Rainbow Book Club members and lovers of literature braved the late afternoon showers to attend the highly anticipated Book reading with 2009 Caine Prize winner for African writing Mr. E.C.Osondu. The Reading held on Sunday 24th July 2011 at Le Meridien Hotel Ogeyi Place, in Port Harcourt.
First on the agenda, was a poetry recital by Annah B.Dornubari a.k.a the Choice poet, who read from his soon to be launched poetry anthology titled ‘Tears for Ogoni’ . Annah read two poems from his anthology;’ my black brother’ and ‘Niger Delta Tour’ stirring up a thunderous applause from the audience, with the stage thus set, the reading proper began.
With introductions out of the way, Mr. Osondu read excerpts of stories from his book ‘Voice of America’ and this was followed by a lively and sometimes intense interactive session with the audience, in which he answered questions about his book and personal experiences as a writer and a Nigerian living in America. In response to questions on the negative portrayal of Nigeria and Nigerians in ‘Voice of America’, Osondu said that he neither worked in the ministry of Information nor was he a PR for the government and that if he’d wanted to do ‘rebranding’ he would have remained in advertising, referring to his career just before embarking on one in writing. The audience was also let in on the reason behind the title ‘Voice of America’ as opposed to ‘Voice of Nigeria’, the ‘voice’ in ‘Voice of America’ he explained, is the attraction that America holds for Nigerians as the land of opportunity, a place where everything glitters and where one can escape from the daily grind of life in Nigeria, hence the theme of ‘escape’ that runs through the stories in the book. On whether there is still such a thing as ‘African Literature’ Mr Osondu responded with a question, asking what one would define as African Literature, ‘is it books written by Africans about Africa only?’, where would that leave books on Africa by non Africans using ‘Little Bee’ a book on the Niger Delta based in Port Harcourt and written by a white Briton, Chris Cleave who has never been to Nigeria, as an example!
As to whether wining the Caine Prize put any pressure on him to ‘perform’ so to speak, he wondered what that would mean to the likes of Prof. Wole Soyinka who had won the Noble Prize, rather to him wining the prize was more of a validation of his writing.
The interaction went on for close to two hours, through which Mr Osondu graciously responded to various questions from the audience among whom was a man that travelled all the way from Bonny to meet him. He further indulged the readers by autographing their books and also entertaining those that wanted to take pictures with him.
The reading was concluded with an announcement of the upcoming Garden City Literary Festival (www.gardencityfestival.com), from 12-17th September 2011, another opportunity to celebrate writers and literature.
By Daniella Menezor