Sunday, January 13, 2019

Notes on "Song of Lawino"

I have published a study guide Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino. Okot p'Bitek, a Ugandan, was one of the African writers who became famous soon after indolence, in the sixties. Song of Lawino is his most celebrated work. It is an extended lament by a fictional character, Lawino, a rural Acoli woman, about her husband Ocol, who has adopted Western ways.

My study guide, Notes on Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino, is the second in a series inaugurated by Notes on Acebe's Things Fall Apart, which is used in the United States and beyond, including faraway Algeria. I hope my Notes on Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino will have a similar reception.

Each of these study guides discusses the work mentioned and makes references to other literary works wherever necessary, in addition to introducing relevant aspects of literary theory in a manner accessible to undergraduate students and the general reader.

My study guides and other books are available online

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Meeting With Gustavus Adolphus Travelers to Tanzania

Once again, I received an invitation from Professor Barbara Zust to meet with students from Gustavus Adolphus College she was taking to Tanzania on a one month study program that has been running for many years. We met on January 7 at the Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center in Lakeville, Minnesota.

As in the past, the students had read my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. and my meeting with them was an opportunity to talk about various issues I raise in the book, and respond to their questions.

Apart from questions pertaining directly to the book, there were several questions about Tanzanian perceptions of Americans and about perceptions of race and racial identity. We also talked about the political climate in Tanzania. I tried my best to clarify media reports which have tended to be unfavourable. I am glad that these Gustavus Adolphus travelers will be able see things for themselves and hear from different Tanzanians.

In the photo on the left, I am flanked by the program leaders: Professor Barbara Zust and Pastor Todd Mattson. I have enjoyed my many years of working on the program with these two friends, deeply touched and humbled by how much they value my contribution.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Waiting to Meet Gustavus Adolphus Students

I have received an invitation, once again, to meet students of Gustavus Adolphus College, who will be traveling to Tanzania on a study abroad program that has been in place for many years. The invitation reads:

Todd and I are once again taking a group of students to Tanzania this January, and would LOVE to have you come and talk with our students about Tanzania!  The students are assigned to read your book: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and, as usual, they will have questions for you!

For many years, I have been privileged to talk with Gustavus Adolphus students going on this trip, and it has always been a rewarding experience. The students come after reading my book and we have lively conversations about issues I raise in it. As has been the case for a number of years, we will meet at the Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center in Lakeville, Minnesota.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Day Matengo Folktales Hit the "Jeopardy" Show

This time, last year, my book Matengo Folktales, jumped into the limelight by being mentioned on "Jeopardy," the famous American TV show.  This happened on 23 November, as I reported on this blog.

Knowing very little about "Jeopardy," I had to be told what it meant, and many people did tell me. A Macalester College professor, for example,  told me that I had reached "the pinnacle of American popular culture." I don't know how my book reached "Jeopardy," but I enjoy telling Americans about it at book festivals and at my African storytelling events.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Meeting With a Fellow Writer

On October 13, I participated in the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato, Minnesota. This was my fourth experience in this annual event. I knew, in advance, that one of the writers who was going to be there was my friend Becky Fjelland Brooks.

Becky teaches at South Central College in Mankato. We first met when she and Professor Scott Fee of the Minnesota State University Mankato invited me to talk to students they were preparing for a study trip to South Africa, as part of their orientation.

Many people attended my talk on cultural differences and subsequently got copies of my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. I was invited in subsequent years to speak to other groups of students going on the South Africa program.

Becky and Scott are among the Americans who like Africa and strive to educate others about it, in different ways, including study trips. Challenging as this work is, it is invaluable, in terms of promoting mutual understanding in the world.

Becky is a gifted writer, who has already published a number of books, for children, youths and adults. Her work continues to gain attention and appreciation, as is exemplified by the Midwest Book Awards. I am humbled that this gifted writer greatly likes my work, as she says here and here.

Since I knew that Becky was going to be at the October 13 Deep Valley Book Festival, I brought with me my copy of Slider's Son which I had bought a few months before, for her to sign. I have her other books, signed by her in the past. We were happy to meet again, and Becky posted the photo above on Facebook with the following message: "With my dear friend Joseph Mbele, author of the enlightening and humorous book, "Africans and Americans," sharing stories and friendship at the Deep Valley Book Festival today...."