The Woyingi Blog

Black Blog Review: Vitabu Books by Lango Deen

Posted in Black Blog Review, Countries: Sierra Leone, Sierra Leonean Diaspora, Sierra Leonean Politics by the woyingi blogger on March 22, 2011

Blog: Vitabu Books

Author: Lango Deen

Vitabu Books is the personal blog of Sierra Leonean blogger Lango Deen, who is currently based in the US.

This is how she describes herself in her blog profile:

I am a Sierra Leonean living abroad. I make a living as a reporter and reading is one of my passions. When I’m not reading the day’s news, I’m enjoying books set in Africa or written by Africans. Vitabu (a Swahili word for books) is where I share my thoughts on books and the news.

I really like Deen’s blog. It is quite new, only started in January 2011. She has several reviews of contemporary African fiction, interviews with writers, and personal reflections on African current affairs.

I really like the idea that Deen has conducted her own interviews with African writers and it has inspired me to do the same if I can arrange it. Here is an excerpt from her post about the spy novel The Inverted Pyramid by Nigerian writer Emeka Dike:

Here is her description of the novel:

Azubike (Zuby) Thomas, the main character, flies in from London and lands into the arms of the Nigerian Intelligence agencies – a shadowy group of spies that change the course of history. Driven by unseen forces, Zuby sets out to investigate the power structure in Nigeria. But even before he starts to find answers to the many anomalies, he gets ensnared in a tangled web of deceit where money and sex rule. Zuby’s pursuit of an explanation about what has stymied progress in Nigeria—chronic corruption and robbery of the State—ultimately leads him down a path of intrigue, espionage, and murder. Zuby makes his mark as a rookie spy, but he doesn’t become a true leader until he meets the Oba—a “king” who holds resplendent court in a prison filled with the misery of beggars and thieves, and the triumph of a framed-up man, Nnamdi.

And here is an excerpt from her interview with Dike:

Vitabu: You dramatized “The Inverted Pyramid/Nigerian Factor” in action, was there any other information you were trying to give?

ED: I was trying to analyze and understand the socio-political make up of contemporary Nigeria. I was also trying to describe the cultural and socio-political characteristics of contemporary Nigeria.

Vitabu: Who did you write the book for?

ED: Every Nigerian/ African from 18 years and above that is literate, and particularly those who have grown up in the diaspora. The book was more therapeutic for me than anything else. I was tired of Nigerians describing their problems as if they were impossible to fathom. I wanted to break it down once and for all. We need to be honest with ourselves in Africa. Too many people are on the fence hoping that their turn will come to get a piece of the pie, hence they don’t talk; they don’t rock the boat. I wanted to rock the boat, so this is my personal way of doing it. Our so called leaders are getting away with far too much. The African intelligentsia has to wake up and take them on.

Vitabu: How?

ED: The first step is a better awareness, not by a handful of educated Africans but the middle class. If it does not exist then we have to create it with education. We take so much for granted that you and I may know but so many other educated Africans do not think of. Nigeria is a tough place in this respect; the oil money is dangled as a carrot so many look the other way.

I was particularly pleased to see her post an excerpt of William Conton’s novel The African, published in 1960. I found this novel at a used book store here in Ottawa but have found it difficult to get information online about the author or the novel, other then in Mohamed Sheriff’s article Literary Arts in Sierra Leone which states that The African is the equivalent to Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for Sierra Leone (although Conton is also at times said to be Gambian).

In a post where she revisits the memoir by former Sierra Leonean child soldier Ismael Beah, A Long Way Gone, she reflects:

Baltimore, Maryland, January 2011—“Today is J6. Remember!” urged an e-mail head in my box. I opened it, but there was nothing in the body. It seemed the sender from Freetown had only found just enough time (or emotion) to type up a telegram. The short but powerful message brought back an old nightmare that’s haunted me every January since 1999: What if I’d extended my stay in Freetown from an initial 2-3 week break in October 1998 to a few months, stretching into the new year?

I was in love with an old love, and things were so deliriously good I was tempted to spend time in familiar places between Conakry and Freetown. 13 years on, I’ll never know if I would’ve survived the January 6, 1999, attack, but it doesn’t stop me wondering.

Although based in Balitmore, Deen is involved in the politics of her homeland, her other blog is devoted to the campaign of Sierra Leonean politican Kadi Sesay (who is the mother of CNN International news anchor Isha Sesay). Kadi Sesay is running for the leadership of Sierra Leone’s main opposition party the Sierra Leone People’s Party. Sesay was a professor of English Literature at Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College (the oldest university college in West Africa) for twenty years before getting into politics by chairing the National Commission on Democracy and Human Rights, making her the first woman in Sierra Leone’s history to chair a national commission. According to the essay Explaining Women’s Roles in the West African Tragic Triplet: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’ Ivoire in Comparative Perspective by I. A. Badmuss :

Kadi Sesay used her office as the Chairman for the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights (NCDHR) to promote civil education, democracy, and human rights. Her democracy programme “contributed to preparing the electorate for nationwide participatory electoral democracy, which bore fruit in the massive turnout for the 1996 democratic elections.” (Mansaray, 2000: 150). Mrs. Sesay tirelessly committed herself to the institution of democracy and encouraged women to join in the political processes of the country.

I also searched for some of Lango Deen’s other writings online and found this great article about African American mathematician Etta Zuber Falconer, who was a Math and Science Professor at Spelman College, the historically Black Women’s College. Falconer was one of the first 20 Black women to get a PhD in Mathematics in the US. Falconer stated in 1995: “My entire career has been devoted to increasing the number of African American women in mathematics and mathematics-related careers.” Considering that Math is not a field that is seen to include either women or Black people, the fact that Falconer pursued this field to the level of Phd and then used her knowledge to educate other Black women to take on careers in this field is truly inspiring. I really appreciate that Deen wrote this profile of Etta Zuber Falconer.

My one recommendation to Deen would be to include more links in her posts. It is always great if readers can connect with more information directly through your blog than having to search on their own.

That said, I hope that Deen continues writing her blog as there needs to be more blogs by Africans that bring our literature to wider audiences and provide personal reflections on the continent’s current affairs.

You can also follow VitabuBooks on Twitter.

Further Reading:

Lango Deen’s Profile on the International Museum of Women Website

Etta Zuber Falconer, Ph.D. Spelman’s Legendary Math and Science Professor Passes On by Lango Deen (article available online)