How Do I Stop Faking My Love for African Literature (5)
Dear Ms. Paper:

I have successfully faked my love for African literature for many years. Even though my dinner party conversations and twitter feed says otherwise, I’ve never really liked African literature. 

African fiction is too serious. There is never a moment of pure delight. It’s always talk talk talk of colonialism or some world historical problem. And why the tragic endings? If it’s not Okonkwo hanging himself, its Kambili’s mother poisoning her despicable husband, or Julius turning out to be a rapist.

As for poetry. Ugh! Wole Soyinka can’t take a moment’s chill from forcing entire English dictionaries down our throats.

There are times when I just want to chill, scroll through Kim K’s Instagram, and bury your face in a plush pillow while listening to Twilight audio book. Can’t do that with African fiction. Always preaching. Always pushing some agenda.

It’s 2016. I’m 25 years old and sick of all the fakeness in my life—including pretending to enjoy African literature.

Me to African literature: “boy bye!”

Unless you can convince me otherwise.


My Dear Runaway Reader:

Loving certain kinds of books is like orgasm. Everyone has faked it at some point or another. It’s not the end of the world. You seem way bothered about faking your love for African literature than is necessary.

Own your dislike for African literature. You should feel neither shame nor regrets. It’s funny how much African literature is like the bible. We grow up with a lot of guilt around making it a part of our lives. Refusing to read African literature doesn’t make you a sinner or a sellout. As I’ve said time without number, no book is required reading. Always let your quest for pleasure drive your desire to read. Again, it’s like orgasm. You can’t fake it forever. At some point, you have to give him the ultimatum: get me there or get out.

I love African literature. It doesn’t take much for an African novel to seduce the life out of me. I’ve cried, laughed, screamed, and lost my shit from reading an African novel. I have even been turned on by an African novel. But that’s me. To you, African fiction is a droll, sad, bore. There is enough space in the literary universe for people as different as we are.

A reader should always be open-minded, but I think it’s the responsibility of a book to recommend itself to the reader. You seem to have done your part. You are not a lazy reader. I can tell. You’ve read everything from Things Fall Apart to Purple Hibiscus. If anyone is counting, that’s over 45 years of fiction writing. Still, nothing has captivated you. I think African fiction should take the blame. It has failed to make itself legible to you.

My dear, you are perfectly in your right to say “boy bye!”

Yours Truly,

Ms. P.



#DearMsPaper is a fictional agony-aunt series that parodies readers, critics, and writers in the African literary scene. If you have specific questions you’d like me to address, send to

To read more #DearMsPaper posts: click here


The Facebook link image is an adaptation of a photograph by Tommy Miles via flickr.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “Dear Ms. Paper: How Do I Stop Faking My Love for African Literature?” Subscribe

  1. moo 2016/09/05 at 10:56 am #


    Exactly- thats what I think. I really struggled to learn how to read, it was so painful because thats all I really ever wanted so when I finally got it-I would literary just read everything-from Archie comics to encyclopias to newspapers to ingredients labels. I was just so happy I could finally read-it was such a rapturous moment.

    Read what is enjoyable to you. African literature, Alaskan literature, read about alien invasions, real invasions, read books written in different languages, written in made up languages, published on kindle, paperback, audio book, read on the train, read at home, read in the cafe, read upside down read for pleasure, read for critique, read for the joy of reading -seriously just do it how you like and why like and for what you like. Thats the beauty of books and reading (and writing) Possibilites are endless.

    There’s so many books, platforms, styles, genres, formats out there that have exactly what you’re looking for.You don’t have to stick to one:)

  2. Mirabelle Morah 2016/09/05 at 2:08 pm #

    As for poetry. Ugh! Wole Soyinka can’t take a moment’s chill from forcing entire English dictionaries down our throats.

    Very true. The first time i ever saw Soyinka on TV live, i was totally enthralled. I sat down to watch him but in mere minutes, i was itching to turn to another station. Too much big big grammar biko.

  3. Afrique Anglais 2016/09/12 at 5:53 am #

    I wrote a blog post in a similar vein last month. “Is African Literature too high brow?

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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