Books They Read: Melissa Kiguwa

Saturday August 25 2012

Books They Read: Melissa Kiguwa

 

By Beatrice Lamwaka

Melissa Kiguwa is a dusty footed nomad learning the beauty of being still. She writes poetry and short stories that examine neo-colonialism, imperialism, migration and injustice(s). In her works she reimagines liberation(s), new horizons, transcontinental legacy building, and love(s). She sees her words as a literary insurrection of sorts.

What attracted you to reading?
I have always been a reader. As soon as I could read, I did exactly that… I read. And I think like most writers who are also readers…we tend to be from an angst-ridden melancholy sort of tribe. And so, being of that same tribe I found books allowed me space to see myself fantasize and to see the fantasy as real.

Novels, specifically, allowed me the ability to step outside myself chapter by chapter. Life stopped seeming so complicatedly tough when I could make a character a personal friend. Then I really got into intellectualising and fell in love with philosophical and all those thinking kinds of texts. I was a nerd growing up. I still am. I don’t own a television. I would much rather read.

Which African writers have you read?
I could get into some long anthropological discussion and adamantly claim all authors are African writers… but I won’t. This is a hard question! The list is long and endless what with the Chinua Achebes, the Okot p’Biteks, the Bessie Heads. How about I simplify it and say right now I am loving Nnedi Okorafor. She fuses the magical with the political.

Which are your favourite books?
How do you pick a favourite? If I am to try and think of a favourites, I would have to say The Temple of my Familiar by Alice Walker. Any book that focuses on warrior woman energy, the spirit of radical social transformation, caring for the soul, and the simple complexities of love tends to get high ranking in my world. Suheir Hammad’s poetry book, Born Palestinian, Born Black. As a woman of the diaspora I know what it means to live in between worlds…literally. So I appreciate the way Suheir speaks of homeland—the yearning and confusion, the righteous indignation alongside the hurt. And the multitudes of realities that tend to be swept away or delegitimised when discussing migration: forced, economically prompted, and exiled. Hmm…what else what else? Wizard of the crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. I am re-reading it and it still makes me laugh as hard as it did when I first read it. Satire in its finest.

Which books have shaped you as a reader?
Perhaps I should not say books but writers Some of my favourites are Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Ana Castillo, and Julia Alvarez. I find their styles refreshingly feminine. And I say “feminine” in a very political way. Mainstream narratives on civilisation glorify that which is based on logic and rationale. When I say writing in the feminine, I mean writing in a way that unabashedly claims truth as not just based on logic and rationale. That calls into being other forms of knowledge and knowing. Of magic. Of wisdom. Of herstories that are not able to be held in male-centric phallic-dominated cultures. They speak to in- betweens, the tides lapsing on shores, the strength of full moons and womens’ cycles. They speak of the chaos and messiness Western structures of logic would have us call “savage” and “primitive”. And lots more; there is so much wonderful talent in the world. I want to try and taste all of it.

Which books are you reading?
I have the habit of reading many books at once. I always have a book or two in my bag. I just finished the novel, Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich a few days ago. It is a multigenerational story of two indigenous American families. The author is really a prose poet and so the whole novel was just pure lyricism. Wonderful.

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