arkowaa is Book Blogger who runs the African Book Addict Blog. I discovered her Blog when I started my reading journey of African literature a few years ago, and I’ve had the chance to interview her for the Literandra Interview Series. Join me in getting to know Darkowaa and her reading tastes, get some book recommendations and a look behind the scenes of the life of an African Book Blogger.
A: Tell us a bit about yourself, what’s your name, where do you live, what do you do for a living?
D: My name is Darkowaa. I currently live in Accra, Ghana and I’m pursuing my second degree in Dentistry.
A: How long have you been a Book Blogger for?
D: I started book blogging June 2014, so I would be a book blogger for 5 years this June.
A: What was the first piece of writing you published online?
D: The first piece of writing on my book blog was published June 21st 2014 and it was a recap of all the books I had read so far that year – https://africanbookaddict.com/2014/06/21/goodreads-2014-reading-challenge/
A: What was the idea behind your Blog?
D: I simply wanted my own online space to discuss the books I was reading, as I was using Goodreads before I created the book blog. I find most pleasure in reading books by Black writers, so I mostly review such books. The name of the book blog – African Book Addict! is a double-entendre, so it could be read as: an African who is a book addict, OR a reader who is addicted to books by writers of African descent. I’m the latter!
A: How often do you blog?
D: I try to publish at least 1 blog post every month. Sometimes I post 3 times a month – it really depends on how busy I am and/or how inspired I am. It usually takes me a while to plan and write the reviews or book-chats – it can take weeks; recently, it been taking me months.
A: What was the inspiration behind the creation of #ReadGhanaian?
D: Since last year, I’ve been challenging myself to read more work by Ghanaian writers. I’ve read some, but not enough! African literature is crowded with Nigerian literature. Nigerians are excellent writers – don’t get me wrong! But it’s important for me to read and appreciate work by writers from my homeland. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will? Hence #ReadGhanaian. I’m just stoked that others are participating in the challenge as well!
A: What would you say is the most challenging thing about being a Book Blogger?
D: I think it depends on which country the book blogger lives in. Since I currently live in Accra, it’s quite challenging getting new releases to read. Besides that, it gets exhausting when book bloggers are expected to be abreast with all the new releases within the year. I like to re-read old favorites and read what I want to read – whether the book was published in 1950 or 2019. In our bookshops, new releases are either unavailable or terribly expensive. I receive ARCs from publishers, but a lot of them don’t send books to Africa. But thankfully, I have other means of receiving ARCs (elaborated in question 13).
A: What is your favourite literary genre?
D: I don’t think I have a favourite genre. I read them all – literary fiction, plays, non-fiction, historical fiction, women’s literature, poetry (well, the poetry collections I can understand) etc. But I know for sure that I’m not crazy about Romance novels.
A: On average, how often do you read?
D: I don’t read as much as I’d like, thanks to Dental School. I read an average of 21 books a year since I started my book blog. I try and read 40 minutes a day during the week, as a study break. But since school is so busy, I do most of reading (binge-reading) during my vacations. Sadly, I’m currently on vacation with a reading slump, ha!
A: Which book has influenced you the most?
D: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom.
A: Who would you say is your favourite author of all time?
D: Maya Angelou. Her autobiographical series really got me into reading at a young age. I’m still salty that she passed away on my birthday in 2014. May she continue to rest in peace.
A: Do you have any preference in terms of books that you like to read when you’re on holiday?
D: Graphic novels – I love the illustrations. If I’m in the mood, a big book (over 400 pages) is also perfect.
A: Do you receive ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copies) from publishers? If so, what are some problems you have faced when dealing with publishing houses?
D: I receive ARCs from publishers. Most times, publishers reach out and send ARCs and sometimes I request ARCs I’m eager to read. But a lot of the publishing houses don’t send books to the continent of Africa. Since my relatives in the US are always in and out of Accra, I just have publishers mail the books to my relatives’ homes and then they’d bring them along when they travel to Accra. Whenever an ARC is sent to my address in Accra, it’s usually because the writer gives the publishers specific instructions to send the book directly to me – which is always a blessing! Other than that, I don’t think publishers really care about readers residing in Africa – yes, I said what I said.
A: In your opinion, what is the most underrated book of all time?
D: Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo. It’s her best work. More people (Africans, women) NEED to read it!
A: What do you prefer reading? E-Books or Paper Books?
D: Paperbacks and/or hardcovers. Physical books are real books – sorry, not sorry.
A: Would you say, in your opinion, that reading and writing about African Literature exclusively is an act of rebellion (a pathway to liberation)?
D: I can only speak on the reading aspect, as I’m a reader and not a writer. For me, reading books by Black authors isn’t an act of rebellion. I gravitate more towards literature by African/Black writers because I find that I understand myself better as I see myself in their stories. Reading their work is a source of comfort for me.
A: Where do you do most of your blogging? In a designated space or just anywhere?
D: Anywhere with a table/desk + Internet availability is fine.
A: When in your creative zone, what works best for you? Typing on your phone/tablet/computer or writing on paper with a pen?
D: I don’t understand how people type extensive work on their phones; my fingers would always feel so cramped haha. I type on my laptop. If I have a pen & paper nearby, I jot down ideas and expand on them when I get to my laptop.
A: In your opinion, what are the main obstacles or problems facing African authors?
D: I’m not an author, so I can’t speak for them. But whenever I lament over the inaccessibility of our writers’ work in Accra / Africa, some writers usually respond by expressing their own struggles within the publishing industry. We need more publishers based on the continent. There are some great ones, but we need more.
A: Which forthcoming book do you look forward to the most?
D: So many! Tope Folarin’s A Particular Kind of Black Man – I loved his 2013 Caine Prize story, so this debut should be great. Also, A Violent Woman by Ayana Mathis – her debut, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie was excellent, so I look forward to her new book. Finally, Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space edited by Derek Owusu, because #ReadGhanaian, but also because I’m curious to read what the contributors (who are all black men) write about in the anthology!