Diaspora Authors Shed Light on Africa

Usually, my Voice of America reports make it on the news agency's website, but this one hasn't, maybe because of the news in Libya. So I wanted to make sure I posted it here. The report which was aired earlier this week highlights two up and coming diaspora authors, Kwei Quartey from Ghana and Oumou Traore from Ivory Coast.

Detective story novelist Kwei Quartey is part of a new generation of African diaspora authors. credit Steve Monez

Climactic music accompanies a montage of photos of street children in Accra, Ghana, on the website of California-based writer, Ghanaian native Kwei Quartey. The author calls himself "the dark prince of West African mystery." His star fictional detective is Darko Dawson.

Much of the attention in Quartey's second book, Children of the Street, is on the tens of thousands of homeless kids trying to survive in the hardest neighborhoods of Ghana's capital.

"Some of them are coming from rural areas to try and make their living. They range from the very young, 5,6 years old up to their teens, late teens. Some of them have come from Accra, the city itself, because they have been kicked out of their homes by a step parent or even their own parents and then the last category are the little kids who are actually born to teenagers and are born in the streets," Quartey said in a recent interview.

As part of his research, Quartey recently went around some of these difficult to navigate streets, and says he developed a method of what he calls ninja photography.

In terms of writing, Quartey says he tries to create a style inspired both by one of America's greatest detective novelists and one of Africa's literary giants.

"I have taken from some of the writing styles that I know about from the (United) States, some of the people that I read. I love the way Raymond Chandler does his stuff. I am not saying that I have his voice but it is a way of keeping me in check to write with a crisp kind of crispness and I think I am getting better. And then of course you sort of keep in the back of your mind other writing styles like Chinua Achebe, the great Nigerian writer, who wrote Things Fall Apart. That something that you want to aspire to as well, his style of dialogue is something to be emulated," Quartey said.

In her new book, Oumou Traore liberates herself from her selfish mother. credit Oumou Traore.

Another African diaspora author who released a book this year is Ivory Coast-born Oumou Traore. Her book is called Bully Mother.

"My writing, I just wrote from my heart. Right now, I am not thinking about any type of writing style. I just wrote my story not thinking of the style," Traore said.

The book was written as a liberation from her money-obsessed mother, who forced the author to marry a man in the United States when she was still a teenager.

"I tried to please her up until I got to the conclusion that there is no need for that. I am going to make my own decisions and my own path because when I was growing up I was told whatever your mom tells you to do is what you do because if you want to be blessed in your life you need to listen to your mom," she explained in a recent interview.

Both authors say their being in the United States allows them to present the continent to the rest of the world in an relatable way, while also bringing a fresh perspective to African readers.

Both say they plan to write many more books. Quartey has cut back on his medical practice, while writing his third book, Men of the Rig, which will focus on crime amid Ghana's current oil boom.

Traore is busy updating a blog focused on gender issues, while also pursuing a doctorate degree in education, which she says she hopes to use to improve the education of girls, especially in Africa.

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