Thursday, August 28, 2008

Twin Cities Book Festival

One of the most exciting experiences I have had in the USA is attending book festivals. Americans take these events seriously. Right from the moment the festival opens, the Americans start coming: young and old, men and women. You see them browsing through the books, talking with authors, talking about books and publishing, buying books, and having books signed by the writers. A day at a book festival is a rewarding educational and social event, intellectually stimulating and refreshing.

As a teacher and a writer, I enjoy participating in these events. They afford a unique opportunity to meet different people, to hear their stories and to share mine, to talk about what I write and why, to share my passion for teaching.

On October 14, 2006, I attended one such festival, in Minneapolis. It was one of the annual book festivals organized by the Rain Taxi Review of Books,

As usual, a number of famous writers were featured, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a young Nigerian writer, a rising star in the African literary world. Chinua Achebe has spoken highly of Adichie: "We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers."

Before the Twin Cities Book Festival, I had taught Adichie's first novel, Purple Hibiscus, in my Postcolonial Literature class at St. Olaf College. It is a most remarkable novel in many respects. Adichie is a fine prose stylist. Her portrait of the dilemmas of life and of human nature is profoundly touching.

At the Twin Cities Book Festival, Adichie was introducing her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. She gave a reading, which I attended. It was very touching to listen to such a thoughtful mind and such an eloquent voice. At the end of the reading, Adichie did a book signing and posed for photos such as you can see above.

In a brief conversation I had with her, I learned that she is not just a writer, but also a person deeply committed to the struggle for justice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Welcome Note

Welcome to my blog. My name is Joseph L. Mbele. I am a Tanzanian educator, with particular interest in Literature, Folklore and Cultural Studies. I have taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the University of Burundi, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

I like writing: academic papers, books, reviews, and newspaper columns. My best known publication is the book Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, available online at I also like translating folklore from Matengo and Swahili into English.

I travel around much and have been all over the world, attending conferences, giving lectures, and participating in cultural events, especially book fairs. What else? For many years, I have been a cultural consultant for Americans going to Africa and for Africans living in America. My role has been to share perspectives on cultural differences that are bound to affect the interactions between Africans and Americans. As I talk with these people, I not only share what I know, but I also learn much from their experiences, concerns, and questions, and the more I learn, the more I can share. It has always been this way.

I have created this blog as a site for sharing these matters, but, who knows? There could be other things as well. The sky is the limit. I hope you will find this blog worth visiting, again and again.