Thursday, 10 March 2011





The poet Benjamin Zephaniah was on Radio 4 Bookclub today. I've read his book the Refugee Boy that was featured on the show. 'A story that springs out of war,broken families, refugees, racial rivalries and hatreds, children who become victims almost before they’re old enough to know why.' Wars and its effect on children is told in this book through the story of Alem, a young boy who has one Ethiopian parent and another who is Eritrean. This short book I think, is a must-read.

Benjamin Zephaniah, I was surprised to learn is dyslexic, and I quote from James Naughtie's newsletter - 'to such a degree that he finds it difficult to do such readings – even of his own work – without a great deal of preparation. I suppose, I said to him, that poetry helps: it can be memorised for permanence, after all. Benjamin has spoken a good deal about his condition, and it must be a comfort to many children who find that somewhere along the wide dyslexic spectrum they’ve come across a difficulty, one that for generations in the past would have meant being consigned to the back of the classroom and being labelled "slow" or even stupid. No more.'
Gifted people overcome difficuties and present us with beautiful pieces of literature. Zephaniah is a real role model.

Books, Books and more books







Its been a busy few days. World Book Night and giving away 'Half of a Yellow Sun' was such fun.Over 35 people turned up on a Saturday afternoon to take part in the event. Milngavie Library made a great effort and the music of Tawona Sithole and his poems were well received. The big smiles from the people as they got their books made it all worthwhile.

The Aye Write Festival is in full swing. I attended some of the events. The stunningly good one was Clarence B Jones, a 80 year old still teaching at Stanford who co-wrote the 'Dream' speech of Martin Luther King Jnr. It was a real honour and privilege to hear this icon of the sixties explaining the magic of that day in March 1963 when 'that' speech evoked such a response from all of America and the world. We re-lived that day with him as he spoke with such passion. He has offered to come and teach a 10 week course at Glasgow University entitled 'From slavery to Obama.' Wow! that would be some course!The main theatre was jam packed and the audience was happy to stay well after the scheduled time to hear him talk.

Levy and Kay were superb. Levy's articulate and intelligent answers and her wonderful reading of 'July's words'(the protagonist in the Long Song) are still ringing in my ears. Kay's book was deeply moving,an adopted child seeking her biological parents only to find that she was not accepted by either of them. Her preacher-man father in Nigeria and her nurse mother in Aberdeen both had kept her birth a secret from their new families and had no wish to reveal her existence at all. Yet Kay was able to rise above such awful rejections, second time around, and her book is sprinkled with humour. She also read couple of poems. 'Ma Broon's has a Colonic Irrigation' made us roar with laughter. Don't you love the cover picture of her?

The cancellation of Manju Kapur's event is frustrating for me. The comments on FB showed how some people felt that the Aye Write's organisation has been poor.Not enough advertising said some. I think it is more to do with very few people being aware of asian writers apart from the Booker, Orange winners. I am also ashamed to note that at any book related events I rarely see any asian people. When I arrived here in 1969 and noted the same at Citizens Theatre, museums, even films(no book fests in Glasgow then) there were hardly any asians in the crowd. I assumed it was perhaps the language barrier that prevented people enjoying the arts. But the next generation are also shying away from such events. Where are the young asian writers, poets, film makers artists? I leave you to ponder over this.

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