Oct 11, 2010

African Writing: a small confession

At the beginning of the year I opted not to make the same banal resolutions to exercise more, lose weight, and eat more fish and heart healthy foods or anything else along lines. I have been there, done that, and got the cheap t-shirt (which is currently being used as a dust rag). Instead, I decided to read at least one book a month by an author from the developing world, preferably Africa. The challenge started off well; I did my research, finding books gathering dust on my bookshelf and also at my local library. I read a couple gems and one dud. As a side note – the dud was one I picked up after seeing it featured on Oprah, just when will I learn not to trust her picks?

At about the halfway mark, I got on a Zambian author kick and restricted my options further. It was a good idea at the time, but looking back at my motives I’m a little ashamed.

As I was trolling the internet for books to read, I noticed an abundance of books by Nigerian authors. Not only could I find these books online, but they are also available at my local Barnes and Noble, Borders, the library and sometimes even thrift stores. Instead of cheering this availability, I became petulant especially since the only place I could find a small selection of Zambian authors was on amazon.com and even then options are somewhat limited.

My little act of rebellion had two resulting consequences: 
  1. I found a couple authors I probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise such as Binwell Sinyangwe, Theresa Lungu and Remmie Chisenga. You can see my review of Sinyangwe’s book here.
  2. I passed up a couple of books by Nigerian authors that have received favourable reviews, and that I normally would have picked up without batting an eyelid. These would include Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor and I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani.
So, what’s the take away from all this?

Wanting to support local Zambian authors shouldn’t mean spurning other talented authors from the continent. Yes, the Nigerian writing and publishing culture is more robust and active than ours, but that’s not something to disparage. Instead, I should support their work by buying books, recommending them to others and thus help them continue to grow. This sets an example for our own writing and publishing industry to pick up the pace and keep up with the leaders. That would be a win-win for everyone, right?

Thank goodness it’s not too late to course correct. I will continue to hunt down titles by Zambian authors, and at the same time will pick up books by authors from all corners of our beautiful land! 


Miss Bwalya, for several I have been running a book club in Lusaka and briefly in chipata, where I lived for two years. Our book club is focused on literary fiction, and of all the authors that we have read, the African writers (and those from other developing countries) have always been our favourites. I note the classic Things Fall Apart and the much celebrated books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We have read Indian and Ethiopian authors, are currently reading a Dominican author and will read a South African author next. In all this, a credible Zambian author has eluded us. One member is considering the Sinyangwe book as their choice for next year. Some Nigerian, Zimbabwean and Malawian authors are possiblities too.

Your book club sounds great, Masuka. I am jealous!
I have thought about joining one, and pushing African literature. I would recommend Binwell Sinyangwe books, you won't be disappointed.

I will be reviewing Theresa Lungu "Twilight of Morning", and I also have Malama Katulwende "Bitterness" and Gaile Parkin's "Baking in Kigali". I'll let you know how I like them and if I would recommend them.

I really want us to develop our writing and publishing culture. I am sure we have no shortage of talented writers whose work goes unrecognised and unpublished. Does Longman publishers still have a presence in Zambia? And if they do, do they support works of fiction?

Hey, this is Remmie, the author of "Sai's Big Surprise" thanks for recognizing my work.

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