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Farida Ado. Photo credit: Yagazie Emezi for TIME.

Hausa-language romance novelist Farido Ado has been included in TIME Magazine’s 2018 list of Next Generation Leaders. Ado, who is 32 and has written six books focused on “forbidden romance, polygamy and inter-generational drama,” appears on the ten-name list alongside popstars Ariana Grande and The Weeknd and supermodel Adwoa Aboah. Her profile, written by Aryn Baker, describes her as “Kano’s Jane Austen”:

As in the Regency-era England of Jane Austen’s novels, women in the city of Kano in northern Nigeria are on the cusp of radical social changes, as globalized development pulls against conservative Islamic traditions. To help make sense of changing times, many are turning to romance novels, or littattafan soyayya (literally, “books of love”). The cheap and locally produced paperbacks, sold from tiny storefronts throughout Kano’s street markets, are a popular diversion for women of all classes and education levels.

Leading this trend is Farida Ado, 32, the Hausa-language author of six books featuring forbidden romance, polygamy and inter-generational drama. “Women turn to romance novels to figure out how to live their own lives,” she says.

More chaste Mills & Boon than Fifty Shades, Ado’s novels reflect the daily concerns and preoccupations of her contemporaries: how to get along with the multiple step-siblings from your father’s several wives; how to deal with a new, younger wife in your home; how to maintain family harmony while striving for independence; and what to do (or not do) about a husband’s infidelity. The novels are prescriptive on purpose, says Ado. “Every positive example [the reader] gets on how to solve her problems is a plus to society.”

Her recent series, The Block of Ashes, was inspired by a neighbor who went to a Nigerian juju priest hoping dark magic could help with her marital problems, to devastating results. “I try to reflect the reality of society in my stories,” she says. “These juju doctors had become a menace in many homes.”

Ado’s books, printed locally on cheap pulp, are not likely to be translated into English anytime soon. But to Nigeria’s Hausa-speaking population of 30 million, Kano’s Jane Austen has many more stories to tell.

Farida Ado may not be well known even on the Nigerian scene but this recognition of her work and its social impact is an important one for a romance novelist writing in an African language.

Congratulations to Farida Ado!

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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