Literature
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Readers Share Literature that Gets Them Through the Holidays with Family

Books thin enough to slip into your bible

When I met the writer Taban Lo Liyong in Kampala, he gave me his most "carefree" book called Christmas in Lodwar. "It was the book where I was enjoying myself the most. You can read it by opening any page and it will make you feel better," he said.

Christmas in Lodwar was written about a Christmas Liyong once spent north of Lordwar, Kenya in 1979 when his Volvo Saloon broke down on his way to South Sudan. Open any page and you will find him meditating on leather aprons, political Jesus, learning pidgin, or village gossip. I decided to wait until the end of the year to read it because it was perfectly sized to fit into my bible, and I knew I'd need something to read through all the New Year's and Christmas services my family would take me to.


Sometimes you need an escape from the craziness of being with family during the holidays and reading provides that distraction. I asked some people what literature gets them through the holiday season at home.

Here is what they suggested:


Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

"A small book to read when you're feeling disillusioned with parents is Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy. It's scorching and engrossing."- Kanyin Ajayi


Finding Kennedy by Jacinta Howard

"Black indie romance writers have the best pen game. Nia Forrester and Jacinta Howard are two of my favorites—I'll read anything they write. Jacinta Howard has a New Adult series called "The Prototype" about members of an alternative hip hop/rock band. My favorite from that series is called 'Finding Kennedy.' I read on my phone using the Kindle app. Your phone can fit into a bible." -Sarah Yerima


Les Soleils des Indépendances by Ahmadou Kourouma

"I read Les Soleils des Indépendances by Ahmadou Kourouma because of the dark humor."- Chrystel Oloukoi


Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

"Shire's book is a contemporary classic. It imagines the subjectivity of your mother, your African mother, as the human being beyond the swarthes and definitions of motherhood. Do we not as children and the adults we become, conveniently imagine our mothers only within the dimension of motherhood? This book teaches us to look beyond that." -Gbenga Adesina


Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

"Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider helped me this week, especially the travel writing bit of that book. She helps me when I think, 'Am I imagining this or is this actually happening?' 'No, it's real,' Lorde's voice says. The clarity of her writing is exactly what I need to face the trolls in my family." -Michael Kebede


What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

"So my holiday reading list has had The Hundred Wells of Salaga which I'd high key recommend because you can have conversations about it with your family, and they can let you in on some family history. I'd also recommend What is Not Yours is Not Yours for escaping. It's the kind of book that'd make you hide somewhere so you aren't disturbed."-Esther Mirembe


House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

"It's like petty inter-generational family drama but elevated because of magical realism. Perfect for break from African parents reading."-Myriam Amri

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Outrage as the BBC Refers to Joint Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo as 'Another Author'

The first Black woman to win the literary prize, the BBC causally refers to Bernardine Evaristo as just 'another author'.

Bernardine Evaristo became the first Black woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize in October of this year. Contrary to the Booker Prize award rules, and to the marked displeasure of many, the British-Nigerian writer was forced to split the award with Canadian writer Margaret Atwood who had been the recipient of the award exactly a decade before.

However, a BBC news segment covering the 2019 Booker Prize described the award being given to Atwood and 'another author'. There has been tremendous outrage on social media from both fans and Evaristo who feel that the failure to name her is the beginning of an erasure of important history including Black people.

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Nana Oforiatta Ayim author photo (c) Naafia Naah

In Conversation: Nana Oforiatta Ayim On How Her Debut Novel ‘The God Child’ Challenges the Typical Immigrant Narrative

The Ghanaian writer, art historian and filmmaker talks to OkayAfrica about the magical storytelling in her new book, exploring the complexity of intergenerational African identity, the writing process and more.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim's debut novel The God Child isn't your typical immigrant tale—in fact, despite it being about a Ghanaian family living in Germany and the UK, according to the art historian and novelist, it isn't one at all. "I refer to [the characters] as 'expats,' because I think it's kind of nonsensical that Westerners have co-opted this [word]," says Ayim who is also the creator of the African Cultural Encyclopedia project, dedicated to preserving Africa's artistic heritage. "When they come to work in Africa, they call themselves expats, and yet when we go to work in Europe or America, we are automatically immigrants."

The novel seeks to turn trite narratives about immigrants on their head, as it follows two young protagonists Maya and Kojo who come to terms with their cultural heritage while being brought up as first-generation children in Europe. When they learn about their homeland through mystical tales from Maya's mother, they take it upon themselves to try and restore the fictional Ghanaian dynasty back to its former glory.

The God Child colorfully explores the intergenerational experience of African children and parents living in the West, and how each responds to, adapts to, or reject the feelings of loss and sacrifice that often come along with it. Ayim depicts two young people determined to hold on to their culture despite the challenges presented by their environment. The book offers a nuanced perspective and challenges the notion that most Africans migrate to Europe or America out of an idealization of the West.

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Screenshot from the upcoming film Warriors of a Beautiful Game

In Conversation: Pelé's Daughter is Making a Documentary About Women's Soccer Around the World

In this exclusive interview, Kely Nascimento-DeLuca shares the story behind filming Warriors of a Beautiful Game in Tanzania, Brazil and other countries.

It may surprise you to know that women's soccer was illegal in Brazil until 1981. And in the UK until 1971. And in Germany until 1970. You may have read that Sudan made its first-ever women's league earlier this year. Whatever the case, women and soccer have always had a rocky relationship.

It wasn't what women wanted. It certainly wasn't what they needed. However, society had its own ideas and placed obstacle after obstacle in front of women to keep ladies from playing the game. Just this year the US national team has shown the world that women can be international champions in the sport and not get paid fairly compared to their male counterparts who lose.

Kely Nascimento-DeLuca is looking to change that. As the daughter of international soccer legend Pelé, she is no stranger to the game. Growing up surrounded by the sport, she was actually unaware of the experiences women around the world were having with it. It was only recently that she discovered the hardships around women in soccer and how much it mirrored women's rights more generally.

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