Book News: Kenyan Writer Comes Out In Defiance Of Anti-Gay Laws
By Annalisa Quinn • Jan 22, 2014
Originally published on January 22, 2014 1:17 pm
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Celebrated Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina comes out as gay in a new essay that he refers to as a "lost chapter" of his 2011 memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. In Kenya, sex between men is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, though some gay-rights advocates say the law is rarely enforced. In the autobiographical story, Wainaina imagines telling his mother that he is gay. He writes, "I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five." In a video released Tuesday, he says he came out as gay because of the death of a gay friend whose family was kicked out of their church while trying to hold a memorial service for him. Wainaina told Global Post that he was also inspired by recent anti-gay legislation in Nigeria and Uganda: "There was the anti-gay bill in Uganda first, but the Nigeria one! Nigeria is a country I go to — I was there three times last year — it is a place I love, it's like a second home to me." Wainaina is the founder of the literary journal Kwani? and the winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing.
- Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea, who fell from grace after parts of the book turned out to be fabricated, talked to the Today Show's Tom Brokaw in an interview broadcast Tuesday. Mortenson told Brokaw, "I stand by the stories. The stories happened, but ... not in the sequence or the timing." He added, "I always have operated from my heart. I'm not a really head person. And I really didn't factor in the very important things of accountability, transparency."
- Six finalists for the Costa short story award were chosen from more than 1,400 stories, which the judges read without knowing the identity of the authors. The writers Angela Readman and Sheila Llewellyn have both been chosen for the second year running. The other finalists are Tony Bagley, Clare Chandler, Erin Soros and Kit de Waal.
- The Believer interviews Sudanese writer and editor Mamoun Eltlib, who says the repression of Sudanese artists and writers has destroyed the country's Arabic literature: "You don't feel it's a living language; you just feel it's like a dead language, a bloody language."
- Tom Rachman reports on the evolution of Oxford English Dictionary. He quotes associate editor Peter Gilliver ("who once spent nine months revising definitions for the word "run"), who says that with the advent of the Internet, "we can hear everything that's going on in the world of English for the last 500 years, and it's deafening."
- Ben Marcus tells The Atlantic about his love for Kafka: "I read, and as I read I find myself rearranged and transported and moved, as if I've swallowed a little pill. I love sentences that instantly hit my bloodstream and derange me."
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