Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah at Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival Season 2.

Ishmael Beah rounded out Season 2 of the Afrolit Sans Frontieres Virtual Literary Festival on Instagram from Los Angeles, USA on Monday, April 27, 2020. He was hosted by Zukiswa Wanner.

The Afrolit Sans Frontiers Virtual Literary Festival, an initiative by and for writers of African origin, started in March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic international lockdown. Season 2, like the first edition, features some of the leading names in African letters today with curation by Maaza Mengiste and festival founder Zukiswa Wanner. It sees 16 writers from 14 countries streaming either on Instagram or Facebook from 13 cities in English, French, and Portuguese over eight days under the festival theme “What I Wish You’d Ask Me.”

Since the festival started, bibliophiles have interacted with Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor from Nairobi, Kenya, Lola Shoneyin from Lagos, Nigeria, Elma Shaw from Kigali, Rwanda,  Edwige Renee Dro from Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, Sulaiman Addonia from Brussels, Belgium, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi from Manchester, UK, Napo Masheane from Johannesburg, South Africa, Mona Eltahawy from Montreal, Canada, Fred Khumalo from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Hemley Boum from Paris, France. There have also been sessions with festival curators Maaza Mengiste alongside Natasha Omokhodion-Kalulu Banda, Remy Ngamije, Bisi Adjapon, and Chike Frankie Edozien and Zukiswa Wanner alongside Chike Frankie Edozien, Kalaf Epalanga, and Leye Adenle.

The first writer for the final day was Ondjaki streaming from Luanda, Angola before Ishmael Beah wrapped up from Los Angeles, USA. Beah is the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, and Radiance of Tomorrow, A Novel both published by Farrar Straus & Giroux. His newest work, Little Family, a novel, is a profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt, Little Family marks the further blossoming of a unique global voice.

It was appropriate to have Ishmael Beah as the final guest of the festival for a number of reasons. April 27 is the Independence Day of Sierra Leone which is Beah’s country of birth. His new novel Little Family is launching in the US in a virtual event on April 28 (at the Politics and Prose Bookstore) which means that the book was officially seen by Africans before the Americans got their chance. South Africa, the home country of event host Zukiswa Wanner, was also celebrating Freedom Day on April 27 which made this a perfect storm of literature and politics.

The event started with Ishmael Beah introducing himself and reading excerpts from his new novel Little Family. The event host Wanner then took charge of the proceedings and the two an in-depth discussion with the author about the book’s characters, motivations, and more. She also picked questions from those were gathered and the discussions about his craft, his writing of a novel about an imaginary African country, solidarity among the writing community on the continent were witnessed. Beah was gracious enough to join the audience for another twenty-five minutes after his first hour ended to ensure that all were satisfied before logging off.

You can see the discussions from the session below.

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