Category Archives: Africa


This says it. Please watch, remember, honor, celebrate, mourn, most of all — don’t forget. More about the video here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Sierra Leone

Africa, Reading, and Children’s/Teen books by Africans

Two excellent blog posts.

Thus in my early years I consumed African literature in a mostly oral form. Every night my father would tell us stories that his mother had told him in his childhood, stories of the goings on in the animal kingdom, often about Tortoise but other creatures featured. The stories were told in a multimedia format. There was speech and singing and call and response. There was also a popular story-telling TV show that I watched called ‘Tale’s by Moonlight,’ whose stories gave me nightmares.

From ‘s What I read growing up in Lagos

The general lack of a reading culture and high levels of poverty contribute to the fact that books don’t sell in high volumes in bookshops in most of Africa. So, publishers rely on the government to buy books for children to read in schools as supplementary reading material. While it is good for the government to buy books for schools that can’t afford them, there is a price to pay. For a book to be bought by the ministry, it has to be approved as “suitable” by a board people who are mainly educationalists. This raises the issues of what then constitutes a “good” or “suitable” book.

From Ellen Banda-Aaku‘s Please don’t air brush African teen fiction

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa

Children’s Africana Book Awards Festival 2015


If you are in the DC area this Saturday I highly recommend heading over to the Smithsonian’s African Art Museum for the CABA Festival. This is a celebration of the 2015 Children’s Africana Book Award winner, The Red Pencil penned by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Shan W. Evans. (My NYTimes review of the book is here.)  I was honored to be one of the winners last year and can say the event is very wonderful and special (and free!). Congratulations to all involved in the creation of this book and award.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa

In the Classroom: Africa and Animals

Right now I’m listening to the NPR show On Being where they are talking with Katy Payne, “a renowned acoustic biologist with a Quaker sensibility.” Her comments about elephants in particular are so moving and made me think about the recent complicated responses to the killing of Cecil the lion.

I was completely disgusted and disturbed when first learning of Cecil’s death as trophy hunting seems a completely horrible activity to me. But as the media juggernaut continued it struck me that here again was the way Africa is perceived by those in the United States. (I was particularly taken by Goodwell Nzoua’s New York Times op-ed, “In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions” and this CNN piece.)  And this is because we grow up with our media featuring mostly a handful of striking animals from one small part of a very large and diverse continent. As I wrote last year in my Horn Book article, “Books About Africa“:

The distortions begin with animals. From a very young age, American children are exposed to Africa almost exclusively through its fauna — in ABC and concept books, in cartoons, in toys, in Broadway shows…the list goes on. Stories full of appealing lions, zebras, elephants, giraffes, and other popular African animals make it easy for young readers to assume that 
wherever they go on the continent, there those animals will be.

And as we grow up it continues. Just a few weeks ago I was watching BBC-America and there were constant ads for a series on “Africa” that seems to only be about its animals. And so what bothers me isn’t the response to the killing as much as how it shows the way we focus so much on African animals (think also of zoos) and so little about its people. And how this results in the sort of media frenzy that happened with Cecil. How I wish we could be more balanced and that the media do a better job representing the continent so it doesn’t just become again and again about animals, war, and poverty.


Filed under Africa, In the Classroom

Learning About Africa: How Does The US Media Represent Africa?

Taken together, this anachronistic style of coverage reproduces, in condensed form, many of the worst habits of modern American journalism on the subject of Africa. To be clear, this means that Africa only warrants the public’s attention when there is disaster or human tragedy on an immense scale, when Westerners can be elevated to the role of central characters, or when it is a matter of that perennial favorite, wildlife. As a corollary, Africans themselves are typically limited to the role of passive victims, or occasionally brutal or corrupt villains and incompetents; they are not otherwise shown to have any agency or even the normal range of human thoughts and emotions. Such a skewed perspective not only disserves Africa, it also badly disserves the news viewing and news reading public.

Please go read this “Letter of Concern to 60 Minutes” from a huge group of academics, journalists, and others about the narrow viewpoint of the continent being represented on the show. I think it is all too true throughout the US.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Learning About Africa

Africa is My Home: 3 Reasons why children’s books about Africa matter

Monica Edinger, author of “Africa is My Home, A Child of the Amistad,” is a former Peace Corps volunteer who began writing children’s books during Sierra Leone’s Civil War. “Sierra Leone and its people were being represented in the media in this really horrendous way,” Edinger said.

She felt it was important to share stories that showed there was more to Sierra Leone than conflict. “Real stories, about real people, make a big difference. But unfortunately that isn’t the standard narrative in children’s books.”

From this article celebrating the Children’s Africana Book Awards.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Africa is My Home

Learning About Africa: Ebola and Everyone

I want to live in a country that understands Ebola. I want to live in a world that cares about those dying from this terrible disease in West Africa. Nobody should’ve had to watch me ride my bicycle out in the open as politicians fed the public false fears and misinformation. I want to live in an America that reaches out to aid workers as they return from West Africa and says, “We loved and stood by you when you were fighting this disease. We will love and stand by you now.”

Me too. From Kaci Hickox’s “Stop calling me ‘the Ebola nurse‘”.

1 Comment

Filed under Africa, Learning About Africa