“I am not a planner”: A conversation with Chibundu Onuzo

On a sweltering and slow Monday morning in mid-June, I had the privilege of chatting to the fresh-faced Chibundu Onuzo over Zoom a few days after the publication of her third novel, Sankofa (out last week with Virago). We talked about her relationship to writing as a profession, what it's like for a non-planner to fashion a novel out of a PhD, and how Sankofa relates to the cultural coordinates that orient it in modern-day Ghana.

Chibundu Onuzo’s third novel, Sankofa, comes at the right time

Following The Spider King's Daughter and Welcome to Lagos, Sankofa marks a departure from Lagosian life and tells the story of a mixed-race British woman's search for her long-lost West African father. Onuzo does a spectacular job of grabbing the reader and pacing the narrative, blending together the readability of mystery with the emotional depth of literary fiction to create a story that is truly unique in more ways than one.

Bernardine Evaristo cuts her teeth on a fun verse novel

The Emperor's Babe is an irreverent and salacious romp that merges together tradition and contemporaneity in a startlingly unique way. Published almost 20 years before Girl, Woman, Other and four years before the similarly daring Blonde Roots, The Emperor’s Babe offers a distinctively different Evaristo. When not slyly winking at the reader who is equal parts befuddled and delighted, this Evaristo reveals the years of genre and narrative waywardness it took to finally mould her distinctive brand of literary experimentation for popular success.

Maame Blue’s debut romance is a breathtaking love letter to diaspora

Maame Blue's astonishing debut is a tender portrait of diasporic community showcasing the resilience of love across time and space. Bad Love has a somewhat misleading title. Though it is about how we hurt and are hurt in love, it is ultimately about the resilience of love across space and time. One of Jacaranda’s Twenty in 2020, Blue's exceptional gift for characterisation leads her to achieve something that very few do: a protagonist-led novel that makes you forget that it is.