Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Launching of the "L MAGAZINE"

On September 8, I attended the launching of a new publication, the L MAGAZINE, at the Civic Center in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. On the same occasion, several people received awards for notable achievements.

For Bukola Oriola, the launching of the magazine was a dream come true. This inaugural issue features writers talking about book writing, publishing and marketing. It is a rich treasure of experiences, reflections, and lessons. It also contains information about human trafficking, one of Bukola Oriola's central concerns.

Producing this magazine must have involved an incredible amount of work, and Bukola and her team deserve great credit. I see a bright future for this magazine, as a forum especially for people involved with books, but also those interested in advertising their businesses and services. You can get a copy of the magazine at

Friday, September 7, 2018

My Fall 2018 Folklore Texts

I wish I could teach folklore without books. We would just be sitting around telling stories, singing and talking about folklore. We would be watching video recordings of folklore performances from different parts of the world and discussing them.

Trapped in the culture of writing, I have selected six books for my folklore class this fall: The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Russian Folk Lyrics, How to Read a Folktale: The Ibonia Epic from Madagascar, The Bootk of Dede Korku, Gilgamesh, Matengo Folktales. I want to say a word about Matengo Folktales.

For years, I had misgivings about including my own book in my course. I began to change my mind after learning that professors in several colleges and universities had used or were using it. One even invited me to speak in her class.

I was also aware that I could do my best teaching of the folktale if I used my own Matengo tradition. That would benefit my students the most, since I know the language, the performance tradition, and the cultural references of the tales. I also can sing the songs.

Still, I had misgivings, which I only overcame when I decided that the students would buy the book and use it and then sell it back to me after the course, if they wished. I am pleased with that policy.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Another Note on Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing"

I have been teaching Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, as I noted on a previous blog post. Now that we have read the whole novel, I can say another word on it.

This is an ambitious novel, covering the African experience in Africa and America over several centuries. Starting from the country now known as Ghana we enter society founded on communal principles and but also tensions between ethnic groups. We see people being captured and enslaved for domestic servitude or sent away to Cape Coast Castle, to await the sea voyage to America.

The horrors of life in the Caste,and of the slave trade in general, are graphically represented. The struggles of black people in America and Africa are covered in this novel which ultimately is an epic story of the resilience of the human spirit. It is a story of greed and grief, but also of hope.

Although great numbers of black people perished in the course of centuries, the black man and woman survived and persisted, like the little stone that we see passed on from generation to generation in the novel. The novel uses flashback and other techniques and abounds with imagery, especially of fire and water. In the background there is an intriguing crazy woman.

Homegoing touches on cultural and other differences between Africans and African Americans but also brings up Pan Africanism. I suggest, as i did in a previous post, that  it be read alongside, or following, Ama Ata Aidoo's The Dilemma of a Ghost.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Teaching Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing"

On June 4, here at St. Olaf College, I started teaching a summer course on African Literature, which I have taught several times before. Following my introduction to the course, we started reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a young Ghanaian writer raised in the USA. I met her on March 2 at the Hemingway Festival in Moscow, Idaho, where she was the guest of honour as winner of the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Award for 2017. She gave a magnificent reading and signed copies of her book.

Homegoing takes us several centuries back to the country known today as Ghana and portrays the life of the people then. Apart from themes such as marriage, the family, and the customs associated with them, as well as racial and ethnic relations and consciousness, the novel delves into the issue of slavery and the slave trade. The characters--African and European--who ran the slave trade describe it as a business.

The novel depicts life in the Cape Coast Castle, with Europeans and their families living quite comfortably while beneath them, in the dungeons, the enslaved Africans endure abominable conditions. Seamlessly, the novel transports us to the United States, where we witness the lives of the African slaves and the slave owners on the plantations. From the Castle to the plantations, we witness a continuation of the monstrous tale of human suffering wrought by human beings.

My students and I are still reading the novel, but I think it would be a great idea to read it alongside Ama Ata Aidoo's The Dilemma of a Ghost, first performed in 1964 and published in 1965. A comparative study of the two works would be rewarding. Apart from their common preoccupation with the African and African American experience, and the theme of slavery, both draw inspiration from African folklore in significant ways.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

I Have Met a New Reader

On May 25, I went to the High School for Recording Arts in St Paul to attend a meeting of the Nu Skool, a program run by Solidarity Twin Cities. The topic for discussion on that day was "The Language of Black America." At the end of the session, when people were continuing informal conversations and some leaving, a lady who happened to be standing in a group with me told me that she was reading my book.

I was pleasantly surprised and deeply touched when she said that the book was helping her discover the roots of who she is as an African American. She said, essentially, that she discovered her African essence through reading the book. That testimony, given in front of several of our Nu Skool friends, meant a great deal to me. This lady, I learned, is  preacher, and that means much to me.

I have always been anxious about how African Americans might respond to my book, even before I published it, because I talk about differences between them and Africans which I feared might not go down well with some African Americans. To my surprise, African Americans have tended to embrace and promote the book. I am truly grateful for this. Pastor Iris joins this list of supporters to whom I am most grateful.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Your Chance to Review my Extra-curricular Work

In the world outside the college classroom and academic conferences, I am a cultural consultant, under the auspices of Africonexion. If you have attended any of my presentations, talked with me at a cultural festival, or used my books, especially Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, I invite you to share your experience at Public Reputation.