"I never expected Mr. Rushdie not to come"
She loves Amitav Ghosh like a fanatic, has lived in three continents, and is endorsed as the next big thing by Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison. Meet the gorgeous new face of 'Afropolitan' writing - Taiye Selasi.books Updated: Jan 23, 2012 06:52 IST
She loves Amitav Ghosh like a fanatic, has lived in three continents, and is endorsed as the next big thing by Salman Rushdie and Toni Morrison. Meet the gorgeous new face of 'Afropolitan' writing - Taiye Selasi.
Selasi, burst on to the literary scene with a deeply moving short story, The Sex Lives of African Girls, which was featured in the Granta's feminist issue, The F Word.
At the Jaipur Literature Festival, she is still in shock at hearing about cancellation of Rushdie's visit.
"I never expected Mr. Rushdie not to come, but it was great to see the support from other writers. There is a sense of community among authors. In 2012, if violence is used to prevent an artist from sharing his work is draconian and heartbreaking," she shakes her head vigorously in disbelief.
An ardent fan, Selisa was introduced to Rushdie by a common friend in New York. Later she turned to him for advice on her latest book, Ghana Go Home.
"I sent him the first 100 pages of my novel and he was incredibly supportive about my future. It was so kind of him to read the work of an untested, unpublished writer, she says with obvious unbelief in her voice."
When we meet, she is dressed in black from head to toe, with only her Da Milano bag adding color to her persona. Born in London to parents of Ghananian descent, and raised in America, Selisa was trying to describe her experience as a person growing up all over the world. It was this need for an identity which prompted her to coin the term 'Afropolitans'.
"I felt like a product of my parent's culture but also something else - so I was trying to get at that something else. I'm not an American or Afro-American so what am I? I have to be something. Surprisingly the term Afropolitan has caught on. A lot of people have started using it and I love it. I think that the term can be used for literature too, everything that celebrates its African-ness but doesn't feel obliged to subscribe to the tropes."
For someone who visits her native country just once a year, she believes that her characters are not strangers to her at all.
"My mother grew up in Ghana, and I have a lot of people around me who've lived there, it is not alien to me. The story about the African girls came to my mind like a recitation and I was just going crazy looking for a pencil and a notebook to write it down."
Being a woman, she wrote about women, sex and Africa - an easy way to please the critics. But she denies that it was deliberate attempt.
"I don't choose my topics, they chose me," she says with an affected laugh.
Coming from a family of doctors, Selisa feels that smart women can excel in fields of science, it is in arts where they face the bigger problem, "The gatekeepers in arts are subjective; women have to really elbow around to get respect," she opines.
This might not explain why there're more female writers than scientist, but she sticks to her belief.
"I know most people think would think differently."
First Published: Jan 23, 2012 06:52 IST