thischildsgonnalive

A round up of lit-related questions.

South Africans Vs. Nigerians?

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses what she considers a strained relationship between Nigerians and South Africans in an essay for The Guardian. The piece comes on the heels of the news that Nigerian officials are fighting to ban the movie District 9 from playing in theaters because of it's portrayal of Nigerians living in South Africa.

Adichie writes:

South Africans and Nigerians (and indeed other African immigrant groups) have simply not had the time or the neutral space to grow an organic understanding of each other. The Nigerians arrive with their different, more distant colonial experience, with their mercantile spirit, with none of the conditioning of the South African menial wage-earning experience and - yes - with that swagger. They arrive in a vulnerable country where the legacy of institutional exclusion still thrives. They create spaces for themselves in whatever way they can and, of course, they arouse resentment.

And these are people who, like me, grew up in a Nigeria that was fiercely anti-apartheid. We all sang Free Mandela. In primary school, we collected money to free the brothers in South Africa. Perhaps this is the reason I found South Africa a disconcerting place to visit, in the end. I felt incapable of truly understanding it, ill-equipped to grasp meaning and nuance, in a way that I have not experienced anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa. It cracked my pan-African idealism.

What do you think about Adichie's thoughts? Sad? True?

Do African-American Studies Departments Need to be Revamped?

Conservative writer John McWhorter proposes changes to Black Studies departments in his blog for The New Republic.

He suggests:

It's time that African-American Studies departments let go of the sixties imperative to defend blacks as eternal victims of racism. Black people can do their best even under imperfect conditions—and if that reality is irrelevant to an African-American Studies curriculum, then we must question the value of said curricula to those whom they purport to speak up for: real people in this real world. This real world which will never be perfect—even for descendants of African slaves.

In 2009, the study of blackness must be the study of a race most of whose members are now victors, not victims. Certainly the victims must be studied—but only within a genuine commitment to saving them, not chronicling them as helpless until America turns upside down in a fashion no one could seriously imagine will ever happen.

Agree/disagree with McWhorter?

Could America Use More Amiri Barakas?

Writer and activist Amiri Baraka turns seventy-five this week and celebrations are taking place all week around his hometown of Newark, New Jersey. The Star-Ledger profiled Baraka and his artistic contributions. About Baraka, Newark Mayor Corey Booker said, "I have a problem with people who criticize but do nothing to change things, but that's not Amiri Baraka. He's always been a dedicated servant of the city. He's utterly sincere in his desire to make Newark a better place. He comes from a noble American tradition of fighting for change, which includes pamphleteers like Thomas Paine to civil rights leaders. I will have nothing but love for Mr. Baraka."

Could we use more artists who are also activists?

Not Enough Color in Children's Books?

Numbers don't (usually) lie. According to an article in Catalyst Chicago, "Of the 5,000 children's books published every year, no more than 5 percent are written by or about blacks, Asians, Latinos or Native Americans." Couple that with experts’ suggestions that children, black boys in particular, need to see themselves in literature to "foster a love of reading that will help build literacy skills."

The article raises a good point:

In libraries and bookstores, African-American boys are missing, both as characters in books and as readers. The two absences are related and feed off each other, according to literacy experts: If young African-American males don't see themselves in books, they aren't inclined to become readers, and if publishers perceive that black boys don't read, they won't approve books that might interest them.

Agree with the point made in the article? Should there be more books featuring children of color?

Have You Heard of Sarah E. Wright?

Sad to say that I hadn't until I saw her obituary in the New York Times. Wright died last month at age 80. Here's more about her:

In 1969 Sarah E. Wright, a Maryland-born writer living in Manhattan, published her first novel, "This Child's Gonna Live." Issued by Delacorte Press, it portrays the lives of an impoverished black woman and her family in a Maryland fishing village during the Depression. Often compared to the work of Zora Neale Hurston, the novel was unusual in its exploration of the black experience from a woman's perspective, anticipating fiction by writers like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.

“This Child's Gonna Live" was hailed by critics around the country and named an outstanding book of 1969 by The New York Times. Reviewing it in The Times Book Review earlier that year, the novelist Shane Stevens called it a "small masterpiece," adding: "Sarah Wright's triumph in this novel is a celebration of life over death. It is, in every respect, an impressive achievement."

Ms. Wright never published another novel.

Adding her novel to my reading list. You?