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Ariel Bookman

Nigerian novelist, poet, dramatist, educator, and political activist, was born Christopher Uchechukwu Andrew Abani, on 27 December 1966, in Afikpo, Nigeria. Abani’s life has been dramatically shaped but not defined by the political violence associated with the Nigerian state. Born in the Igbo heartland of southeast Nigeria to an Igbo father and British mother, Abani was six months old when the Biafran War began. His mother fled to Britain with him and his siblings, an experience that he would later narrate in poetic form in Daphne’s Lot (2003). Returning to Nigeria after the war, Abani demonstrated precocious literary talent, publishing his first short story at age ten and finishing his first novel, Masters of the Board (1984), at sixteen. The novel, a political thriller, imagines a Nazi plot to return to power by using unwitting Third World governments as its pawns.

Abani was arrested in ...

Article

Baye Yimam

Ethiopian intellectual, novelist, playwright, and poet, was born on 1 July 1933 in Gojjam Province, Ethiopia. He was one of the prominent literary figures in modern Ethiopian literature, the author of some twenty-three books between 1956 and 1977; two are in English and the rest in Amharic, his native language. The works comprise eight novels, five plays, three poetry collections, and another five on various subjects, including translation of biographies and works on land tenure.

His mother Yirgedu Belay died young leaving him to be raised by his father Gubegna Ambaye It was her expressed wish that Abbe should go to school which Ambaye fulfilled by sending him to a church school as was usual He attended different schools in Gojjam and Begemeder for twelve years and attained a high level of excellence in the traditional curriculum which included Geez poetry hymnody and liturgical dance all rooted in the ...

Article

Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili novelist, was born in Makunduchi village in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) in 1918. Even though he was a Muslim, he was educated in a missionary school. After completing his secondary education in 1938, he worked for the Civil Health Department and edited the Swahili Bulletin in the Department of Agriculture on his island. His complete biography remains obscure. He lost all his family in January 1964 during the bloody revolution that overthrew the sultan of Zanzibar and his mainly Arab government but took a heavy toll of victims among the population as well.

Abdulla’s first novelette, Mzimu wa watu wa kale (Graveyard of the Ancestors, 1960), aroused lively interest among the critics for its innovations: the abandonment of the folktale tradition, omnipresent in Swahili fiction of those days, and the concern for literary style. It won first prize in the East African Literary Competition of 1957 ...

Article

Tina Steiner

Sudanese writer, was born in Cairo, Egypt, to an Egyptian mother (Sudan’s first ever female demographer) and a Sudanese father. She was brought up and educated in Khartoum, at the Khartoum American School, and graduated in 1985 from the University of Khartoum with a degree in economics, before moving to London in her mid-twenties to study for her master’s degree in statistics at the London School of Economics. In 1990 she moved to Aberdeen, Scotland, with her husband and three children, and she started writing in 1992 while working as a part-time research assistant and lecturer. She explains that the Gulf War, and the anti-Islam/anti-Arab sentiments that it triggered, provided the initial impetus for her writing. Aboulela has lived in Cairo, Khartoum, Jakarta, Dubai, London, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Aberdeen, where she wrote most of her fiction.

Aboulela is a devout Muslim and her fictional work engages with the role ...

Article

Mpalive Msiska

Nigerian novelist, was born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe on 15 November 1930 at Saint Simon’s Church, Nneobi, near Ogidi, in British colonial Nigeria. His father, Isaiah Okafo Achebe, was a teacher and evangelist and his mother, Janet Anaenechi Iloeghunam, was from the Awka area of eastern Nigeria. Until the age of five, Achebe was brought up at a church school, where his father taught. When his father went into semiretirement in 1935 in Ogidi, Achebe became a child of two worlds, the modern world and the world of indigenous tradition. He began primary school at Saint Philip’s Central School at Akpakaogwe, Ogidi, moving on to Nekede Central School near Owerri in 1942. Achebe developed into a studious young man, passing entrance examinations for two prestigious secondary schools.

It was at Government College Umuahia which had a good library and extremely able and dedicated teachers that Achebe cultivated his love of ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Chinua Achebe once described his writing as an attempt to set the historical record straight by showing “that African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans; that their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty, that they had poetry and, above all, they had dignity.” Achebe's works portray Nigeria's communities as they pass through the trauma of colonization into a troubled nationhood. In bringing together the political and the literary, he neither romanticizes the culture of the indigenous nor apologizes for the colonial.

Achebe's own upbringing spanned the indigenous and colonial worlds. Born Albert Chinualumogu Achebe to an Igbo family active in the Christian church, he grew up in the rural village of Ogidi, in eastern Nigeria At a young age he received a coveted scholarship to Government College in Umuahia where he studied alongside ...

Article

Daria Tunca

Nigerian creative writer and essayist, was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children, to James Nwoye and Grace Ifeoma Adichie. The Igbo family’s ancestral hometown was Abba in Anambra State, but Adichie grew up in Nsukka, where her parents worked. Her father was professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria and later became the institution’s deputy vice-chancellor, while her mother, a graduate in sociology, was its first female registrar.

Adichie began writing stories as a child. Her first pieces were heavily influenced by the British children’s literature of which she was an avid reader; her early prose was, more specifically, modeled on the books of English author Enid Blyton. When Adichie was about ten years old, she discovered African novels such as Things Fall Apart (1958) by Nigerian Chinua Achebe and The African Child (originally published in French as L enfant ...

Article

Lidwien Kapteijns

Somali novelist, short story writer, critic, journalist, and founder of cultural and literary journals and institutions, was born in Jarriiban, Mudug region, Somalia, in 1952. His name is also given as Mohamed Dahir Afrah and Maxamed Daahir Afrax. He graduated from high school in Mogadishu in 1973. When the Siad Barre government introduced the first official orthography for the Somali language in 1972, Afrax founded the first bilingual Somali-Arabic monthly magazine using the new script, Codka Jubba (“The Voice of Jubba,” 1972–1975). In 1976, Afrax’s story “Guur-ku-sheeg” (“Pseudo-marriage”) was serialized in the Somali national newspaper Xiddigta Oktoobar (“The October Star”), laying the basis for a lasting literary tradition of serialized fiction.

In this same serialized form he also first published his popular novel Maanafaay, the story of the girl Maanafaay, who, in the Mogadishu of the 1970s, strives to be modern and modest ...

Article

Jonathan Morley

An imprint of Heinemann International Division publishing African literature, running from 1957 to 2003. In 1957Van Milne at Heinemann received a manuscript of Chinua Achebe'sThings Fall Apart, the seminal English‐language African novel. He commissioned the work, together with its sequel, No Longer At Ease, Cyprian Ekwensi'sBurning Grass, and a history book by Kenneth Kaunda, soon to be the democratic President of Zambia. The four books were published together in 1962, Achebe taking the editorship of the new series. Things Fall Apart would sell 8 million copies, translated into 32 languages.

Independent Africa's three Nobel Laureates for Literature—Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt), and Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)—were included, as were politicians such as Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya) and Nelson Mandela, whose collection of letters, speeches, articles, and trial transcripts, No Easy Walk to Freedom, was published in 1986 several years ...

Article

Jara Michelle Rios-Rodriguez

Angolan journalist and writer, was born in Huambo, Angola, on 13 December 1960. He considered himself to be African, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Luso-Afro-Brazilian. This multiculturalism that he defends comes from his Portuguese and Brazilian heritage. Before becoming a journalist and a writer, he studied silviculture and agronomy. It wasn’t until the 1990s that he started dedicating himself entirely to his writing. He lived in Recife and in Rio de Janeiro between 1998 and 2000, although, according to David Brookshaw, there still exists debate surrounding the date of Agualusa’s departure from Angola. According to Brookshaw, some believe that it was in 1975 during the general exodus resulting from Angola’s newly acquired independence and the new Portuguese politics regarding the former colonies. Others claim that it was after the attempted coup against Agostinho Neto in 1977, and others say that it was in 1998 a date that ...

Article

Kathleen Sheldon

Ghanaian poet, playwright, and short-story writer, was born Christina Ama Aidoo in a village in central Ghana, in either 1940 or 1942 (sources differ). Her father, Yaw Fama, was a local ruler and an educator who opened the first local school and encouraged his daughter to attend. By the time she was a teenager, she was writing poems and short stories, and she has said that she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer. Her first story, “To Us a Child Is Born,” was published in 1958, when it won a prize sponsored by The Daily Graphic, a leading Ghanaian newspaper. She attended Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast and the University of Ghana at Legon. In 1962 she attended the African Writers Workshop at Nigeria s University of Ibadan the result of a contest to which she had submitted No ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Christina Ama Ata Aidoo was born in Abeadzi Kyiakor, Ghana, into a Fante family she once characterized as “a long line of fighters.” Encouraged by her liberal-minded father, Aidoo pursued an English degree at the University of Ghana in Legon. As a student, she won a short-story prize, but her interests centered on drama as a means of bringing to life the rich oral traditions of the Fante. She worked closely with leading Ghanaian dramatist Efua Sutherland and became familiar with a Fante dramatic style that blossomed in the 1930s.

Aidoo's first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, was staged in 1964 by the Student s Theatre at the University of Ghana With this play Aidoo earned her lasting reputation as a writer who examines the traditional African roles of wife and mother The play like many of her later works also demonstrated her willingness to grapple ...

Article

Novian Whitsitt

Nigerian creative writer and educator, was born in the Tura-Wazila community of Borno State, Nigeria. She completed her graduate education at Bayero University, Kano, receiving a doctorate in African literature. Professionally, she has served as principal of Shekara Girls’ Boarding School, Kano, an assistant lecturer at Bayero University, and senior lecturer in English and coordinator of English and general studies at Modibbo Adama College, University of Maiduguri. Following twenty-two years of university work, Alkali took a three-year break and worked for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Abuja. In 2009 she was named dean of the Faculty of Arts at Nasarawa State University, where she teaches creative writing and African literature in English. During her childhood, Alkali’s father converted to Christianity, but she became a Muslim in the 1960s. She asserts that both Christianity and Islam have influenced her own spirituality. In 1971 she married Dr Mohammed ...

Article

Terza Silva Lima-Neves

lawyer and author, was born on 31 July 1945 on Boa Vista Island in the Republic of Cape Verde Germano de Almeida was one of ten children of Anacleto Dias Almeida and Eugenia da Cruz Almeida His father was a carpenter and his mother was a stay at home mother who took care of the children It was very difficult for his parents to support ten children Cape Verde was a small and poor country under Portuguese rule There were not many jobs available When Germano was sixteen years old his father passed away after being sick for many years Germano started working as a carpenter to help his family He was very smart really enjoyed school and because of this Germano was chosen to be his teacher s assistant He wanted to continue with school and be successful even if he did not receive support from his parents ...

Article

Terri Ochiagha

, Nigerian author, educator, army officer, and administrator, was born in Mbodo-Aluu, today in the Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, on 12 May 1934 to Daniel Wonuchuku Wogbara Amadi, a farmer and haberdasher, and Enwene Wogazior. One of Amadi’s relatives, Gabriel Ohabiko, was a “famous Aluu story teller and historian from whose lips he must have garnered a vast store of oral tradition” (Alagoa in Feuser and Eko, 1994). His primary education was at Saint Peter’s School, Isiokpo. He went on to Government College, Umuahia, where he developed a keen interest in literature and began writing short stories and poems. After graduating from Umuahia, he spent a year at Survey School Oyo and earned a Land Survey certificate, before going on to study for a degree in physics and mathematics at the University College, Ibadan in 1955 At university Amadi replaced his Europeanized name Emmanuel Elechi Daniel ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

A member of the Igbo ethnic group, Elechi Amadi was born in a small southeastern Nigerian village near Port Harcourt. In 1959 he graduated with a degree in physics and mathematics from the University College of Ibadan, a prestigious college attended by other well-known Nigerian writers, such as Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark, Christopher Okigbo, and Wole Soyinka. After working as a land surveyor, Amadi taught science for three years at missionary schools in Ahoada and Oba. In 1963 he joined the Nigerian Army; he taught the Ikwerri dialect of Igbo at a military school in Zaria.

His first book, The Concubine, blended acute psychological detail and precise observation to tell the story of a young village woman's battle with spiritual forces. The book's publication in 1966 coincided with the proclamation of an independent state—Biafra—in Igbo-dominated southeastern Nigeria Amadi s allegiance to the Federal ...

Article

Jorge Amado, who wrote more than thirty novels during his career, played a significant role in representing African culture in Brazilian literature. Among his subjects are the blacks of Salvador, in Amado's home state of Bahia, and the African religious rituals that sustain them. Although Amado's approach to Afro-Brazilian traditions is sympathetic and exceptionally detailed, his Bahian novels have met with much controversy. A younger generation of Brazilian and non-Brazilian critics have accused Amado of creating overly exotic portraits of black culture and creating simplistic, class-bound character types.

Amado the son of a plantation owner in Bahia attended a Jesuit college at age 12 However after just one year he rebelled against the strict lifestyle at the school and left to live with his grandfather During the 1930s Amado joined the Brazilian Communist Party and his writings from this period reflect his ideological commitment to communism These works such ...

Primary Source

Colleen J. McElroy (b. 1935) was in her thirties before she began writing poetry, fiction, and memoirs in earnest. Until then, she had trained as a speech therapist, earning a doctorate while studying ethnolinguistic patterns at the University of Washington, where she became the first African American woman to be promoted to full professor. As the daughter of an army sergeant, McElroy was also well-traveled by the time her writing career took off, living in multiple American cities as well as overseas. Both of these experiences are on display in her collection of short stories, Driving Under the Cardboard Pines (1990), which, in the words of one reviewer, depicts the "mysticism and brutality" of the African American experience by bringing together voices of a diverse collection of characters (Barbara Smith, "Homeward Bound," The Kenyon Review). Although her previous collection, Jesus and Fat Tuesday 1987 is based mainly in ...

Article

Margaret Ann Reid

Johari Amini, born Jewel Christine McLawler to William and Alma (Bazel) McLawler on 13 January 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, changed her name after her consciousness-raising by Haki R. Madhubuti (then Don L. Lee), whom she met as a thirty-two-year-old freshman at Wilson Junior College. Johari is Swahili for “Jewel,” and Amini is Swahili for “honesty and fidelity.” Amini believes that the meaning of a name becomes an inherent part of the person carrying that name, and she wanted names that would reflect her personality and her values of honesty and fidelity—values that she lived by and that she wanted her writings to convey.

Amini's meeting Madhubuti was the beginning of a long literary and political association which is demonstrated in her poetic style as well as in her social criticism She was a staff member of the Institute of Positive Education and she was assistant then associate editor ...