Are you a member of a book club? If you haven’t found the right book club or you haven’t had time to seek one out where ever you are in the world, I introduce to you a super rich and engaging DIGITAL book club, in the form of a podcast – The Sankofa Book Club.
[collage created by African Book Addict! ; images via The Sankofa Book Club]
I stumbled upon The Sankofa Book Club when I was participating in a book chat (on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi) on Twitter, last year. I resonated with some of the responses the co-founder – Akua, was tweeting and decided to check out the podcast via iTunes. The Sankofa Book Club is a digital book club with a focus on African literature. The co-hosts are of Ghanaian descent who engage in intelligent and honest conversations around books I adore. The podcast is currently 10 episodes deep and my favorite episodes so far have been their discussions on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Everyday is for the Thief by Teju Cole.
Enjoy the conversation I had with The Sankofa Book Club team where we discuss their origin story, their favorite writers of African descent, favorite snacks to indulge in while reading and more!
- What’s the story behind the book club’s name – The ‘Sankofa’ Book Club?
Sankofa is an Adinkra symbol – Adinkra is a collection of symbols from the Akan tradition in Ghana. You can see the symbol incorporated in our logo. The term “sankofa” translates from Twi as “return and get it” and it symbolizes the importance of learning from your past. As we were thinking about what to call the book club, this just seemed so apt. The co-founders are both Ghanaian and we want this book club to be a platform for people to learn about Africa – especially those of us Africans born and raised outside of Africa.
- Who’s behind the scenes of The Sankofa Book Club? Briefly tell us about the team members and co-hosts.
We’re a small team of three. Akua and Mel are co-hosts of the podcast and co-founders of the book club. We focus on producing the podcast and growing our community. Sam is our curator – she researches the books and allocates them every month. However, we are looking to grow, so get in touch if you’re interested!
- What was the inspiration for starting a digital book club in podcast form? Will there be book club meet-ups in the future where the team is based?
The inspiration was several different thoughts popping up in my head in no particular order:
- I (Akua) worked on podcasts through work in digital marketing.
- It was an exciting new media but like most things in this world, it was whitewashed.
- Mel and I have thought-provoking conversation anyway.
- I really like African lit and wished I could join a book club like that.
- I don’t live in London, don’t have the time or energy to do that in London.
- Why are we limiting ourselves to London?
- Let’s do a podcast on African lit.
- It may as well be a book club.
We love that we’re digital and interacting with people all over the world and we don’t want to lose that. However, a live recording in London will definitely be happening in the near future.
- How do you decide on which books to read? Why focus on African Literature?
Sam does research into the themes, what people are currently reading and uses that choose a book each month. It helps us stay relevant and prevents us from being repetitive.
Africa is more than the world’s charity case, and who better to tell the true story of Africa than Africans. That’s why we focus on African literature. We want to hear a different narrative. We want to be a different narrative.
- Who is your target audience? How has the reception been, after the 10 episodes (and counting) that are available?
Anyone interested in Africa, literature and/or both! What we’d really love is for people who don’t feel connected to the continent to use this as a relaxed and fun way to learn, or just read something different. There’s loads of brilliant African literature out there getting very little attention. We want to change that.
The reception of SBC has been really positive. It’s interesting to see that a lot of our audience is actually in Africa, who just appreciate the discussion.
6. Random Bookish Facts:
- a) How do you like your books – Hardcovers, paperbacks, audiobooks or e-books?
Akua – Paperback.
Mel – Paperback mostly, hardback if it’s affordable; not a fan of audiobooks.
Sam – Paperback until quite recently. E-books are more handy and make my commute less boring and bulky.
- b) Do you usually read – New books, used books, borrowed/stolen books (from friends) or library books?
Akua – A brand new book from Waterstones.
Mel – Usually brand new books but I’m also a lover of borrowed/stolen books.
Sam – Definitely new books (I do steal a lot of book lists though).
- c) What is/are your favorite book genre(s)? (Poetry, thrillers, romance, short stories, literary fiction, non-fiction etc.)
Akua – Poetry. It’s simple but deep.
Mel – Thrillers. I enjoy the suspense and drama.
Sam – Historical Fiction! I love a good mystery too.
- d) Favorite snacks/beverages to indulge in while reading?
Akua – Biscuits or cake.
Mel – Peppermint tea all day everyday.
Sam – Potato Chips and chocolate. There’s something about the crunch that keeps me going.
- Who are your top three favorite African writers, and why?
Akua – Her Majesty Queen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinua Achebe and Afua Hirsch. The first two are authors of my favourite books so by default my favourite writers. Afua Hirsch is a journalist, half English, half Ghanaian. When I see a cutting edge, non-conformist article on current affairs, I just know she wrote it. Such an intelligible Black British voice! I so appreciate her. She has a book coming out in January 2018.
Mel – Chimamanda Ngozi and Chigozie Obioma. I’m still on the hunt for my third favourite African author. Chimamanda is amazing for her attention to detail and empowering me as a women and an individual of African descent. Chigozie is special for his gift of reflecting his literary influences in his novels. He also has a knack for eloquently describing a mere moment, allowing the reader to see it from an in-depth perspective.
Sam – I’m pretty old school so I’m going to say Ama Ata Aidoo because of her style and her pioneering work in African Literature with regards to female independence and empowerment. Wole Soyinka next because I love his sense of humour and the wisdom in his writing. I will have to concede that more recently I too have developed a soft spot for Chimamanda Ngozi. She just embodies everything. She is intelligent, eloquent and still relatable. She has a way of dissecting literally all things that matter to young black women so plainly yet extremely intuitive.
- Finally, what can listeners and readers look forward to in the future for The Sankofa Book Club?
Akua – Amazing guests on the podcast and more interaction with our book club members! We know we have a consistent audience out there, we see you and we love you!
Mel – I’d like to echo what Akua has said and add that listeners can also expect that we will continue to encourage their inner book worm.
Sam – More exciting and representative books!!