Saturday, July 4, 2015

Taiye Selasi: stop pigeonholing African writers

In November last year, I joined Chinelo Okparanta, author of the collection Happiness, Like Water, on a panel called “In This Way Comes Morning: New Writing of the West African Diaspora”. It was the second of a series. (Note: where the other six readings matched writers on the basis of their writing, for example Claire Vaye Watkins and Ruth Ozeki on “Weaving Fact into Fiction”, we were paired for our African-ness alone.) At the reception, Okparanta spoke of a reader who criticised her story “Runs Girl” for its depiction of a Nigerian hospital plagued by power outages. Okparanta, who lives in Maryland, spent weeks with her aunt in a Port Harcourt hospital; she explained that her description was accurate. The reader was implacable. “You’re writing poverty porn,” he insisted.


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