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New Daughters of Africa Paperback

AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY OF WRITING BY WOMEN OF AFRICAN DESCENT
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'Here is the book so many have been waiting for. The book to make sense of so many others.’—Anjanette Delgado, New York Journal of Books

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This landmark anthology celebrates the work of 200 women writers of African descent and charts a literary landscape as never before. Published to international acclaim in 2019, it is now available in a beautifully produced paperback.

A glorious portrayal of the richness, range and diversity of African women’s voices, this major international collection brings together their achievements across a wealth of genres: autobiography, memoir, letters, short stories, novels, poetry, drama, humour, journalism, essays and speeches.

From Antigua to Zimbabwe and Angola to the USA, overlooked artists of the past join key figures, popular contemporaries and emerging writers in paying tribute to the heritage that unites them, the strong links that endure from generation to generation, and their common obstacles around issues of race, gender and class.

Bold and insightful, brilliant in its intimacy and universality, this landmark anthology honours the talents of African daughters and the inspiring legacy that connects them—and all of us.

Click here for full list of contributors.

Ladee Hubbard, Times Literary Supplement

3 July 2020

This remarkable book constitutes a powerful affirmation of literary achievement, demonstrating that contemporary black women writers are part of a vital and extensive tradition. Just as significantly, the anthology brings these works into dialogue with one another, becoming a potent assertion of a collective identity that transcends political, religious, linguistic, regional and generational boundaries... The book’s structure also helps the reader to discern subtle shifts in the way certain themes are represented over time... New Daughters of Africa demonstrates that this work does not exist in a vacuum. Black women writers have always had something significant to say to the world and to each other.

Sofia Akel, Free Books Campaign

26 August 2020

It had to be a golden hour photo for this beautiful book. New Daughters of Africa is out on paperback next month (3rd September) and has over 100 womxn’s letters, short stories, poems and more from the diaspora. This book feels like home. ⁣⁠
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I'm going to take my time with it and return to the words of my sisters for strength, encouragement, education and beautiful literature as I go. It's rare to have a book that can connect you with fellow sisters of the diaspora.⁣⁠
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New Daughters of Africa will take pride of place on my bookshelf. Thank you hugely to @myriad_editions for gifting me with this, it has long been on my list to read and paperback is so beautiful!⁣⁠
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The hardback book is out now if you can't wait until next month!

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Zoe Adojonyoh

26 August 2020

Had a joyous reminder of more reasons to be grateful thanks to @juscoolnyc whose picture this is

What an honour to have my writing sit inside this beautiful tome and testament to women of the diaspora

If you don’t have Daughters of Africa or New Daughters of Africa - there is a new release which you should consider purchasing - it features the writing of some incredible women Including

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Literandra on A Very Young Judge by Leila Abouela from New Daughters of Africa

26 August 2020

Growing up, most of us probably had that one friend, who we were very fond of but who somehow, wittingly or not, made us feel at once inadequate about ourselves and grateful to be around them. That kind of friendship is what Leila Aboulela’s short story ‘A Very Young Judge’ is about.

The story explores the friendship between the first person narrator and her fashionable, fascinating, and ferocious friend Leena. It examines the role and nature of friendships between women and girls. ‘A Very Young Judge’ shows that women and girls can be each other’s most fierce judges and / or supporters.

Alongside this, the story also shines a light on the importance of self-determination, discernment, and critical examination of one’s friends and circle. It’s easy to get absorbed by a group of friends and forget to remain critical of one’s own and their morals alike. ‘A Very Young Judge’ also shows how quickly the most popular and revered girl in school (or anywhere else, for that matter) can morph into a deeply problematic, judgmental, and exclusionary person. It alludes to the fact that ‘hero-worship’ and the idolisation of any human being is a dangerous and slippery slope, because we are all fallible and susceptible to change.

To top it all off, Leila Aboulela also effortlessly inserts thought provoking aspects about Sudan’s history, the country’s social, political and religious context. The writing is characteristically clear, flowing, and enjoyable.

Overall, ‘A Very Young Judge’ is a short but very impactful story, written by a gifted wordsmith who doesn’t need many words to create a complete picture.

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Literandra on This is Not Au Revoir a short story by Zukiswa Wanner from New Daughters of Africa

26 August 2020

Zukiswa Wanner’s short story, ‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ is a feminist story that packs a punch. Set in Johannesburg, it follows the life and times of Naledi, a woman who decides that, in spite of everything she has been through, enough is enough. We follow her journey to self-determination through heartbreaks, mental health issues, and societal constraints.

While the story reads like an empowering, snappy, almost coming-of-age-story, it also looks at deeply complex societal and cultural issues. Over the course of the story, we see as Naledi evolves from the woman who unwittingly accepts emotional mistreatment from her lovers, to the one who decides to put herself first. We also notice that her lovers, though central to the plot, are not afforded names, but are referred to as ‘My Someone then’ and / or ‘My Now No One’ – a subject that we brought up in our recent conversation with the author (transcript coming soon).

Zukiswa Wanner’s short story, ‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ is a feminist story that packs a punch.

The liberation of female sexuality and the reclaiming of autonomy over the female body are closely examined in ‘This is Not Au Revoir‘, but Wanner also raises issues around racism within feminism, the relegation of Black women’s places and issues to the proverbial ‘back of the bus’, and the importance of the acknowledgement of the intersection of race and gender in the lives of African and Black women.

Furthermore, ‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ looks at the issue of body shaming in contemporary societies, and how conversations about weight gain / weight loss impact the lives, bodies, and minds of members of society. While Naledi is the focal point of this particular plot, her story represents a reality that transcends the boundaries of gender confines, and casts a wider glance at the impact of societal expectations, body shaming, and fat-phobia on both men and women.

While the story reads like an empowering, snappy, almost coming-of-age-story, it also looks at deeply complex societal and cultural issues.

What makes this story so compelling, is not just Zukiswa Wanner’s creative flair and prosaic flow, but also the fact that it contributes a unique angle to the overall discourse about body image – an angle, which not only exposes the impact of fraught race relations on gender issues, but also the overlooking of Black African women’s bodies in global discourses.

‘This Is Not Au Revoir‘ exposes the detrimental impact of the often-predominant stereotype of the ‘strong Black’ woman, and the incredible danger this poses for African and Black women. It also raises the question about the treatment and reception of mental health issues within African communities, and the impact that the association of ‘mental health’ with ‘white people’ has on large swathes of African populations.

While Naledi is the focal point of this particular plot, her story represents a reality that transcends the boundaries of gender confines […]

Zukiswa Wanner’s short story contribution to the ‘New Daughters of Africa’ anthology is one of those memorable stories that demands to be read, re-read, and enjoyed multiple times, as it holds more than meets the eye the first time around. It’s an entertaining, witty, yet deeply pertinent and critical story about Africans in general, and African women in particular, written by one of Africa’s finest women writers.

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Joanne Owen, LoveReading

3 August 2020

Edited by trailblazing broadcaster, editor and critic Margaret Busby OBE - Britain’s first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison and Busby in the 1960s - New Daughters of Africa is an extraordinary feat of publishing, presenting as it does the diverse work of 200+ women of African heritage across more than 900 pages. In 1992, Busby published Daughters of Africa, and this epically-proportioned - and realised - re-visitation duplicates none of the writers featured in the first incarnation.

Busby hopes in her introduction, “may all who find their way to this anthology, regardless of gender, class or race, feast well on its banquet of words.” And I defy any reader not to do just that. This rich feast presents all kinds of writers – academics and activists; critics and curators; fiction writers and filmmakers; poets and politicians, to name but a few - from all parts of the world. There are wise words to chew on from familiar figures, among them Diane Abbott, Angela Levy, Bernardine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Afua Hirsch. And there are individuals and pieces I was grateful to discover for the first time, such as Bermudian Angela Barry’s Without Prejudice story, and Yvette Edwards, a London writer of Montserratian origin. The collection’s historical entries are engrossing too, among them Sarah Parker Remond’s (1815-1894) “Why Slavery is Still Rampant” piece, and Meta Davis Cumberbatch’s (1900-1978) powerfully rousing poem, “A Child of Nature (Negro of the Caribbean)”.

This is an exceptional anthology to savour - a uniquely nourishing banquet for mind and heart.

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Our Library, Bookstagram

29 July 2020

More than 25 years after her innovative ‘Daughters of Africa’ Margaret Busby shines on the next generation of black women writers and gives us ‘New Daughters of Africa.’ Over 200 women writers from 50+ countries, who are of African Descent, contributed to this anthropology.

“Bold and insightful, brilliant in its intimacy and universality, this landmark anthology honours the talents of African daughters and the inspiring legacy that connects them—and all of us.”

It’s quite unfair to give this anthropology a review. With brilliant stories that date from 1793 - 1990, how could one really put it all into words? I can say that each story uplifts a strong sense of sisterhood. One of my favorite stories were “Three Islands, Two Cities: The Making of a Black/Caribbean/Woman Writer/Scholar by @scribandina who tells her story of migrating to London from Jamaica, how the absence of Black writers in Britain and the Black Women Writers she adored inspired her journey to move back to Jamaica, and the evolution of her books. This powHERful book of essays, diary entries, poems, speeches, and novels is very dense... 1,000 pages. This isn’t a book you can read in one sitting. It’s an anthropology that you take your time with. Use it for research (personally I love to do research). Learn with it. Grow with it. Highlight it. Absorb it. Take notes with it. Add anecdotes. This book is as beautiful as its cover and the history is richer than the text. Dive in, grow, and enjoy ✨

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Books and Rhymes, bookstagrammer

19 July 2020

C O V E R H O E 📖 A L E R T🚨

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Dear friends, please bask in the glorious beauty of the paperback edition of New Daughters of Africa, schedule for release on the 3rd of September, and it is currently avaible for preorder via @myriad_editions.

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Yesterday, I was overwhelmed by my workload, only to receive a delivery of this book and the STUNNING tote 😍😍! Fam, there’s no better pick me up for a bonafide #CoverHoe like me than beautifully designed covers of seminal books that spotlights important and often overlooked voices.

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New Daughters of Africa is the second iteration of the groundbreaking Daughters of Africa (DOA), published in 1992, which invalidated the myth that writings by people of African descent is a new phenomenon. The earliest text in DOA is the speech by queen Hatshepsut which is dated between 1501 to 1447 BC.

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While published last year, 2019, the earliest entries in New Daughters of Africa (pictured above) predates the 20th century. I really cannot recommend this anthology enough - especially if you are looking to engage with, and read an eclectic collection of prose, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, scholastic articles, opinion piece. More importantly, this collection will introduce you to writings by new and old faves.

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In short, buy it and thank me later.

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FYI: at £14.99, the paperback edition of #NDOA is half the hardback price.

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Imani Perry, Financial Times

3 July 2020

The world has changed since the early 1990s. Political economies have morphed, social orders have shifted, and the pantheon of great writers has expanded. However, with the exception of a few internationally renowned authors, black women writers remain woefully under-represented.

For this reason, and more, Margaret Busby’s New Daughters of Africa, a companion volume to her earlier anthology, Daughters of Africa (1992) is an important contribution. Busby is well suited to such a project. She is a daughter of Africa, and a mother of diasporic
African literature, in the broadest sense. She became the UK’s youngest publisher, and the first black woman in such a position, when she co-founded Allison & Busby in 1967, and she has spent the entirety of her professional life as an active member of literary communities on the African continent and in the Americas. In this remarkable collection, she reminds us of the historic and continued value of forging connections across the boundaries of nation states.

Anthologies can read as mere assortment or collection. But their function, particularly when well composed—as is the case with this book—can be much more deliberate. Busby’s choice to organise the writers by generation, rather than region or date of publication, has a powerful effect. From the 18th century to the present, the location of black women across borders — yet always in the winds of political, economic and social orders—emerges. Questions of freedom, autonomy, family, race and social transformation present themselves in generational waves.

Thus, with more than 200 contributors, this anthology is also a social and cultural world history. This is a rare case in which writers from the US do not overwhelm the category of “black writers”. But neither does Busby disregard the significance of African-American authors. Rather, she places them in a global community and a vast tradition. Likewise, she questions any static or uncomplicated understanding of blackness, and challenges the marginalisation of black women in our understanding of modernity. Hence, one cannot read this anthology and ever think that their lives were not important, even essential, to understanding global history.

In recent years, as a result of generations of social and political struggle, greater attention has been paid to the lot of black women. However, their interior lives continue to be neglected. New Daughters of Africa reminds us that black women writers have not simply been moved about by history, but have been thinkers and artists in the thick of things. Aja Monet, one of the poets of the Black Lives Matter generation, who writes about love and intimacy as a primary aspect of freedom fighting, is on these pages, along with the renowned Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi.

There is a historical component, but the collection also offers fascinating insights into the
present. While Carolyn Cooper, born in the 1950s, writes about online dating, Anaïs Duplan, a writer born in the 1990s, writes about a contemporary painting that riffs on classic portraiture. There is a dance through generations as well as a confrontation with the current pastiche of globalisation. Perhaps the most potent motif in the collection is the dual sense of displacement and yearning, both for home and for escape.

Busby includes the work of widely acclaimed writers such as Toni Morrison, Buchi Emecheta and Edwidge Danticat. But she also includes the words of lesser known but similarly talented writers. To put the lesser known and the widely known writers in communion with one another is to refuse the tendency of the publishing world to exceptionalise black writers. In this way, Busby opens the door wide and allows her readers to witness the conversations that have occurred between black women writers, conversations about culture, love, inheritance and more, without mediation from the powerful institutions of publishing and academia. The effect is marvellous.

It is also necessary. Daughters of Africa was groundbreaking for bringing the tradition of black women writers to the fore. This new anthology has an increased urgency. We live in an age when old forms of bigotry are being revived. We also live at a time when there are increasing demands on our attention. It is easy to note only the splashiest debut, or a single voice that speaks for many marginalised people. Busby invites us to slow down, to read through a tradition that will lead us to fall in love with beautiful and insightful writers we might not otherwise encounter, and to be open to a wide variety of forms, themes and authors.

I have found myself returning to a phrase of one of the writers in the anthology who was new to me. In her 1993 essay “The Autobiography of an Idea”, Arthenia Bates Millican wrote: “I have kissed the darkness hello. And as I move, I search through that darkness for the most brilliant fight.” This is the calling, and the beauty, of both the old and the new daughters of Africa.

Imani Perry is professor of African-American studies at Princeton University

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Tom Odhiambo, Daily Nation

3 July 2020

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent (2019), edited by Margaret Busby, is an imposing 805-page tome of stories by ‘African’ women writers from across the world, born between the 1790s and 1990s. This collection contains writings by more than 200 women writers and builds on a previous anthology, Daughters of Africa (1992).

If one is a reader or follower of ‘African’ women writing — defined in the narrow sense of writing by women writers born and bred on the continent — there are several familiar names in Daughters of Africa, such as Ama Ata Aidoo, Ifi Amadiume, Mariama Ba, Abena Busia, Jane Tapsubei Creider (a Kenyan who is hardly read in this country), Tsitsi Dangarembga, Buchi Emecheta, Noni Jabavu, Mwana Kupona, Elen Kuzwayo, Zindzi Mandela, Lauretta Ngcobo, Rebeka Njau, Flora Nwapa, Grace Ogot, Molara Ogundipe Leslie, Efua Sutherland, Zulu Sofala, Veronique Tadjo, Miriam Tlali, and Charity Waciuma.

These, as you can guess, are very few writers indeed. But these are the more easily identified ones locally. For instance, I guess many Kenyans have never heard of or read Jane Tapsubei Creider, co-author of A Dictionary of the Nandi Language; author of the novel The Shrunken Dream, and an autobiography, Two Lives: My Spirit and I. Or, how many Kenyans remember or even know Charity Waciuma?

These writers can be described as the matriarchs of African literature. They pioneered ‘African’ writing, in which they were not simply writing stories about their families, communities and countries, but they were also writing themselves into the African literary history and African historiography. They claimed space for women storytellers in the written form, and in some sense reclaimed the woman’s role as the creator and carrier of many African societies’ narratives, considering that the traditional storytelling session was a women’s domain.

Yet, these writers seem to be slipping from public conversations, or even on reading lists in our schools and colleges. Which is why even by just listing them in New Daughters of Africa, Margaret Busby enlivens the literary archive of African women writing and reminds readers and critics of the significance of memory.

There are a number of East African writers included in the New Daughters of Africa: Leila Aboulela, Wangui wa Goro, Doreen Baingana, Susan Nalugwa Kiguli, Goretti Kyomuhendo, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Juliane Okot Bitek, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Hilda Twongyeirwe, Monica Arac de Nyako, Mildred K. Barya, Beatrice Lamwaka, Wanjiku wa Ngugi, Maaza Mengiste, Ayeta Wangusa, Glaydah Namukasa, and Warsan Shire. It is important to list these names, again for the simple but disturbing reason that several of these writers are relatively known in the rest of the world but not in their own countries and region.

It is also important to note that this is not an encyclopedia of African writing by women. But it is a significant literary and cultural undertaking. It is the kind of literary compendium that many prospective African women writers need to have today. Why? Because despite an observable increase in writing from Africa, such writing is still more available to the non-African readers in Europe, America or Asia. The African reader still cannot just afford to buy books — be they novels, anthologies of poetry, collections of short stories or novellas — from or about Africa, by African women writers. Even New Daughters of Africa should generally be out of the reach of many readers in Africa who would wish to have a copy (it is retailing at more than Sh3,000). But the stories in it can be shared; they should also provoke interest in other works by the authors included in the volume; and they should stoke conversations about what experiences women share globally, and what experiences differentiate them as well.

Why, again? Because this kind of book is rare today. In a world that is short on time for reading anything beyond social media postings, a book that is nearly 1,000 pages long is a curiosity. It deliberately invites attention to itself. It demands to be noticed and read. And in this case, a prospective young African woman writer will find endless inspiration in the poems, short stories, plays, essays and conversation, among others.

Also the availability of such a big collection of writings by women of African descent, spread over several generations, from different parts of the world, in different professions (although connected by their writing), writing in different languages (but translated), writing in different styles, writing in different genres, speaking of and to different subjects, writing within different historical contexts etc, which collection has previously published and newly published works, is a provocation or challenge to whoever is interested in the story of women of African descent to work harder at creating, recording, disseminating, sharing, critiquing, and preserving such stories.

For even though the struggle for gender equity tends to be overly political, it is cultural ideas and practices that really need to be interrogated and changed. And there is no better way to change attitudes and practices towards women, and acknowledge them as equal partners to men, than by way of (re-) creating and (re) telling stories about them, their world, feelings, views, contribution to humanity and belonging.

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent is a collection that the expert on literature, women studies, gender studies, African history; the feminist reader/scholar; or even the general reader will find refreshing considering the scope of the writing, as well as helpful as a reference source.

5/5 star review by Johnna Rocker-Clinton, San Francisco Book Review

24 February 2020

Margaret Busby does it again!

New Daughters of Africa is an international treasure that brings together fresh voices of women from Africa and the African diaspora.

In a time when blackness is embraced yet rejected, and women have the nerve to press harder for gender equality, this anthology is essential.

Busby organizes her work into chronological decades, starting with pre-1900s; she moves to the 1900s up through the 1990s.

Busby showcases over two-hundred brilliant black women who skilfully express their experiences through poetry, short stories, speeches, letters, memoirs, essays, and more. One of the first women featured is Sarah Parker Remond, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1815 and “grew up in an educated, abolitionist household.” In her work, Why Slavery is Rampant, Remond discusses how “free colored people of the northern states are, for no crime but merely…complexion, deprived of…rights.” Perhaps her most profound indications are the laws of the day. She points out that freedpeople could be arrested if they didn’t prove their freedom. If freedpeople were not claimed within a specific period, he or she could be sold to pay the jail fees. Furthermore, anyone who spoke to “the slave”, and supposedly provoked insurrection, could be jailed up to twenty-one years or even put to death.

The collection covers topics of race, gender, equality, class, and other relevant discussions that expose oppression around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed New Daughters of Africa. I highly recommend this work to all people of African descent, and I believe that it has the power to connect us. We have endured many of the same evils. Nah Dove in “Race and Sex: Growing up in the UK,” can easily connect with “mixed” or “light-skinned” African-Americans and/or “Coloured” Africans when she writes, “I remove myself from the label mixed “race” that is grounded in the patriarchal belief that there are several “races” of humanity, largely identifiable by colour…there is one race…the label of “mixed-race” privileges people like me in that whiteness separates us from blackness or ethnicity because we “appear” closer to “white.”

New Daughters of Africa is not only for people of African descent; it is for everyone. It is for any person who wants to understand women who descend from Africans. It is for people eager to begin a new tradition that does not penalize a woman born with dark skin and kinky hair.

Poet Zena Edwards writes about Sara Reed, a black woman who succumbed to mental illness and took her own life after her baby died. Reed ended up beaten by London police and imprisoned before her demise. Edwards acknowledges that society normalizes beating and imprisoning black and mentally ill folks when she writes, “I have not yet shed a tear for the deaths my social media timeline has fed me.” She implores us to recognize Sarah Reed and her impossible situation, “#SayHerName Sarah Reed, #SayHerName Sarah Reed, #SayHerName Sarah Reed,” she writes.

I believe the most important reader of this work will be girls; girls who need to know who they are. There may be girls in the world like Nawal El Saadawi who grew up in Egypt, not knowing that she was an African woman. This work was assembled for a time such as this, and it will echo the unified voice of women of African descent for generations to come.

Reviewed By: 
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Wanted Online

24 February 2020

"These women, lively and impatient, have secured a freedom that makes their voices glow. They know everything there is to know about anything there is to know, and have tasted their own freedom mature, because yes, it is truly theirs, this freedom. They have not misunderstood. They hold that freedom in their arms.” So wrote the great Zimbabwean author Yvonne Vera in The Stone Virgins, her prize-winning 2002 novel, and it aptly sums up this vital new collection.

New Daughters of Africa, subtitled “An international anthology of writing by women of African descent”, is a mighty compendium edited by Margaret Busby. Busby is herself something of a supernova in literary circles. Ghanaian-born, she became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher in the late ’60s, when she co-founded the independent publishing company Allison & Busby. Although the company didn’t publish only black authors, it launched many a new voice from the African diaspora.

In 1992 Busby compiled a landmark anthology: Daughters of Africa featured more than 200 writers, promising as it did “Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present”. It included, alluringly, a contribution by the Queen of Sheba. Some of the strongest pieces were by South African writers like Zoë Wicomb, Bessie Head, and Gcina Mhlophe. It quickly became the gold standard of women’s writing from the continent, illuminating what the Washington Post called “the silent, forgotten, underrated voices of black women”.

Importantly, it was a beacon for every young black woman who dreamed of writing. Phillippa Yaa de Villiers told Busby, “We were behind the bars of apartheid — we South Africans had been cut off from the beauty and majesty of African thought traditions, and Daughters of Africa was among those works that replenished our starved minds.”

De Villiers has contributed four pieces to this latest edition, as have her compatriots like Makhosazana Xaba, Nomavenda Mathiane, Lauri Kubuitsile, and Zukiswa Wanner. The hugely popular Yewande Omotoso is here, as is Panashe Chigumadzi. With sly humour, piercing knowingness, lush descriptions and rousing calls to action, this multitude of women from Antigua to Zimbabwe to the US demonstrates the deep-seated heritage that unites them.

The sheer span of history is a revelation: the collection opens with a poem about female friendship from Nana Asma’u, a highly educated West African poet born in 1793, who spoke four languages and was an independent Muslim woman. “Her life and work,” says Busby, “can be considered a precursor to modern feminism in Africa.”

There is a rich hereditary lineage running through the chapters: we meet Alice Walker’s famously estranged daughter Rebecca, a memoirist and activist who may live in Los Angeles but writes vividly about Zanzibar. “The mossy green of mangrove forests, the bent, reddish-brown trunks rising up out of the muck, miraculous as lotus blossoms... I felt a sense of belonging... the core truth of being emerging in concert with the landscape.”

Wanjik wa Ngg, the daughter of Kenyan colossus Ngg wa Thiong’o, offers up a poignant story of migrant friends in the US. There is Zadie Smith’s mother Yvonne Bailey-Smith, a social worker who was sent to the UK from Jamaica at the age of 15. The extract from her novel-in-progress, The Day I Fell Off My Island, captures the bewilderment and broken loneliness of the immigrant child. Her daughter’s contribution is from her speech when she received the Langston Hughes Medal. It sharply parses her identity as black, as English, as an “interloper”, and concludes, “At the root of blackness lies Africa, but from that rich soil spreads innumerable branches, each with its own character, own style, own struggles and victories.”

New Daughters of Africa is an immense work. It’s a book to keep by your bed or on your desk, to pick up and put down constantly, a collection to savour slowly in the parts that make up its towering whole. Lively and impatient, their voices glow.

Busby commented at the time that compiling the first edition was like “trying to catch a flowing river in a calabash”. More than a quarter of a century on, it must have been a thundering waterfall.

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Anthony Joseph, Wasafiri magazine

11 December 2019

By Wasafiri Editor on December 5, 2019 in Articles

‘…I have become more Trinidadian away from Trinidad. It’s a liminal position, being a Caribbean writer in the UK. For me, it is a position of longing but also of transformation through longing.’

Ever wondered what your favourite writer’s first drafts look like? Or which book they love that nobody’s heard of? Wasafiri Wonders is a series that asks these questions for you.

Anthony Joseph is a Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician who has been referred to as ‘the leader of the black avant garde in Britain.’ He is the author of four poetry collections, as well as Kitch: A Fictional Biography of a Calypso Icon (2018), which was shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, and The Frequency of Magic (2019), his latest novel. He is a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellow for 2019/20.

1. Describe your first drafts in one sentence.

 My fiction drafts are usually sketches free written/automatically, in one sitting, then gradually and delicately coloured with sound and verisimilitude. Poems have a similar process, though sometimes a poem, a line, or a melody may slip through a gap in language and arrive fully formed.

 2. Tell us about your writing rituals.

I (usually) create first drafts between two and five am when I’m sitting on my sofa. I use a computer as I like the propulsion of it. There is also something about the keyboard that reminds me of the keys of a piano and I play/write along with Rahsaan, Monk or Tyner, sometimes its jazz or soulful calypso, ’80s soul can write me into the sunrise. The music – its invocation, its nostalgia and its swing – invariably seeps into the text. At other times, a long train or plane journey is enough. I edit at a desk in the daylight, starting in the morning and working my way towards the completion of a draft by nightfall.

3. What themes do you gravitate towards and why?

I came to the UK as a young adult, and so my life in Trinidad remains a rich source of inspiration and image: colours of the landscape, bird song, my parents, their life force, and our extended family with all its archetypes, the fervour of Port of Spain, adventures at carnival, calypso, steel pan, all these are my universe, and I have become more Trinidadian away from Trinidad. It’s a liminal position, being a Caribbean writer in the UK. For me, it is a position of longing but also of transformation through longing. I remember Walcott saying in an interview once that, ‘the tone of every poem is a tone of lament for loss.’ This is also true.

In my recent work, the images, characters, and landscapes align with universal motifs of decay and death. Powerfully elegiac and memorialised, they are not derivative but associative.

As a poet, I’m interested in the musical and beauteous potential of both creole and standard English. But I am also a surrealist – and at times an absurdist – and my writing is always searching for the things language has not yet said.

4. Tell us about your newest work.

At its simplest, The Frequency of Magic is about a village butcher and would-be novelist, Raphael, who has been writing a novel for 41 years. The characters in the novel have become tired of what has become a tedious process. Some have died, some have found ways to escape the text and to enact volition in their own lives. Since Raphael does not revise what he writes, he does not realise that some characters have left the book. There are 100 chapters of 1,000 words each. The idea of narrative simultaneity, rather than the linear or causal trajectories of more western fiction, are at its core—and narratives interject and disrupt each other. I am, I think – as many postcolonial writers are – engaged in a battle against the grand narratives of colonialism and imperialism, and the literatures that accompany them. The Frequency, in that respect, is quite subversive. It is also a homage to Malick Village in Trinidad, where my father’s family have lived for generations, to my father, my great uncle Christo (on whom Raphael is based) as well as a paean to mortality and the decay of memory and familial mythologies.

 5. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve been lucky. The best is hard to determine, but two come to mind—which were more philosophical than instructive: Lauri Scheyer at my residency at CSU, Los Angeles, convincing me to read from my journal by saying, ‘the personal is the universal.’ Earl Lovelace, at a party in Trinidad, telling me, ‘The story exists, plot is just how you tell it.’ Earl gave much, so much of what we call the ‘seppy’ in Trinidad, the secret knowledge.

6. What is your favourite book or pamphlet published in the past year and why?

New Daughters of Africa (2019) edited by Margaret Busby—possibly the most important anthology published in 2019, featuring some of the most incisive and visionary writing I’ve read in a long time. I can’t think of anything else I’ve read this year that matches this for its scope and beauty.

 7. What is a classic you recently read for the first time?

 Guerrillas (1975) by V.S. Naipaul, and Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin.

8. What is a book or pamphlet you love that no one else has heard of?

I have two:

The Spaces Between Screams: A Collection of Urban Tragedies by Kemal Mulbocus (1997)

My friend Kemal’s debut, and sadly, only collection of stories. A visceral and impassioned writer, he died while working on an epic novel at thirty five.

From the Calabash: Poems and Woodcuts (1978) by Motshile wa Nthodi

Beautiful woodcuts in red and black accompanying moving and vibrant poems that celebrate the cycle of life in an Ndebele village in Zimbabwe. Published in 1978, long out of print.

9. If your newest work were a music album, what would it be and how would it sound?

It would be what my next album might sound like: a fierce, funky spiritual jazz quest with tinges of psychedelia and surrealist poetics.

 10. Which books or authors are relevant reads in our political climate—or one you’d recommend to current world leaders?

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks (2000).

 

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Olatoun Gabi-Williams, Guardian Arts Nigeria

22 November 2019

At Yoruba Lakotun, Soyinka, Orimoogunje, Others call for cultural renaissance

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New Daughters of Africa at the WOW Festival, International Women’s Day 2019

Reports online are increasing about projects in the creative industries aimed not only at countering fear of the ‘other’ and resentment about the growing number of ‘others’ in our midst but at highlighting ways ‘others’ enrich and strengthen us. As nationalism and nativism rise across the globe, my cyber world is under siege. I am not complaining. Powerful images posted online from art biennials have stayed with me: Venice, Berlin, Dak’Art (Dakar, Senegal) and Art X in Lagos, Nigeria. Memorable, startling art, love-infused, aiming to transform the way I, we, see all kinds of difference: gender, race, culture and ability. Rarely can art claim immediate transformative power; what it can do is capture the imagination and plant seeds for a conversation and perhaps – ultimately – a conversion.

In this essay, I turn my thoughts away from arresting visual art to focus on a landmark union: Margaret Busby OBE with Candida Lacey of Myriad Editions (UK) and 200+ women from Africa and its diasporas. It is a great literary assembly put together for the purpose of reconstructing perceptions about Africa and her women, celebrating African women in literature and showcasing the dazzling range of their work. Importantly, the women have assembled for the purpose of making a difference in black women’s lives through the inauguration of the Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa (NDOA) Award. Myriad Editions’ media statement explains that the £20,000 award has been made possible by the support of School of Oriental and African Studies and the generosity of the writers who each waived their usual fees.

The award will support a black woman who has been offered a place on the Master of Arts (MA) programme at the SOAS in African Studies, Comparative Literature or Translation (in African languages). The candidate must be African and must have a particular interest in studying African literature.

My first meeting with Margaret Busby (Nana Akua Ackon) seems a long time ago now. A reading event held at Terra Kulture, the Nigerian Cultural Centre to promote the Etisalat Prize for Literature, then in its second edition, but recently dormant (though an immensely popular and useful prize). Busby was an active patron.

Born in Ghana to parents with Caribbean links, she achieved renown in 1967, when with Clive Allison, she co-founded Allison & Busby whose author list featured such notables as, Nuruddin Farah (Somalia), Ishmael Reed (USA), Carlos Moore (Cuba) and Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria). She was the youngest and first black female publisher in the United Kingdom. She left Allison & Busby in 1987 and became a broadcaster (radio and TV); as a playwright (radio and stage) and as the woman who gave us Daughters of Africa (DOA, 1992), the magnum opus and seminal anthology that provided a platform for Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present.

We owe Margaret Busby an immense debt of gratitude for this 1992 work. Its chronological arrangement — by date of birth — enables us, to quote her, “to try to chart the development of a literary canon over the years, to restore links and show the continuity of expression that against all odds still exists in much of the material.”

At an earlier point in the Introduction, she emphasises that however vast, the collection is not a “definitive work, implying that everything excluded merits lesser consideration. I prefer to see it as a contribution to the cause of reclaiming for women of African descent a place in literary history. If its effect is to spur others on to do better, it will have achieved its purpose.”

This year, on March 8, 2019 International Woman’s Day, her much-anticipated New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent was released by Myriad Editions (UK). On 7 March, the eve of Women’s Day, Myriad and editor, Margaret Busby, threw a party attended by a good many of the 200 contributors from Africa and her Diasporas, 36 of whom are mentioned in this tiny Nigeria dominated sample. It also features their pre-NDoA credentials for entry into the pantheon of writers. They are arranged in the volume (not in this sample) according to decade of birth primarily, writes Busby, “to give context to the generational links” and to continue to chart the black feminist literary canon:

Andrea Levy (UK/Jamaica) (Small Island, The Long Song), Olumide Popoola (Nigeria) (When We Speak of Nothing), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) (Americanah, We Should All Be Feminists), Zadie Smith (UK/Jamaica), (White Teeth; On Beauty), Edwidge Danticat (Haiti) (Breath, Eyes, Memory), Yewande Omotoso (Nigeria/South Africa) (The Woman Next Door), Hilda Twongyeirwe (Uganda) Co-Editor, (Nothing to See Here; Beyond the Dance), Kit de Waal (British/Irish) (My Name is Leon), Goretti Kyomuhendo (Uganda) (The First Daughter), Donu Kobara (Nigeria) (All Africa Journalists), Bernardine Evaristo MBE (UK/Nigeria) (The Emperor’s Babe), Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa) (The Madams: A Wildly Provocative Title), Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Zimbabwe/UK) editor, (Safe House), Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya) (Dust), Chika Unigwe (Nigeria/Belgium) (Night Dancer),
Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria) (Stay with Me) and Juliane Okot Bitek (Uganda) (100 Days).

Others are, Wanjiku Wa Ngugi (Kenya) (The Fall of Saints), Hawa Jande Golakai (Liberia) (The Lazarus Effect), Yaba Badoe (Ghana/UK) (Jigsaw of Fire & Stars), Taiye Selasi (Ghana/Nigeria/USA) (Ghana Must Go), Lola Shoneyin (Nigeria) (The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives),Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/USA) (Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi; What Sunny Saw in the Flames). Sade Adeniran (Nigeria/UK) (Imagine This), Sarah Ladipo Manyika (Nigeria/UK) (Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun), Noo Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria/UK) (Looking For Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria) Leila Aboulela (Sudan/Egypt/Scotland) (Elsewhere, Home), Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria) (Welcome to Lagos), Sefi Atta (Nigeria) (News from Home) – Interlinks Books, Minna Salami (Nigeria/Finland) (Ms. Afropolitan blog; Sensuous Knowledge: A Radical Black Feminist Approach for Everyone, (forthcoming 2019), Yemisi Aribisala (Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds) and Reni Eddo-Lodge (Nigeria/UK) (Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race).

Warsan Shire cannot be excluded from my sample. She is the Somali-British writer whose poems about the female body, failed romance, sexual imposition, sex workers, migrants, are shot through by a searing, palpable sense of loss, dislocation and disorientation. In her poem, Home, Shire speaks of the violence and anguish of the condition of refugees fleeing war in images that will leave you gasping.

Her career was launched in 2013 when she won the inaugural Brunel African Poetry Prize. Three years later, she catapulted to international fame with her collaboration with Beyoncé. Lemonade, the R & B singer’s Grammy Award-winning album, features lyrics by Warsan Shire, who is one of 10 poets selected for Complete Works II, a national development programme promoting diversity and quality in British poetry.

Occupying positions of pride on my list are Spanish-language writers Agnes Agboton (Republic of Benin) and Trifonia Melibea Obono (Equatorial Guinea). Agboton is long established. Translated pre-NDoA by the gifted American Lawrence Schimel, three poems from her collection, Songs of the Village and Exile, originally written in her native Gun, sit in this anthology alongside Let the Nkúkúmá Speak, a translated short story by Trifonia Melibea Obono. She is author of La Bastarda, which was published in 2018 by Feminist Press (USA) in its original Spanish. In the same year, South Africa’s Modjaji Books published the novel in English.

Lawrence Schimel served as translator for both Obono’s NDoA short story and her novel, which is the first book by a woman from Equatorial Guinea to be translated into English. About lesbian rebellion in Fang society, unsurprisingly La Bastarda has been banned in Obono’s home country.

Banned books have power: in 2018 Trifonia Melibea Obono won the Global Literature in Libraries Initiatives (GLLI) Translated YA Book Prize.

A major achievement of Daughters of Africa is its power as an advocacy tool for indigenous-language orature. Busby’s introduction contains a memorable quote from June Jordan, an American contributor to the original volume: ‘If we lose our fluency in our language, we may irreversibly forsake elements of the spirit that have provided for our survival’.

Using translations of indigenous-language poems to kick off the anthology, is Busby’s means of demonstrating that the creative output of African women has ‘roots that extend beyond written records’.

In New Daughters of Africa translated works underscore the case for dismantling, through the translations of texts, barriers erected by Africa’s breathtakingly diverse ethnicities and those barriers created by colonial imposition of European languages. An impressive consensus has emerged across the continent and its Diasporas that we need to speak and listen far more to one another through our writings. Sharing stories across our borders, comparing our experiences in the world as African women — and men — will help us know one another.

In an article published in The Guardian UK on March 9, 2019, a day after the launch, Margaret Busby quotes translator Renée Edwige Dro, director of Danbé at L’Harmattan, Cote d’Ivoire, and contributor to the book. “It was as if the daughters of Africa featured in that (original) anthology were telling me, their daughter and grand-daughter, to bravely go forth and bridge the literary gap between francophone and Anglophone Africa.”

Busby also quotes Phillipa Yaa de Villiers, South African Commonwealth Poet (2014), whose response to the original Daughters of Africa, is particularly moving:

“We were behind the bars of Apartheid – we South Africans had been cut off from the beauty and majesty of African thought traditions, and Daughters of Africa was among those works that replenished our starved minds, connecting us to the Black planet of memory and imagination, correcting the imbalance of information and awakening our own potential in ourselves…(the anthology) brings our separate spaces on the planet into each other’s purview, our experiences accented by our geographical and historical conditions, a text that creates solidarity, appreciation and reminds us that we are never alone.”

And these social and intergenerational considerations can yield economic good: badly needed revenue from books translated and traded not only to the Global North and within it, but translated and traded here across our vast geographies: our Anglophone, francophone, hispanophone, lusophone, Italian, German, Dutch and indigenous language-speaking communities.

In May 2017, Myriad Editions merged with New Internationalist, a long-established Oxford (UK) based co-operative and publisher of the anthology of The Caine Prize for African Writing. The merger is a testament to Myriad’s subscription to the campaign for increased visibility for African writing in the world’s biblio-diversity. In 2018, the Myriad First Drafts Competition focused on women of African descent. The two winners have contributed writings to New Daughters of Africa. Publishing Director Candida Lacey is an English woman. Her collaboration on the first DoA while working for Jonathan Cape and the publication of NDoA by Myriad Editions, which she leads, are a statement of her support for increasing diversity in the publishing industry, something Busby has championed, notably as founding member in the 1980s of Greater Access to Publishing (GAP), which sought to increase black representation in British publishing. And today, she is still advocating the cause.

In the Acknowledgments section of NDoA, Busby tells us that she met Candida Lacey in 1989. She was working at that time at the feminist publishers, Pandora Press, which had just brought out An Anthology of British Women Writers. She and Lacey ‘…talked of the need to rectify the absence of black women from the literary canon…’

Jonathan Cape in 1992.Myriad Editions in 2019.Candida Lacey is not fighting for us; it is the feminist press that is standing with us. Why this matters is summed up in the 2017 Bloomsbury publication Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s fierce, moving polemic. The chapter entitled The Feminism Question is the challenge she has thrown to her readers. They include white people who dare to brave her text. The chapter demonstrates why the inclusion of black women is imperative in the fight to protect women’s rights to participate in relevant spaces. Responding to the controversy generated by an all-white all-women TV show in 1990s Britain, this is the statement Reni Eddo-Lodge has made:

‘When feminists can see the problem with all-male panels, but can’t see the problem with all-white television programmes, it’s worth questioning who they are really fighting for.’

Once again my cyber world is under siege and I am celebrating. Conversations between Daughters of Africa and their networks of friends; photographs from the launch events; links to traditional media publications around the release of NDoA have been pouring into my inbox and my newsfeeds:

Irish Times journalist Sally Hayden recognizes New Daughters of Africa as broaching the neglected ‘feminist lineage’ that is a fact of African history. She quotes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking about her great-grandmother, ‘who she is sure was a feminist, whether or not she used that word for it. ’Hayden quotes Minna Salami: ‘When someone says that feminism isn’t African, we are reminded that we do not have the historical proof to show how continuous our presence is on the continent.”

Nigerian anthropologist and author Ifi Amadiume contributed a piece to the first Daughters of Africa anthology, from her work Afrikan Matriarchal Foundations, aiming to demonstrate and provide such proof. But the excerpt is minimal. As reinforcement what she should have provided was a selection from Male Daughters, Female Husbands: Gender and Sex in an African Society, her exciting study published in 1987 by Zed Books (UK). The Foreword by Pat Caplan explains how on arrival in South-East Nigeria, colonial rulers and missionaries found existing gender-fluid systems ‘baffling and sometimes abhorrent… As a result women in areas like Nnobi lost much of their former power, (for example) the ability of an older woman to marry “wives” whose labour she could command, was curtailed. Women were increasingly domesticated and rendered invisible, a situation exacerbated by the increasing importance of the cash economy, which was largely dominated by men.’

The first Daughters of Africa is dedicated to Margaret Busby’s mother. New Daughters of Africa as a follow-up testifies to the importance she has placed not only on tracking a canon of black feminist writing but additionally, mapping the canon through intergenerational connections.

That Angela Davis should participate in the Women’s Day 2019 events launching the New Daughters of Africa; that Gladys Casely-Hayford alongside her mother, Adelaide Casely-Hayford, should feature in the original Daughters of Africa; that Zadie Smith and her mother, Yvonne Bailey- Smith, should both feature as New Daughters of Africa; that Rebecca Walker should be a contributor to the follow-up of the first Daughters of Africa through which her mother, Alice Walker, speaks to her – these facts look like stardust sprinkled across a magnificent project built of so many stories: personal stories permeated by ‘an awareness of the wider world, and of the impact of national and international politics’; stories driven by history ‘rememoried’; stories addressing migration, ‘specifically ‘Windrush stories’ typified by the writing of Andrea Levy … an inescapable reference point in the British-Carribean nexus…Stories of mothers separated from offspring, and the resultant psychological effects…’

The entire DoA project is a towering achievement but the roll call of standout names in its first edition is spectacular in its reach. Creative writers, scholars, activists, abolitionists, monarchs: women who have helped, with varying degrees of renown, to shape human history: Hatshepsut (Ancient Egypt 1501 – 1447); Makeda, Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia); Harriet Tubman (USA); Sojourner Truth (USA); Bessie Head (South Africa/Botswana); Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana); Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe); Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria); Mabel Segun (Nigeria); Nella Larsen (USA); Zora Neale Hurston (USA); Efua Sutherland (Ghana); Toni Morrison (USA); Flora Nwapa (Nigeria); Zulu Sofola (Nigeria); Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua); Ntozake Shange (USA); Mary Seacole (Jamaica/UK); Phyllis Wheatley (Senegal/USA); Audre Lorde (USA); Molara Ogundipe-Leslie (Nigeria); Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe). In my sample from Busby’s pantheon, women sharing experience through the pages of the first anthology with Africa’s new daughters, I have already mentioned American civil rights icon Angela Davis and The Colour Purple author Alice Walker.

Historically, women on the frontlines of religious, intellectual and political life have populated swathes of Africa. Women have led the family and the economy and have been fighters in armed conflict. Those who succumbed to the hype around Marvel Studio’s Black Panther in 2018 will remember actress Danai Gurira as a soldier of the Dora Milaje.

A redeeming feature of a facile composition, these Wakanda warriors, ‘the adored ones’, are modelled on the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey (now Republic of Benin).

In the Fon language of Dahomey they were known as Mino, ‘Our Mothers’. Reputed for the courage and audacity they displayed in the First and Second Franco-Dahomean Wars, the Amazons disbanded at the end of the 19th century when the kingdom became a French protectorate. The sample I have provided is a window onto an historical lineage: Mino of African and Diasporic history. When Africa’s new daughters look back, it is in their memory. As women, as writers at home and in the Diaspora, they are our inheritance: the transformational power of what they have written and their acts, fuel us as we journey.

In her Guardian UK article of March 9, 2019, Busby points out that the anthology starts:
“… With some important entries from the 18th and 19th centuries – a reminder that later generations stand tall because of those who have gone before. Nana Asma’u (1793–1863), a revered figure in northern Nigeria, spoke four languages and was an educated and independent Islamic woman whose life and work can be considered a precursor to modern feminism in Africa. Sarah Parker Remond (1815–1894), abolitionist, lecturer, suffragist, demonstrates many of the themes and serendipitous connections that characterise this anthology… Elizabeth Keckley (1818–1907), her life bridging the 19th and the 20th centuries, describes first-hand the trauma of enslavement in her autobiography, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, published in 1868 – exactly 100 years before the “mould-breaking year” that (writer) Delia Jarrett-Macauley refers to, when “on university campuses from Paris to New York, students were protesting against the old order, against bureaucratic elites, against capitalism, sexism and racism and all forms of authoritarianism.”

Ifi Amadiume’s contribution in the original DoA from Afrikan Matriarchal Foundations contains an interesting sub-section entitled, Patriarchy Versus Matriarchy. Here she describes the activities of the Aho Cult of the Nnobi community of South East Nigeria and contends that its activities symbolise a gender-based struggle for power: “The incursion of a patriarchal people on an indigenous matriarchal society.”

We wrestle male hegemony at home; in cultures in which we live across the globe, we fight it, challenging reductionist perceptions of ‘others’ and the racism bequeathed by Western imperialist thought. So, New Daughters of Africa is political: an orchestra of responses to Mino of our history who took the fight to slavery, colonialism, to all forms of oppression and exclusion. The writings are part of the consensus around ‘non-colonising feminist solidarity across borders’ advanced by Indian scholar Chandra Mohanty.

In Myriad and Busby’s 200-strong literary army this solidarity has found a powerful African expression. As its arsenal, 800-plus pages of memoir, short stories, speeches, novel extracts, poetry and journalism. The totality advances an intergenerational, transnational feminist agenda.

At once a war-front, a home-front and a sanctuary for our souls, the page is where Africa’s literary daughters wield our pens like swords to stake our claim to a true feminism whose power, urgency and truth can be found only at gender’s intersections: colonialism, race, culture, class, sexuality, history and nation.

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Sally Hayden, The Irish Times

22 November 2019

Anthology edited by Margaret Busby covers themes of racism, feminism and migration

Margaret Busby became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher in the late 1960s, when she co-founded Allison & Busby. Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images

Margaret Busby became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher in the late 1960s, when she co-founded Allison & Busby. Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images

As recently as 2000, UK-based, Ghana-born editor Margaret Busby describes being one of only two black women at a publishing event. Her new book, New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent, which Busby describes in her introduction as “an amazing party guest list”, is the latest work in a long and pioneering career dedicated to making sure those coming after her won’t feel a similar sense of marginalisation.

Busby became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher in the late 1960s, when she co-founded Allison & Busby. Daughters of Africa, her original anthology featuring women writers from, or with a tie to, Africa, came out in 1992. Twenty-six years later, there are more than 200 contributors in the latest volume, including Zadie Smith and her mother Yvonne Bailey-Smith as well as Alice Walker’s daughter, Rebecca.

“To sisterhood, love, and friendship,” reads the dedication.

Some of the women are born on the African continent, while others are descendants of people who travelled, or were forced out to the US and Europe. Busby credits contributors with “many glorious firsts”, including the UK Labour Party’s Diane Abbott, who in 1987 was the first black woman elected to the British parliament.

Their writing takes many forms: speeches, journalism, poetry, extracts from longer works and short stories. They are arranged in order of the women’s birth decades, a chronological reminder that African women have been creating art for many centuries; the youngest included are still in their twenties.

First up is a poem about female friendship from Nana Asma’u, a West African poet born in 1793, and the daughter of the founder of the 19th century Sokoto Caliphate. Next is a speech on slavery by 19th century lecturer and activist Sarah Parker Remond. “For the slave there is no home, no love, no hope, no help; and what is life without hope?”

Works by Zadie Smith and her mother, Yvonne Bailey-Smith, are featured in the collection. Photograph: Dave Benett/Getty Images
Works by Zadie Smith and her mother, Yvonne Bailey-Smith, are featured in the collection. Photograph: Dave Benett/Getty Images

One of many moving extracts comes from Elizabeth Keckley, an extraordinary woman who was born as a slave, and ended up in the White House as the personal dressmaker for US president Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd. Keckley’s parents were forced to live and die in different states with different slave masters, and one of her father’s letters is included in the extract from her autobiography: “I hope with God’s help that I may be able to rejoice with you on the earth, and in heaven, let’s meet… we’ll meet to part no more forever,” he wrote to her mother in 1833.

Each contribution begins with a short biography of the author, including where they were born or raised, and a description of an often vast body of other work.

Feminist lineage

A major theme throughout the anthology is restoring a history of African feminist lineage. “When someone says that feminism isn’t African, we are reminded that we do not have the historical proof to show how continuous our presence is on the continent,” writes Finnish-Nigerian journalist Minna Salami. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, another Nigerian and the celebrated author of Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, passionately describes her great-grandmother, who she is sure was a feminist, whether or not she used that word for it.

Migration is also a theme. Ethiopian-American writer Maaza Mengiste writes about the trauma experienced by survivors of trafficking, people who tried to get to Europe from the Horn of Africa. “In moments when several who made the journey were gathered, I would watch them point to their scars to help fill the lapses in their stories… That he is alive is a testament to his endurance.”

Some of the short stories will make you hold your breath, like Ugandan writer Beatrice Lamwaka’s Missing Letter in the Alphabet, about a woman whose husband leaves her on her wedding night, upon finding out she was a victim of female genital mutilation. “We were the alphabet and the C was missing. Our clitorises were the missing letter in the alphabet of the world.” Roxane Gay’s short story on suffocating love is another highlight.

Others examine racism from a myriad of angles. South African writer Sisonke Msimang writes, “I quickly learn that to be black in America is to be looked through, passed over, or locked away. It is to be constantly misrecognised.”

“I knew how white folks made up pasts and brought them to the present so they could feel comfortable,” writes Memphis-based Zandria F Robinson, on the topic of Confederate flags.

Victimhood

In some ways this anthology can be confusing. It’s not always clear what you’re reading at first, or whether the writing is new (some contributions, like Ngozi’s We Should All Be Feminists, have already been published and broadcast countless times, not least in a Beyonce song). Nonetheless, the result is a necessary wealth of work – a welcome addition to any book shelf and a compulsory education for anyone unaware of the countless gifted African women journalists, essayists, poets and speakers who should influence how we see the world.

While I was reading New Daughters of Africa, the debate around UK charity Comic Relief’s fundraising erupted in the British media. A Uganda-based advocacy group called No White Saviours criticised the charity for perpetuating stereotypes of Africa as a continent defined only by poverty and victimhood, in need of white people to aid and make sense of it.

Scanning various opinion pieces, I remembered the four-day music festival I went to on my last visit to Uganda. The trip before that, I spent a night on a Kampala rooftop, listening to a riveting performance by the most talented poet I’ve seen live.

Sometimes you need an anthology to remind you of the variety, strength and nuance of writing among a certain region or group of people. New Daughters of Africa is indispensable because African voices have been silenced or diminished throughout history, and women’s voices even more so.

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John Stevenson, Black History 365

13 November 2019

"O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! no longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties”.

These are the words of Maria W Stewart (1803-1880), the first African-American woman to give public lectures. Remarkably prescient too, against the background in which they were uttered – in the heart of American slavery and virulent racism, where the status of the Black woman was the lowest in American society.

Stewart’s declaration serves as the impulse for New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent edited by Margaret Busby, published in early 2019 by Myriad. This new book is a follow-up from Margaret Busby’s 1992 highly-acclaimed and path-breaking anthology, Daughters of Africa.

For the general reader of any gender, the historical sweep and diversity of this literary compendium is staggering, with judiciously selected works of African and African- Diasporan women. New Daughters of Africa is divided up as follows: Pre-1900, 1900s, 1920s,1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Over the course of its 805 pages, the tome showcases the work of more than 200 women writers in the form of memoir, short stories, speeches, novel extracts, poetry and journalism. Well known and obscure contributors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Patience Agbabi, Malorie Blackman, Edwidge Danticat, Esi Edugyan, Bernardine Evaristo, Roxane Gay, Karen Lord, Warsan Shire, Zadie Smith. The book begins with a Lamentation penned by Nana Asma’u (the daughter of Shehu Usman dan Fodiyo, founder of the 19th century Sokoto Caliphate) for her friend Aysha, and ends with Sunita, by Chibundu Onuzo.

In her introduction to the New Daughters of Africa, Busby says: “Custom, tradition, friendships, mentor/mentee relationships, romance, sisterhood, inspiration, encouragement, sexuality, intersectional feminism, the politics of gender, race and identity—within these pages is explored an extensive spectrum of possibilities, in ways that are touching, surprising, angry, considered, joyful, heartrending. Supposedly taboo subjects are addressed head-on and with subtlety, familiar dilemmas elicit new takes.”

Every Black home should own a copy of the book.

The literary voices of Black women need to be heard even more urgently now.

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Kari Mutu, The East African

23 September 2019

Twenty-seven years after her first anthology, Ghanaian-born writer and editor Margaret Busby has released another literary feat titled, New Daughters of Africa; An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent.

It contains stories by more than 200 female authors spanning over 100 years.

Busby’s first anthology was titled Daughters of Africa and was released in 1992. Once again, she has highlighted international writers and added more emerging voices in literature.

New Daughters of Africa is divided into 10-year periods beginning in the pre-1990s into the 1990s. There are stories, poems, articles, book excerpts and reviews by women from across Africa, America, the Caribbean and the UK. But other than the chronology of time periods and featuring only black authors, there is no cohesive theme to tie the book together.

There are familiar names like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Aminatta Forna, Lola Shoneyin, Zadie Smith and Nnedi Okorafor.

There are also new female writers from the first half of the 20th century who present their life experiences, contributions to literature and their societies at a time when women’s public role was quite limited.

Busby digs out names from the late 1800s such as Nina Asama’u, a Muslim Northern Nigerian princess and women’s educator who is still admired today for her progressive thinking during a very patriarchal time and place.

Former slave Elizabeth Keckley bought her freedom and went on to become the dressmaker of President Abraham Lincoln’s wife. In elegant prose she describes her early life and the tender relationship between her beloved parents who were separated by slavery.

Guyanese author and activist Andaiye presents a moving assessment of female friendship, loss and battling cancer. Sadly, she died in May.

Acclaimed British children’s writer Malorie Blackman, 57, first started writing after she was diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia at 18 years old and was expected to die before the age of 30.

Wanjiku Ngugi, daughter of author Ngugi wa Thiong’o, reminisces on her Kenyan childhood and the young son she left behind when she moved to America, where she suffered from food intolerance, a shaky marriage and social isolation.

With poignant candidness, Nigerian-born journalist Donu Kogbara talks about her 2015 kidnapping experience in Losing My Fragile Roots.

She calls kidnapping “the most intelligent and justifiable crime” and by the time of her release she has developed a rapport with her “loquacious kidnappers.” Yet the experience spooked her enough to leave Nigeria forever.

Modern socio-political issues are delved into in narratives like Yvvette Edwards’ tale titled Security, about a 78-year nursing home assistant called Merle who is being expatriated from the UK to Jamaica, a country she hasn’t visited in 50 years.

The story brings to mind the recent Windrush scandal in the UK involving the callous deportation of Caribbean-born migrants who have been long-time residents in Britain.

In Tuk-Tuk Trail to Suya and Stars, Uganda’s award-winning Doreen Baingana retells her experience of eating the popular Nigerian dish called Suya.

She takes us on a tuk-tuk ride to inner-city Nigeria followed by an intense devouring of the super-spicy meat dish.

Excerpts like Sapphire from the book Push are a bookmark for reading the full-length novels from which they were derived.

African-American author Ramona Lofton (aka Sapphire) wrote the semi-autobiographical in 1996 and the movie version, called Precious, won two Academy Awards.

New Daughters of Africa explores topics ranging from sexuality to feminism, female circumcision, women’s rights, migration and sisterhood. But the rich variety of tales can also be a handicap not least because it is onerous to read through over 700 pages of short stories.

This is not a book to be rushed through as each narrative is preceded by a lengthy introduction of the authors. I felt a purposelessness in a few of the narratives or an ending arrived at too quickly, leaving the reader dissatisfied.

Nevertheless, this anthology inspires a great sense of pride in discovering the enormous number of black women writers and their rich body of literary works going back over a century.

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Anjanette Delgado, New York Journal of Books

16 May 2019

Here is the book so many have been waiting for. The book to make sense of so many others. New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent follows the original tome, New Daughters of Africa, published 25 years ago to global acclaim.

It was deemed a vital document then, and it takes its job just as seriously now, bringing together over 200 female voices of color, an incredible range of experience and backgrounds and perspectives and voices, told in every which way important things can be told: memoir, lecture, poem, letters, diary entries, short stories, essays, political speeches, dialogues, humor, reportage, and even oral history.

The topics are just as varied and shine bright lights on the lives of critically underrepresented women of color, and on the contributions of these gifted literary scholars: motherhood, slavery, love, work, immigration, assimilation, friendship, thwarted aspiration, infidelity, racism, marriage, poverty, and on and on.

In fact, the only thing that is not varied here is the gloriously even quality of the writing. These are stories for crying and laughing and thinking. They are narratives for understanding, for seeking, for finding, yes, because it is a catalogue of lives that are not shown as much and as consistently as we need them to be.

See for yourself. Here is Elizabeth Nunez in “Discovering my Mother”:

“Quite accidentally I discovered that my mother read books. I didn’t think she did. I thought her only interests were domestic, all related to her children, her home, her social circles. It turned out, however, that she had read my first novel, When Rocks Dance. I hadn’t expected her to. Years ago, I had left the novel for my father. He never read it. As far as I know, he never read a single one of my eight books. When I found out my mother had read When Rocks Dance, I gave her my next two novels. Beyond the Limbo Silence and Bruised Hibiscus. She read them too and was full of praise for me. I was her favorite author, she said.”

And here is Zadie Smith, receiving the Langston Hughes Medal in 2017 with “Speech for Langston”:

“I don’t know what I am doing on a list of names that includes James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott and Octavia Butler, but I am so grateful to find myself in their company. Growing up in England, in the eighties, these were some of the writers my mother gave me, to remind me that no country has the power to decide whether or not it will ‘tolerate’ a black child or decide on her true identity, for the black child’s inheritance is borderless and enormous and needs no such external authentication.”

And here you have a brave story—for its profundity and complexity, as much as for its beauty— from Chinelo Okparanta. Titled “Trump in the Classroom,” it tells of encountering a disturbing narrative while teaching a writing workshop in a heavily pro-Trump area, to an all-white classroom, save for one student and herself:

“In the student’s story, the colony—and all the black people in it—was suddenly set to be destroyed, because a few of the black people had taken to bringing up the issue of slavery. They were still living out the legacy and pain of it—an inherited trauma—despite the fact that this was hundreds of years after. This complaining was getting to be too much for the whites, so the whites had now arrived at a solution: blow up, destroy, obliterate all the dark-skinned people. Banishing them to a malaria-infested colony was no longer enough. Rather, put an end to the legacy of slavery once and for all, so that they would no longer have to listen to complaints, the inconvenience of guilt.”

These voices are joined by Edwidge Danticat, Roxane Gay, Claudia Rankine, Panashe Chigumadzi, Bridget Minamore, Margo Jefferson, Bonnie Greer, Philippa Yaa de Villiers, and dozens more, each one as accomplished as the rest, their tales arranged by decade, each decade seemingly a different world.

It is, perhaps, this bulk, this excess, this non-superfluous surplus, this literal and literary embarrassment of riches that sends the strongest of messages. Yes, there is this much talent and achievement here in the literature of people of color, the roots of these writers in Africa, but their immense contribution extends to every continent. It is this good. It is this great. So, how is it that it continues to be such a low percentage of all that is published, widely distributed, critiqued, discussed, taught, and shared?

Africa Writes

3 May 2019

A Snapshot of Margaret Busby’s Illustrious Career

Born in Accra to parents of Bajan, Trinidadian and Dominican origin, and educated in London University, Margaret Busby’s legacy certainly transcends borders. In the 1960s,  became Britain’s youngest and first black female book publisher. At University, where Busby was introduced to a young Clive Anderson in a fruitful meeting which soon led to a business partnership. In 1967, the two co-founded publishing company Alison & Busby and launched their debut publication of three poetry books: Selected Poems by James Reeves, A Stained-Glass Raree Show by Libby Houston and The Saipan Elegy by James Grady. The company also published the groundbreaking debut novel The Spook Who Sat By The Door by Sam Greenlee which went on to be selected for The Sunday Times Book of the Year in 1969. The company went on to publish many more amazing literary works including Buchi Emecheta’s fiction and non-fiction.

Margaret Busby later went on to become Director of Earthscan, publishing the works of writers the likes of Nuruddin Farah, Franz Fanon, Carolina Maria De Jesus and several others. Aside from publishing, Busby has judged literary awards such as the Caine Prize for African Writing, OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and the Commonwealth Book Prize. Busby has worked in broadcasting on numerous occasions since the late 1960s. During her time at the BBC, Busby presented Break For Women on the BBC Africa Service. Her more dramatized productions for the BBC included works by Jean Rhys, Wole Soyinka, Lawrence Scott and Simi Bedford. In 1998, her play based on C.L.R. James’s novel Minty Alley was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and in 1999, won a Commission for Racial Equality “Race in the Media Award” (RIMA).

Margaret Busby’s achievements certainly have not gone unnoticed. In 2005, Margaret Busby was appointed the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to Literature and to Publishing. Some of her honorary awards and recognitions include:

1999 – Ghanaian traditional honour as Nana Akua Ackon, Cape Coast.

2004 – Awarded an Open University Honorary Doctorate for Services to the Arts and Sciences.

2011 – Granted an Honorary Fellowship for Queen Mary, University of London.

2017 – Elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, in which she was subsequently awarded the Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature in the UK.

 

The Journey to New Daughters of Africa

In 1992, Margaret Busby edited and introduced Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent, published by Jonathan Cape. Daughters of Africa was a seminal collection – a literary first – where works from over 200 women writers from Africa and beyond were compiled into one volume, with genres spanning fiction, essays, drama, poetry, memoirs and children’s writing. Busby described the process of assembling the collection of over 1,000 pages as one “trying to catch a flowing river in a calabash“. Many regarded the anthology as a pioneering piece of work and received international acclaim, as it highlighted the “silent, forgotten, underrated voices of black women” (The Washington Post).

Twenty fives later – after learning Daughters of Africa anthology was out of print – Busby took on to the colossal challenge of reworking and introducing a new volume, New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of 20th and 21st Century Writing by Women of African Descent. This landmark anthology was recently published by Myriad Publications in March 2019; continuing the important mission Busby has set with archiving and eliciting discussion from one generation to another. Keeping in line with the first volume, New Daughters of Africa compiles the works of over 200 African writers from across the continent and beyond. The 800 page anthology explores issues of tradition, race, romance, the politics of gender, sexuality, and inter-sectional feminism.

With the continued efforts in celebrating women writers of African descent, Busby and Myriad Publications have partnered with SOAS University of London and International Student House to fund the £20,000 Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award. This award will be offered to a black, female student who is a resident of Africa to cover tuition and accommodation fees to study a Masters degree in African Studies, Comparative Literature, or Translation in African Languages at SOAS University of London.

 

An Inspiring Legacy

Busby’s journey to becoming Britain’s youngest black female publisher is certainly an inspiration to many. Her story is a major contribution to the representation of black women in publishing, and her publications have been significant in portraying inclusive and relatable stories for readers and writers who have lived on the margins of society. New Daughters of Africa among the great accomplishments it embodies is also an enjoyable read. More importantly, it is a necessary read. In today’s global climate, we are witnessing a seemingly endless cycle of bigotry and discrimination. Amid the progressive strides to achieve diversity in publishing and media, we are continuing to experience a dismissal of marginalised voices. New Daughters of Africa centres these voices and creates a deeper scope of the interconnected histories and experiences of black women worldwide, highlighting the many shared and nuanced obstacles female writers of colour face as they navigate their way through issues of race, gender and class.

Perhaps one of the most impactful legacies of Margaret Busby’s work, is its ability to resonate with all audiences. In his review of New Daughters of Africa, Paul Burke writes:

This collection opened my eyes in so many ways, to women’s issues and experience, to colour in countries and stories I knew so little about, and many nuances on race and gender. I think I learned something of myself at the same time. (NB Magazine)

By vocalising the narratives of the marginalised, Margaret Busby has expanded the possibility of learning, and has ultimately opened the door for dialogue to occur.

The first volume, Daughters of Africa (1992), marked the beginning of a beautiful exploration into the experiences of black women. New Daughters of Africa (2019) reminds us that the conversation is not over! The stories of black female writers must, and will, always be heard. In an interview with The Guardian, Busby explains: “until you can no longer count the number of African women writers who have broken through then we’ve still got work to do”. Her commitment to publishing female writers from across the African continent and beyond has set the standard, which will hopefully encourage more mainstream publishers to follow suit.

Margaret Busby’s landmark anthology is the epitome of inter-generational sisterhood, and has provided us with the foundations for a remarkable conversation surrounding race, gender and resistance. With this Busby’s legacy is immortalised by continuing to push the conversation forward, and for us, as readers, to continue to celebrate her work and generous, indelible gift to the world.

 

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Echoes Magazine

3 May 2019

New Daughters Of Africa:
An International Anthology Of Writing By Women Of African Descent.
Edited by Margaret Busby[Myriad] With more than 200 black women writers in its 700 eventful pages, this inspiring collection punches above its very considerable weight. Editor Margaret Busby, who was at the helm for its predecessor 25 years ago, proves again to be as discerning and adventurous in her choice of contributors, as well as the genres in which they express themselves. The result is great diversity within a supposed minority, a resounding statement of the infinitely rich life experience of the ‘sisters’ drawn from Africa and the Diaspora. As was the case with the acclaimed first edition there is a commendable balance between those who are known and those who are unknown but nonetheless have illuminating things to say. There are thus few surprises about the excellence of Bernardine Evaristo’s On Top Of The World, a wonderful piece of prose that melts down any expectation of what a British-Nigerian could have in her DNA by way of an impassioned homage to icebergs in Greenland. On the other hand the poignant verse of Zambia’s Ethel Irene Kabwato will be a revelation, as will the luminous narrative and penetrating character studies of African-American Jesmyn Ward. Needless to say a host of other writers of varying profile, from Zadie Smith to Catherine Johnson, Mailka Booker, Jane Ulysses Grell and Attilah Springer, to name but some, also contribute work of a very high standard. Busby has grouped the texts by decade, reaching right back to the pre-1900, which results in a clear and vivid sense of evolution in both style and subject matter. It is timely to learn that Haiti, defined by western news in the 90s and 2000s as a blighted land of dictators and hurricanes, produces poets with the strength of a tempest, such as Anais Duplan. Her forensic depiction of blackness in a world where too few questions are asked is indispensable.

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Professor Selwyn Cudjoe for Trinidad Daily Express

8 April 2019

“Know you not that love, when firmly established, is priceless?”—Nana Asma’u, “Lamentation for ‘Aysha.’”

I MET Margaret Busby in the 1980s just after her press (Allison & Busby) published three volumes of CLR James’s collected work (The Future in the Present (1977), Spheres of Existence (1980), and At the Rendezvous of Victory (1984).

It was an exciting time for James scholars.

The assembled pieces were important parts of James’s intellectual corpus.

In 1992 Busby published Daughters of Africa in which she showcased the works of over two hundred black women writers from all parts of the Africana world. The Washington Post called it “ground-breaking” and said it illuminated the “silent, forgotten, underrated voices of black women” while the London Sunday Times hailed it as “an extra body of achievement…a vital body of lost history.” It played a formative role in the field of Black Women’s writing.

Twenty-six years later Busby is at it again, publishing New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writings by Women of African Descent. None of the writers from the earlier volume appear in this recent volume which the editor says “represents something of a fresh start.”

It is an illuminating beginning-over-again; another milestone on the documentation of African women’s writings.

Busby begins this remarkable volume with the work of Nana Asma’u (1793–1863), a revered figure in northern Nigeria, who spoke four languages. Asma’u “was an educated and independent Islamic woman who can be considered a precursor to modern feminism in Africa.”

Then Busby turns to Sarah Parker Remond (1815–1894), an African-American writer who wanted “to be educated.”

Remond was partly educated in England before migrating to Italy, where she studied medicine. Delia Jarrett-Macauley, a Sierra Leonean, recounts Remond’s amazing story in “The Bedford Women” that is reproduced in Busby’s anthology.

Remond’s work is followed with an excerpt from the autobiography of Elizabeth Keckley’s (1818–1907), Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House which tells of Keckley’s father snatched away from she and her mother by their slave master. They never saw her father again even though he wrote to her mother until he died.

These early works provide the scaffolding for a later generation of writers such as Edwidge Danticat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, Nawal El Saadawi, Claudia Rankine, and Marie NDiaye. I liked Danticat’s “Dawn After the Tempests” that uses Audre Lorde’s essay to interpret Grenada, and NDiaye’s melancholy story, “Three Strong Women,” about her selfishness and her husband’s sudden death, and Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro’s haunting but frighteningly mesmerising “Midwives (Fragments).”

The anthology includes writers from about fifty countries.

Trinidad and Tobago is well represented with selections from Elizabeth Nunez, Marina Salandy-Brown, Meta Davis Cumberbatch, Barbara Jenkins, and Lisa Allen-Agostini among others. Salandy-Brown’s “Lost Daughter of Africa” begins with the evocation of her ninety-seven-year-old mother, “Masa! Massa! Rua ina zua,” fragments of Hausa her mother remembered from the first seven years of her life in northern Nigeria.

Listening to her grandmother’s fluent Hausa, Salandy-Brown revealed her amazement during that that strange, linguistic moment: “My uncle and his family, with whom she lived, were as amazed as I was by this new bit of history, by the acknowledgement, finally, that my grandmother had an African past.”

Busby attempts to capture the “customs, tradition, friendships, mentor/mentee relationships, romance, sisterhood, inspiration, encouragement, sexuality, intersectional feminism, the politics of gender race and identity.” She takes particular joy in seeing Attillah Springer, a Trinidadian, “follow the pathway of her mother Eintou Pearl Springer, a contributor to Daughters of Africa,” a beautiful mother-daughter literary bonding.

The longing for and recognition of African roots characterise the works of many of these writers. It also involves a search for self-awareness. Zadie Smith puts it best when, on receiving the Langston Hughes medal, she confessed: “I am so thankful that tonight it has stretched far enough to include a Black-British woman like me, a freckle-faced woman like me, a mixed-marriage woman like me, a green card holder like me, an immigrant like me, a second-generation Jamaican like me, a distant but not forgotten daughter of Africa.”

This impulse to recapture and to reclaim Africa emanates from the rootsiness of an editor whose father was raised in Trinidad and settled in Ghana where Busby was born. After studying in London, she became Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher. She remains a prolific African griot who is always doing book reviews and radio programs, writing articles and obituaries, and acting as a one-woman repository of black people’s writing.

Two Wednesdays ago Busby and I met at the British Library just to reminisce and talk about her book. She was still at it. She had a cold, was on the verge of losing her voice but was still giving lectures and interviews to promote the writings of black people the world over. I was pleased that she attended my lecture at University College London about a month ago.

There is no way I can do justice to this 800-page book in a 900-word article. It is a literary tour-de-force that must be read slowly and savoured. Much can be gained by reading the editor’s introduction carefully. It captures the lushness, the creativity, and the wondrous innovation of our Africana sisters.

Jarrett-Macauley notes that Busby has turned “reading English into something global, explosive and urgent.” This is the joy and richness a reader will discover in this book: explosiveness, urgency, and a fantastic global literary encounter.

Professor Cudjoe’s e-mail address is scudjoe@wellesley.edu. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

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Paul Burke 5/5 star review, NB Literary Magazine

28 March 2019

This is a beautiful, challenging and triumphant collection of writing that increases our understanding of humanity and entertains royally. There is a danger with any anthology that it has a theme but lacks a heart, even when the content is well written and appropriate to the theme. Not so with New Daughters of Africa, I’m just bowled over by the quality and breadth of contributions here but also the way they coalesce. The writing is, depending on each author’s style, sharp, funny, romantic, confrontational and politically astute. This book has a heart and a sense of purpose and I think it’s fair to say it is important and so relevant for our times. Anyone interested in Africa, gender politics, good storytelling and writing that pushes the boundaries of the form will love this book.

As a reader you will probably want to dip in and out of this epic tome; as a reviewer I had the pleasure of reading it from cover to cover, I can tell you it was no chore. This is a full on sensory experience, a stimulation for the brain and for the heart and some of the writing here stirs the blood and twists the gut. The material ranges from poetry to essays, short stories to political tracts, journalism to autobiography, letters and diary entries to drama and oral histories, memoir to speeches. Remarkably diverse material both in genre and approach. There are pieces representative of many generations of African women, from North of the Sahara to the southern tip. From early pieces to twentieth century contributors and then writing by a new younger generation, some of whom are having their voices heard outside of their homeland for the first time. There are over two hundred contributors, writers living and working in Africa, others part to the diaspora, and natives of the US and Europe. Women from different religious and political backgrounds; all with vital, vibrant and meaningful stories to tell. These are stories of simple romance and friendship, of loss and longing, of political import – gender politics, feminism, race and identity – tales of exile, of embracing new countries, slavery and visions of equality, of traditions (customs) and breaking taboos, and of sexuality. There is a sense of sisterhood, a shared experience, these women have connections to all corners of the continent and the world; they address issues such as class, race and gender – oppression, personal freedom, clash of cultures, diversity, independence and religion. I speak of the sisterhood but it’s also clear from this collection how universal these issues, they matter to all of us, to all our societies.

This collection opened my eyes in so many ways, to women’s issues and experience, to colour in countries and stories I knew so little about, and many nuances on race and gender. I think I learned something of myself at the same time.

The depth of psychological, political, economic and cultural insight here is awe inspiring. There are so many examples of pieces that cut to the intellectual and emotional heart of an issue/story. From lost, or at least neglected, historical works to modern young authors, this collection contains writing of extraordinary beauty, elegance, perception. Popular authors, famous writers, others little known, these are remarkable story tellers whatever the genre. Of course there are highlights, some I didn’t personally enjoy so much, but none that don’t add to the collective wealth of the book. With so many entries it seems almost unfair to pick a few out, which I would usually attempt. There are 800 pages, as I said 200 contributors, some vignettes others more in-depth pieces. New writers such as Chibundu Onuza, Panashe Chigumadzi, Zakia Henderson-Brown. Established author such as Donika Kelly, Afua Hirsch, Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roxane Gay, Jesmin Ward. Writers from centuries passed; Nana Asmáu, Effie Waller Smith, Meta Davis Cumberbatch. So I’ll restrict the tendency to delve too much into particular writers, here are a few I wasn’t familiar with but who drew my attention.

Yasmin Abdel-Magied is a Sudanese-born Australian. A former engineer, now a writer and broadcaster. Eulogy for My Career opens as a reminiscence on childhood and the past when visiting the old family home. Tinged with humour the story gradually becomes a exposition on grief and survival. Elegantly written and poignant.

Anais Duplan is a Haitian poet, now living in the US. This from her poem, “I Know This Is No Longer Sustainable,” Etc.

“You are too eager to get on with it. You haven’t the blood of the sages. You plaster his face onto your faces. The inherent danger of strangulation…”

Selina Nwulu is a London-based writer, poet, and essayist. She was the Young Poet Laureate for London 2015-16. This from The Audacity of Our Skin:

II

Hostile, a definition:

Bitter; Windrush citizen: here until your skin is no longer needed

Cold; migrants sleeping rough will be deported

Militant; charter flights, expulsion as a brutal secret in handcuffs

Unwilling; women charged for giving birth after the trafficking, after the rape

….”

I feel slightly ashamed that I was completely unaware of Margaret Busby’s first anthology Daughters of Africa, published twenty-five years ago. This mammoth follow-up is a magnificent collection and it’s a staggering achievement to have collated and edited the work. This is a book I will keep close and dip into from time to time. I hope it helps to raise the profile of a number of writers whose voices deserve a much bigger audience.

Paul Burke 5/5

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent edited by Margaret Busby
Myriad Editions 9781912408009 hbk Mar 2019

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