1. Earlier this year, as Jalada, we published our first anthology that was loosely based on insanity. I wrote something in there on the topic but after reading the other stories, I did not give the topic of insanity another thought until I had to interview Jennifer Makumbi about her novel, Kintu. I have just finished the book and the theme of insanity is big in there! And just when I was done, I came across The Brainstorm Quarterly E-book, whose theme is (In) Sanity. What “Crazy” Looks Like. According to the introduction, the book is a collection of various stories by Kenyans about mental illness, about discovery, about stigma, about understanding and love.
In the interview with Makumbi, I asked her why Africans generally do not talk about mental illness:
SmsUg: But I have noted that in the West, people have acknowledged all types of insanity and have even made room for dealing with it whereas that is not the case in Africa. Being bipolar or having OCD is not our reality. The naked man that runs in the streets is the mad man and not the woman who kills her three children because they have no food to eat. What do you think of this?
Makumbi: Africa has no time for or patience with the nuanced aspects of mental illness. In fact, Africa has no time for any illness that has not been diagnosed with a lot of research and history behind it in our communities. So a woman who kills her children is not sick: she is just evil and bipolar is just an unbelievable hypocrisy, pretence, bunanfusi, and if they find out really that something is wrong, then you are bewitched. Sad, but that is the result of weak economies, hence no research.
I am happy that these stories, uncomfortable as they may make us, are being told. Here, read (In) Sanity. What Crazy Looks Like.
The Brainstorm Quarterly has another Ebook, #WhenWomenSpeak: (Re)Defining Kenyan Feminisms, that you must read as well!
2. Now in its fourth year, the International Flash Fiction Competition is awarded to the best unpublished piece of fiction of 100 words or less. Writers can be from any country, and a maximum of two entries are permitted per person. Stories must be written in English, Arabic, Spanish or Hebrew, original, and unpublished. The winning story will be awarded the considerable prize of $20,000, with the best stories from each of the remaining three languages also receiving a $2000 runner up prize. Entry is free and stories can be on any subject.
Click here for further information about the International Flash Fiction Competition.
3. As you prepare to write your 100 words for the Flash Fiction competition, you may be interested in reading some six word stories that have been written, much like Hemingway’s six-word story that read: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
You can read more here and here.
4. Next Monday, 14th July, the winner of the 2014 Caine Prize will be announced. Here are some other (scathing) reviews that I came by in the past weeks: Critical Literature Review and Ikhidhe on Stories in the age of Social Media.
5. According to Gateway For Africa, these are the 50 books by African women that everyone should read.
How many of them have you read?
6. If you are looking for some wonderful stories by Africans to read, have a look at The African Book Club. Africa Book Club strives to promote African writing and bring the best African authors and stories to the world. This is what I recently read: Thereafter in Chwele.
7. Have I told you guys about my favourite writer on the internet? What?! I haven’t told you about Jackson Biko?
If you have not read Biko before, I hope you set aside time and try to catch up with what the rest of us have been enjoying. I love how Biko uses language to describe things so vividly and sometimes very delicately and how, even when he is writing about the saddest thing, he will find ways to make you smile. Biko’s stories about his daughter always make me so broody and sometimes, even a little envious of that little girl. There is a time Biko wrote about the Samsung S4 and I thought I was not reading about a gadget. And that is another thing I love. That he has range. That one day you will have tears in your eyes as you read about his father and another day, he will be making you fall in love with a phone. Please read Biko. Because life is too short for you not to read beautifully written stuff!
Have a wonderful week!