Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bitter Leaf by Chioma Okereke

Nigeria keeps on producing enormous writing talents. As the American reading public is mesmerized by Teju Cole's debut novel, Open City, the rest of the Commonwealth is getting to know Nigeria's other talents. Here is a review of Chioma Okereke's debut, Bitter Leaf.

"Jericho, (who's female by the way), is a beautiful young woman. She's curious about the outside world so like many before her, she's taken the brave step of sampling life in a big, bustling city. She returns to her home village with some rather pretentious airs ... and a rich suitor in tow. By sheer coincidence Jericho's mother had attended an interview in her past at her daughter's new boyfriend's family home. A veritable mansion with ... sweeping rooms that took longer than a river to cross. What a lovely way of describing luxury in an essentially poor area of Africa. Everyone thinks the next natural step is marriage and babies but is it? "

I look forward to having my own copy.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teju Cole Mesmerizes America

Taylor Antrim is truly excited about Teju Cole's novel, Open City.
"In its patient, cumulative way, the novel paints a startlingly dim picture of our present moment, our age of permeable borders and teeming heterogeneous cities. Julius looks like the bright side of globalism—born in Africa to a German mother and Nigerian father, educated in New York, now one year from his medical degree—but he feels off-step, adrift. The closer he looks at the world around him, the more callousness and anomie he finds—qualities the reader can't help but see, as the novel proceeds, in Julius himself."
He concludes, like many other reviewers:
"It’s the most thoughtful and provocative debut I’ve read in a long time."

I have read a number of things written by Teju. The guy is terribly smart, and he is an accomplished artist. I can't wait to lay my hands on Open City.

Congratulations, Teju.

And this is an EXCERPT. Just two chapters. Beautiful.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Polygamy: for worse and worse

I'm an admirer of Lola Shoneyin's take no prisoner feminist mind-set. There are many things to love in her novel,The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives besides her frontal attack on patriarchal disregard for woman's dignity. One of them is Shoneyin's lyricism, which comes as no surprise to those who have read her poems. Thank God, Lola has got a mind of her own as is evidenced in this interview granted to Eva Hunter of Iol.

"Shoneyin says that she sees 'more and more seemingly educated people from my generation opting to take a second wife. This happens mostly amongst my Muslim friends who justify it by saying their religion allows it. For me, the only thing that drives polygamy is greed.'"


Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 prize Commonwealth Prize Shortlist

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, supported by the Macquarie Group Foundation and now in its 25th year, has selected both household names and other emerging stars from across the Commonwealth for the four regional shortlists for the Best Book and Best First Book awards.

The regional winners of the Best Book and Best First Book prizes will be announced on the 3rd March, with the final programme commencing on the 16th May at Sydney Writers’ Festival in Australia. This will bring together the finalists from the four different regions of the Commonwealth, and the two overall winners will be announced on the 21st May.
Nigeria and South Africa are well represented. Congratulations, friends, and good luck.

Monday, February 7, 2011

On the Murder of David Kato, the Ugandan Gay Rights Campaigner

We the undersigned condemn in the strongest possible terms the murder of Mr David Kato the Ugandan gay rights campaigner. We wish to state emphatically that homosexuality is neither a sin nor a social or cultural construct. It is a biological given. Homosexuals are human beings like everybody else. Scientific research has been helpful in clearing the fog of ignorance entrenched by some religious texts in regards to homosexuality. Our opinions of homosexuality must change for the better just as our opinion of slavery has changed even though it was endorsed by those same religious texts. All violence against gays and people deemed to be gay in Africa must cease forthwith.

We call on the government of Uganda to find and prosecute all those involved in the murder of Mr Kato, including the newspaper that called for the hanging of gays. We also call on African governments to learn from the South African example by expunging from their laws all provisions that criminalize homosexuality or treat homosexuals as unworthy of the same rights and entitlements as other citizens. African states must protect the rights of their citizens to freedom and dignity. Homosexuals must not be denied these rights.


1. Wale Adebanwi, PhD, University of California, US

2. Diran Adebayo, Writer, UK

3. Kayode Adeduntan, PhD, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

4. Biola Adegboyega, University of Calgary, Canada

5. Shola Adenekan, Editor, The New Black Magazine, UK

6. Pius Adesanmi, PhD, Carleton University, Canada

7. Akin Adesokan, PhD, Indiana University, US

8. Joe Agbro, Journalist, Nigeria

9. Anthony Akinola, PhD, Oxford, UK

10. Anengiyefa Alagoa, Writer, UK

11. Ellah Allfrey, Deputy Editor, Granta Magazine, UK

12. Alnoor Amlani, Writer, Kenya

13. Ike Anya, Public health doctor and writer, UK

14. Bode Asiyanbi, Writer, Lancaster University, UK

15. Sefi Atta, Writer, US

16. Lizzy Attree, PhD, University of East London, UK

17. Damola Awoyokun, Writer, UK

18. Doreen Baingana, Writer, Uganda

19. Igoni Barrett, Writer, Nigeria

20. Tom Burke, Bard College, US

21. Jude Dibia, Writer, Nigeria

22. Chris Dunton, PhD, National University of Lesotho, Lesotho

23. Ropo Ewenla, PhD, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

24. Chielozona Eze, PhD, Northeastern Illinois University, US

25. Aminatta Forna, Writer, UK

26. Ivor Hartmann, Writer, South Africa

27. Chris Ihidero, Writer, Lagos State University, Nigeria

28. Ikhide R. Ikheloa, Writer, US

29. Sean Jacobs, PhD, New School, US

30. Biodun Jeyifo, PhD, Harvard University, US

31. Brian Jones, Professor Emeritus, Zimbabwe

32. Martin Kiman, Writer, US

33. Lauri Kubuitsile, Writer, Botswana

34. Zakes Mda, PhD, Ohio University, US

35. Colin Meier, Writer, South Africa

36. Gayatri Menon, PhD, Franklin and Marshall College, US

37. Valentina A. Mmaka, Writer, Italy/South Africa

38. Jane Morris, Publisher, Zimbabwe

39. Mbonisi P. Ncube, Writer, South Africa

40. Iheoma Nwachukwu, Writer, Nigeria

41. Onyeka Nwelue, Writer and filmmaker, India/Nigeria

42. Nnedi Okorafor, PhD, Writer, Chicago State University, US

43. Ebenezer Obadare, PhD, University of Kansas, US

44. Juliane Okot Bitek, Writer, Canada

45. Tejumola Olaniyan, PhD, University of Wisconsin, US

46. Ngozichi Omekara, Trinidad and Tobago

47. Akin Omotosho, Actor and filmmaker, South Africa

48. Kole Omotosho, PhD, Africa Diaspora Research Group, South Africa

49. Samuel Sabo, Writer, UK

50. Ramzi Salti, PhD, Stanford University, US

51. Brett L. Shadle, PhD, Virginia Tech, US

52. Lola Shoneyin, Writer, Nigeria

53. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate for Literature

54. Olufemi Taiwo, PhD, Seattle University, US

55. Kola Tubosun, Writer, Fulbright Scholar, United States

56. Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Writer, Nigeria

57. Abdourahman A.Waberi, Writer, US /Djibouti

58. Binyavanga Wainaina, Writer, Kenya

59. Ronald Elly Wanda, Writer& Lecturer, Marcus Garvey Pan-Afrikan Institute, Uganda

60. Kristy Warren, PhD, University of Warwick, UK

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Of African Writers and their Uncles

I love Ikhide. I truly do. He reminds of me of one kind of masquerade in my town, Amokwe, called Obute. Obute embodies energy in any way you choose to think of. Whenever it arrives at a gathering he sends every one, man, woman, old young running for their dear lives. Some sprint like the Jamaican Usain Bolt; some others just manage to hobble out of Obute's way. In the end though, when the Obute-storm is over, people gather to laugh about it, happy to have experienced that cathartic moment. That's one of the reasons we have masquerade festivals.
Whenever Ikhide writes, people's hearts palpitate. You have to laugh, sigh, curse, praise. Some said he's a child of God; some others claimed he must be the anti-Christ. Some have even told me they would love to punch him down below, eh? You know where.

Okay, the point is this: Ikhide knows how to rabblerouse. And he is not afraid of stepping on people's toes: See, for instance:
"When you examine African writing or writing from the writers of African extraction, one thing is clear; it is blessed with an abundant narrowness of range and vision. There is the understandable obsession with everything African. In their writings, huts, moons, stars, fearsome masquerades, wars and malevolent spirits come tumbling out, chased by constipated army generals."

The introductory part of his essay seems to have been specially designed to wake the slumbering Jack. He talks about the white man organizing parties for African writers:
"I call these gatherings pity parties because after a few glasses of cheap red wine, the writers become weepy and whiny."
Okay, these African writers become whinny after downing glasses of red wine?
The last sentence of that paragraph is confessional: "I love cheap red wine."
One might wonder whether he also loves to whine.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Call for Applications

H.A.L.D. 2011

The Danish Centre for Writers and Translators proudly presents H.A.L.D. 2011 (Housing Authors & Literature, Denmark), the second “International Summer Residency for Writers at Hald”.

The H.A.L.D. program will select four fiction authors from abroad* to live and work alongside selected Danish fiction authors in Hald Hovedgaard’s main building during the period of July 18 – August 15, 2011.

The foreign authors will live and work at Hald under the same conditions as writers during a working residency at Hald normally do. Each author will work on the writing project that he or she has brought along to Hald and will be responsible for providing his/her own food and toiletries. The principal purpose of this international cultural and literary encounter is the informal meeting of professional writers, living door to door in an inspiring environment.

Participation in the H.A.L.D. program is determined by written application on the part of the author.

The application deadline is April 1, 2011 for foreign authors and May 15, 2011 for Danish