomes drawn to him, and to the alluring world of his family. But Natasha soon realises she is not the only one with an interest in Oz, and in what he might be hiding. As suspicion around him intensifies, Natasha realises everything she values stands in jeopardy.

Translated Fiction Courtesy of the Best Translated Book Awards

On May 27th, the winner of the eighth annual Best Translated Book Awards was announced at Book Expo America. The winner for the fiction category - from a longlist of twenty-five titles was Can Xue's The Last Lover (translated from Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen).  As explained on their website, the Best Translated Book Award is an American literary award launched by Three Percent in 2007 to bring attention to the best original works of international fiction and poetry published in the U.S. during the previous year

You're probably wondering why I'm bringing up this award? Well, when I was checking out the 2015 longlist I noticed two novels by African authors on the list. Naturally, this got me curious about what the other longlists were like in terms of African authors. So, I went back to the first longlist in 2008, scrolled through the past lists and here are the 12 books (including the 2 from this year's longlist) I spotted.* 

*I was unable to find the 2009 longlist and I didn't spot any on the 2012 list, and I may have also missed some out in the other years. 

I may have only been able to find 12, but from young women in an elite boarding school in Rwanda to suicide bombers in Morocco and a white woman and her black domestic worker in South Africa, the Best Translated Book Awards have a delightful selection of translated African fiction on their longlists. So why not give some of these works - from Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Rwanda, Morocco, and South Africa - a try. Read on to find out more.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Literary Listography: Ten Gay Characters from African Literature Everyone Should Know

And the wonderful literary lists continue, with Dele Meiji Fatunla and I back with another one - this time on ten gay, lesbian or bisexual characters from African literature we think everyone should know. From Ama Ata Aidoo's Our Sister Killjoy to Diriye Osman's Fairytales for Lost Children, these characters were chosen from literary works we read and loved, and they all have one thing in common - we found them fascinating. So head over to Whats_on Africa, the new events, culture, business and creative economy blog from the Royal African Society, to find out who made it on to our list. Who would be on yours?