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.

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