Alert! Publishing company StoryAfrica – which doesn’t seem to have a website, but whose founder, Mfonobong Nsehe, has an underused Twitter account – has published the first of many planned volumes of “Africa’s best short stories”, featuring, if the blurb is to be taken at face value, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wole Soyinka, EC Osondu, Chika Unigwe, Jude Dibia “and the rest of the stars”.
Nsehe is certainly very enthusiastic about the compilation. “These are storytellers from the gods, telling a diverse range of stories, under varying circumstances.” he writes. “Their stories will make you laugh, cry, grin, wish, reflect, reminisce and curse (not) [sic]. Let these stories keep you company while lying in the comfort of your bed, on the subway on your way to work or when having a cup of tea.”
BOOK SA, on the other hand, smells a big, fat, hairy rat. In fact, BOOK SA thinks that Africa’s Best Stories Vol 1 might be a literary 419 scam that could land its creator in hot water.
Africa’s Best Stories was published using Amazon.com’s in-house self-publishing service, CreateSpace. It’s doubtful in the extreme that any of the writers listed above would participate in a publishing venture founded on such an obscure platform – even if the mover and shaker behind it was a “Publishing executive. Media Visionary. Dreamer. Drummer. Global citizen” – as Nsehe describes himself on his Twitter page.
The fact that CreateSpace is the publisher is plain to see at the book’s Amazon home page; but press releases related to the book create the impression that Amazon.com itself is involved in the project – which has been seriously talked up:
Amazon.com has published, “Africa’s Best Stories.” The book is available on Amazon.com.
The book contains 16 stories and 2 poems by Afric’s best renowned and upcoming writers. The stories in the book were taken through a rigorous selection process by a panel of over 20 literary scholars and professors in Harvard, Columbia and Yale. Out of 120 stories voted for this anthology, the 18 best were published in a book.
Harvard, Columbia and Yale, oh my! Try a Google search for “Africa’s Best Short Stories” and “Harvard”, though, and here’s what you get:
Two results! Almost a Googlewhack!
Further cause for suspicion is a second press release claiming that, in the wake of Oprah’s Uwem Akpan selection, she has decided to pick another book of short stories from Africa for her book club, namely, Nsehe’s. Here’s the full, overblown text:
Oprah Book Club pick is ‘Africa’s Best Stories’
Oprah Winfrey and the Oprah Book club have endorsed a new book, ‘Africa’s Best Stories’ as the Oprah book club pick for 2010.
Africa’s best stories is a collection of the very best short stories written by Africa’s best and finest writers. Some of the writers featured in the anthology include Nobel Prize laureate, Wole Soyinka, Orange Prize winner, Chimamanda Adichie, Caine Prize finalists, Sefi Atta, Chika Unigwe, EC Osondu, and Duchess Lilian Koki among several other budding writers.
Some of the stories included in the book include Why husbands who love their BMWs should avoid High hairstyles by Muthoni Garland, The Guitar by Kingwa Kamencu, The Time Story by Chimamanda Adichie, A place called hope by Jude Dibia and Borrowed Smile by Chika Unigwe.
The 18 stories in the book were selected after a rigorous process by a panel of over 20 literary scholars and professors in Harvard, Columbia and Yale.
According to StoryAfrica founder and editor, Mfonobong Nsehe, ‘Every story is carefully crafted, distinctively told with unique voice of the author. The book contains stories that will make the reader laugh, grin, cry, curse, hope and dream. The stories will move your hearts to the heavens.’
The Oprah Book club said, ‘Africa’s best stories is a refreshing read. Indeed, Africa’s got some really gifted storytellers. We love how African culture was distinctively brought out in these stories. African literature is the future,’ Oprah said.
Africa’s Best Stories is available for sale on Amazon.com.
The day that Oprah says something as obtuse as “Africa’s got some really gifted storytellers” is the day that she relocates her show to Abuja. But just to make sure, let’s search the Oprah Book Club site for any mention of this book:
Hmmm, all the results appear to be be unrelated to Africa’s Best Stories. Searches for other keywords, meanwhile – like “StoryAfrica”, or “Mfonobong Nsehe” – turn up nix, nada, nothin’.
The book retails for $20 on Amazon, meaning that if Nsehe’s scheme takes off, he’ll make a tidy sum out of his “associations” with Amazon and Oprah.
So, to recap, the elements in the Africa’s Best Stories scam:
- Implication: Africa’s top writers are actively involved with this book. Likely reality: Their works have been stolen for someone else’s profit, and they should get on the phone to their agents immediately.
- Insinuation: Amazon.com is involved with this book. Likely reality: Amazon’s got nothing to do with it, apart from providing the infrastructure to create and sell it.
- Claim: Africa’s Best Stories has gained Oprah’s notice and she’s adopted it for her book club. Likely reality: The association with Oprah was opportunistically concocted in the wake of Uwem Akpan’s success.
In conclusion, then, one can forgiven for expressing the hope that the man behind Africa’s Best Stories, Mfonobong Nsehe, discovers sooner rather than later the cost of pursuing fame and fortune by any means necessary, as he seems prepared to do, if we’re to take a recent tweet at face value:
I gotta succeed. Damn the price.
Someone needs to drum this gent out of the business before Africa’s Best Stories Vol 2 appears!
- Africa’s Best Stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Wole Soyinka, EC Osondu, Chika Unigwe and Others
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