Encouraging African Literary Biographies in the Publishing Market

By Dianne Shober.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

Literary biographies of influential and prolific Western authors have glutted the publishing market since James Boswell wrote his panegyric tome in the 18th century hailing his mentor and colleague, Dr. Samuel Johnson. Conversely, there is a disappointing dearth of such biographies of African writers. Even though the culture promotes praise singers who act as community bards, offering eloquent oratories of renowned leaders, there are few books interrogating the life and works of prominent African authors. It seems that only the shining stars of the literary world, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’O, Wole Soyinka and Esk’ia Mphahlele, have been memorialized in print. In particular, it is rare that the African woman writer has received special consideration for her literary accomplishments. This paper will examine the importance of literary biographies, explore the current publication of such works addressing the literary life of African authors, as well as represent the literary biography of Sindiwe Magona that I have just published. Additionally, it will encourage the authorial community to consider this important field of research and publication.

Keywords: African, Literary Biographies, Publication, Sindiwe Magona

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.29-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 239.774KB).

Dr. Dianne Shober

Deputy Head of Department, English Department, University of Fort Hare, East London, South Africa

I am a senior lecturer at the University of Fort Hare and have been the Deputy Head of Department since 2006. I have published articles on Ralph Ellison and Sindiwe Magona, and published books titled Communicating With A Vision, Writing English With Style, and Climbing Higher: The Literary Life of Sindiwe Magona. I lecture in English language and literature for students from first year to honours, and actively supervise honours research projects and Master dissertations. I designed a reading programme for our first year students which has been effective in enhancing literacy, vocabulary and comprehension skills of second language speakers.


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