The front cover of the “Africa Calling” edition of TLR presents us with the crossroads where Africa presently stands: four young teenage boys walking to schools in uniform, striding down a brown road against the green backdrop of ageless Africa. Modern Africa with its optimism marching forward impatiently while old Africa, with all its problems and lushness, is still there, but receding.
The writers in this publication are all connected to Africa in some way. Each piece displays this connection. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, in her poem, “Biography When the Wanderers Come Home,” movingly describes a war-torn area she must have known: “This is where we were born. / In these corrugated rugged places, / where boys chasing girls chasing / boys chasing other girls chasing bellies / chasing babies chasing other babies / chasing poverty, chased death.” Here a few words are worth a thousand pictures.
In African literature, the sense of place is most important because each physical situation means there is a culture and classes. In an excerpt from the essay “Child Soldiers,” Paula Delgado-Kling describes her horrifying encounter upon returning to Columbia and meeting a teenager who joined a gang and was being re-educated: “This girl, her innocence gone in every way, forced to be a plaything of a kingpin, still hoped for a bright future, though she had been a terrorist in the eyes of the law.”
The fiction is hauntingly genuine as well, with much real Africa worked in – some hilarious, but all different from Western literature simply because it has subject matter and points of view no mere Western writer could dream up. Tracy Nneka Nnanwubar delivers a unique take on unenlightened, un-liberated women with her ironic “Never About Her.” Many, many revealing facets of African cultures come forth in these two hundred plus pages – the next best thing to going there. Who needs safari when you can meet the people?