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Books & Rhymes, one of our favorite Instagram book review platforms, is expanding into the podcast scene, and we are beyond delighted.

The Books & Rhymes podcast is based on the brilliant idea of pairing books and music. The presenter Sarah Ozo-Irabor takes listeners on a delightful journey through the heart of a book, with music as the guiding light. The debut episode is currently available for your listening on pretty much every major audio app. Listen here.

Ozo-Irabor is a well-known name in the literary community. Readers hang on her every word not only because she knows a lot about books and literary culture but also because she knows how to make readers care deeply about the books they read. With the podcast, she is building on this key aspect of her brand.

The featured guest in the debut episode is none other than Namwali Serpell. Serpell’s debut novel, titled The Old Drift, was published by Penguin Random House last year. It made quite a splash a few weeks ago when it was reviewed by Nobel Laureate Salman Rushdie. He praised the book for its “unforgettable female characters” and declared it “impressive.” The novel blends different genres and spans generations, pulling together a sprawling and intriguing cast of characters.

Prior to the event, Ozo-Irabor had asked Serpell to come up with a list of books and songs that paired well with The Old Drift. In the episode, they talk about the book through this vast array of music and books. In the process, they transform the novel into something quite extraordinary. Old Drift becomes less a book and more a literary experience that transcends the mere act of reading.

The chemistry between Ozo-Irabor and Serpell is instant and palpable. Minute after minute of dynamite banter go by as they weave an intimate back story for The Old Drift, drawing readers into the many layers of influences that shaped the book. Ozo-Irabor is quite the entertainer. She asks thought-provoking, off-the-wall questions. Serpell is open, gracious, and fun in her responses. Lots of laughs and moving stories about Serpell’s experience publishing a book she began writing when she was 20 years old.

Ozo-Irabor stands out in the African literary scene. She is clearing out as space for readers to experience books as the truly extraordinary things they are. She is not just a book reviewer. She is a literary impresario. In this podcast, she isn’t just telling readers what to read but inviting them to experience literature as a powerful cultural experience.

Listen to episode #1 of the Books & Rhymes podcast here. Go here and here to listen to the banging playlist of songs that Serpell paired with books.

The next live recording of Books & Rhymes podcast is scheduled for May 23rd. Go here for event details.

 

 

 

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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