Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Credit: Martin Harris Centre.

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi is on a press tour for her new book, the short story collection Manchester Happened, published in the US as Let’s Tell This Story Properly.

In an interview with the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation‘s Gloria Mwaniga, the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize winner, who is gaining a reputation for saying exactly what she thinks, gave illuminating views of the publishing industry. She talked about the inspiration behind the collection, the fluidity of national identities, reworking her fiction for a Ugandan audience, the importance of prizes and word-of-mouth publicity, the reception of African writers in the West and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s celebrity, MFAs in creative writing, her writing habits, and withdrawing her book from an American editor and giving it to a Shona one.

Here is an excerpt below.

__________________________________________________________________

There is a notion that editors in the west want a particular narrative on Africa. Does this bother you and do you factor that in when writing?

That is a huge fight I have with my editor. It was so bad that I withdrew my book and took it to an African editor, who then asked for an earlier version of the book. We ended up putting back some of the things that had been cut out. Interestingly, the three stories that had been removed turned out to be the most popular.

Though editors in the West claim to like African stories, they mostly end up editing for the West because they don’t understand our audiences back home. They also don’t understand our social, cultural and political elements. How then would they edit a book dealing with these very issues? In the end, I withdrew the book from the American editor and gave it to a Shona editor, who understood the text better. I must quickly add, though, that I was only able to afford that editor because of the Windham-Campbell prize. It is very expensive to hire an editor and so many writers end up accepting the changes that they shouldn’t because of the high cost of hiring editors.

I once read an article that said that there’s only one place for an African writer in the West. That there can only be one ‘Achebe’ at a time. Your thoughts?

I didn’t read that article but that is definitely not true. The West will hype because hyping is a Western thing. But I don’t think it is Chimamanda’s fault that they are hyping her. Achebe was very uncomfortable about it. He would say, “Excuse me, there’s so and so …” he kept on reminding them. Perhaps the person who wrote that meant that they could only pronounce one African name or perhaps they still look at Africa as a country. However, there is space for everybody.

I must add, though, that Chimamanda has moved out of a certain realm as far as authors go and become a celebrity. Authors are rarely celebrities. I don’t think Achebe got to where Chimamanda is. No other African author has gone to where she has gone. I’m also worried that those who have taken her up there have also the power to bring her down as they’ve done to white people they once hyped.

So I’m wary, and wouldn’t advise any African author to go up there. They were taking Binyavanga up there and I think that wasn’t good for him. But this idea that Adichie is there because of writing isn’t exactly right. . . . I think she is where she is now because of the TED talks and because she is talking about Trump. She has transcended writing and she has become an icon so that she can talk about Trump and feminism and anything else.

__________________________________________________________________

Read the full interview on Daily Nation.

Tags: , , , , , ,

About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. 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 attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he got an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies and English & Literary Studies. He 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.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

The Heart of It: Working Through Xenophobia in South Africa | Ruksana Elk

XENOPHOBIA - South African civil society and private citizens march in protest against xenophobic violence in Johannesburg. EPA-EFE and Yeshiel Panchia

READ: 15 Pieces to Guide Your Understanding of Xenophobia in (South) Africa Talking xenophobia with South Africans of all classes […]

The Brittle Paper Interview with the Caine Prize 2019 Winner: Lesley Nneka Arimah

Lesley Nneka Arimah with bust of Sir Michael Caine - credit to John Cobb slash Caine Prize

In July, Lesley Nneka Arimah received the 2019 Caine Prize, the award’s twentieth edition, for her short story “Skinned,” published […]

Hollywood or Nollywood? As Americanah TV Series Goes to HBO, Actress Stella Damasus Suggests Industry Slight & Chika Unigwe Responds

danai gurira, lupita nyong'o, chimamanda adichie, stella damasus, chika unigwe

The Americanah TV series adaptation, starring Lupita Nyong’o and written by Danai Gurira, has been ordered by HBO Max. The […]

15 Pieces to Guide Your Understanding of Xenophobia in (South) Africa

xenophobia in south africa - photo by guillerme sartori for agence france press and getty images

Once again, this September, xenophobic violence was unleashed on other Africans, mostly Nigerians, in South Africa: businesses were closed, shops […]

Johary Ravaloson’s Return to the Enchanted Island Is the Second Novel from Madagascar to Be Translated into English

johary ravaloson - winds from elsewhere - graph (1)

In May 2018, we brought news of the first novel by a writer from Madagascar to be translated into English: […]

Sundays at Saint Steven’s | Davina Philomena Kawuma | Poetry

unsplash3

when god runs out of money (how, no one says) once a week, these days, we come to where the […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.