Thursday, December 8, 2022

Reading Africa Week

 Michael - Thursday

As the book by Astrid Madimba and Chinny Ukata says, it's a continent (not a country). There are a lot of stories to be told from Africa.

We are midway through Reading Africa Week (an initiative of Catalyst Press in the US now in its sixth year). To quote them, “The goals of the campaign are to get people around the world talking about African literature, to help readers discover new African and African diaspora writers and explore new genres, to elevate the profiles of African writers, and to celebrate the work put in by professionals industry-wide to bring African stories to new readers…”

Catalyst Press knows what this is about. Its founder and publisher, Jessica Powers, has established connections to South Africa and Catalyst has developed an African Crime Reads series mostly set in South Africa. Some of the novels are first publications and some are South African writers being published for the first time in the US. All of them are excellent African crime fiction.

Reading Africa Week certainly isn't restricted to mysteries and thrillers, however. On the contrary, the program is wide ranging with this year’s e-panels covering diverse topics:

Who is African: Place, identity, and belonging in literature;

Behind the Scenes: African filmmakers & writers on interplay and adaptation;

Writing the sounds of Africa: African music in literature;

Queer Africa: LGBTQIA+ writers define and defy genres;

The young reader: African children's literature.

Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)

Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)

Abulrazak Gurnah (Tanzania)

JMG le Clézio (Mauritius)

Necip Mahfuz (Egypt)

JM Coetzee (South Africa)

There’s a fortune of wonderful fiction from Africa ranging from the Nobel Prize Winners above to debut authors with fascinating new voices. Many of the new writers seem to be trying their hands at crime fiction. They are not all dark, but some are very dark indeed. In all the good ones, the setting itself is a character. Africa is, of course, a diverse continent, and that leads to many characters and stories that couldn’t happen anywhere else. To give just one example, I asked Oyinkan Braithwaite if her breakout novel My Sister the Serial Killer could be set anywhere other than Nigeria.  She replied, “I don’t think it would have worked as well had I set it in the UK, for example. Nigeria very quickly became central to the story. I suppose my low opinion of the police here in Lagos meant that I could allow my characters to continue to get away with things that ordinarily they shouldn’t have been able to get away with.” Indeed, these are crimes that don’t require a superstar detective, but require a certain lax environment in which to succeed.

So I decided that my contribution to Reading Africa Week would be to take a little tour to a different African country each day featuring an African mystery author or two. You can catch up with the link below if you’d like to.


And speaking of Reading Africa, today is the UK launch of A Deadly Covenant in paperback. We’ve been delighted with all the reviews – especially the starred review in Publishers Weekly. Readers really seem to enjoy the Young Kubu and his adventures. Today also saw the launch of Orenda Books’ trailer for the book. It's rather fun and I’ll finish on that note!


  1. Thank you for adding to my TBR list, Stan, and reminding me to return to some of my old favorites...starting with JM Coetzee. And BRAVO on the UK publication of "A Deadly Covenant," one of my new favorites.

  2. Thanks, Jeff! Of course there is a lot of competition for mysteries set in Africa from elsewhere in the world. There are some very fine ones set in Greece for example.