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New Daughters of Africa

Margaret Busby’s anthology Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present came out in 1992, a groundbreaking collection of over 1000 pages that brought together a breathtaking array of work, spanning different genres and various works of translation. New Daughters of Africa is the follow-up volume, first published in 2019, and, while clocking in at a modest 900-odd pages, is an equally impressive project. Lucky for our German readers, a selection of 30 writers from it came out in German translation in June of this year.

Over 200 living writers contributed to New Daughters of Africa – which is arranged chronologically according to the birth years of the authors, beginning with pre-1900 and ending with the 1990s – and the anthology includes not a single writer who contributed to the 1992 collection. It is, as Busby says in her enthusiastic introduction, “a fresh start”.

Nana Asma’u, who was born in West Africa in 1793 and who authored poetry in Arabic, Fulani and Hausa, begins the anthology, which goes on to range across enormous geographical terrain and names you’ll know (see Bernardine Evaristo in the 1950s) and some writers relatively unknown (I was unfamiliar, for instance, with the work of Jay Bernard, and am grateful to have encountered it here). It was wonderful to find some of our favourites here at poco.lit., including Maaza Mengiste, Namwali Serpell and Irenosen Okojie. For the most part, contributions are short (often, I found myself wishing they were longer!), and many take the form of poetry – sometimes also from writers whom one doesn’t know for their poetry. But it also includes essays, short stories, and excerpts from longer pieces, fiction and non-fiction.

This is an impressive collection of work that is testament to the enormous variety and talent of writing women of African descent. It probably isn’t the kind of book you read through from cover to cover, but more of a treasure trove you can return to again and again, discovering something or someone new every time you do.

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