‘Not Another Book Podcast’ on More Visibility for Books by Writers of African Origin

The excellent three-woman “Not Another Book Podcast” is hosted by bookstagrammer @BooksAndRhymes, book blogger @BookShyBooks, & writer Yovanka Paquete Perdigao. They recently focused an episode — their 10th — on literature for young readers, and followed it with another amazing episode — their 12th — where they spoke to best-selling YA writer Tomi Adeyemi

Why did you decide to focus episode 10 on literature for young readers?

@Nabookpodcast: Every episode of the podcast focuses on a theme that is near and dear to each of us – translation or anime & manga (PostColonialChild), fair representation in the publishing industry (Books & Rhymes) and speculative fiction (BookShyBooks). bookshy is a lover of children’s literature and YA – blogging about it regularly on her literary blog – and always knew an episode of the podcast would feature that theme – turns out that would be episode 10.

What do you think makes a great children’s book? A great YA novel? If someone asked you for a recommendation for their 5 year old, their 10 year old, and their 15 year old, what books would you suggest?  

@Bookshybooks: Like most books, it’s one that I fall in love with. With picture books for young readers, there’s the added bonus of stunning illustrations. Overall, if the book — whether children or YA — draws me into a larger and different world, with characters and stories that keep me interested, while also staying with me long after I am done — then I would classify it as great book.

For a 5 year old: Akissi by Marguerite Abouet. Sleep Well, Siba and Saba by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl and Sandra van Doorn (and anything really from Lantana Publishing).

10 year old: The Hidden Star by K. Sello Duiker. Talking Drums: A Selection of Poems from Africa South of the Sahara edited by Véronique Tadjo.

15 year old: For an older book – Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire or Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. For a newer book –  The Akata Witch series (or Sunny’s Adventures in Nigeria) by Nnedi Okorafor, Mirage by Somaiya Daud.

@Nabookpodcast: We could go on …. and we do in our episode on children’s literature and YA fiction :).

What changes (if any?) have you seen in the publishing of African kidlit and YA in the last 10 years? What trends?

@Bookshybooks:The last 10 years have been very exciting in the world of kidlit and YA – on the continent and in the Diaspora.

With reference to Anglophone Africa, for example, there are great prizes, such as the Golden Baobab Prizes for Early Chapter Books, Picture Books and Illustrators. There are also initiatives such as Sooo Many Stories in Uganda with The Fireplace Tot Tales – a book club for children aged 4-12.

There has also been an increasing visibility of children’s books and YA by African writers being published by African publishers, as well as publishers in the West also publishing African kid lit and YA. There are independent publishers, such as Nigeria and UK-based Cassava Republic Press who have a lovely collection of children’s books, such as the Princess Arabella series, as well as UK-based Lantana Publishing that currently has four picture books written by writers of African origin and set in African countries – one in Nigeria (Chicken in the Kitchen), one in Kenya (The Wooden Camel), and two in Uganda (Sleep Well Siba and Saba, Sing to the Moon).

On the YA front, there is so much to mention – Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch series, Tochi Onyebuchi’s Beasts Made of Night and the forthcoming sequel, Crown of Thunder. South Africa also has great YA – Cat Hellisen (Beastkeeper and Empty Monsters), the Deadlands series by Lily Herne.

This is simply a snapshot of what is happening, but I have written a lot about the children’s literature and the YA fiction scene on her blog, if you’re interested in finding out more do check out some of my posts on YA and on children’s literature.

Of course we all know about Tomi Adeyemi’s (fantastic) Children of Blood and Bone, published by MacMillan but how do you find out about new kid lit being published in African countries?

@Bookshybooks: I am constantly researching and scouring the internet, social media and bookstores for all things African literature, and end up blogging and tweeting about all of the many exciting things I find in my search. As I have also been blogging for over 7 years – and particularly in the African literature space, I have been a proud supporter and promoter of children’s literature and YA – I have also been approached by many publishers, writers and initiatives about their work in this area.

What would you like to see happen in the kidlit and YA book industries?

@Nabookpodcast: Generally, for kidlit and YA, to be seen as a legitimate form of literature that can, and should be, read by all ages. Specifically, for there to be more visibility of books from writers of African origin, and for these books to be on all bookshelves, in all stores and to be seen as books that can be read by children and adults – regardless of their identity.

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