Monday, November 27, 2017

'Together' one of 'The Best Books of the Mugabe Years'

Together: Stories and Poems by Julius Chingono and John Eppel has been chosen by Sarah Ladipo Manyika for her list of the ten best books of the Mugabe years.

She comments: 'In some ways, the two authors featured in this collection could not be more different: Chingono, now deceased, was a black Zimbabwean who worked as a rock blaster in the mines, whereas Eppel is a white Zimbabwean who taught English literature. Both, however, were born in the 1940s and lived through every decade of the Mugabe era. In their works of fiction and poetry, one sees their shared love of language, a deep concern for the poor and, in spite of hardships, a great sense of humor. Together, Zimbabwean.'

Together has had many excellent reviews, including from Liesl Jobson of Fine Music Radio:

'‘Together’ is perhaps the most remarkable book I’ve read in the last year, lending credence to the certainty that stories insist on being told, especially those stories that the authorities deny... It will shake you to your core, exploring as it does the travesties of justice done to the authors’ fellow countrymen and women under the rule of Robert Mugabe.' 

from Philo Ikonye on Pambazuka:
'Many women – as Eppel shows so clearly – and men too, have had the worst that could have ever happened to them, and so it is time to acknowledge and congratulate those who would still write and act without fear. Eppel and Chingono deserve every attention.'
from Hazel Barnes in The Witness:

'The stories and poems in this ­brilliant volume will hit you in the gut with horror even as you relish their intelligent analysis and ­cogent wit.'
from the Mid-West Book Review:

'two writers in Zimbabwe who come together to share different world perspectives, united in their disgust at the abuse of power for greed and hopes for their people. A fine assortment of fiction and poetry, highly recommended.'

Sarah Ladipo Manyika's list can be found at

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The 2017 Morland Writing Scholarship shortlist

Congratulations to all the writers shortlisted for the 2017 Morland Writing Scholarships, particularly those who have been published by amaBooks:

Bryony Rheam  (Zimbabwe) (novel: This September Sun, short stories: 'The Queue' from Short Writings from Bulawayo; 'Something About Tea' from Short Writings from Bulawayo II; 'The Rhythm of Life' from Short Writings from Bulawayo III; 'Miss Parker and The Tugboat' from Long Time Coming; 'The Piano Tuner' from Where to Now? Short Stories from Zimbabwe; 'Moving on' from Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories)

Gothataone Moeng (Botswana) (short story: 'Who Knows What Season Tomorrow Brings' from Long Time Coming)

Cheryl Ntumy (Ghana) (short story: 'Princess Sailendra of Malindi' in Lusaka Punk)

Kiprop Kimutae (Kenya) (short story: 'The Storymage' in The Goddess of Mtwara)

Elnathan John (Nigeria) (short stories: 'Walking' in The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things; 'Bayan Layi' in A Memory This Size; 'Flying' in Lusaka Punk and 'Running' in The Gonjon Pin)

And the press statement from the Miles Morland Foundation (

The Miles Morland Foundation is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2017 Morland Writing Scholarships. Of the twenty-one names, six are from South Africa, four each from Nigeria and Kenya, two from Cameroon and one each from Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Gambia and Botswana.

It is always difficult to choose the shortlist. The standard of writing increases every year, making the pool to choose from ever wider. We had nearly 550 entries this year, is our highest number to date, with writers applying from 30 countries. We are excited by the array of talent we have on our shortlist, ranging from writers in their twenties to one in his seventies. Once more we have seen the energy, originality, and wit in our entries that characterises so much of modern African writing. We are also heartened to see six non-fiction candidates on the shortlist from one last year.

The judges, with Ellah Wakatama Allfrey from Zimbabwe in the chair, assisted by Femi Terry from Sierra Leone, and Muthoni Garland from Kenya, will meet on Dec 4th to select the 2017 Scholars. Their names will be announced shortly afterwards. Writers awarded a fiction scholarship will each receive £18,000, paid over the course of a year to allow them to take time off to write the book they have proposed. Non-fiction writers may be given £27,000 over the course of eighteen months, if they need to do additional research.

Shortlist for the Morland Writing Scholarships for 2017:

Alemseged Tesfai – Eritrea
Bryony Rheam – Zimbabwe
Cheryl Ntumy – Ghana
Clementine Ewokolo Burnley – Cameroon
Dayo Forster – Gambia
Elizabeth McGregor – South Africa
Elnathan John – Nigeria
Eloghosa Osunde – Nigeria
Fatima Kola – South Africa
Fred Khumalo – South Africa
Gloria Mwaniga – Kenya
Gothataone Moeng – Botswana
Kiprop Kimutai – Kenya
Megan Ross – South Africa
Muthoni wa Gichuru – Kenya
Nana Nkweti – Cameroon
Palesa Deejay Manaleng – South Africa
Sitawa Namwalie – Kenya
Tsholofelo Wesi – South Africa
Ukamaka Olisakwe – Nigeria
Umar Turaki – Nigeria

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

6 Awkward Questions With Zimbabwean Writers #2: Bryony Rheam

Reproduced from James Arnett's  blog:

In the latest instalment of “Six Awkward Questions”, Bulawayo author Bryony Rheam offers thoughtful responses to the admittedly awkward questions. Rheam is the author of the elegant and acclaimed This September Sunpublished by amaBooks; a number of her short stories have appeared in anthologies, including amaBooks’ latest, Moving On; her story of the strain of exile and the tensions it inscribes in families gives us the anthology its title. She describes herself below as the “number one fan” of Agatha Christie, and she is appropriately at work on a crime thriller, which is in the editing process and edging towards print – keep your eyes open!

describe your favourite novel or writer using synaesthetic terms

It has to be Virginia Woolf.  I love her because I relate to her so well.  She was deeply unhappy and, of course, famously committed suicide.  Yet she has this amazing ability to see the beauty of the world and capture it so well.  This trembling, transient beauty comes with the knowledge that nothing lasts; everything dies - but that is part of the beauty as well. The strength of her writing is that she illuminates those tiny, fleeting moments that most of us take for granted, but which make up daily life.

what are some metaphors for your relationship to African writing?

The first would be roadworks with lots of 'detour' signs. Another would be looking for the seventh floor only to be told that the lift only goes to the sixth and I'm not allowed to take the stairs.  I don't really know where I am as an African writer.  I was born in Zimbabwe and have lived most of my life here, but I am white so I don't fit in with the majority and people are also a bit suspicious of white writers. I feel sometimes as though I am muscling in on a space which is not mine.  One of the criticisms of This September Sun was that weren't enough black characters, even though it was essentially a story about a family.  Now if I was to write a book with mainly black characters, I would be accused of appropriation.  Either way, I don't win.
But, on a more positive note, another metaphor would be a wide open space because I think there is a lot of opportunity, a chance to do something different because African literature is coming to a stage of opening up. 

assuming a utopian arc, what is the best thing about Africa in the future?

​I think it's expanding, developing and going forward in a way in which literature from the West is not.  As long as African writers push ahead and challenge Western ideas of Africa - poverty, famine, disease - by writing what they want, then I think we will see great things.  Many British and American writers have become very cynical about the world and this is reflected in the type of books coming out.  I think, to paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald, we have a great capacity for optimism, for seeing a brighter future and not getting stuck in all this angst that the others are.

what habits aid writing most and least?

I love getting up early in the morning and just enjoying the silence if nothing else.  Walking is great for getting ideas and sorting out problems!  I think the staff at Hillside Dams might think I am slightly unbalanced as I walk round talking to myself.  Taking the dogs with me helps me look a little more sane.  I also enjoy meditation, both for the discipline and the peace of mind it lends me. The worst thing to do is to get onto Facebook.  It's best left alone if you want to get anything done.  You think you'll just have a peek, but suddenly a whole hour has gone by and really it's rarely very interesting.

how do you do it?

​I start off with my trusty notepad and pen and just sit and write.  I have another notebook for good lines that come to me, but I have no idea where they are going or what they are about.  I can't say I have a set routine as some days I go and teach and some days I have something I have to do in town. I do have to write in the mornings though; I just can't think in the afternoon, especially if it is very hot.  Also, the afternoons see me running around after my children and making supper.

what is the most exciting book you've read in the past six months?

Unfortunately, I don't read as much as I want to. At the moment I am reading an Agatha Christie - you know I'm her number one fan, don't you? - called The Secret of Chimneys. It actually begins in Bulawayo with two friends meeting after a while apart.  One of them is running desultory tours to Matopos and is bored out of his mind and the other is a hunter/prospector of the Indiana Jones ilk.  The latter pays the former to take some documents to England for him and pretend he is him (hope that makes sense!).  It turns out the documents are diaries of a Count from some weird Eastern European country with a fictional name.  I am enjoying it because it is an early spy thriller, a bit like The Thirty Nine Steps

Friday, November 17, 2017

Tendai Huchu shares the Nommo Award for an African Speculative Short Story

Tendai Huchu has shared the inaugural Nommo Award for Best Short Story, which was presented on November 16 during the Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria, for his story 'The Marriage Plot'. Tendai shared the award with Lesley Nneka Arimah, for her story 'Who Will Greet You At Home'.

Other winners at the Nommo Awards were Tade Thompson's Rosewater, as Best Novel, Nnedi Okorafor's Binti, as Best Novella, and Chimurenga's 'Chronic: The Corpse Exhibition and Older Graphic Stories', as Best Comic or Graphic Novel.

The Nommo Awards are decided by voting amongst the members of the African Speculative Fiction Society, and are open to all African writers.

Tendai Huchu's second novel The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician is published by amaBooks, who have also recently included his short story 'The Library of the Dead', a speculative fiction piece, in their latest anthology, Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories. 'amaBooks are presently involved in a  workshop, led by American academic James Arnett, for potential speculative fiction writers in Bulawayo.

The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician is also available from Parthian Press in the UK, Ohio University Press in North America, Farafina in Nigeria, Peter Hammer in Germany and through Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories is available in North America through, elsewhere through, and will soon be available through Parthian Press in the UK. Both books are available in South Africa at African Flavour Books (Johannesburg), Bridge Books (Johannesburg), Clarke's Bookshop (Cape Town), Love Books (Johannesburg), The Book Cottage (Hermanus) and The Book Lounge (Cape Town).

Lesley Nneka Arimah's short story anthology What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky was named as one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Time Magazine, Elle, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and others, and is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize.

Tendai Huchu's 'The Marriage Plot' can be read at

Monday, November 13, 2017

6 Awkward Questions With Zimbabwean Writers: Tariro Ndoro

James Arnett will be posting occasional interviews with Zimbabwean writers, all with the same six-question format. From his blog:

Tariro Ndoro ( is an emerging Zimbabwean short story writer and poet, whose story “The Travellers” in amaBooks' most recent collection of Zimbabwean literature, Moving On and Other Zimbabwean Stories, caught my eye. I had the pleasure of interviewing her as part of a panel on the collection at Intwasa Arts Festival in Bulawayo in October 2017. Her depiction of the economic and social end-of-the-road in the person of a bored Chicken Inn employee in “The Travellers” really humanizes the social and economic difficulties that Zimbabweans – and Southern Africans, generally - are currently facing. Her poetry and her prose alike explore scenes like this one from Cape Town in her poem “Transport”: “across from me, sleeping on the bubbling yellow foam / of the tattered prison grey seat, a tattered young man / and his tired sister both travel to their dead end jobs.” For every protestation that 2017 is not the new 2008 in Zimbabwe, Ndoro answers with another searching portrait of those whose minor suffering belies ongoing, everyday realities. Do I stay or do I go now?

describe your favourite novel or writer using synaesthetic terms

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Definitely. This work was pretty revelatory for me. A warm, relatable book, and at the same time creepy and claustrophobic and painful. I love the different motifs Roy sets up and how they all tie up in the end as well as her several streams of consciousness.

what are four [two] metaphors for your relationship to African writing?

A stuffy room, mainly because there seems to be this culture of having an elite few African writers that are the flagships for African literature, which means a lot of emerging writers feel like they have no voice at all or no story to add to the ongoing narrative.
A good meal that ended before I was done eating, when I find a story that's particularly fresh and good -- for instance, a lot of Lesley Nneka Arimah's work.

assuming a utopian arc, what is the best thing about Africa in the future?

Self actualisation. It seems we're going through an African Renaissance. The natural hair revolution, African literary ezines giving the ordinary African more access to African lit... If all goes well, ten years from now, we'll be an actualised continent and the stereotypes that hold my generation of POCs back won’t hinder my children (I hope).

what habits aid writing most and least?

Reading. Reading the classics for structure, reading the contemporaries for inspiration and reading outside of my forte to prevent stagnation. Daydreaming also helps and giving myself writing targets (eg 1000 words a day).

how do you do it?

I love it. I know this isn't really an answer -- but it is the love I have for stories and story-telling that drives my search for the greatest short story, my love for the word that makes me struggle with my own fear of the blank page and the discouragement brought on by rejection slips. On a practical note, though, I probably spend about one or two hours [a day] writing until I run out of steam, then I go back to reading and editing until I find some form of inspiration to write a new work.

what is the most exciting book you've read in the past six months?

This is a hard question. I haven't read a whole lot of books in a while. I feel like I've been reading short stories. The God of Small Things was pretty exciting. I read it this year but I'm not sure when. I've also started reading Kate Zambreno's Green Girl and that's pretty exciting as well; I love the pace of the book and also the streams of consciousness Zambreno constructs.

James Arnett holds a Fulbright Core Teaching/Research Fellowship to Zimbabwe, 2017-2018. He is teaching at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and conducting research on the city's literary history, its cultural infrastructure, and its outlets for creative writing.