Book 30 – Short Story Day Africa – Terra Incognita

Books I've read, Short pieces

Terra Incognita, Africa, fiction, speculative fiction

I’ve enjoyed speculative fiction for ages (even as far back as when it used to be called sci-fi) so it was really cool to find an anthology of it crafted by African writers. Plus – what a beautiful cover. This project will be the bankrupting of me I swear – African fiction writers have the best covers.

Short Story Day Africa is the 21st of June, and this is what it’s all about:

“When Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, addressed the TED Conference in 2009, she spoke of the danger of the single story, a distorted, one-dimensional view of Africa that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption. Short Story Day Africa has established a day, 21st June – the shortest day of the year – on which to celebrate the diversity of Africa’s voices and tell you who we really are; what we love; love to eat, read, write about. We want to bring you the scents on our street corners, the gossip from our neighbours, let you listen to strains of the music we dance to.

Short Story Day Africa brings together writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, teachers and school children from all over the globe to write, submit, read, workshop and discuss stories – and foster the love of reading and writing African fiction. Because we have something to tell the world. About us. In our own voices.”

The Short Story Day Africa 2014 anthology ‘Terra Incognita’ is packed full of stories that will creep you out, make you laugh, and worry about the parameters of your daily life. Of course, I only read the ones written by women this time around, but I look forward to getting to the rest when this project is done. I must say that my personal favourite was Dianne Awerbuck’s ‘Leatherman’ which led me to read her book ‘Home Remedies’ as my final fiction book in the project.

Get this collection, and support the call for funds for the next one here.

A short non-fiction piece I read this week by Rosa Lyster

Short pieces
Image stolen from Liam Kruger's twitter (his piece is brilliant too by the way)

Image stolen from Liam Kruger’s twitter (his piece is brilliant too by the way)

I picked up my first copy of Prufrock magazine this month and so far it has been a great read. Yesterday on my train ride home I read the short piece written by Rosa Lyster about her experiences growing up in a politicised family and the expectations that created for her about what it meant to be an activist.

I loved the pace of her writing, the introspection and the dry humour. It was a well thought through piece that made you want to read and find out if the visiting Egyptian scholar would be as serious as he was built up to be, as well as Lyster’s surprise/delight/enthusiasm when he was, but was also so much more.

The most resounding thing (other than the really lovely pace of the writing and dry humour) was the idea that most people think that activists are ‘not normal’ but have something else wild or revolutionary about them. As an activist for women’s rights I often get frustrated by people who think like this, and really frustrated by people who choose to do nothing because it seems like too much effort. All the activists I know are just normal people, living in the world, doing the best they can to change it for the better. This last bit is usually done after hours (unless they are lucky enough to work as full time activists) and so it really is just normal people committing something. Deciding that to do nothing is (really embarrassing, uncool, the worst) not acceptable.

I also liked the idea of activists as normal because there are a few activists in SA who seem to get a reputation as the ‘super activist’ and they ride on this wave pretty hard. Most of the time they are, as Lyster allows for them to be, doing something important but not necessarily nice. So I thought it was important that given our past of glorifying those that made a difference to the point where they were able to do unspeakable things, and be forgiven, we reflect on how that’s not always the best way to go about it.

So I encourage you to read it, and if you don’t feel like you’re an activist, to think about the ways that you could do something small about something you’re unhappy with in the world, and then to do it.

Rosa is a writer and poet based in Cape Town and you can follow her on twitter at @RosaLyster

Read Prufrock magazine too – great writing by lots of young cool people. You can follow them on @PrufrockMag or visit their website here