Writing Black

Africa Amplified: Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo

Episode 21

We are highlighting the brilliant talents that come from Africa and on this episode of Writing Black we are amplifying the talented and critically acclaimed Nigerian author Ayobami Adebayo. Adebayo’s new novel “A Spell of Good Things” brings to life the culture and communities of Nigeria following two families through the struggles of class, wealth and political struggles. Adebayo also talks to Maiysha about her taking a different route than what was expected of her, how Nigerian mothers are much more than what you see and how they are both excited to see Black Americans and Black people in Africa interacting with one another a lot more than before. 


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black podcast network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to a Writing Black here at theGrio Black Podcast Network. As always, I am your host Maiysha Kai. And this month on theGrio, we’re doing something really exciting called Africa Amplified, where we are magnifying the voices, perspectives and stories of the African diaspora. And I’m really excited that we have an incredible novelist with us today. Her name is Ayobami Adebayo. She is the author of two books, the first of which Stay with Me was an acclaimed, acclaimed debut on many best best book lists. And it has been translated into multiple languages. And now she’s back with a new one called A Spell of Good Things. This is out on February 7th, another incredible, sprawling work of fiction with fascinating characters and intersecting narratives. And I’m so excited to have Ayobami here today to talk to us about this book and about how her culture is informing her work, because that’s what we do here at Writing Black. So Ayobami, welcome to Writing Black. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:01:18] Thank you so much, Maiysha. It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:24] You know, I love this this book. I’m enthralled by it for several reasons, but mainly because I think it’s giving a lot of us, you know, as an American reader who has not spent the time I would like to spend in West Africa yet and has not been to Nigeria. It to me is a really exciting lens into that culture, the kind of not just the traditions, but the class struggles. Tell me about the origin of this this story, which is it’s a sprawling one. I mean, we’ve got over it’s over 352 pages. I think about the copy I have. So this is not a short book. You really dig in and you really spend time with these characters and there’s a lot of them. So tell me about how you dug into this. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:02:15] Thank you so much. So I began thinking about it at some point, I think in late 2012 or early 2013. So about ten years ago now. Yeah. Yeah, it takes me a while to finish this things, but it was something that happened to me, meaning that I was coming back from work in the city that I’d lived in since I was about eight years old. And because there was traffic, we had to take a detour. And I ended up in this neighborhood that was quite impoverished and at the same time unrecognizable to me. And I was in my mid-twenties at the time and I really started thinking about how really how I had been blind to this reality. How could I have lived in this place for this long and I’ve never seen this. So I think I carried that thought with me for about a year or two before I then started working on the novel, before I knew that this form was one of the ways in which I would think through some of the questions that I had started asking myself have to that moment. So that’s how I started writing this book. 

Maiysha Kai [00:03:43] You know, and that and you bring us right into that world that your book opens there. You know, it takes us many other places, but it opens there with a family who is really struggling, a child, really, of a family who’s really struggling and. And and he becomes this vehicle, I think, you know, for understanding not just poverty and how it functions, but how close all of us teeter to that reality. Right. Like, you know, his vulnerability, his struggles, his the things that his parents are grappling with, because you’re also really dealing with a discussion. There’s a discussion of depression here. And I think there’s a humanizing that you’re doing with this family. That’s really striking or to me was incredibly striking. 

A Spell of Good Things Excerpt [00:04:37] On his way back he would pass by this vendor’s stand, flipping through the newspaper so that this wicked man could see. But before all that could happen, his father had to find the right job vacancy. And so Ẹniọlá took the newspaper, mumbling something that could be mistaken for a thank-you and began to run away from the vendor and his smelly mouth. 

Maiysha Kai [00:04:57] In terms of trying to articulate this existence that obviously was not your own, at least from what you just said there. How did you go into kind of teasing out that humanity from from this family? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:05:15] Thank you. Thank you for your kind words. So with this book and I think with any other thing I’m writing or I’m going into, particularly when it’s fiction, I can begin with an idea. But I don’t start until I feel like I know the people. You know, I feel like I have a person that I’m interested in and that I can get to know over the period of a few years. So this novel there like nine perspectives in it, you know, But it begins with this young boy for me is is really is really the heart of the novel for me. And I didn’t feel confident that I had a book until I really knew him, you know. And for me, that process is the first thing about that process is that it takes forever. It takes so much time, you know, But it’s one that I really enjoy because I do feel like I’m discovering a person. And sometimes what that looks like is that I. I sit with them and ask them questions, you know, about their lives, about what they’re interested in, about what their aspirations are. So I have sometimes I have these sessions where I has like two questions. I do like 20 questions with the character. And even though a lot of it never makes it into the novel, I feel that it’s very important because it gives me, when I’m writing a sense of clarity about who I am creating. And I think that translates to the reader, you know? But there’s more that you know about the character than is even necessary for the page. So with him, part of it was sitting with him and answering those questions and understanding him, and also the time that he was living in, you know, and the community that he’s here and all of that comes together in forming the character. So particularly when it’s very distance from my own personal experience, I really want to take that time and be very careful, you know, to make sure that I’m really writing a human, you know. 

Maiysha Kai [00:07:45] I love that idea of 20 questions, I think, you know, and that idea of character development. I’m so, you know, we we started this podcast to talk about, you know, not just what Black writers write about, but how. And so I think that’s such an incredible piece of process to share with our listeners. And I want to talk more about this, these characters in just a moment. But we’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be back with more Writing Black. All right. We are back with Ayobami Adebayo and we are talking about her new book, A Spell All Good Things. One of the things that really, really struck me in this narrative, you know, obviously we are starting with this child. We are starting with this specific neighborhood and the people within it who don’t have a lot of money, but were also, you know, you span a society in this book, you know, and we’re really talking about different socioeconomic classes and experiences and expectations. But expectations, you know, these these familial expectations and obligations and traditions. And, you know, it permeates kind of every level of, you know, no matter who you’re talking about, you’re seeing these people kind of butting their heads up against whoever it is they’re expected to be, or at least that’s how it translated to me. Was that like a very deliberate theme that you were trying to tease out here, or would you say it’s it’s kind of more of a. A broader cultural commentary like how did that factor in for you as you were kind of building out this story and these stories within the story? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:09:28] Well, thank you. I would say that it’s very deliberate. It’s a very Nigerian novel and it’s something that I think is in the water in many Nigerian communities and families. Whether in Nigeria or the diaspora, that there are very specific expectations. You know, and I’m always curious for me about the people who choose not to meet those expectations or who cannot meet those expectations or the moment where people realize, well, maybe I’m not interested in being the person that everybody wants me to be. So I think that that’s something that I’m always interested in when I’m writing about many Nigerian communities or a Nigerian family that I’m looking at that tension and how people manage that, because I think it’s very complex, particularly when they are familial, just because of how intimate the relationships are. And they can be claustrophobic, you know, they can be suffocating the people that they love, you know. So people can end up really suffocating people or the people in the name of love and affection and wanting the best for them. 

Maiysha Kai [00:11:00] I mean, absolutely. What’s the meaning behind that? So tell us about the title, A Spell of Good Things. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:11:07] Yeah. So just a novel that I really love by another Nigerian writer called Everything Good Will Come. So I wanted something that people homage to that book as a title. So I worked with a number of options of good things. But at the heart of it is really one of the characters who is one of the people I really like in the novel is one of the mothers. And just her whole attitude, how she’s very, she’s aware of how fragile everything is. She’s aware of the fragility of our good fortune. You know, in life she’s very fortunate. She’s very aware of it. But she’s also very aware that it can hold change in a minute. And yes, so that that’s where the title comes from. 

Maiysha Kai [00:12:08] I love that sentiment. And I, I love I think I know which character you’re talking about and I love her. We’re going to talk more about this delicate thing in just a moment when we come back with more Writing Black. All right. We are back with Writing Black and with Ayobami Adebayo, whose book, A Spell of Good Things comes out on February 7th. It’s her second novel, and I love that you described it as a very Nigerian novel. I thought that was actually really cool. You know, I I’m a long time reader, literature lover. I mean, that’s why I started this podcast. And I remember, you know, growing up studying literature, you know, you’d get maybe get tossed a handful of writers from the diaspora, right? And maybe a couple of West African writers, you know, maybe you’ll get Achebe or maybe you’ll read The Joys of Motherhood, which I know you also mentioned. And but one of the things that’s been so exciting to me about the last decade, maybe a little more, is that we’ve really seen this huge influx of writers from across the diaspora, and I think especially a lot of West African writers as well, really making their way, you know, their work, making their way to American readers and us getting a real chance to hear these firsthand narratives, whether they’re fictional or not. And I think, you know, those of us who can trace our origins back to West Africa, it’s, I think, can be very special to have a better sense of connection other than, you know, how we translate things here in America, how we you know, because I think, you know, for an American, you know, you sit and you think, oh, Nigeria, you know, what you might know is like, maybe I have a Nigerian American friend or a first gen friend. So we hear about the demands that you were just discussing from a different perspective, like, oh, you know, there’s this expectation of success. There’s this expectation that you do these certain things, and we have our own version of that, obviously. But it’s so I think, poignant and beautifully illustrated in A Spell of Good Things, I think the way that you are. You know, it’s nuanced. It’s a nuanced conversation maybe is the best way to say that. Did you find choosing to go the path of being a writer, did you find yourself butting your head up against those expectations? I had to ask. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:14:45] I’m glad you asked, and I’ll tell a joke that I often tell. And you might have heard this before, that in a Nigerian family there 4 career options. You know, you either become a doctor or you become a lawyer or you become an engineer or you become a disgrace to your family. You know, those are your options. I mean, for me, I think I was very fortunate. My mom was very supportive. You know, she should she’s she’s a big read. She reads a lot. So I think that sort of made a am inclined to support me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:15:29] And mothers play a really big role in this new novel of yours as well. Yeah. I mean, there’s there’s a few you know, obviously marriage is a big topic of conversation in this book and a marriage as a vehicle, not in a romantic sense, but as a vehicle as a vehicle for stability. But mothers, these you know, who who is who is into who decides to be, what that means, what the responsibilities of motherhood are. Why was that a thing that you were attracted to? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:16:05] Yeah, I mean, I think I was saying to someone the other day that I’m very, very interested in. Nigerian women of a certain age say from 55 to 65. And I’m very interested in how they reconcile the contradictions of their lives. 

Maiysha Kai [00:16:27] Mm hmm. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:16:30] Because I. I mean, I’ve been around a lot of them. My mum has four sisters, so I grew up around a lot of aunties. And they’re always more complicated than to present themselves to be, you know, they’re always more complex than they allow themselves to be seen. So for me, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this mothers, you know, to really drill down into how complex these characters and to give you a sense of what they might seem like on the surface. And then you really go into their own perspective and you have a sense of how they see their lives and how they think about the compromises that they’ve made or the choices that they’ve made of their life. And that’s why, you know, the structure of this novel, I feel, is very useful in that sense, that you get to see these characters from the perspective of their children. You know, you can see their children looking at them and having opinions about who they are. And then you get to them and then you see, you know, how they’ve come to become the women that they are, you know, And how for some of them, this really was the only viable plot that was available to them. You know, and maybe you leave with some compassion for their place in the world, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the choices that they’ve made. So that was the most important to me. The other thing that I always sort of wanted to write about was just how I think that in many families they are the ones who have called the family unit. They and they are the real anchors. And I wanted to hold that in the structure with which this novel is told. 

Maiysha Kai [00:18:29] Yeah. That’s abundantly clear here. And I want to talk more about that. We’re going to take a quick break, but we’ll be back with more Ayobami Adebayo and Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:19:10] And we are back to continue our discussion on A Spell of Good Things, which is the forthcoming book from Ayobami Adebayo. We were just talking about mothers and how they the anchors of many of these families, and I think that’s true globally, really. But, you know, in these families especially, you know, one of the things that and I love what you were saying actually about perspectives, you know, and structure. You read books or even, you know, collections of short stories where, you know, maybe the narratives intersect. And, you know, people are telling different stories of the same story from different perspectives. But this was a very effective structural choice, right. Where we’re getting even though you’re talking about these characters in third person and we’re getting. This. It’s like an ever shifting lens. And I don’t know that it’s an easy one to execute. So talk to me about how you decided on this structure and how you made this work for you. I know this was a ten year process, so I imagine it wasn’t easy, but I would love to hear about like how does that like from a process standpoint, how are you, I mean, are you just picking a different character to focus on from time to time? Like, how does that work? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:20:37] So before I answer that, can I just say that I’m really loving this conversation? 

Maiysha Kai [00:20:43] Oh, of course you can. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:20:45] I really am. You know, and I think that’s one thing that’s so important about this podcast, you know, is that you get to talk about process because, sure, you know, sometimes the questions you get are not about process. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:01] That’s true. That’s true. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:21:04] So, I am really happy to talk about this. Thank you so much. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:07] Thank you. Thank you. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:21:10] So with structure, I, I tend to feel my way into the right structure. Know, I think that changes because, you know, I hope it gets easier. But I think that with this book, for instance, I began with just two perspectives, you know, So the first draft was going back and forth between two characters. So that was Anil. And then the main character in the first draft was the younger sister from the other family unit. Okay, So it was a different, very different book. And at some point I realized she couldn’t carry the weight of the families. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:53] She is fascinating, though. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:21:54] Yeah, I really like her. 

Maiysha Kai [00:21:57] Yes. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:21:58] I like her. So. So, I mean, I started out with two people of about the same age, you know, as being just the two of them in the whole novel. And then by the time I got to the second draft, I realized, oh, this is not the person, you know, for this other half of the story. And then I went for the older sister and then met him. I was doing that draft. I looked at it and said, you know, I need to look at I think this would be more effective if I’m looking at this of the story from the perspective of other characters. So I wish I could answer by saying that I had a master plan from the beginning, but I just write my way into structure and for some reason I tend to end up with books that, if I say so tense, end up being pretty well structured. But I think it’s really just repeating over and over again. And then I think the key for me is really the characters want them very clear about who they are. And I’ve teased that enough about them. I know exactly who should tell what part of the story you know. 

Maiysha Kai [00:23:13] And how they would respond to that. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:23:15] How they would respond, you know. So the key is always the character. But generally, in my experience so far, I tend to failings of it. So I start thinking, no, this is the structure. And then I’m like, Man, this doesn’t work. And then I keep, you know, tweaking. It took in it until I get to something that I feel like, Yeah, this is it now. 

Maiysha Kai [00:23:36] I don’t know if you should aim for that to change. I think, you know, first of all, I don’t think there’s any wrong answers when it comes to writing, you know? I mean, there’s wrong writing, I guess. But, you know, I think the process itself, one of the reasons I’m so interested in process and interested in each writer’s process is because I know it’s different. And I think, you know, because we all think differently, we all learn differently. We all we all process things differently. That that to me is a great answer. I think, you know, and I think this idea of leading with the characters is a great answer to me because I think, like character development is is I mean, that’s really what draws us in. That’s what gets us attached to to a narrative. I want to talk about some of the other bits of humanity and research that you teased out here. I’m going to take a quick break, but we will be back in just a moment with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:24:59] All right, Ayobami. We were just talking about, you know, your your process and character development and you weave in some very you know, this is a work of fiction, but obviously, what makes these characters, I think, so relatable. And so. You mean you really do get attached, You care what happens to them. And I think that this is true of any good book in which you get attached is that you tease out something in them that feels deeply relatable. One of the things that’s really striking, striking to me in A Spell of Good Things is how you handle depression. You know, this discussion of somebody going through a mental health crisis that the people around him are not necessarily equipped to understand. From from multiple levels. Right. How did. Is that reflective? Was that. Did you feel that that was like culturally reflective? I know like from a Black American perspective. You know, we talk about the obstacles to mental health, Right. You know, in our communities and that we don’t discuss it enough. I mean, that’s that’s like an ongoing thing here. And this felt very culturally linked as well in terms of how people were responding to this character’s crisis. Well, but I thought you handle it so well. Like, where did. How did you how did you hope to approach that? And why was it such a key part of this narrative? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:26:35] Yeah. Thank you. I absolutely agree with your read of it. I think it’s definitely culturally linked. Mm hmm. I think that there’s still a lot of progress to be made in terms of how we interact with people when they’re having a mental health issue or a mental health crisis. I think that there isn’t as much awareness or as much grace as if someone was having a physical health issue for instance. And with this one in particular, it was a little personal. So there was this the thing that happened in my home state in Nigeria, the early 2000, in the year 2000, actually, where teachers were just retrenched. You know, a whole generation of teachers were retrenched overnight. And one of my friends at the time. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:42] Meaning they were fired. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:27:43] They were like, yeah, they were fired. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:46] For people who are not familiar with that term. Yeah. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:27:48] So they were just fired, you know, and well, all kinds of political reasons why that happened. And for me, so that was a trend that I had at the time. We were in secondary school and a mother was one of the teachers who was fired. And she went into a depressive episode that lasted a few years after that. And I could see that impacts on my friend, you know, over time. And I really wanted to think about it with this book. And this is something that happened in 2000. This is now 2023. I’m also very interested in all of the policy tragedies that are forgotten. You know, it’s a small state in Nigeria. Most people will remember that this happened. But I’m very interested in what that means for the people that were affected directly. And intimately by it. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:03] I love that answer, and I think it’s so relatable, again, to to so many of us as somebody who is, you know, have my own experiences of anxiety, depression. That was the way that you tease that out, I felt was so effective and so true. It was so true like the way that that manifests. We’re going to talk a little bit more. I think I want to talk a little bit more about the politics when we come back. So we’re going to take a quick final break and we’ll be back with more Writing Black. All right. Ayobami Adebayo and her book, I Smell of Good Things is what we are discussing today on Writing Black. This is your second novel, which, by the way, congratulations. That’s not a small thing. We were just talking about like, you know, policies and how people have a short memory when it comes to policies. And there is also obviously in this political component of your book, there is this, you know, of the many plots that are intersecting and intertwining here and and these ways that people are affecting each other in ways that they couldn’t even know. You have this political plot going on. 

A Spell of Good Things Excerpt [00:30:14] Caro was angry. After one of her apprentices read the notice of the meeting out loud to her, she threw it across the room into a dustbin. Some politician’s wife wanted to give a talk to the tailoring association, and their president had agreed to welcome the woman during their next meeting. And, of course, the president thought it meant something to mention that this politician’s wife was the daughter of a tailor. Caro was almost sure this was a lie. Those people would claim to be your kinsmen if it would help them get into power. 

Maiysha Kai [00:30:49] And there’s like a bit of intrigue there. And, you know, all political systems are loaded all across the world. What were you trying to tell us a little bit about the one that you grew up in? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:31:01] I mean, I think one of the one of the reasons why I write about particular things, I sometimes I write about the things that I’m most perplexed by, but I just don’t get it. You know, like the things that I am frustrated by, you know, and writing is sometimes a coping process for me or that I bring it into, I guess is a space that I have some control over. So I think that. What the politics in this book. I think I was just. Trying to think through the injustice of it all. How? Yeah. In my opinion. I don’t think. Anybody can isolate themselves against the consequences of building a society in this way. You know, I think that what many people have as a result of the class that they are have is an illusion of isolation. And I think he was and I think he was. You know, there’s this thing about middle class Nigerians, which, again, everything good will come by. If you think she got she got that class of people right. Which is the sense that the response is. Often there’s insecurity. You build a higher fence, you know, there’s no water. You drill in bold, you know, there’s no lights. You buy your generator, you know, and you sort of insulate yourself a little bit from the extremes of things that are going on. But I feel that it’s it’s a bit of an illusion, you know, And the earlier we all realize that, the better, you know. So, so so that’s for me what’s at the heart of some of the politics that plays out in the book. It’s to look at that community and how they have a collective destiny. You know, even if. They don’t all realize it. You know, they don’t realize it yet. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:34] That is, first of all, you know, I love it when I talk to writers and you can tell that they’re writers, by the way, that they talk. You’re so poetic in the way that you put these things. And I think that’s true for middle class people around the world. I really do. Yeah. You know, there’s this sense of having, like, made it but being insecure. I think that that’s a that tenuousness of existence, that tenuous ness of whatever we think security is. And how that’s even even that is a constantly moving goalpost. I think I think is really, really striking. One of the things that inspired this podcast was, you know, that I don’t think since, you know, the Black arts movement or maybe the Harlem the Harlem Renaissance, obviously, but that there’s been a more exciting time to be a Black writer. There’s a you know, in terms of there being platforms deliberately created for us, more receptivity to what we have to say, for better or worse in some aspects. And, you know, we were speaking earlier about how it is, there also seems to have finally been this openness for, I think, you know, a transatlantic conversation that has not been happening as frequently as it should. That I find, particularly as an African-American, so to speak, I find particularly exciting. Is that excitement shared, you know, in Nigeria or West Africa or in the circles that you’re traveling in in your country? Is that is it is there that same sense of, oh, look, we’re gaining some ground here in terms of our perspectives? Or is this just one of those other cases where we’re just getting turned on to something that’s been there the whole time? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:35:19] I think it is. I think definitely that excitement is shared. And I mean, I love what you said about the transatlantic conversations, you know, that are happening. And for me as a reader, you know, and also as a writer, I’m very, very interested in that a lot more and more and more. Yeah. For the continent, for all of its diaspora expressions. You know, I think that we need to be talking to each other. I think it’s very essential, you know, for us as a people. I mean, in terms of, say, Nigeria in particular, I think that’s the last decade and some I’ve been so, they’ve just been so important in terms of the kinds of books that are coming out. Yeah. And it’s just an exciting time. Again, I’m speaking as a reader. You first of all, you know. 

Maiysha Kai [00:36:20] Yeah, I agree. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:36:22] I’ve seen all the books that I really want to read now. 

Maiysha Kai [00:36:26] Yeah. Absolutely. And yeah, when I talk about, you know, I think there’s so much that we still don’t understand about each other. I love, like, the reason I use the term transatlantic conversations. Like, you know, sometimes you’ll catch these back and forth on social media, like on Twitter and it’s like you know, it’s so clear how much we don’t understand about each other, how much we might, you know, inherently resent or just, you know, it’s and I, I love the way that books in particular open up that conversation and open up that pathway for understanding or just better, you know, or empathy. Empathy. I’m big on empathy. So that’s always a really big thing for me. And we will be right back with more Writing Black. All right. Welcome back to Writing Black. So we were talking about this being a very exciting time to be a writer. And, you know, I’m looking forward to us all feeling like we’re part of the diaspora and in a more integrated way. But who do you read? Who do you read? Who excites you? And who do you think we should be reading? 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:37:38] Huh. So, I mean, most recently, even thinking about, you know, where we just left off the conversation. I remember reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:00] Yaa Gyasi. Yes. I love, I love that book. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:38:02] Yeah, I really love that. Yes. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:06] Yes. It’s so you know, it’s so funny because Transcendent Kingdom, which I think is her second novel. Yeah, there were some parallels there. I was I was thinking about that book when I was reading yours. In terms of the amount of research you clearly did the medical research to to put into this book. And I was thinking like, wow, do you just like, pull that out of that? Like, how do you even find that out? Like some of these terms? And you know what you should be reading. Yeah. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:38:37] So that someone whose work is very important to me. I mean, I’m going with that book there, I was telling everyone you have to read this. You have to read this. 

Maiysha Kai [00:38:45] Yes. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Absolutely. Yes.

Ayobami Adebayo [00:38:48] Absolutely. Also most recently, Brit Bennett. I really love the novels. I really love Sefi Atta’s

 novels, to answer the question of who should we be reading, she’s a Nigerian novelist that I wish more people were reading. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:13] Give the name again. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:39:14] Sefi Atta. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:16] Okay. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:39:17] Her first novel is called Everything Good will Come. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:21] Yes. Okay. You were referring to earlier. Yes. Yeah. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:39:25] And I mean, those are the three that come to mind immediately now. Yeah. I’m going to get this call And remember, like, 20 other people that I should have mentioned. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:38] You can email them, and we will. And we will tell our tell our listeners and our fellow readers exactly what they should be listening to. I will. I will happily add them to our book guides. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:39:50] I will send you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:39:50] Noted, this, this is an important transatlantic conversation that should be ongoing. And, you know, obviously, this is your second novel, which, you know, in and of itself is a tremendous feat. These you said these take a long time for you to tease out, but are there other ideas already percolating for what’s next? I have to ask. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:40:10] Yeah. Yes, actually, I have a couple of ideas. I’m trying to settle in on something. 

Maiysha Kai [00:40:17] Okay. But in the meantime, enjoy this one. And I hope the response is as tremendous as your first, if not bigger. And, you know, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, Ayobami. For our listeners, that’s Ayobami Adebayo. The new book is A Spell of Good Things, and it is out February 7th. Highly recommend. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation as well. So thank you for joining us on Writing Black. 

Ayobami Adebayo [00:40:47] Thank you so much. I had a really, really good time. 

Maiysha Kai [00:40:50] Good. I love hearing that. And we’ll see the rest of you next week. Now, this is the part of the podcast where I talk to you about some of my favorite books. You know, with a little segment we like to call my favorites. And, you know, in honor of Ayobami, you know, I just want to say, like the writers who are coming out right now from across the African continent are really special. But there’s another Nigerian writer that I really, really love Akwaeke Emezi is a tremendous writer. They are, you know, writing across genres, been children’s books and I believe some poetry, fiction, nonfiction. This memoir, Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, is really, really gripping and fascinating and just I mean it took me out. So I highly recommend getting into a Emezi’s work. 

Maiysha Kai [00:41:53] Yaa Gyasi, as Ayobami noted, is also an incredible, incredible writer. Yaa is Ghanaian American. A first gen and her work really takes us back and forth from her Ghanaian roots to here in America. And she really, I think, taps into that experience of being first gen in a really poignant way. I mean, her writing is just incredible. It is transcendent and her second novel is Transcendent Kingdom, which I also recommend. 

Maiysha Kai [00:42:30] Now, the third book I’m going to recommend is not by an African writer, but it’s really a fantastic effort. And this is by Catherine McKinley. It’s the African Lookbook. Now, some of you might know I’m also the lifestyle editor here at theGrio, So I love books, I love esthetics. I love all things. I love. I love fashion. And this is a visual history of over 100 years of African women. And this is having spoken to Catherine. She runs the McKinley Collection, which is one of the, I think, biggest collections of original African photography. And one of the things I love is that it really draws us out of this colonialist narrative that people have about Africa and really shows African women as the arbiters of style and class and distinction that they are and have been for generations. So if you love a good picture book or a little coffee table read, I highly recommend the African Lookbook. And that’s it for this week. We will also be putting out a guide of other African authors you should get into so soon. Look out for that as we continue Africa Amplified. Thanks so much for joining us for this week’s episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.