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The 15 Best Local Book Covers of 2014: Do you agree with our selection?

Archive for the ‘Nigeria’ Category

Brittle Paper Announces a New African Fantasy Series: Read Part 1 and 2 of Eugene Odogwu’s In The Shadow of Iyanibi

Brittle Paper have announced a new African Fantasy Story Series in which they plan to publish original stories by African authors.

Eugene Odogwu’s story In The Shadow of Iyanibi packs a powerful punch as it kicks off the series. It will be published in three sessions, with the first two parts already delivered.

“Fantasy has a common denominator – imagination. Imagination of the awe inspiring, the amazing, the magical, the otherworldly. Look closely enough and you’ll see that at its core, it’s all the same, just with different names. Magic or Juju, what’s the difference?” Odogwu told Brittle Paper in an interview about being a fantasy writer.

Odogwu also revealed that “Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a great influence, Ovid’s The Metamorphoses even more so”.

Originally from Warri, in Southern Nigeria, Odogwu says his love of fantasy was inspired by the place where he grew up. “Anyone who knows anything about Warri knows that fantasy lurks around its every corner. From tales of men transforming into tubers of yam after touching a stray note on the ground, women birthing tortoises, people riding plantain leafs like private jets to tales of giant birds snatching unsuspecting children from school playgrounds. Oh, trust me, fantasy happens everywhere, not only in the dark recesses of ancient woods.”

Read the article to find out more about this author and artist (Odogwu designs beautiful book covers when he is not writing), his views on fantasy and fiction in Africa and his new story series:

Tell us a bit about your new story series. Where did the idea for “In the Shadow of Iyanibi” come from?

I once heard a Yoruba tale about a tree that demanded the first child of a woman who’d come to it for favors. The idea of a malevolent and effeminate tree-creature seemed so fascinating. I had to explore it. As for Iyanibi, it’s a tribute to the thousands of dark and “evil” forests in all forms of literature, folklores and fairytales.

In The Shadow of Iyanibi is a story about a brave and gifted girl named Ihumbi, who is swept up in a series of frightening encounters involving the search for a missing sister in a forest of deep, dark shadows.

Read the first part:

Part 1

Ahu clenched the itosi hanging from her neck, the bird feather charm her father had given them at birth. It was all she could do to contain the anger building up inside her.

“Look at your sister,” the boy said, grinning mockingly. “Sitting on her own and talking to an ija-ja. Who spends all their time talking to a bush baby? She’s crazy too.”

The rest of the children in their age group laughed, some pointing fingers at her sister sitting under a tree and talking to a little creature with huge amber eyes.

“I’m warning you, Tamo,” Ahu hissed through clenched teeth. “I’m warning you, hold your tongue.”

Read part two of In The Shadow of Iyanibi:

Part 2

Ihumbi ran. Her chest burned with each breath she gulped down. Her calves ached each time her feet hit the ground. Her gut felt like it was being ripped from the inside out.

Still, she pushed on. The sound of the asan thrashing about behind her was enough motivation. Its shrill cries and grunts gave her the strength to keep running.

She ran and ran. But her body began to slowdown with each step until she could only flounder about, tired and disoriented.
As she glanced over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the raging beast, her foot caught against a root. She tumbled forward, headlong into a ditch. Her face was deep in the dark soil before she could even gasp.

According to Brittle Paper, the final part of Odogwu’s story will be published on February 9, with two more series planned for 2015. We can’t wait!

Images courtesy of Brittle Paper

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Read the 5 Shortlisted Stories from the 2014 Etisalat Flash Fiction Competition

The shortlist has been revealed for this year’s Etisalat Prize for Literature, Flash Fiction category.

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto (“I Saved My Marriage”), Irabor Ikhide (“These Words I Do Not Speak”), N Bassey (“Before Sunset”), Neema Komba (“Setting Babu on Fire”) and Oladimeji Ojo (“Adam’s Snowman”) are the top five authors.

Etisalat, the Emirates telecommunications corporation behind the Etisalat Prize for Literature, initiated the Flash Fiction category this year, and the longlist of 20 was voted for by the public. A panel of judges then assessed the stories and decided on the shortlist.

The winning author will receive a £1 000 cash prize, as well as a Samsung Galaxy Note or iPad, and will have their published ebook promoted online and via SMS. The two runners up receive £500 each, and a Samsung Galaxy Note or iPad.

A date for the announcement of the winner is yet to be revealed.

Meanwhile, the shortlist for the main prize, the Etisalat Prize for Literature for debut fiction, was announced in December, with Nadia Davids (An Imperfect Blessing), Chinelo Okparanta (Happiness Like Water) and Songeziwe Mahlangu (Penumbra) making the cut. The winner will be announced on 22 February.

An Imperfect BlessingPenumbraHappiness, Like Water

Read one of the shortlisted flash fiction stories:

Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto / Nigeria
Title: I Saved My Marriage

That was my wife, Chiamaka, approaching. People thought her puerile and naïve but I deemed her exquisite. She was blithe and permissive, carefree and lax.

We’d been married for five months through the declarations of our parents and other adults. I was seven years old and she, just six. Her mother declared her my wife because she’d been my favourite playmate. I never knew her father’s opinion.

We cherished our union and understood the unspoken words, we always chose a spot away from other playmates on those days parents allowed their children play outside. I didn’t want other children playing with my wife; she didn’t want them eating her soup.

During one of those wonderful days, I couldn’t find her. She was obviously missing. I was worried. Jennifer, another playmate had stopped looking at me from afar. She was standing close now.

‘Come and help me grind these leaves,’ she pleaded. As they’d be used in her mock soup cooked in a tin and eaten with moulded mud.

I had ground the leaves half way when I saw Chiamaka. I stopped. My guilt stricken face refused meeting her questioning eyes. She left. I just broke our marital vows.

Later, I saw her with Ebuka who didn’t like sharing his toys. I was devastated and jealous. My heart raced faster than my toy-car. I felt divorced.

I glanced at her periodically all the while but she never looked my way. I waited until play time was over. Instantly, I picked up the tin for cooking and went to her.

‘Take, I cooked this for you,’ I muttered with stretched arms.

She stared at me and collected it.

‘Thank you,’ she replied, smiling. ‘See you tomorrow.’ She entered her house. I smiled. I just saved my marriage.

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Fiction Friday: Read Etisalat Prize-Shortlisted-Author Chinelo Okparanta’s Short Story “Marta”

Along with South Africans Nadia Davids and Songeziwe Mahlangu, Nigerian-American Chinelo Okparanta was recently shortlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature; read her short story “Marta”, shared by PEN America.

An Imperfect BlessingPenumbraHappiness, Like Water

Okparanta was shortlisted for the prize for her debut novel Happiness Like Water.

This short story first appeared in Tin House: Winter Reading (Issue #58, Winter 2013), and was submitted by Okparanta as part of the 2014 PEN World Voices Online Anthology.

Read the story:

* * * * *

There are six of us. We are gathered in the cemetery where the tombstones rise low. We are loafing and loitering; we are chattering among ourselves. We are lions and lionesses, and the cemetery is our den.

At first it is raining, so we watch the deep dents of the concrete slabs fill with rain. When the rain dies down, we simply trace the yellow weeds with our eyes.

Yesterday we did not gather by the tombstones for long. The crowd of people came, singing, moaning loudly, all dressed in gray and black. The men lifted their shovels and held them above the earth. They dug a shallow hole and lowered the coffin into the hole. We watched from our hiding places among the orange and mango trees. We whispered at the slightness of the box: a simple wooden rectangle, its lid flapping gently, appearing not to have been sealed.

“Will make it easy for us,” Bunmi said.

“Better than easy,” Ayo replied.

Today, we have settled down on the new grave, the way we always do. M-A-R-T-A, the tombstone reads, and though we have not the slightest idea who Marta might have been, we have commenced the telling of her story.

In Chika’s version, Marta is a woman who goes to America to attend university but ends up cleaning the toilets and scrubbing the floors of old white people in places called nursing homes. Because that’s what happens to all Nigerians who go abroad, Chika tells us. Haven’t you heard? And of course, we all have.

“That’s not how it goes!” Bunmi scolds.

“If that’s not the way it goes, then how does it go?” Chika asks.

“Marta doesn’t go to America!” Bunmi responds, as if Marta were a close friend of hers.

“Of course she goes to America,” Sola says. “Everybody and their mother eventually goes to America!”

“No,” Bunmi says indignantly. “Not Marta. Marta doesn’t go to America. You have to start from the beginning and tell it the correct way.”

“Well, you tell it then,” Chika says.

Not far from where we sit, swaying by the grove of orange and mango trees, is a makeshift swing: two thick ropes connected to a flat wooden board. I imagine swinging now. The sun still hangs bright in the sky, but I imagine that it has already gone down, that we have finished with our work, that the fireflies are roaming and I am chasing them with my eyes.

Bunmi smiles. She clears her throat and begins the story again. “Story, story?” she says.

“Story,” everyone responds.

“Once upon a time?”

“Time, time.”

“There was once a young girl named Marta who was the most beautiful across the seven rivers.”

“Did she live in the river like Mami Wata?” Tobechukwu asks, laughing at his own joke. As if he doesn’t make this same joke every time Bunmi mentions “across the seven rivers.”

Ayo turns to Tobechukwu and gives him a high five. We girls sigh loudly, roll our eyes at the boys.

“Okay, okay,” Tobechukwu says finally. He adjusts his oversized baseball hat. “We’re sorry. Please continue,” he says.

* * * * *

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Image courtesy of Apogee Journal

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Writivism Announces 2015 Programme, Including Workshops, Short Story Competition and New Anthology

Writivism has announced its programme of events for 2015.

First on the agenda is the Writivism creative writing workshops, which begin today in Gaborone, Botswana (2-4 January), Lagos, Nigeria (16-18 January), Johannesburg (23-25 January), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (23-25 January) and Kampala, Uganda (28-31 January).

Lauri Kubuitsile and Donald Molosi will facilitate the workshops in Gaborone; Dami Ajayi, Ukamaka Olisakwe and Richard Ali in Lagos; Zukiswa Wanner and Anne Ayeta Wangusa in Dar es Salaam; Yewande Omotoso and Saleeha Bamjee in Johannesburg; and Dilman Dila and Nyana Kakoma in Kampala.

11 emerging writers were selected to attend the Johannesburg workshop. See the full list here.

Selected writers from the workshops will then be assigned writing mentors, from a list including Karen Jennings, Lauri Kubutsile, Meg Vandermerwe, Donald Molosi, Sumayya Lee, Tope Folarin, Okwiri Oduor, Tuelo Gabonewe and Yewande Omotoso.

The Gonjon Pin and Other StoriesZebra CrossingAway from the DeadLondon – Cape Town – JoburgA Killing in the SunFeast, Famine and PotluckBom BoyA Memory This Size and Other Stories

Writivism has also announced a partnership with Jalada, a pan-African writers’ collective, which will involve the publication of an annual anthology, comprising the best of the flash fiction from the programme, and a few short stories from the 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize longlist.

Submissions for the Short Story Prize will be accepted from 1 February. This year’s panel of judges is Chika Unigwe (chair), Mukoma wa Ngugi, Ainehi Edoro, Tendai Huchu and Rachel Zadok. The winnerwill be announced at the Writivism Festival in Kampala in June 2015.

The 2014 Writivism Short Story Prize was won by Johannesburger Saaleha Idrees Bamjee, for her story “Out of the Blue”.

Press release:

Writivism to Engage Readers and Writers Across Generations in 2015

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The 10 Biggest Stories on Books LIVE in 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, awards, literary controversy and free cake – topics that are sure web traffic drivers for Books LIVE. This year, however, all were trumped by Haruki Murakami.

A Sunday Read featuring a new short story by Murakami entitled “Scheherazade” had a mini-viral run, and despite being published towards the end of the year it is by far our most-clicked story of 2014.

The following are the 10 biggest stories from Books LIVE this year, according to our web analytics:

null1. Sunday Read: Haruki Murakami’s Short Story “Scheherazade” – A Man Who Can’t Leave His House and His Eccentric Nurse

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageThe New Yorker published a previously untranslated short story by Haruki Murakami – the Japanese author who has been bookies’ favourite to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for many years. 2014 proved to not be his turn, once again, with this year’s Nobel prize going to French author Patrick Modiano.

Murakami’s story, titled “Scheherazade”, is about a man called Habara who cannot leave his house (for reasons not shared with the reader). He keeps a diary where he writes about the stories told to him by someone he calls Scheherazade, an eccentric woman who takes care of his needs.

      Read “Scheherazade”

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null2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Lays Down the Law in Awkward Swedish Interview

In what turned out to be a bizarre clash of cultures, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was interviewed by Swedish film critic Jannike Åhlund at the Göteborg International Film Festival in February.

The renowned Nigerian author, who made headlines when she was sampled on Beyoncé’s latest album, begins to show signs of exasperation just nine minutes into the conversation, when Åhlund calls Half of a Yellow Sun a “Nigerian Gone with the Wind“. Adichie responds archly: “Um, I think it’s better than Gone With the Wind …”

AmericanahHalf of a Yellow Sun But the interview gets really awkward when Åhlund mentions that actress Thandie Newton, who plays the female lead in the film version of Half of a Yellow Sun, is “very white”. Adichie hits back with, “Maybe this is a good time to talk about ‘The Different Ranges of Colour in which Black People Come’ …” adding that it worries her that “to be authentically African, the darker the better”, and good-humouredly pointing out that her brother is lighter than Newton.

      Keep reading, and watch the video

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null3. Banting, women and rage by Helen Moffett

The Real Meal RevolutionI’ve stayed clear of the great Noakes/low-carb/Banting debate-cum-frenzy that has seized South Africa and especially Cape Town, not least because Tim is a friend and co-author. He gave me the opportunity to help write Bob Woolmer’s life work, which we brought to completion (in large part thanks to our editor, Tom Eaton, and the wonderful team at Struik) after Bob’s tragic death. There was something rare and special about that experience, and it’s no exaggeration to say it changed my life. So Tim is not an ordinary colleague, and I’ve watched the fur fly over his latest enthusiasm from a distance only.

      Keep reading

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null4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Describes the President Nigeria Needs and Reacts to Censorship of Half of a Yellow Sun Film

Half of a Yellow Sun In moving pieces for the The New Yorker and The Scoop, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addresses the Boko Haram kidnapping crisis in Nigeria, the country’s loss of faith in its leadership, and the censorship of the film of her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.

“I want President Jonathan to be consumed, utterly consumed, by the state of insecurity in Nigeria. I want him to make security a priority, and make it seem like a priority. I want a president consumed by the urgency of now, who rejects the false idea of keeping up appearances while the country is mired in terror and uncertainty,” she writes.

      Keep reading

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null5. Free Sunday Times eBook: Food Weekly 50 Best Chocolate Cakes – Readers’ Recipes

Warning: High Deliciousness Factor. The Sunday Times presents the following free ebook, containing the 50 best chocolate cake recipes from Sunday Times Food Weekly readers.

The recipes include old favourites like Chocolate Ganache Cake, and more adventurish recipes like Chocolate Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Peanut Butter Custard and Salted Caramel Popcorn.

View the book here (or download it directly here) – but beware, do not attempt to read on an empty stomach.

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Max du Preez and Claire Robertson6. The 2014 Sunday Times Fiction Prize Longlist

A Rumour of SpringThe Spiral House The longlist for the 2014 Sunday Times Fiction Prize was announced in May.

With an ever-increasing number of books being entered for the Sunday Times Literary Awards, formal longlists were constituted for the first time this year, curated by the award chairs in consultation with conveners Ben Williams and Michele Magwood.

The shortlists were revealed at the Franschhoek Literary Festival, and the winners, Max du Preez and debut novelist Claire Robertson, were announced in June.

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null7. Koos Kombuis Plays Small but Critical Role in Tess Gerritsen Suing Warner Bros Over Gravity

A blog post Koos Kombuis wrote back in January for Channel24 about the similarities between the film Gravity and Tess Gerritsen’s novel of the same name has proved prescient, as the Chinese-American author is pursuing legal action against Warner Bros.

The film, a science fiction thriller starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, won seven Oscars. In his January article for Channel24, Kombuis calls it “one of the best damn movies that had ever been made”. However, a chance purchase in a second hand bookshop raised his suspicions that the film’s premise might not be an original one, and he said: “In my mind, this could very well be one of the most blatant and brazen acts of plagiarism ever seen in Hollywood!”

I-TjiengGravityAs the case slowly progressed, Gerritsen wrote to Kombuis thanking him for “speaking his mind” when even she did not believe the accusations, and the two authors discussed the case on Twitter. Kombuis told Books LIVE the incident “has got me really excited”, especially “to have received a letter from the great author herself!”

      Keep reading

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8. South Africans Dominate the Longlist for 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature

An Imperfect BlessingWhoever Fears the SeaThe Thunder That RoarsPenumbraFour South Africans – Nadia Davids, Justin Fox, Imran Garda and Songeziwe Mahlangu – made the longlist of nine for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature for debut fiction in November.

Etisalat Nigeria CEO Matthew Willsher said the longlist fulfilled the purpose of the prize: “Five of the nine finalists are books authored by women; one of the nine finalists is a Nigerian citizen and two are from Nigeria/American and Nigerian/Ghana decent. The longlist also features writers from South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.”

In December the three shortlisted authors were announced, with Davids and Mahlangu making the cut.

The overall winner, who will be announced on 22 February, 2015, receives £15 000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen and a fellowship at the University of East Anglia.

      Keep reading

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null9. Redi Tlhabi Responds to Endings and Beginnings Controversy on Twitter

Endings and BeginningsSomething of a controversy broke out around Redi Tlhabi’s 2013 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award-winning book, Endings and Beginnings: A Story of Healing in April.

Tlhabi’s debut book details the uncomfortably close friendship she formed with a much older neighbourhood gangster, identified only as Mabegzo, when she was just 11 years old. Tlhabi unpacks their relationship, which began after the murder of her father, but also examines the larger social context of a South African society beset by gender violence.

In an interview with Antony Altbeker, Tlhabi explained that it was a combination of both factors that compelled her to write the book: “The fact that the world is still so hostile to women, to young girls and to the poor, persuaded me that I should share my story.”

Mabegzo is eventually killed, and Tlhabi describes coming across his body while walking home from school in Orlando East in 1989. However, The Citizen spoke to a woman claiming to be the “real family” of Mabegzo, who called Endings and Beginnings a “complete lie”.

      Keep reading

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Twenty in 20 anthology10. The Twenty in 20 Final List: the Best Short Stories of South Africa’s Democracy

Twenty in 20In July, Books LIVE unveiled the final list of short stories for the Twenty in 20 project, a Twenty Years of Freedom initiative whose aim was to identify the best South African short fiction published in English during the past two decades of democracy.

The project was a collaboration between Books LIVE, Short Story Day Africa and the Department of Arts and Culture.

A longlist of 50 stories – generated by over 200 submissions from Books LIVE readers – was whittled down to a final list of 20 works of fiction that will stand as South Africa’s best since 1994.

Keep reading

The anthology, Twenty in 20: The Best Short Stories of South Africa’s 20 Years of Democracy, was launched at the start of National Book Week in September.

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Ben Okri on the “Mental Tyranny” of African Writers: Truth or Trolling?

Ben Okri Bad Sex
The Age Of MagicThe Famished RoadSongs of EnchantmentInfinite RichesDangerous LoveWildTales of FreedomIncidents at the Shrine

Responses have started pouring in to Ben Okri’s controversial essay, “A mental tyranny is keeping black writers from greatness”.

The Nigerian poet and novelist, who won the Man Booker Prize for The Famished Road in 1991, has had an eventful 2014, being awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Pretoria – his first honour from an African institution – as well as the less prestigious Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Okri’s latest essay on black and African writing was published on The Guardian on 27 December. In it, he asserts that whereas “we read Flaubert for beauty, Joyce for innovation, Virginia Woolf for her poetry, Jane Austen for her psychology”, African writers are “defined by their subjects”.

In an argument that seems to recall Njabulo Ndebele’s 1986 essay “The Rediscovery of the Ordinary”, Okri calls for the elevation of “insight” and “writing” over “heavy” subject matter. Referring to James Joyce, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Homer, Sophocles, Tolstoy and Pushkin to illustrate his point, Okri maintains that such writing works to “illuminate the human spirit and awaken us to the strangeness and magnificence of the human estate” rather than to draw attention to the “horror of their history”.

Great literature is rarely about one thing. It transcends subject. The subject was always the least important element in works that have endured. Sometimes an important work has a significant subject, but it is usually its art, rather than its subject, that makes it constantly relevant to us. If the subject were the most important thing we would not need art, we would not need literature. History would be sufficient. We go to literature for that which speaks to us in time and outside time.

It is time that black and African writers woke up from their mesmerism with subject. By it they gain a brief success, a small flutter of fame. Then with time the work sinks; but other works whose subject was perhaps less sensational, but whose art is more compelling, make their way through time and win the appreciation of eternal readers.

The first freedom is mental freedom. We have to seize the freedom to be what we can be, to write whatever we want, with all the mystery and fire of art. It is our responsibility to illuminate the strange corners of what it is to be human.

Sofia Samatar, Assistant Professor of English at California State University Channel Islands and author of A Stranger in Olondria, responded to Okri in a series of 10 eloquent points on Twitter:


Samatar criticises Okri’s reference to Joyce’s short story “The Dead”, saying that “to castigate African writers using a Joyce story about falling snow is just insult to injury WTF” (sic). Okri praises Joyce’s story for its deft writing, its ostensible subject – a party in Dublin – and the way it exudes “importance” despite not touching on issues such as the Irish famine or nationalism. He goes on to state: “If a novel is about the slave trade we automatically think it is significant, certainly more significant than one about a chap who drinks too much palm wine.” This is almost certainly a reference to Amos Tutuola’s 1952 novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard, based in part on Yoruba folktales, which tells the story of a man who travels to the land of the dead. The novel was praised in England and the United States – by, among others, Dylan Thomas – but criticised in Tutuola’s native Nigeria, mainly because of its use of pidgin English. On the author’s Wikipedia page, Taban Lo Liyong’s defence of Tutuola, written in 1975, is highlighted, with specific reference to Joyce: “Now, in all that he has done, Amos Tutuola is not sui generis. Is he ungrammatical? Yes. But James Joyce is more ungrammatical than Tutuola. Ezekiel Mphahlele has often said and written that African writers are doing violence to English. Violence? Has Joyce not done more violence to the English Language?”

In a response on Media Diversified, which emphasises the unimpeachable link between politics and art and raises questions about the role of publishing in the production of African writing, writer and poet JJ Bola also moves to update the argument. He refers to Afrofuturism and the work of Steven Barnes, Mbuzi Momi, and other writers, such as Musa Okwonga, Yrsa Daley Ward, Raymond Antrobus, Warsan Shire, Jacob Sam La Rose, Tapiwa Mugabe, Nayirrah Waheed and Inua Ellams, “who may not necessarily be attracting the attention of big publishing houses, who are stuck in their rigamortis of representation, but are growing in popularity and gaining the attention of readers through social media and live readings”.

Bola writes:

I am not in complete disagreement with Okri. In fact, I think he does make good points, however, I feel the majority of the article may not have been articulated with the utmost clarity. I agree with the fact that, as Okri suggests, writers should reflect the temper of the age, and that we are indeed living in troubling times. In addition, I am wholeheartedly in agreement that, in regards to writing, the essential thing is freedom. However, this curtailment of expression and castigation of creativity towards Black/African writers almost raises the same contradictions it seeks to oppose. Particularly when there is a whole wave of Black/African writers who have found their voice in the new wave of afrofuturism, and are showing the creativity and freedom of expression that far surpasses the imposed narrow expectations.

DeMisty D Bellinger, Assistant Professor of English Studies at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, responded to Okri’s piece on her blog, saying she believes black writers are still subject to stereotypes, and are still trying to understand their oppressed past through writing and reading about it, but she insists: “I wouldn’t call it a ‘mental tyranny’.”

I think black people write about other things. Heck, I know we do. But we don’t get noticed as much for those other things. Slavery and racism are what people want. When we write about other things (me included), we are asked why we are not writing about slavery, racism, etc. Or the black experience. Hey: black people experience love, hate, sex, drinking, self-exploration, etc. What if I am writing about the black experience but you just expect it to be something else?

What do you think of Okri’s essay? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.

Predictably, Twitter has also been abuzz with responses:

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This is Africa Contributors Choose Their List of Africa’s 100 Best Books

This is Africa recently announced their first list of the 100 best books in Africa, in the categories fiction, poetry and non-fiction. The books were published between 2010 and 2014 by African authors across the continent. In future, TIA will compile the list on an annual basis.

With the proliferation of international “best books of 2014” lists, This is Africa’s local list, selected by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, Kagure Mugo and Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire, is a welcome addition.

Among the top 100 best books are titles by internationally acclaimed authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah), Sefi Atta (A Bit of Difference), Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Wizard of the Crow), NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), Taiye Selasi (Ghana Must Go) and Okwiri Oduor (Dream Chasers).

Here are the South African authors who made the list:


Adults OnlyRachel’s BlueBad SexDying in New YorkTales of the Metric SystemDo Not Go GentleZoo City (SA edition)
A Girl Walks into a Blind DateThe ReactiveSister-SisterFinding SoutbekAn Imperfect BlessingPenumbraWay Back Home

In the fiction category are veteran novelists Lauren Beukes, Zakes Mda and Imraan Coovadia, for Zoo City, Rachel’s Blue and Tales of the Metric System. Newcomers Nadia Davids, Ekow Duker and Masande Ntshanga made the list with their debut novels, An Imperfect Blessing, Dying in New York and The Reactive.

Helena S Paige, the pen name of Helen Moffett, Sarah Lotz and Paige Nick, is on the list for her series of choose-your-own-erotic-adventure novels – A Girl Walks into a Bar, A Girl Walks into a Wedding and A Girl Walks into a Blind Date.

Futhi Ntshingila’s second novel, Do Not Go Gentle, and Niq Mhlongo’s third, Way Back Home, also made the list, along with Adults Only, edited by Joanne Hichens, Bad Sex by Leon de Kock, Sister-Sister by Rachel Zadok, Finding Soutbek by Karen Jennings and Penumbra by Songeziwe Mahlangu.


Letter to South AfricaLetter to South Africa: Poets Calling the State to Order appears in the poetry category, which includes poems by South African poets in English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and Sepedi, with English translations.

Letter to South Africa contains poems by Lebogang Mashile, Makhosazana Xaba, Jitsvinger, Tumelo Khoza, Sindiwe Magona, Willem Anker, Gabeba Baderoon, Siphiwe ka Ngwenya, Andries Bezuidenhout, Zandra Bezuidenhout, Marius Crous, Leon de Kock, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Nosipho Kota, Julian de Wette, Danie Marais, Justin Fox, and many more.


The Jack BankMaid in SASometimes there is a VoidNelson Mandela

Zakes Mda’s Sometimes there is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider and Zukiswa Wanner’s Maid in SA: 30 Ways to Leave your Madam are on the non-fiction list, as well as Glen Retief, for The Jack Bank: A Memoir of a South African Childhood, and Mandela’s Nelson Mandela: Conversations with Myself.

Honorary South Africans on the list are Yewande Omotoso for Bom Boy and Jamala Safari for The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods.

What do you think of this selection? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below.

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Sunday Read: The 16 Best “Best Books of 2014” Lists

Boy, Snow, BirdThe Paying GuestsThe Invention of WingsLilaH is for HawkAnother Man's War
The Bone ClocksThose Who Leave and Those Who StayAll the Light We Cannot SeeThe Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to ZionAnnihilation10:04

Need to spend those Christmas book vouchers you received from aunt Mabel? But it’s tough to keep track of all the “best of” lists this time of year. Books LIVE has rounded up the best of the “Best Books of 2014” lists, for your convenience.

What was your book of the year for 2014? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, or in the comments below

The New Yorker: The Best Books of 2014

We asked some of our contributors for their favorite books they read this year. (Most listed new books, but a few picked older favorites or ones that will come out in the new year.)

Africa is a Country recommends: Books of 2014

Everyone has their own ways of getting through those long, blogless days of festive family over-eating, and AIAC generally relies on Gin and Tonic, long walks, and English football. But there are also books. Remember those? Especially good for giving you that faraway feeling as you try to zone out of your uncle’s homophobic musings. Here are some recommendations from AIAC contributors for some books we enjoyed in 2014 (not exhaustive by any means, please add your own favorites in the comments).

2014′s Best Reads: Sunday Times Book Reviewers Pick Their Highlights of the Year

The Sunday Times reviewers have picked their 2014 books of the year. What do you think of their choices?

Goodreads: Best Books of 2014

Announcing the winners of the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards, the only major book awards decided by readers. Congratulations to the best books of the year!

Flavorwire: The Best Novels of 2014

Let me open contentiously: I’m bored by the 2014 year-end lists in literature, especially from big print newspapers. The reason? There is a measure of comfort in books coverage that breaks faith with the lively, exploratory spirit of contemporary literature. And 2014 has been an exemplary year in this regard, especially for poetry and the novel.

The Guardian: Readers’ 10 best books of 2014

We asked you to nominate your favourite books of 2014 and here, in no particular order, are the results – the 10 books that attracted the most consensus. Below you’ll find acclaimed fiction, memoir, fantasy and polemic. Interestingly, the list differs greatly from readers’ choices halfway through the year – take a look at those here.

Huffington Post: The Best Books Of 2014? Here’s The Ultimate List

Last week we shared an infographic created by designer David McCandless that suggests To Kill a Mockingbird is likely the most-recommended novel of all time (or at least of recent times). But what are critics and readers suggesting you pick up this year?

The Economist: Books of the Year – Page turners

The best books of 2014 were about the South China Sea, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the publishing of “Ulysses” and capitalism in the 21st century

Gawker: The Best Things We Read in 2014

Many things were published in 2014—things we liked; things we hated; things we didn’t understand. And since it’s that time of year where we shame you for reading all the wrong things, we’ve collected our favorite books, essays, short stories, lists, and blog posts. We’ve also included selections from years past that, for one reason or another, caught our attention in 2014. Enjoy.

NPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide To 2014’s Great Reads

Use the filters below to explore some 250 titles NPR staff and critics loved this year. (You can also combine filters!) Want even more recommendations? Check out our favorite books from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008

Slate: The Top 10 Books of the Year – As picked by the editors of the Slate Book Review

This year, Slate reviewed, excerpted, wrote about, and podcasted about hundreds of books. These are our 10 favorites, as chosen by the editors of the Slate Book Review. Nonfiction spanning the breadth of family life, from childhood to the hard choices at the end. Short stories and novels about friendship, love, sex, murder, and God. And essays and poems that explore with grace and good humor the difficulty of living in, and talking about, our world.

The New York Times: The 10 Best Books of 2014

The year’s best books, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

New Statesman: Books of the Year

NS friends and contributors choose their favourite reading of 2014. Including: Hilary Mantel, Rowan Williams, Grayson Perry, Alan Johnson, AS Byatt, Geoff Dyer, Alex Salmond, Kate Fox, William Boyd and Dave Eggers.

Electric Literature: 25 Best Novels of 2014

Year-end lists are always subjective and incomplete, but they are especially tricky for books. A dedicated film critic can watch every wide release film and a theater critic can go to most every play, but the book critic is faced with an insurmountable mountain of books each year. The sheer number of books is inspiring as a reader, but it can make “best of” lists laughably subjective when the critic has only read a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of novels published each year.

Bustle: The Top 25 Young Adult Novels of 2014

It has been an absolute break-out year for young adult literature. With movies like The Fault In Our Stars, Divergent, and Mockingjay: Part I practically breaking the box office, and loads and loads of think pieces about adults reading YA fiction, young adult has broken into the mainstream conversation. Hey, you haven’t made it until the haters are tearing you down, right? Subsequently, it was a great year to be a young adult author — but it was an even more amazing year to be a young adult reader, because those authors were up to the challenge.

Amazon: Top 20 Overall Customer Favorites for 2014

This year’s best seller lists include a lot of familiar authors and characters–over half of the books on the lists are part of a series. It’s also exciting to see our January Best Books of the Month Pick—and Oprah Book Club Pick—The Invention of Wings take the top spot overall. We hope all of these lists will help our customers explore great books this holiday season, whether it’s a gift for a loved one or a treat for themselves.–Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Books and Kindle at

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Fiction Friday: Read a Short Story From Reward Nsirim’s Etisalat-longlisted Collection Fresh Air and Other Stories

Fresh Air and Other StoriesThis Fiction Friday, read a story from Reward Nsirim’s Fresh Air and Other Stories.

Nsirim, who hails from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, had his collection longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature for debut fiction recently. He is the only Nigerian citizen on the longlist for the Pan-African prize, although fellow longlistees Chinelo Okparanta (Happiness, Like Water) and Taiye Selasi (Ghana Must Go) are of Nigerian heritage.

Nsirim studied medicine, and is also an amateur actor. He counts Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel García Márquez, Salman Rushdie, VS Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer and Helon Habila Ngalabak among his influences.

He’s also harsh on those of his fellow Nigerian authors who are unwilling to educate themselves in literary history:

What’s your take on Nigerian writers and writings?

I think there has been an explosion in recent years, especially with the international success and recognition that some young Nigerian writers have achieved. The problem however is that many of those delving into writing these days ‘because Chimamanda did it’ aren’t prepared to undergo any training or tutelage. I have met many

self-acclaimed writers who, upon the slightest palpation, confess to not having read some of the most common Nigerian novels. I told the Ibadan audience about this guy I met who claimed to be a poet. I could however not classify what he was blabbing as poetry, and when I inquired if he had read any works by Niyi Osundare or Odia Ofeimun, he replied in the negative. He didn’t even know who they were. There was therefore no need to ask if he had read T.S. Elliot or Edgar Allan Poe.

Read Nsirim’s story:

The Testimony

The two men in red coveralls arrived at an underground parking lot on the Rue de Treves on the invitation of a valet cum aide of a Brussels businessman, who immediately led them to a white Mercedes Benz 230 that had apparently seen better days. They were a mechanic and an electrician, among many other things, sent by a company which bought off used cars for resale. The son of the valet’s boss had dumped the Benz after a brand new Citroen C6 was given to him on his 21st birthday a week earlier by his father. The young man had almost wrecked the Benz in three years of driving it; after inheriting it from his father who had himself previously driven the car for two years. So excited about the new car was the young man that he had zoomed off immediately with his girlfriend back to their campus at Solbosch, as though the new car would be retrieved if he didn’t drive it away as fast as possible.

The technicians first checked the exterior of the dumped Benz 230, feeling the body and tires with their palms while the valet stood watch. Then they assessed the seats and carpets, rattling in Arabic to each other as they did so. Following that, one turned on the ignition and listened with rapt attention to the sound while the other keenly observed the linear wisps of smoke produced by the exhaust. Thereafter, with assorted spanners and screwdrivers and other miscellaneous odds and ends, they opened up practically every nook and cranny of the vehicle and took a good look. They were done in half an hour or so, and as they cleaned their greasy hands on their coveralls, the one who spoke better French addressed the valet.

“The car is in a worse state than we were told,” he began, with a shake of his head. “The carpets and seats are well worn. The tires are almost worthless, and the gearbox and exhaust are in a sorry state. The steering and brakes need a lot more work than we thought. Only the engine seems to be in some state of health, though it still needs some work.” He paused, looked at his colleague who seemed to give a go-ahead blink, and then continued. “We will be lowering our bid from the 1,000 Euros we earlier offered, to five hundred.”

“That’s too low!” the valet protested, “I can sell it to other buyers for more than that.”

But the haggling didn’t last long at all, ending at 750 Euros. Thereafter, the valet handed over the car’s documents and spare key as required, and the Lebanese men handed over the cash and drove the abandoned car towards the direction of Antwerp.

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Wole Talabi Reviews Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

Kabu Kabu Verdict: carrot

Kabu Kabu is a pidgin term for those dodgy taxis operating cheaply in many parts of Nigeria. And as the book jacket says, they generally get you where you need to be, one way or the other. A fitting name then for Nnedi Okorafor’s first short story collection, as it takes you on a magical journey of twenty-one stories and leaves you, at its end, where you need to be.

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