Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Brief Notes On The Cassava Republic Salon

An evening of much discussion and laughter was had at Waterstones Piccadilly this week, the culmination of sorts of the launch of Nigerian publisher, Cassava Republic Press, in the UK; it was the last time the three launch authors would be together before going their separate ways to other literary events and festivals.

A photograph of Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Leye Adenle

We were seated in a meeting/event room on the lower ground floor and began with chatter and a look at the books. The authors – Elnathan John, Leye Adenle, and Sarah Ladipo Manyika – spoke first about the background to their books (Born On A Tuesday, Easy Motion Tourist, and Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun respectively). Elnathan said, in regards to his main character, he’d worried about people, specifically university students, being seen as numbers. He spoke of the poetry he’d written when at university himself, bad poetry about death and “all the girls who didn’t like me” – he set the comedic tone to the evening early on. He’d wanted to talk about those who aren’t noticed in society but also he just thought it’d be cool to have written a novel.

Sex is a part of all three books. As you may have heard or read in the Q&A I posted last week, Sarah said she’d wanted to explore desire in older women. Leye wrote what he thought was a bad sex scene (he differentiated, for us, the way this was a scene of consensual sex – his book also contains rape). His editor got back to him saying this bad sex scene needed to be written in full and then got back to him after that to say it needed more detail. It turned out it wasn’t so bad at all… but Leye will be skipping sex scenes next time.

For Elnathan, exploring the nature of sexuality was critical. The age of his character necessitated it and the author wanted to talk about that time of life, to ask all the questions we ask about sex, to explore the years in which sexuality is fluid.

A photograph of Elnathan John

Is it difficult to talk about horrible characters? Leye said that after he’d finished his book, he missed all his characters. Sarah diverted the subject to discuss how she’d created characters through silent acting. She spoke of how she tried to act out a character she’d wanted to create, a cleaner from Nigeria, and how it had then burst out of her, at which point she turned on an accent and became the person she’d created, filling the room with the voice of a lady who’d just cleaned up and now everyone was making a mess.

Elnathan doesn’t think in terms of literary heroes, he’s more about those who make him think deeply about books. He creates categories depending on what subjects are involved and spoke of how for their present work, his fellow launch authors are inspiring him. For Leye it’s Chinua Achebe all the way. Sarah has included her heroes in her book – Jean Rhys and Charlotte Brontë for starters.

It was an awesome, fun, evening and a note towards the end bears repeating: African writing often gets stereotyped so the more we talk about the books, just talk about them, the better.

What books are you excited about right now?


Laurie C

April 15, 2016, 9:03 pm

Sounds like a really interesting and fun evening! I bought a copy of Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun and am looking forward to reading it.


April 25, 2016, 9:05 am

Happy to read this, Laurie! I’d love to know what you thought once you’ve read it.



Comments closed