Source: The Guardian
Shamed by a gap in his reading, the Guardian writer vowed to read only fiction by African women in 2018. After 19 novels spanning Nigeria to Ethiopia, he shares what he learned
At last year’s Guardian Opinion Christmas party – modest affairs at which those who want to dance are outnumbered by those who want to talk by at least five to one – I met Chibundu Onuzo, a Nigerian author.
“We share a publisher,” she told me.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I haven’t read your book.”
Chibundu waved away my apology with generous indifference. We carried on chatting and were among the pioneers on the dancefloor.
Chibundu did not appear bothered by my ignorance of her work, but I was. I can’t say exactly why. There are lots of books I haven’t read. But in some small way that gnawed at me in the days ahead, I wondered not only why I hadn’t read her but why she wasn’t on my radar.
Feeling it was time to fix my radar, I decided, when it came to fiction, to read only African women for a year. The motivation was not virtue but curiosity. I wondered what I had been missing out on. I wasn’t completely ignorant of literature by women from that part of the world: I’d read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ama Ata Aidoo, Bessie Head, Buchi Emecheta, Leila Aboulela, Gillian Slovo, Nadine Gordimer and Zoë Wicomb. Nor was I entirely ignorant of that part of the world. I lived in Sudan for a year, reported from South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Sierra Leone and visited Ghana on holiday. But it had been at least four years since I read any of those authors and five since I set foot on the continent.