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Young African writers: Breaking barriers and shifting paradigms

  • Don't you want to pick up a novel and read the words Wi-fi, Chanel, iPhone, Slayage, Egusi and Africa all in the same line? Don't you want to write your language without explaining what it means, be African in your writing without apologising for it? I bet you won't mind being able to quote your Yoruba ancestors without italicising the phrase and having to explain to a ghost reader in an unglossy glossary.

    I went to Okada books, and I almost wept. I was home. There was 'The Aso-Ebo Chronicles' and 'With Love From Asaba ' by Sharon Abimbola Salu '29, Nigerian and Single', 'Love is a bit Sarcastic', classic Hausa books, books by Kiru Taye and Amaka Azie. There was this feeling of longing to devour all at the same time unlike I have ever known myself to be capable of, it was at the least bit a heady one.

    'The flowering of new African Writers is an amazing phenomenon' says Manthia Diawara a Professor of Comparative Literature and Film at New York University. What marvels him most is how young Africans create their world freely without being held by the expectations of the world.

    You can always spin your words, smack your African slang as rightfully sanctioned by Pa Ikide in his post 'So Bob Dylan Won The Nobel Prize for Literature, who Cares?' He upfront told us the upcoming Internet writers to push our way to the war front and not to stand at the back, no, he wants us to be by the very front. He basically told us, while not so subtly frowning on the works of Nigerians in Diaspora in a later post, that we are the real voice of present-day Africa, fearless, provocative, entertaining and not so gloomy writers who are seductively free with their diction and unapologetically showcasing the real Africa. He specifically prayed we be open with our demons.

    The most enthralling aspect of it all is that our narrative is different. It's not quite Ngugi Wa Thiong's classic nor does it have a Charlotte Bronte voice. It's unique in it's right. With plenty of genre's to read from, you can always switch from humour to chick lit to fantasy to romance to sci-fi to mystery, keep naming them. Horizons are being widened. Imaginations are wilder. The former thinking and writing box we've placed ourselves in have been outgrown and discarded, and now, we've dispensed of all limits.

    A 19-year-old Nigerian undergraduate student has signed a two-novel deal with the British publisher Faber, making her its youngest ever woman author, Chibundu Onuzo. "I wrote the book in my last year at school," Onuzo told CNN. "I've been writing since I was 10, but this was the first novel I finished, so it was very liberating to be able to write 'The End.'" Onuzo is the latest of a new generation of talented young Nigerian writers -- many of them female -- who have made their mark in the literary world in the past few years. She published her first book at age 21, quite impressive.

    Helen Oyeyemi wrote her highly-acclaimed "The Icarus Girl" when she was just 18 and has written two novels since.

    It is an impressive haul for Africa, but according to those in the know, it is just the beginning. Publishers and writers say there is an explosion of young African writers about to gain even more international recognition. Jeremy Weate, a British who set up Cassava Republic publishing company in Abuja in 2007 with his Nigerian wife Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, said:

     "This is a very exciting time and the best of Nigerian writing is still ahead."

    There is some awareness overseas of African authors and an increasing number of Africans winning awards, but we believe this is just the beginning. There is still a huge amount of undiscovered and up-and-coming talent in Africa.

    I'm sure now that you've read about the revolution, you'd want a taste of spring-fresh writing. I've decided to share with the hope that you can always refer to this when in need of something relatable, a feeling of home when stuck in infinity traffic or on the verge of soul boredom attack.

    Here are some sites to get free good African reads:

    1. Okada Books

    Want to hear the voice of contemporary Africa? Okada Books is for you. It has a wide array of African themed novels most of which are free. With millions of writers publishing their works every day, Okada Books is like Africa's literary youth fountain of talent, very refreshing. Though not all books are free, plenty of them are.

    2. Naija Stories

    Naija Stories is a website that predominantly features short stories and poems. So, if you want something catchy and different, head over. There are also novels published in series. It is very engaging and…well free. If you want to find out more, here are 23 websites where you can submit short stories.

    3. Wattpad

    You will be surprised the number of African writers on Wattpad with Nigerians on the lead both in Native and English language. Young Africans are dying to be heard from the ages of thirteen above. Though the writings may be patchy and lots of substandard work is up but with a little sifting, using the first chapter as a guide, there are some pretty good contents by the budding golden voice of Africa. The books published range from science fiction to romance to mystery and thriller, name it all for free. The pro is that writing, and reading is easy. A story gets published by chapter, so readers get to comment not just on every chapter but every paragraph. It is the most effective way of development of writing skills online I have seen.

    4. The African Writers

    The African Writers does not only have an array of fictional book series, short stories and poetry; it provides opportunities for up and coming writers by creating contests and competitions, keeping them on their feet. Check out this article for tips on how to become a successful writer.

    5. Individual blogs

    The good thing about blogs is that you as a subscriber and follower of a book series blog will be among the first to read what might be a blockbuster novel eventually for free because usually, the writers start by blogging then compile into a novel.

    6. Open Ebooks Library

    For African non-fiction ebooks, Open Ebook Library is a place to be. With works such as People of Africa by Edith A. How, you will get lost in the ElDorado of culture and knowledge.

    So, come on now. Click those sites, get those apps and have your fair taste of what's African from a brand new perspective. I also recommend you check out this my article on how best you can use your writing to achieve financial freedom.

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