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!”
#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 email@example.com
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The Facebook link image is an adaptation of a photograph by Tommy Miles via flickr.