TULA – The Revolt was finally released last month with it’s premier in The Netherlands.

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TULA – The Revolt is a fact-based historical drama starring Danny Glover, among an international cast, which was directed by Jeroen Leinders who is also the book’s author. It’s based on the true story about the Great Slave Revolt on the Caribbean island of Curaçao in 1795 led by Tula.

We’re pleased to announce that we will be publishing the English translated version of this work, which will be available in both print and ebook format from our site soon. Visit HopeRoad for details.

You can like Tula on Facebook.

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The writing experiment

ernest1

Ernest Alanki author of The Chocolate Shop Perverts tells us how the start of a scientific paper led to the start of his writing career….

I do not remember when I wrote my first story, but I remember writing and losing many. I recall that my first attempt at writing a novel coincided with the drafting of my first science article as part of my PhD studies. I was so proud of this article I showed it to a senior colleague.
“This is not a science article,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a story.”
“Nice isn’t it?” I said proudly.
“No!” he replied with a deep frown. “No good science magazine will publish anything of the sort.”
“But the data is valid.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he went on. “This is not how science is written.”
Pompous maniac, retarded fool; I thought to myself. How could he not have seen the poetry, the elegance of the words, metaphors, brilliant sentences and paragraphs? How could he not have seen—?
Then it hit me. The stern critic had just handed me my first feedback as a potential writer.
As a scientist, writing has pushed me into looking at the character of my work, to details that would never have been possible: structure, clarity, roundedness and so on. Science on the other hand has instructed me on the virtues of patience, consistency and absorbing critique. Above all, one, two, three revisions are no longer good enough. Writers, like budding scientists, should not expect to gather a crowd of followers from the very beginning. Your readers are too busy looking for holes in your work, because human nature wants to avoid boredom and stupidity.
My colleague was right. I had to rewrite my science article many times over. While doing this, I was all the time thinking I had created a skeleton filled with scientific jargon, but gave it no soul. Then I realized the soul was right there…it was the beauty of the findings that mattered.
I took a proud copy of my finished paper to the critic. He looked at it and said, “You nailed it!”
“You were inspiring,” I said, then quickly added, “I’m writing a novel.”
He looked at me, first with disdain and then he brightened up and said, “You’ll do just fine.”

The Chocolate Shop Perverts is available on HopeRoad.

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Leo Zeilig shares the motivation behind his book on former Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba

Leo Zeilig

– Leo Zeilig

Writer, Leo Zeilig, tells us how he came to write Patrice Lumumba: Africa’s Lost Leader and why he felt ‘angry’ after completing the book.

You’ve lived most of your life in England with time spent living in Canada and Africa, at what point did you become interested in the former Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba and what instigated this interest?
When I was a student, more than twenty years ago I read a selection of talks by Malcolm X, in one of them he mentioned Patrice Lumumba’s speech delivered on the first day of Congo’s independence. He stated, in no uncertain terms, that all African-Americans needed to memorise this speech, as it was the greatest speech that any black man had ever made. He was not exaggerating. I read it and became obsessed. I wanted to know why he had been killed, but at the time the circumstances of Lumumba’s murder were not entirely clear. The brilliant historian and investigative researcher, Ludo de Witte, had not yet published his exposé detailing the Belgian state’s elimination of Lumumba.

I suppose Lumumba presented me with a paradox that I am still trying to unpick today. The paradox can be framed like this: many of the last century’s most important struggles against colonial rule (mass movements, strikes, armed struggles) which eventually swept away Europe’s gunboat diplomacy and its settlements through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, occurred in Africa. These movements and nationalist parties were often spearheaded by extraordinary people, which included both leaders at the top and also an army of ordinary people who animated these movements from below. Yet when I began studying Africa, writing about the continent and travelling through it in the mid-1990s, Africa had seen living standards collapse, health and education systems had buckled – often under the pressure of IMF ‘user fee’ reforms – while the continent’s political class had become the willing agents of underdevelopment and had facilitated dependency on Western aid. How could so much hope, such phenomenal revolutionary movements, give way to this avalanche of failure?

Early on I became convinced that one of the answers to this paradox lay in the events that took place in 1960-1 in the Congo, and that Lumumba’s murder by the ex-colonial power, Belgium with Congolese ‘puppets’ (as Lumumba described the political elite who cooperated with the United States and European powers in a letter written to his wife while in prison) was a vital event in Africa. One could even say that his death was the catalyst that set in motion many of the processes which contributed to the unravelling Africa’s newly won independence.

Your book, Patrice Lumumba: Africa’s Lost Leader, is your second visit at revealing Congo’s contemporary period, your first being a co-authored work on the economic history of the country, what compelled you to write a book focusing solely on Lumumba’s life?
There was simply nothing written in English on Lumumba’s entire life – his transition from member of the Congolese-Belgian elite (as much as there really was one) to revolutionary in late 1960s. There were certain superb academic books in French and de Witte’s book on the exact circumstances of Lumumba’s murder, but nothing written for a non-academic audience interested in the life of this extraordinary man.

You mentioned that books on Lumumba were scarce when you started out. How were you able to find out about him? What did your research process involve? 

Patience. I am not normally known for patience, but I needed it. My own training, through various degrees and a PhD, did not equip me to write a book that was rigorous, accessible, surveyed the available literature and also contained original fieldwork. The book went through various drafts, I sent it to de Witte to read for factual accuracy (he has encyclopaedic knowledge of the Congo) and various friends and colleagues who have an expertise in the country. I also made several research trips to interview members of Lumumba’s family and old comrades of his who were still alive. I travelled to Lubumbashi in the south as well as the capital Kinshasa, where I met and interviewed his children. I was also extremely privileged to meet one of Lumumba’s most loyal comrades who had accompanied Lumumba as he attempted to flee Belgian troops, Joseph Mobutu’s soldiers [Lumumba’s former comrade and Army Chief of Staff] and the United Nations in November 1960. I dedicated the book to him.

How has being so immersed in Lumumba’s life changed you?
If I am honest it has made me angry. The aftermath and consequences of Lumumba’s murder (and the resistance in the years after his murder) are still with us. Congo’s independence was pre-figurative of ‘national liberation’ on the continent, it was a false dawn, a ‘prison’ as Lumumba described it before he died. Personally, it has been important for me to reflect the continual movements for change on the continent, as well as the heroism and courage of his family and comrades. (In November 2007 while in Kinshasa, I battled to keep my eyes dry when Juliana, Lumumba’s only daughter, wept as she told me how much she missed her father). But it has also given me hope for the struggles across the continent – the epoch of revolts that continued to shape the continent after 1960. Egypt is the latest and the most important example. Interestingly, Lumumba sent his children and wife to Egypt in 1960, when he knew he might be killed. President Nasser welcomed them into his own family, he was clear that Congo’s future was Africa’s and Egypt was very much part of the continent.

If you could pick one of the many leaders who were instrumental during the time of Africa’s anti-colonial movements to explore in another biography, who would you choose?
Captain Thomas Sankara. He is still the poster-boy for many radicals in Africa today, he was the brave, though flawed leader of Burkina Faso’s so-called revolution in 1983, until his murder in 1987. The point of politically engaged research is not to simply romanticise African revolutionaries, but to rescue them from the lies and condescension of official history and chart their failures and the weaknesses of the movements they led. We urgently need to do this so that our struggles to change the world can develop and grow in the future in order to avoid the same mistakes. The greatest danger facing Africa is the absence of an ideological alternative to global capitalism – which has offered the continent nothing – as well as organisations that can help direct and build that alternative.

The next couple of months will see a renewed interest in Lumumba with the Young Vic’s staging of the events leading up to his death, adapted from the play by the Martinique political activist, Aimé Cesaire. It seems that Lumumba’s inspirational and tragically short life has inspired a creative legacy, but what do you believe has been Lumumba’s political legacy to Africa?
Lumumba has left a remarkable legacy. Principally he is recognised for the remarkable stand he took against imperialism and his refusal to negotiate or compromise on Congolese independence. For Africa he mapped the limits of national liberation, identified the class of elitist ‘puppets’ who often had led Africa’s decolonisation, but were happy to see the continuity of ‘colonial’ politics after independence. But Lumumba was not simply Lumumba; he was a symbol of the movement against European rule in the Congo and elsewhere (and indeed the struggle against imperialism and empire everywhere in the Global South). After Lumumba’s murder in January 1961, it took the Europeans, with a motley group of mercenaries from South Africa and heavy Belgian involvement, until 1965 to crush the struggle for independence in the Congo – despite an on-going war and the country’s status as a nominally independent state, anti-colonial movements were still able to thrive in the country.

To celebrate the Young Vic’s ‘A Season in the Congo’, which charts the life of this remarkable leader, HopeRoad are giving you 50% off when you buy Leo Zeilig’s ‘Patrice Lumumba: Africa’s Lost Leader’. Just enter SP67KZ52MH when you get to the checkout – offer ends August 17th 2013.  

HopeRoad offer

If the Young Vic’s new play, A Season in the Congo, has roused your curiosity in the life of Patrice Lumumba – a man whose death was described as “the most important assassination of the twentieth century” – then read Leo Zeiling’s fascinating account of the revolutionary leader’s life in Patrice Lumumba: Africa’s Lost LeaderTo celebrate the launch of the production this week, there will be 50% off this title when purchased during the play’s run. Just enter the code SP67KZ52MH at the checkout between Saturday 6th July and Wednesday 17th August.

Well done Malorie!

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Malorie Blackman

Malorie Blackman

Congratulations to Malorie Blackman who was crowned Children’s Laureate for 2013-2015 this week. Blackman, who is known for her hugely successful Noughts and Crosses series and the groundbreaking Pig Heart Boy which was adapted into a BAFTA award-winning BBC series, is the first black woman to be awarded the honour. Blackman was spurred to write when she noticed the absence of black characters in the fairytales and novels she enjoyed reading as a child, “I was aware that I was not in the books I was reading. I still remember feeling I was totally invisible in the world of literature”. Blackman definitely isn’t invisible now, having published over sixty books and has even been immortalised in the music world by Tinie Tempah who in Written in the Stars raps, “Look I’m just a writer from the ghetto like Malorie Blackman”.

Since her appointment as the eighth Children’s Laureate, Blackman has already taken on Education Secretary, Michael Gove, whose proposed new history curriculum would have a more national emphasis at the expense of multiculturalism, “I do feel it’s very dangerous if you make it seem like history is the province of a certain segment of society. History should belong to and include all of us. The curriculum needs to appeal to as many children as possible or a number of them could become disenchanted with education because it’s not relevant”.  In January HopeRoad ran a feature on Blackman’s and other eminent authors’ stand, against Gove’s bid to remove Mary Seacole from the national curriculum.

Blackman has long been a champion of diversity in literature and it seems she is not planning to back down now that she has received one of literature’s most prestigious accolades, “We need more books that are specifically about the BME British experience, and that’s why I bang the drum for getting rid of the idea that if a book contains pictures of a black or Asian child, it’s going to have a limited audience”.

In Written in the Stars Tinie raps that those marginalised in society need to “just keep screaming until they hear you out”, but it seems that Blackman realised that the pen is mightier than the voice and wrote until she was heard.

HopeRoad’s Mary Seacole by Ron Ramdin can be bought here.

Last chance – “A Pair of Jeans” Amazon offer plus Qaisra Shahraz Manchester reading

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This week is the final week that you can get your hands on Qaisra Shahraz’s, A Pair of Jeans and Other Stories for 0.99p. Our friends at Amazon are offering this award-winning author’s wonderful collection of short stories at this very special price.

A Pair of Jeans and Other Stories presents an array of evocative worlds; young Pakistani women attempting to reconcile Western lifestyles to Muslim beliefs; wives releasing husbands from physical and emotional prisons and pillars of communities who suddenly find that they have lost their influence and power. With the stories taking place across feudal and contemporary periods and within Asian and British societies, A Pair of Jeans and Other Stories, demonstrates Qaisra’s versatility in revealing slices of life across cultures, countries and time.

For our Mancunian readers and those of you planning to be in the city next month. Qaisra will be at Manchester’s Stretford library on Friday 7th June at 7pm. Organised by Wordfest, this event, will see Qaisra read from some of her works. The reading is free to attend, but please email stretford.library@trafford.gov.uk to secure tickets.

Don’t say we don’t spoil you!

The Go-Getting Taiye Selasi

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Review by Ekene Oboko

Those of you following HopeRoad Publishing’s Facebook posts may have noticed that we have developed an adulterous obsession with a non-HopeRoad author – the delectable and ridiculous witty, Taiye Selasi.

You may be even more shocked to know that this post will be dedicated to Selasi because, here at HopeRoad we are not only passionate about our wonderful writers and their sublime stories, but our enthusiasm stretches also to novelists who attempt to capture an aspect of the black disaspora experience. This is what Selasi began to do in her 2005 essay, “Bye Bye Babar (Or: What is an Afropolitan?)” which brought her an underground following. The issues of migration, home(lessness) and cultural interactions are again dealt with in her novel, which has been eagerly anticipated since the publication of her short story, “The Sex Lives of African Girls” in “Granta”’s 2011 summer issue. Read more