With nine novels, five collections of poems and a bunch of essays to his name, Franco-Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou is a literary phenomenon in the Francophone world. Renowned for the derisive drollery of his prose but also for his candour when talking about Africa, he has become an important voice of African literature – a subject he now teaches at UCLA. We talked to him on the occasion of the publication in English of his novel “Tomorrow I will be 20 years old”, in which he evokes with mischievousness and emotion his childhood in Pointe-Noire, the Congolese port city on the Atlantic coast. In this interview with Africa Book Club, Alain Mabanckou speaks about African identity, his eclectic influences and why it is difficult to define an “African literature”.
Death has robbed us of Chinua Achebe – one of the most influential writers of his time. Undoubtedly Africa’s best known writer, Achebe stood for many things. To many, he was the father of African literature – recognized worldwide for his book, Things Fall Apart, the most translated African work of all time, which has sold more than 12 million copies and appeared in over 50 languages.
Tewodros Fekadu scraped through his childhood years between relatives’ houses and the streets of Ethiopia. He has since lived in five countries on three continents and is fluent in four languages (Amharic, Tigrinya, Japanese and English). In 2003, he arrived in Australia and resides on the Gold Coast with his wife, Anita, where he is an active member of the community. His book, No One’s Son tells the remarkable story of his life – from his difficult childhood, his struggles through life’s challenges, and eventual migration to Australia. In this month’s interview, he talks to Africa Book Club about his life and work.
This month, Africa Book Club speaks to Ghanaian writer, Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond. Nana (nanaekua.com) is an accomplished author and copywriter, who has written for AOL, The Village Voice, JET Magazine, Metro, and Trace Magazine, among others. Her short stories have been published in African Writing and the anthology This Woman’s Work; while her poem, “The Whinings of a Seven Sister Cum Laude Graduate Working Bored as an Assistant,” was published in the anthology Growing up Girl. A cum laude graduate of Vassar College, she attended secondary school in Ghana. Her debut novel, Powder Necklace (published by Simon and Schuster) was released in 2010 and was featured as one of our 2010 Books of the Year.
This month, we feature Julie Wakeman-Linn, author of “Chasing the Leopard; Finding the Lion”. A professor at Montgomery College in Maryland (USA), Wakeman-Linn has lived in a number of African countries, most recently in Tanzania, where she volunteered at the Bethsaida Orphan Girls Secondary School. Her debut novel, “Chasing the Leopard; Finding the Lion” is published by a Tanzania-based publisher, Mkuki Na Nyota, and was a finalist for Barbara Kingsolver’s Belwether Prize. In this interview, she talks about her book, living in Africa, and how she made the decision to work with a Tanzanian publisher.
Laila Lalami is a novelist and essayist, and currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Born and raised in Morocco, she attended Université Mohammed-V in Rabat, University College in London, and the University of Southern California, where she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist. In this interview with Africa Book Club, she talks about her favorite writers and what it takes to succeed as a writer.
Tendai Huchu (www.tendaihuchu.com), author of the Hairdresser of Harare and An Untimely Love, was born in Bindura, Zimbabwe. He has a great love of literature, and currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. In this interview with the Africa Book Club, he shares talks about growing up in Zimbabwe, and his own development as a writer.