Tell us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up.
It was a very privileged upbringing in the sense of growing up with a mother whose protective love and unquestioning belief in me gave me a strong sense of self and a confident “I can” rather than the terrorising “I cannot” which so many girls are schooled into. This early self-belief no doubt ensured that I came out of an English boarding school relatively unscathed. I grew up with a fiercely intelligent, industrious, and unlettered woman who equated education, financial astuteness, and sartorial elegance with freedom and brilliance! There was no drama of a gifted or damaged child; it was a very comforting childhood on Lagos Island.
Life was lived on the street and from our balcony with Yoruba Fuji, Juju and American soul music, the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer and the evangelists church bells knifing the air, all fighting for our souls, and all winning, because, in that Yoruba accommodative world all have their place. It was a childhood peopled by women of courage and self-possession, errant men, incessant noise, theatre, much laughter and without contamination. I love and appreciate this world and grounding, even as I craved solitude. It is the nucleus by which my identity, especially as a questioning being derives its meaning and purpose.
Were your parents great readers? What were the books that made you fall in love with reading?
There were no oak floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in our house. In their place, were hundreds of LPs of different genres of Yoruba music, played on the Grundig Stereogram. These records were probably my first introduction to text without writing. Music was the first thing that held my being in its fold and made me conscious of the evolving social and political landscape of Nigeria in the early 1980s. It was also the first art form that introduced me to the transformative power of storytelling to stir the emotion. So, my parents were not great readers of books, but they came to reading through music, so did I. Continue reading Interview | Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Cassava Republic Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales by Véronqiue Tadjo is a beautifully written and translated, stark collection of concise narratives about the Ebola epidemic of 2014. A short but unforgettable novel, it offers a poetic vision of sustained horror, fear, and excruciating pain. It questions the blindness of humanity in the face of potential catastrophic collapse as rampant greed, willful ignorance and avoidable self-destruction threaten to decimate planet earth.
Originally published in France in 2017, there is something prophetic about these tales in light of today’s coronavirus pandemic, and the grim topicality of potential or ongoing infectious disease threats.
Continue reading Review | In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales, Véronqiue Tadjo | HopeRoad Publishing
The ten young writers from Cameroon showcased in bilingual anthology Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Le Crépuscule des âmes sœurs) give an absorbing and entertaining kaleidoscopic snapshot of contemporary African life seen through the lens of empathy. A landmark publication, this motley collection offers readers a powerful range of storytelling from fantasy to existentialism and afrojujuism to realism.
Edited by the founder of Bakwa Books, Dzekashu Macviban, and poet and translator, Nfor E. Njinyoh, the collection is the end result of a literary translation workshop held in Cameroon in 2019 in collaboration with the University of Bristol, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Continue reading Review | Your Feet Will Lead You Where your Heart Is (Ed.) Dzekashu Macviban & Nfor E. Njinyoh | Bakwa Books
The prolific outpouring of support in the press, book trade newsletters and across social media in the wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd in eight minutes and forty-six seconds in Minneapolis gives a glimmer of hope at a time of pandemic bleakness and flawed leadership.
The murder of a black citizen at the hands of a white policeman, and protests against it, is nothing new, and is not only an American problem, but “shooter bias” is prevalent in Britain and Europe too. The 1967 film In the Heat of the Night starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger is a must-see film classic. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Black Classics for independent minds | June 2020
#Marina Warner, President of the Royal Society of Literature, announcing the arrival of the Choix Goncourt in the UK, said: “When the date of this event was set, nobody knew that a crucial election would be taking place. In the light of what has happened, I feel alarmed and frightened of the future. I am therefore proud to be marking a moment of Franco-British solidarity. The spirit of European culture built on the common ground of imagination and a long intertwined history is under strain, but it shall not be broken . . .” Continue reading Spotlight | The Choix #Goncourt UK | @AcadGoncourt @RSLiterature @Edlolivier @maclehosepress