Each episode I sit down with a writer, publisher, or otherwise bookish inclined person and chat about literature, the publishing industry, writing, and books we recommend.
010: Panashe Chigumadzi
Panashe is an essayist and novelist. Her first novel, Sweet Medicine, was published in 2015 (Blackbird Books) and won the K. Sello Duiker Literary Award in 2016. In 2018 her second book These Bones Will Rise Again was published as the first book of The Indigo Press. She is the founding editor of Vanguard magazine, a platform for young black women coming of age in post-apartheid South Africa, and a contributing editor to Johannesburg Review of Books. Panashe has written for several outlets and she was also the curator of the inaugural Abantu Book Festival in South Africa. Her writing is also included in the New Daughters of Africa anthology. Furthermore, she is now a doctoral candidate at Harvard University’s Department of African and African American Studies.
In this episode recorded during the African Book Festival Berlin, we talk about slippery genre categories, re-imagining historiography, spiritual mediums, resistance narratives, gender, and questions of representation.
Note: This episode was recorded in a hotel lobby - and there are background noises at times.
009: Ayesha Harruna Attah
Ayesha Harruna Attah is the writer of three novels. Her debut novel, Harmattan Rain, was shortlisted for the 2010 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Africa Region. Her most recent novel, The Hundred Wells of Salaga, is a wonderful historical novel set in pre-colonial Ghana following two women whose fates intersect. This novel has been translated into several languages already. Her writing is also included in the grand New Daughters of Africa anthology.In this episode recoreded during the African Book Festival Berlin, we talk about the making of The Hundred Wells of Salaga, the joys of research and the difficult task to decide what to keep out, what kind of history we are told, inserting queer characters in historical fiction, and food writing (shoutout to African Food Map).
008: Safia Elhillo
Safia Elhillo is an award-winning poet who performs regularly and whose writing has been published in various journals and anthologies, the New Daugthers of Africa anthology just being one of the latest one. In 2016, her chapbook Asmarani was included in the New Generation African Poets Box Set. Her debut collection The January Children, was published in 2017 and won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. In 2018, she was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Her latest book is the anthology Halal If You Hear Me. The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 3 which she co-edited with Fatimah Asghar.
In this episode, we will talk about Safia’s books, the power of silences in poetry, using different languages in one text, facilitating poetry workshops, the importance of communities and the possibilities of fashion.
007: Zeba Talkhani
Zeba Talkhani’s memoir My Past is a Foreign Country: A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself was published at the end of June and received blurbs by writers such as Meena Kandasamy and Ironesen Okojie. One of her previous essays, “The Difficulty in Being Good”, was part of the anthology Nasty Women. A Collection of Essays + Accounts On What It Is To Be A Woman In The 21st Century. In 2016 Zeba hosted Muslim Women Speak in London, “a micro-festival of interactive sessions curated, chaired and presented exclusively by Muslim women.” She has earned a degree in publishing and currently works as a production editor at Bloomsbury Academic.In this episode, we talk about the joys and pitfalls of writing about one’s own life, the slippery notions of truth and memory, unattainable beauty standards, the publishing industry, and feminism.
006: Leslie Kuo
Leslie Kuo describes herself on her website as "a librarian, a designer, a translator, and both a first and second generation immigrant". Currently she works at the Berlin-Pankow Public Library District. She is part of the management team and responsible for a programme on 'intercultural opening' (a term we discuss within the podcast). For her thesis, Kuo interviewed library staff with 'immigration background' in Berlin and analysed their experiences. Kuo is also a member of the International Federation of Libraries and Associations where she is the information coordinator of the section "Library Services to Multicultural Populations".
In our conversation we discussed different aspects of how to create a library which is open and accessible for as many people as possible, dissected terminology, gushed about Sara Ahmed's research and writing about 'diversity work', dove into the results of Kuo's research about marginalized library staff, spoke about libraries in different countries, and about which step could reduce the barrier to use a library significantly.You find a full reading list on Have You Read.
005 Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma's debut novel House of Stone was published in 2018 to much acclaim. It has been awarded the 2019 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award for Fiction with a Sense of Place, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize. Before the novel, Tshuma had already published a novella and short fiction in various outlets. She is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently working on her PhD. Tshuma is the fiction editor for The Bare Life Review, "a literary biannual devoted entirely to work by immigrant and refugee authors".
We sat down in April during the African Book Festival Berlin and talked about concepts of history, the role of humour when writing about trauma, the fascinating protagonist Zamani in Tshuma's novel House of Stone, placing certain narratives in the publishing industry (and what is deemed a 'difficult' read and sell), and studying creative writing.