The Case of the African Reader

My name is Bwesigye. I read some books and I live in Africa. An African reader. I am writing this short rant to the primary producers of books, the writers. I met some of you, through your work in European Libraries sometime back when I was studying in Europe. As a student, I could not buy all your books, so I bought those I could, and promised myself to buy the rest later in life. The later in life I think is now, so for the last one year and more months, I have been looking for your work, to own copies.

Because this later in life involves teaching, and I am experimenting with teaching methodology, I now need copies of your books. I love your work and I think it will be useful in my experiment. I also love the perspective of life in specific works. I have tried to follow up on your views, so I have watched you speak, in some videos on YouTube, heard you on some radios and read some essays penned by you. I am however not as impressed by those materials as I was, and still am by your fiction. This is why I want to use your Fiction in my Law and Human Rights classes.

african-books

The question now is, how do I get your work? It is not available in our local bookshops. Whenever I travel, I check the book-stores for your work. I have failed to find your work. I can ask my partner to help me find it in Europe when she travels there, but we tend to think that we go to Europe to get European culture, we should not go there to access African culture. So, while in Europe, we rarely think of buying African culture, because we can always find it in Africa. But I think we should accept that we are wrong. For the last more than fifteen months, we have failed to find your work anywhere in Africa. We have not been blessed to travel to your home country, where we imagine we shall easily access your work.

Recently, I heard that you would be in Uganda. I know that I am not alone in wanting to own your book. So, I planned to buy ten and more copies. I put the money aside. Suggested that a small reading be organised. A reading for READERS. Readings are never for writers. They are for readers, non? Why is it that they are restricted to writers? Writers should not wear their writer hats at readings. They should wear their reader hats. So, the reading I was suggesting was for READERS! People I know who love reading, and love your book as I do. You may doubt this – but I know these people as they have bought off 95% plus of the Chimurenga Chronic magazine I have been selling since September.

CHRONIC-3-COVER

Majority of them do not want to be writers. They are comfortable being consumers of GOOD writing. Let me also add that when I had a chapbook of narratives published, these same people ordered more than 100 copies, that I sold off in the first week of the book’s publication. They are Africans, they live in Africa. In Uganda. In Kampala. These are the people readings should be organised for, to let them know of books and allow them access.

I am disappointed that we African readers do not get targeted by you writers. That our wishes, and ability to spend on your books is not appreciated. Why do you hate our money? Why do you subject us to going to Europe to buy African products? What is hard in carrying a few copies of your books for us to buy? Is it our problem that we love reading? That we love your work? You writers may have your own issues, and you may not love meeting fellow writers, but why punish us readers in the process? And then in your speeches, you say that Africans do not read! Do we not read? We are not reading your books because you are not selling them to us. You are selling them to Europeans, Americans etc. So the next time you want to say that Africans do not read, ask yourself what you have done, to actually get your books to these Africans. We want to read your books, but you are too important to sell them to us.

I now wonder if I should use Fifty Shades of Grey in my Human Rights and Law classes, as it is one of the most available books in Africa.

You writers, please advise this confused African reader.

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2 thoughts on “The Case of the African Reader

  1. Well brought out. Sometimes we writers tend to be judgemental. We label potential readers as having a ‘poor reading culture’ before we even try to market our books to them. We shouldn’t have to travel miles away from home to buy books written at home. Good article.

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