Friday, October 11, 2013

Letter to NoViolet Bulawayo


20/08/2013. 
Dear big sister, how are you? Hope fineeeeee. I’m okay now, recovered and started work. Hope you enjoyed the stories. Not to worry, it seems our God of books smiled on me yesterday. I received a call from the office that they’d found the receipt, so I went there and it was handed to me. But I told them I was still angry with them. I boarded a taxi to the Post Office in Bonanjo and presented my case. They told me my package had arrived since July 28th and each day at their customs office resulted in an additional daily 200 francs charge plus custom charges which amounted to 8000 francs (16 dollars) since it had been there for over a month. I grudgingly paid the very unexpected money and wondered why our accountant had not told me all that as the 200 francs daily thing was even written on the receipt. They brought my package, not only your novel “We Need New Names” but a carton of books! Seven novels!!!! Glittering crispy smelling copy of WNNN, Oui, tres gentil! I immediately forgot about spending 16 dollars and oh!!!! “Ten years of the caine prize for African writing” Big sis, did you get into my head or something? I’d always wanted to read that book! I’ve read the Caine prize winning stories of 2008 to 2013 online only, together with the nominated stories of 2012 and 2013. I’ve tried, tried, tried googling up those early winning stories hard but never been able to find and download them. I even pleaded to an aunt in the US to buy it for me about a month ago. I don’t know if she’ll even do so. So that tells you how much I’ll value it. I know James Baldwin, I’ve always wanted to read his “Go tell it on the mountain” but I’ve never ever found any of his books here, so I’ll really treasure that book of his. The rest of the five books, I’ve never heard of those writers but I’ll read all those seven books, all of them. Right now I’m on page 302 of Helen Oyeyemi’s 333 page “The Icarus Girl” and I already feel like abandoning it, Lol. But its good one so I’ll force the finish and immediately jump on "We Need Old Names", sorry, "WE Need Funny Names",  Bastard, Godknows, mother of bones, sorry, in short WE NEED NAMES. Thank you very much big sis, so very much. I don’t care if the others are used books, information never gets old. Nobody in my family has ever even bought me a one dollar novel but those books are quite expensive!

Now is the fun part. The post man told me another customs officer had to inspect the carton to make sure I was not being sent any dangerous stuff. The customs woman inspected it and only saw books then threw a tantrum in French, “Mais ca c’est quoi, meme pas un vieux portable pour moi? Seulement les livres, livres, livres,…..but what is this? Not even an old telephone for me? Only books, books, books, that your own school doesn’t end? We have all these books here (I exploded into laughter. These books! In Cameroon! Literary wilderness! I told her it was my sister who’d sent them to me and they were worth gold to me more than gadgets.) She exploded again in French, “spare me such talk, people come here and when I open their package I see laptops, Ipads, cameras, and they even give me one as a gift. You, only books, books, do you eat books? Tell her that we have books here, blah blah blah” I laughed and laughed and laughed “Tu rire quoi? What are you laughing at?” she asked. I took my carton away thinking about how people now treasure money and ‘gifts’ more than knowledge. I phoned my father and told him I’d received not 1 but 7 books from you. He was amazed. I further told him that I’d spent unexpected money to receive the books and I don’t even know how I was going to make it till the end of the month considering that I’d also spent a lot on medication and my kid sister’s school fees but God was in control. I remembered reading Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s blog with a similar experience about someone asking her what good her reading of countless novels would do to her instead of pursuing a lucrative career. Then I told myself that writerhood is like priesthood, a special calling. I’m willing to travel that road no matter how long it is. You read my brief, you know all about my resilience. I had just a few coins left in my pocket that couldn’t even pay the taxi fare back to my Bonaberi neighbourhood, so I embarked the cheap, overcrowded long Socatur bus for the return trip. In my room, I opened the book cover of WNNN and your words on the first page almost brought a few tears to my eyes. “To Nkiacha, my lil bro. so pleased to be in your universe. Wishing you light on your journey –not an easy road at all, but it can be travelled, word by word. Much, much love. Your big sis, NoViolet Bulawayo.” Big sis, I love you very much.