New African Fiction
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New African Fiction


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194 pages

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Published three times per year by Indiana University Press for the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, Transition is a unique forum for the freshest, most compelling ideas from and about the black world. Since its founding in Uganda in 1961, the magazine has kept apace of the rapid transformation of the African Diaspora and has remained a leading forum of intellectual debate. In issue 117, Transition presents new short fiction from writers with Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia—and the diaspora—in their veins. Also in this issue are: selections from Transition's online forum, "I Can't Breathe," a venue for discussing the recent murders by police of unarmed black Americans; selections of poetry; and an interview with the architect and curator of the opening exhibit at Harvard University's new Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 mai 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780253019035
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0062€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Transition was founded in 1961 in Uganda by the late Rajat Neogy and quickly established itself as a leading forum for intellectual debate. The first series of issues developed a reputation for tough-minded, far-reaching criticism, both cultural and political, and this series carries on the tradition .
Alejandro de la Fuente
Visual Arts Editor
Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Managing Editor
Sara Bruya
Editorial Assistant
Adam McGee
Visual Arts Assistant
Amanda Lanham
Student Associate Editors
Laura Correa Ochoa
Amanda Fish
Mariam Goshadze
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Henry Louis Gates, Jr .
Former Editors
Rajat Neogy, Founding Editor
Wole Soyinka
Henry Finder
Michael C. Vazquez
F. Abiola Irele
Laurie Calhoun
Tommie Shelby
Vincent Brown
Glenda Carpio
Editorial Board
Wole Soyinka, Chairman
George Reid Andrews
David Chariandy
Teju Cole
Laurent Dubois
Brent Hayes Edwards
Sujatha Fernandes
Tope Folarin
Kaiama L. Glover
Kellie Carter Jackson
Biodun Jeyifo
Carla D. Martin
Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz
Achille Mbembe
Siddhartha Mitter
Laurence Ralph
Antonio Tillis
I Can t Breathe
Selections from Transition s online forum of responses to the murders of unarmed black Americans by police by Tennille Allen, Kellie Carter Jackson, Colin Dayan, Jenny Korn, Danielle Legros Georges, Charles Nfon, Rae Paris, Nicholas Rinehart, Metta S ma, Ren e Stout, Kangsen Feka Wakai, and Afaa Michael Weaver
New African Fiction
Transition presents new short fiction from writers with Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia-and the diaspora-in their veins
To Be Where We Are
Tope Folarin finds creation working on itself in his introduction to this issue s new fiction
by Louis Armand Garreau , translated and introduced by Sarah Jessica Johnson
Over Seas
by Peace Adzo Medie
Welcome to the Big Apple
by Marame Gueye
The Smell of Fear
by Prudence Acirokop
by Vincent Ikedinachi
100,000 Men
by Fafa Foofo
An Unexpected Gift
by Ifeanyi Chi
The Dragon Can t Dance
by Sheree Ren e Thomas
by Jekwu Anyaegbuna
From That Stranded Place
Aaron Bady and author Taiye Selasi explore the slippery definition of African literature, the inner dilemma of the Afropolitan, and the inspired moment of receiving a story s first lines
John Warner Smith
Higher Ground
A Letter from John D.
Reply to the Letter from John D.
Ladan Osman
The Key
My Father Drops his Larynx
Patrick Sylvain
The Coffin Maker and the Poet
The National Identity Card
Mary Serumaga explores how the bungled attempt by the Ugandan government to issue a standard ID card to its citizens points to the larger failings of the state
Ali Mazrui (1933-2014)
We memorialize the passing of one of the greatest political philosophers of postcolonial Africa, who also served as one of Transition s earliest associate editors
Remembering Ali Mazrui
by Wole Soyinka
A Tribute to Ali Mazrui
by Seifudein Adem
Luminous City, Luminous Gallery
Famed architect David Adjaye and contemporary art curator Mariane Ibrahim-Lenhardt are interviewed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. about their vision for the opening exhibit at Harvard University s new Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art
Cover : Umfundi. Afronauts series. Digital C-print. 12 12 in. 2012 Cristina de Middel.
African Conflict Peacebuilding Review

Edited by Abu Bakarr Bah, Mark Davidheiser, Tricia Redeker Hepner, and Niklas Hultin
African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review (ACPR) is an interdisciplinary forum for creative and rigorous studies of conflict and peace in Africa and for discussions between scholars, practitioners, and public intellectuals in Africa, the United States, and other parts of the world. It includes a wide range of theoretical, methodological, and empirical perspectives on the causes of conflicts and peace processes including, among others, cultural practices relating to conflict resolution and peacebuilding, legal and political conflict preventative measures, and the intersection of international, regional, and local interests and conceptions of conflict and peace.

ACPR is a joint publication of the Africa Peace and Conflict Network, the West African Research Association, and Indiana University Press. It is published twice a year.

Published semiannually

pISSN 2156-695X | eISSN 2156-7263

For more information on Indiana University Press
Transition hosts an online forum for responses to the murders of unarmed black Americans by police. The responses are raw and unedited. The following is a selection of submissions from that site. Please visit, and add your own voice.

Kangsen Feka Wakai Can t Breathe
I Can t Breathe
I can t breathe because I watched the news and saw myself, crawling on a pot-holed filled street from Monrovia to Conakry by way of Freetown. I am the other. I named my last born Ebola, but I still can t breathe.
I am Eric, Mike, and Tamir. My grandma calls me Amadou, and my friends Trayvon. I inhabit your dreams. I am the night to your day. The bad to your good, and the cry to your laughter. So I laugh to breathe. I laugh to let the air swim in, but I feel an arm grabbing me. I am humid like a New Orleans summer night. I gasp. Grasping for the Bayou s wind, yet I can t breathe.
Yemoya , abeg o!
I see you. I see her. I see him. I see them but I barely see myself in the cracked mirror on the pavement. I can t breathe.
Sir, I just can t breathe.
So I drift above like air on a Chicago Fall morning. I hug the clouds, spit out rain, shine like the sun, then I see myself lying on a concrete pavement. I smell the powder. I dive to the pile of spent shells. I hear the chorus humming. I am asleep but still can t breathe.
Kwifon , you fit see me so?
I sleepwalk through Heathrow, De Gaulle, and O Hare in a layer of soot, which all can see but me. I can t breathe.
I smoke a joint for Fela, but still can t breathe. I chew khat and read Achebe, but still can t breathe. I shave my locks for Madiba . . . I try to resurrect Sankara . . . I say a prayer in Lingala. I can t breathe, so I am booking my next trip alongside Sun Ra.

Colin Dayan Can t Breathe
Hard to write what I want to say. Knowing that my words can t even get close to righteous response.
I remember Birmingham and Jackson and being a child in Atlanta in 1963. What is happening now is different. It might be more pernicious, more lasting, less easy to combat. No Civil Rights Act can stop it.
Trying to put into words what these murders of blacks-by any white person, police or not-tell us, I sense a desire to repeat the racial tags of our American history, a litany of law that seems like a series of death announcements that always precede and continue to haunt the bodies left lying on the street losing blood unable to breathe talked over and done in.
But instead I can only say what I keep thinking about: How the most well-intentioned and reasonable folks end up abetting the state of fear and atrocity, terrifying because commonplace-easily as tactful as de Blasio s call for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time. I remember Nina Simone s words in Mississippi Goddam, Keep on saying go slow. Who has to slow down? How long is due time?
Real terror plucks us by the sleeve and comes along naturally, forever just occurring, always perceptible just at the edge of our vision. What terrorizes is this casual but calculated disregard. A terror relayed not by the dogs, hoses, and bombs in the new South of the sixties, but by the near nonchalance of legal murder anywhere in the United States today: as if these living breathing black citizens, now dead, were not supposed to go about their lives, walk down the street, stand on a corner, put their hands in their pockets, take a toy gun to the park, go down the stairway of their own building-breathe.

Metta S ma Can t Breathe
Realism: a poetics
Imagination! who can sing thy force -Phillis Wheatley
The woman s fingers are alternately
two praying mantes in mid fight alternately
the skittish legs of a rock crab blue
limbs swishing left and back to blue
mirages of packed sand untrammeled hole
Free No life forms around the small world a hole
waiting to be dug or alternately
the world is a giant fissure of blue
music classical notes plinking hole
after hole into a theory of What
What does the mantis pray for What
does the crab skirt from What
is this life A force of What
will happen to this child
I want with its child
thoughts and its ways na ve
untouched Is that na ve
to think a child I could birth
could be untouched by the world before its birth
I think I want to at the least imagine
that tiny world is somewhere I can imagine
many days with this na ve child
its kewpie face a successful imagined birth
It gets hard I will not lie to you
to keep it up The dream I will not lie to you
is hard to keep up Who is in this imagined world No one
In this invented world it is me my safe babies that is no one
Where in this world can I have babies safe
Not me not my lover we can not have babies safe
from this world The woman s fingers are alternately
praying and prayer is a fight a flight alternately
I resent this blond child and her blondish mother
and I hate this resentment but god this mother
imagines a safe world for her daughter
and she will be granted it Her daughter
in a safe world I can only imagine
God I grow weary of the imagination

Tennille Allen Can t Breathe
I am on a table. Cold ultrasound gel on my distended, pregnant abdomen. You re having a boy , the technician tells my husband and me. You re having to raise a Black boy in America is what I tell myself. My head throbs. My heart races. I can t breathe.
I am on a table. Cold ultrasound gel on my distended, pregnant abdomen. You re getting a baby brother , the technician tells my son. You re having to raise two Black boys in America is what I tell myself. My head throbs. My heart races. I can t breathe.
I walk my nine-year-old son to the bus stop, holding my two-year-old son s hand. Hearing their laughter and questions in the wind, I smile. Looking at their heads, covered by hoodies worn to guard against the fall wind, I see Trayvon Martin and wonder who will see them in their 17-year-old bodies and see threats and not boys. I wonder who and what can guard them against this threat that comes with being Black in America. My head throbs. My heart races. I can t breathe.
My baby is five now. His doctor s height and weight charts can t contain his presence. My little boy in a big boy s body. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Big boy. Big man. Big bodies. Their presence made bigger by their blackness. I see my little boy in a big boy body. How soon before his blackness makes his presence bigger? I wake up that night and watch my sons sleep. I see Tamir Rice in their rounded brown cheeks. In the morning, I drop my 11-year-old son and 13-year-old nephew off at school. I see Jordan Davis in their lean brown bodies, sliding into manhood. My head throbs. My heart races. I can t breathe.
They breathe. They will breathe.

Rae Paris Can t Breathe
Strangled * : Letter to a Young Black Poet for D. A.
A zombie is a technological soldier
ingrained in race
trying the spirits of beautiful folks like you.
A zombie moves in the same moment wrong
together with other zombies sluggish,
the apex of not feeling.
This is all to say: you are not a zombie.
Wash, rinse, repeat .
You are not a zombie.
You are tired.
What you feel is valid.
Speak this insane ass country.
Slap the shit out of privileged spaces.
Study the hiatus of hermits.
Be a moving arbor, thankful.
Meet the words of loving others.
Understand respect is not love.
Work through talking rage.
Weep blocks of wood.
This is all to say blackpoets love you.
blackpoestspeakout to and for you.
This is all to say I myself love you.
Wash, rinse, repeat .
I love myself loving you.
* All words taken from D.A. s Facebook post about the energy it takes to exist in predominantly White spaces, posted November 28, 2014.

Kellie Carter Jackson Can t Breathe
Why I Can t Breathe and Why I m Fighting Back
We benchmark history with violence. So often the watershed moments of historical record are steeped in violence. Classes are taught from slavery to the Civil War, from the Civil War to the Iraq War, from WW1 to WWII. We have classes for the time in between the wars. We teach on Vietnam and the Cold War. We teach post-colonial classes which often become nothing more than a study on the uses, consequences, and lessons of violence. Even when we teach about the Civil Rights Movement, we are not teaching about nonviolence, but about an orchestrated response to violence. Violence at the voting booth. Violence at the lunch counter. Violence that bombed churches and killed four little girls. Violence that left a bloated boy in an open casket. Violence that left a husband and father murdered in his driveway. Violence that became the War on Drugs. Violence against our struggle to accumulate wealth. Violence against our environments and health. In black America, we benchmark our oppression with violence. Indeed, violence has become the fluid that propels us along from moments to movements, from funerals to fury.
In the timely words of Franz Fanon, We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe. I m fighting back because, when they told me, It s a boy! I realized I couldn t catch my breath. I m fighting back because sometimes being black is a suffocating experience. I m fighting back with my writing. I m fighting back with my purchases. I m fighting back with what I create and produce. I m fighting back because I understand that racism is violence. I want to breathe. I need to breathe. We need to breathe. And years from now when we historians evaluate this moment, this movement, they can judge us by our responses to violence.

Charles K. Nfon Can t Breathe
I m black and proud, James Brown sings.
And we sing along, being proud at the moment, hoping it will last.
Then a black life is taken at its prime.
Taken for the crime of being black and walking, speaking, breathing.
So the euphoria of black and proud fades.
What we said loud is replaced by what we say softly or don t say at all.
And that is, I am black and afraid.
I am afraid of the police.
I am afraid of the vigilante.
I am afraid of the white man with a gun.
He s gonna shoot me and get away with it.
I am black and every stepping stone is like egg shells.
I am black and afraid.
I am black and scared I am a target for shooting.
The horns sound like music when I walk down the upscale street.
But it is not music, it is them making sure their cars are locked.
The old woman grabs her handbag tightly as I walk by.
The other crosses the street as I approach.
They look behind nervously as I stand in line at the shop.
Or walk faster if I am behind them.
They are suspicious of my color without knowing me.
They are scared of me for being me.
And so they shoot when in uniform.
Prosecute me when in robes.
Lie against me when on the witness stand,
Find me guilty when on the jury and they are always the majority on the jury.
It is here to stay if prejudice doesn t end.
I am scared but not broken.
I am gonna live on, as honest and law abiding as I can.
That much freedom I have.
And if I say I can t breathe hopefully they will listen.

Jenny Korn Can t Breathe
Digital Revelations from I Can t Breathe
I see people mocking White privilege out of ignorance, forwarding images on Facebook that state that White privilege does not exist and is a claim made only by people that dislike White individuals. I see the number of shares of this infuriating image rise to over 670. I see the increase in the number of people agreeing with the racist image below, as more and more Whites drop their likes on this image, totaling over 710.

I see your truth. Facebook has changed the way we relate to each other. Beliefs you had, I might not have learned of until we had a candid conversation in person. Now, you are emboldened by online social media. You know that when you post, you will undoubtedly find others that share your racist values. Your community, full of White privilege, will affirm that race does not matter, through their clicks, likes, forwards, shares, retweets, and mentions. In your rhetorical stance, you assert that we should not criticize cops. In reply, we state that police officers are not above reproach. We need to hold them to a higher standard than the one that allows them to go on record as dehumanizing Black men, calling them beasts and demons, and even videotaped while using banned chokeholds on a Black man gasping for his life, pleading eleven times as he was choked to death under the hand of a White police officer:
I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe. I can t breathe.
Your behavior reveals your beliefs, especially online, and now, I see who you are.

Danielle Legros Georges Can t Breathe
The impossible task of breathing
Near guns, breathing and running,
Breathing and standing as still as
Death is when it closes you off,
When it wraps its arm around you.
If breathing is living, if breath is
Spirit, what spirit lifts you off
The earth, not seeing itself so.
Death, be not proud . Behold your
-Self here as the fear you are.
As the falling stripe. As the falling

Nicholas Rinehart Can t Breathe
On lie and Eric
The Montagne plantation on the island of Martinique was founded in 1810 by two brothers for the harvest and refinery of sugar. One of the brothers, Saint-Catherine Clauzet, shared with his slaves the toils and duties of the plantation. He relied especially on the assistance of skilled foreman Jean-Baptiste and expert refiner lie. When Clauzet died in 1839, his son-in-law Marie-Louis-Joseph Havre assumed complete control of Montagne, initiating his own reign of terror.
When the plantation s sugar crop began to spoil, Havre blamed lie. The refiner was confined in shackles to the garret of a plantation building-later to be joined by Jean-Baptiste and an enslaved woman named Ang le-where he died of deprivation soon thereafter. Both Jean-Baptiste and Ang le gave witness testimony against Havre when their illegal confinement and torture came under investigation years later. The official report of Judge Hardouin s inquest was reprinted in the second volume of L Histoire de l esclavage pendant les deux derni res ann es , published by French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher in 1847.
Jean-Baptiste recalled lie s dying moments thus: lie, feeling about to die, asked for nothing but water; but I didn t have any to give him; he suffered greatly from thirst. I saw him take our jug, I heard him breathe the freshness from the jar , but it didn t have any water. Ang le, too, echoed this image: lie asked, several times, for a little water; none was brought to him . He brought to his lips his water jug, there was nothing inside and he breathed it like that!
Any glimpse of Eric Garner s quick murder immediately recalls lie s death. In the brief moment that Eric gasps desperately for breath and reaches out his tensed hand, lie grasps in vain for the empty water jug-the two images superimposed like a photographic mishap.
It may seem an epic trudge separating lie and Eric. Yet no matter the great distance between, time has a way of snapping it shut. Past and present coil in history s brutal warp.
Ren e Stout Can t Breathe

The Verdict (The Writing s On the Wall). Spray paint, acrylic paint, colored pencil, shellac, and collage on paper. 25 35 inches. 2014 Ren e Stout
I can t breathe because I was born in a Godless country. How else could my slave ancestor s bodies, minds and spirits have been used to forge a nation that will never honor what they were forced to sacrifice? We ve fought wars against enemies who are not our own, for a freedom that wasn t meant for us. No apology forthcoming and no remedy for the post-traumatic stress disorder that continues to reverberate through each new generation of those first African Americans descendants. We were never supposed to thrive here. Rosewood and Tulsa s Black Wall Street taught us that.
Damned if we do and damned if we don t: poor = lazy, successful = uppity. As a young woman, my father told me that no matter what I chose to do in life, I d have to be twice as good. I needed no further explanation. I ve been working twice as hard ever since and now I m getting tired. I m tired for all of us who ve come to the realization that you can work ten times as hard, become the president, and when it s all said and done, you ll still be treated as a foreigner on land you were born or something less than human.
Zsa Zsa Gabor slapping a cop was humorous fodder for the Tonight Show. Reese Witherspoon basically resisted arrest and James Eagan Holmes committed a movie theater massacre. All lived to tell their side, while the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice didn t matter. I m tired for all of us who find ourselves explaining to white people, how blinding rage could make someone burn a building. I channel my frustration into my work, is what I say. I stop short of telling them I may burn something myself if this madness doesn t stop . . . this feeling is just that suffocating.
Afaa Michael Weaver Can t Breathe
In the year 2014, just five years from the 400th anniversary of 1619, I offer a prayer with hands clasped as prayers go to God s dominion. I believe in God s power. I offer my hands up in the air to the dominion of human beings to reaffirm the assertion of our right to live. I believe in human intelligence and the ability to make moral choices and renounce the immoral. We must breathe because we are human. We will not tolerate the continual grinding away of black life in the bloody teeth of a system that runs on the eyes turned away from it as well as the deliberate and conscious hands on the wheels and engine of the thing. As Langston Hughes wrote, Let America be America . . .

Untitled. Acrylic and Collage on Canvas. 200 180 cm. 2011 Vitshois Mwilambwe Bondo. Image courtesy of artist and Gallery MOMO.
To Be Where We Are
Tope Folarin
J UST A FEW weeks ago I was thinking about the first time I read an issue of Transition .
A sepia-toned memory began to play in my mind: I have been at Bates College for only a week or so, and the school still seems so foreign to me that I sometimes wonder how I will escape if, no, when the urge strikes. I m walking out of my first class of the day when my English professor hands me a magazine. Read this, she says.
I am actually a senior at Morehouse College. I ve just returned from a summer working in DC, but I don t have enough money to continue my education. I am effectively homeless, but my best friend has offered me a place on his couch. On my first night there, I notice a magazine on the floor. I pick it up, begin to read.
No, I m a second year graduate student at Oxford, and I have fallen in love with literature. Or, more accurately, I have finally admitted to myself that I have always been in love with literature. I m playing around on the internet one afternoon when I come across the archives of a magazine called Transition . I ve never heard of it before. I click on a link.
After inhabiting each of these memories, drifting for a time in each one in order to determine which could possibly be real, I realized that each of these memories was real and wasn t, that-without really knowing it-I had imagined that a publication like Transition existed before I ever encountered it. And once I discovered Transition , its very presence proved to be so significant to me that the magazine insinuated itself into a few of those especially anxious moments in my life when I was frantically searching for a coherent definition of self.
It s about 2:00 am now. 2015 is only a few days old. I am thirty-three. And I have to admit it-I m incredibly tired. A few hours ago I finished up a long day at the office, and another long day awaits me, just a few hours away. But what occurs to me now, as I sit here at my desk, is that made up memories can be just as meaningful as those that aren t.
So here s another: It s almost 2:00 am. I ve just crawled into bed after a night of studying. I m incredibly tired, but before I fall asleep I decide to spend a few minutes reading a magazine that a girl I like gave me a couple weeks ago. She s pretty, and I want to impress her, so I figure I ll read a paragraph or two so I have something to talk about when I next see her. I pull the magazine from my desk. It s quite slim. It has thin pages. It feels good in my hands. I begin to flip through. In the opening pages I encounter a few names I am familiar with. Wole Soyinka. James Ngugi. Chinua Achebe. And I encounter many more names that are new to me, names that, soon enough, will be almost as familiar to me as my own.
By the time I discovered Transition -whenever that was-I already knew that I would have to find myself in transition. Not in one place or another. But in the process of moving.
Of course I read more than a few paragraphs. I read one article, and then the next, and the one after that, and as I read I find that I am less interested in the content of each article-not because the content is uninteresting, because it is, very much so-but in the layout of the magazine. Each distinct story seamlessly follows the next, a treatise on Mobutu Sese Seko after a piece about the N gritude movement after a profile of heavy-metal-loving youths in Botswana, implying a kind of African disaporic continuity-or coherence-that I have yet to witness or experience in the light of day. And the more I read, the more I begin to understand why I find this layout, the inevitability of it, so compelling: in this magazine, for the first time in my life, I sense a validation, even an endorsement, of my story. My father is Yoruba and my mother is Igbo; I was born in the U.S. and my family moved so often when I was growing up that I spent much of my childhood trying to forget and remember names. I have no idea how the various parts of my life are supposed to fit together. But this magazine-is it a general interest magazine? An academic journal? Something in between?-its very structure reminds me that I am part of something larger than myself. It is also telling me that I can be whole.
I thumb back to the front of the magazine. I want to know who came up with this. His name was Rajat Neogy. He was from Uganda. I close my eyes, try to imagine what he was like.
It is 2:00 am. Rajat is lying in bed, sleepless, thinking about his place in the world. Perhaps he is exhausted after a long day at a job he only finds intermittently fulfilling. Perhaps he has no idea what he should do with his life. He closes his eyes, and his imagination begins to fashion something new into existence. A magazine. For a moment he sees everything: this magazine will outlast him. It will not have a fixed identity. It won t be here, and it won t be there. It will always be on its way somewhere. It will always be in transition. Transition . He decides this is a good name, the only appropriate name.
Transition . By the time I discovered Transition -whenever that was-I already knew that I would have to find myself in transition. Not in one place or another. But in the process of moving. This was my only option as a child. And this is where I have become most comfortable as an adult.
Tomas Transtr mer, the great poet who won the Nobel Prize in 2011, whose poems first appeared in English in Transition (Issue 9, 1963), once wrote a few lines that I recite to myself in times of distress and great joy:
Task: to be where I am .
Even when I m in this solemn and absurd
role: I am still the place
where creation works on itself .
This is in many ways a typical Transtr mer stanza. A profound sentiment sheathed in prosaic language. Its message seems instantly accessible, but if you pause for just a few moments and allow the language to rumble inside you, a deeper meaning blooms. In this case, it is the utterly fantastic, life-affirming possibility that creation is still happening, and not just in some abstract inconceivable corner of the universe. No, Transtr mer says, wherever we are, creation is happening inside of us.
And this is what I have always felt, even before I had the language to express myself.
And this is what Transition was saying to me when I first encountered it, whenever that was.

At the beginning of 2012, I sent a story I d recently written to Transition . It was published a few months later, and soon afterward I learned that my story, Miracle, had been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. And then a real-life miracle-I won.
Wherever we are, creation is happening inside of us.
Since then, I have had the great fortune of traveling around the world to speak about my work. Abeokuta. Berlin. Boston. Cape Town. Hay-on-Wye. Houston. London. Minneapolis. New York City. Port Harcourt. My time on the road has altered me in ways I have yet to fully comprehend. But one thing remains unchanged-wherever I am, I am surrounded by people who do not know what to make of me.
One reason I know this to be true is because of the way they ask me the question. Every writer with an African-sounding name has heard it at least a thousand times- What is African fiction? -yet whenever this question is lobbed in my direction it sounds like an accusation. A few months ago I finally came to understand that-at least in my case-this question is actually a clever disguise for another question; a question that is sometimes posed, but oftentimes isn t, a question that eventually announces itself even if my interlocutor is too shy or courteous or apathetic to ask it:
Whatever African fiction is, or isn t, how can you be writing it?
At first I could not help but agree. Indeed, how can I write African fiction? I ve spent the bulk of my life in America. I speak no African language. I ve probably eaten more Chinese fried rice than jollof rice in my life.
Recently, though, inspired by a mischief that takes hold of me each time the first question is asked, I have taken to answering the second instead. I nod, flash my most literary smile, and say Because I am.
A period of bewildered silence always follows. And sometimes I wonder: do they think I misheard the question? Or that I m simply daft? Or that I m some kind of pithy genius, a six-and-a-half-foot tall fortune cookie, a long-legged Yoda?
But this response- because I am -is the only one that will do. I am writing African fiction because I am. Because I exist. Because thirty-five years ago my parents fell in love and traveled to the U.S. and had me. Because my parents offered me their memories before I had many of my own. Because my consciousness was formed in a milieu in which Nigeria was the shining center of the world. Because I have carried a version of Nigeria around inside of me for as long as I can remember, even if the Nigeria within me bears little resemblance to the Nigeria that my parents left in the 1970s, or the Nigeria my cousins inhabit today.
And yes, I am also writing American fiction. And African-American fiction. I am writing fiction that has yet to be named.
In other words, I am still the place where creation is working on itself.
The same applies to each of the stories you are about to read. Creation is working in each of them.

As I was reading each of the wonderful stories in this issue, I found myself thinking of them as a collective-nine chapters in a compelling text. These stories are about the formation of diaspora, I thought to myself. Indeed, one story features a protagonist who dreams of America, and another features a character who has just arrived in America, and yet another is about slaves in early America. But what of the other stories? They refused to conform. Another theme scrolled into view: these stories are actually about the lingering effects of colonialism. I thought about the story in which a character in a refugee camp proclaims to anyone who will listen that help is on the way. And the story about a village that is trapped between warring factions. And the story about rumors and insurgents set in Nigeria.
This response- because I am -is the only one that will do. I am writing African fiction because I am.
But what about that funny story bursting with nostalgia and episodes of preadolescent lust? And the seemingly futuristic story about the dancer from New York City who has leased her talents to someone else? And the story about the life-hardened police officer who has grown weary of his surroundings? Where do they fit?
Eventually I decided that no theme was expansive enough to comfortably contain all of these narratives. What I needed to do was find a theme that applied to most of the stories. Then I d squeeze the rest of them in. I d get away with it; I knew I would.
My pursuit of a theme had become more important to me than the stories.
I should have known better. In a way, this has happened to me my entire life. I have always been the story that is eclipsed by a theme, especially if the theme is African, or African-American, or Nigerian, or Nigerian-American, or Yoruba, or Igbo, or even, inevitably, Black. I ve been squeezed into countless themes my entire life. And everyone has gotten away with it.
What does it mean if I say to you that creation is working on itself inside me? Well, it means that I am made up of the stuff of the universe, like everyone else. Stardust and starlight and words and images and America and Nigeria and Africa and who knows what else. It also means that these familiar components have assumed new forms within me, that to spend some time with me is to glimpse possibilities that have yet to manifest themselves in our shared reality. Of course the same applies to you.
So, too, with these stories. I went back and re-read them. And, just as I suspected, I had missed many things within each of them. I had enjoyed them, and they moved me, but I did not recognize creation working on itself in each one.
So I will refrain from summarizing these stories, or categorizing them. But I will offer a suggestion. Read each of these stories as slowly as you can. Savor them. You will notice connections between them, of course, and that s entirely fine. That should happen. Just try to remember that each story is not just a part of a whole, but is also whole in itself.
After you ve finished the last story, place the magazine aside, lie down somewhere, and close your eyes. Who knows? In time, you might notice that something new is blooming inside you.
Louis-Armand Garreau
translated from French and introduced by Sarah Jessica Johnson
L ITTLE ENOUGH IS known about Louis-Armand Garreau. His fictions tell us that he was an anti-slavery Frenchman and intimate examiner of antebellum Louisiana. His patchy biography reveals a man whose political writings necessitated a life of on and off exile from France. By the 1830s, Louisiana was a known and fairly stable haven for French and francophone refugees of many backgrounds; political outcasts were common contributors to the multilingual literary world of the newly American state. Garreau s short story, Bras-Coup , translated here for the first time into English, is a graphic and nuanced depiction of plantation slavery in New Orleans, capturing the multi-ethnic, multilingual, immigrant-saturated city and its environs.
Published in France in 1856, Bras-Coup retells a popular local legend based on actual events of the 1830s: Then, a slave named Squire escaped from a plantation and lost an arm in the process. He continued to evade the police in a standoff that lasted years. Quickly dubbed le Bras-Coup or The Severed Arm, Squire and his supposed encampment of outlaw negroes near the city resisted capture for enough time to reanimate intense local fears of slave revolt. Additionally-and importantly for this literary history-the continuous newspaper reporting of the prolonged stalemate built up a legend that would go on to be retold by late-nineteenth century authors George Washington Cable and Lafcadio Hearn. The former would feature Bras-Coup s story in two chapters of his magnum opus The Grandissimes: A Tale of Creole Life (1880), while the latter would respond to Cable in his newspaper column with a report meant to set the historical record straight, titled The Original Bras Coupe (1880).
Garreau sets his own Bras-Coup story in 1836 and publishes it in 1856 in his Parisian feuilletons paper, Les Cinq Centimes Illustr s . The story was written in France between two of Garreau s sojourns in Louisiana and presents a complicated picture of slavery at a time which, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, witnessed the uncomfortable collaboration of the peculiar institution with the police state and municipal law. Bras-Coup asks the reader to question their own conception of a fugitive, someone running from the law, and also their assumptions about antebellum freedom and state persecutions. Cleverly, the story resonates with mid-nineteenth century French politics, without naming them.
This short work of fiction extends the literary life of Bras-Coup , whose story captured the attention and imagination of nineteenth-century New Orleans. More broadly, Garreau s Bras-Coup expands the rich literary tradition of maimed fugitive slaves. From Three-Fingered Jack in Jamaica to Makandal of Haiti, Bras-Coup joins the ranks of these legendary historical figures whose revolutionary actions have already been fictionalized in classic works, from Obi; or, the History of Three-Fingered Jack (1800) by William Earle, to El Reino de este Mundo (1949) by Alejo Carpentier. Like these other figures, Bras-Coup s missing appendage seems to heighten his threat to society while also embodying the truth that all Slavery is maiming.
Moreover, the story is an example of a large archive of mostly ignored Louisiana writing in French. Garreau is exceptional in this archive as a Frenchman, but he tells an American story, the likes of which were written by many French-speaking US citizens of Louisiana. Much of the hard work of finding and editing these stories is currently done by the unrelenting scholars of Centenary College s French department in Shreveport, Louisiana. Their collections are published under their press, ditions Tintamarre , and include novels, short fiction, folk tales and poetry.
If nationality is not determined by language, we can read Garreau s story and other such works as American literature. Of course, the question of what to do with these pieces in the academy, of which departments to shuffle them between, cannot be answered quickly. As a scholar of American literature with an interest in the ever multilingual South, I am left with a sentiment I cannot shake: if we are ever to study these American stories, they must be translated . It is a question of audience and inclusion that returns me to the paradox that characterizes Garreau s literary career. In 1856, his Bras-Coup could only be published in France (imagine the rail on which he would have been run out of New Orleans). Yet ironically, Louisiana was where he found refuge from persecutions he faced in France for his writing. In the United States he witnessed a darker, more quotidian suppression and violence than what he knew in France, and so he sought to write about it where he could. Garreau s work on Louisiana reminds us that American literature can and does appear in archives outside of our geographic and linguistic expectations.

Decision to Leave; Magnolia Plantation on the Cane River, Louisiana. 2013 Jeanine Michna-Bales.
In 1836, on the edge of the Bayou Saint-Jean, the canal that connects New Orleans with Lake Pontchartrain, there was a small wooden structure in which an old Irishman and his wife had established a tavern and a grocery.
This Irishman, named Hinclay, did a good deal of business with the negroes of the neighboring plantations, to whom he sold-at great profit (and in secret)-tafia, whiskey, brandy, as well as (in the light of day) ham, oil, fruit, seeds, and so on.
One Sunday, the Hinclay store was crowded with its usual black clientele. All the daylong, the picaillon and escalin coins of the slaves poured onto the grocer s counter. But the day s profit had not left the grocer in a more accommodating mood; for, that night, having surprised a negress at the very moment she was snatching two or three bananas from a bunch hanging from the door, the old Irishman took her by the arm and shoved her into the store. There he overwhelmed her with insults, pummeled her with blows, and tried to make her pay the sum of all the month s petty thefts of which he claimed to be victim.
This negress belonged to Monsieur D-, of whom we have spoken in another account. She was called Elsie. A young woman in her twenties, she was in the late stages of pregnancy. The unhappy woman cried and begged the grocer to let her go, promising to send him all the money he wanted the next day.
Hinclay finally allowed her to leave, giving her twenty-four hours to pay him twenty dollars (his estimate of losses for that month), while threatening to go and complain to Monsieur D- if the sum was not accounted for in the allotted time.
It would be difficult to imagine the screams and pleas of the unfortunate slave.
Elsie left; but less than an hour later, her husband, another slave of Monsieur D-, entered the tavern. He was a man of thirty, six English feet tall, bull-necked with an enormous head, a back slightly bowed, and gifted with terrific strength. He was regarded as the best slave on the plantation. Moreover, he came from the state of Virginia, and it is from there that one typically acquires the slaves most highly valued in Louisiana. Active, industrious, suited to all forms of work, with a gentle nature, they rarely give themselves over to the vices through which other slaves often seek deplorable distractions. They are, on the other hand, of an incorrigible stubbornness.
Elsie s husband was named Jim, and had until then been considered to be the most gentle and least offensive slave on the ten neighboring plantations.
-Mouch (Mista) Hinclay, he said to the grocer with complete contriteness, Elsie rob you, is it true?
-Yes, my boy, and it has probably happened ten times before, for now I strongly suspect her to be the culprit of many a theft that I have suffered over many days.
-Oh! Dose other times, it wadn t her, for sure, me tell you!
-It is her who I found; it is her who will pay.
-You ask her twenty dolla ?
-Twenty dollars, as you say.
-Believe me, Mouch Hinclay, we don have money like dat.
-Too bad for her!
-You see, my good masta , she pregnant, and so she want all dat she see.
-The princess is not so difficult to please.
-But course, she no thief.
-Anyways, have you come here to pay me? said the grocer, growing impatient.
-Listen masta , me bring you ten dolla ; dats all me have right now!
-I want twenty dollars, or I will denounce her to Monsieur D-.
-Oh! No, don t do dat, kind masta , the boss likely to kill Elsie.
-She had better pay me then.
-Me have two prize chickens; Me give you dem, if you want!
-No, it must be my twenty dollars, Hinclay repeated harshly.
-But we don t have it, masta ; you know me, right? You know me a good slave, me no liar, no drunkard for sho , no slacker! So! Me give you de ten other dolla next month.
-I want them on the spot.
-You is mean, Mouch Hinclay, you no good at all for de po slave.
-So leave me alone then; I am no good for the poor slave when they steal from me, that s true!
-One word more, Mouch Hinclay. If de boss hit Elsie for you, true! . . . you be sorry later, me tell you dat!
-Are you threatening me, you scoundrel?
-You no want ten dolla ?
-With two chickens who grow like turkeys?
-You gonna get Elsie beaten?
-Well! Do it, Mouch Hinclay, if you can. Me no ingrate, go on!
Jim seemed calm as he left, but his limbs were trembling and his eyes were bloodshot.
The next day, the twenty dollars had not appeared on the Irishman s counter. Jim had been truthful. All of his savings amounted to no more than ten dollars.
Following through on his threat, Mister Hinclay went to complain to Monsieur D- of the numerous thefts to which he had fallen victim, and he attributed these thefts to Elsie, whom he had surprised the day before robbing him of a whole bunch of bananas.
The plantation owner called for the accused. She lowered her head without daring to defend herself.
-Well! said the planter. Wait here, Mister Hinclay, and you will see for yourself how well I know how to punish my thieving slaves.
Elsie, as we have said, was pregnant. This circumstance required certain precautions that one would not normally use. Two other slaves dug a hole in the ground so that the stomach of the unhappy negress would not support all the weight of her body while she was stretched out on the dirt. To make impossible any writhing of her body from the pain (which could have been dangerous in her state), her four limbs were attached to four stakes driven into the earth, and, so stretched like a cross, her stomach filling the hole made for that purpose, Elsie was stripped of her clothes down to the waist, and given fifteen lashes of the whip.
It would be difficult to imagine the screams and pleas of the unfortunate slave.

Stopover; Frogmore Plantation; Concordia Parish, Louisiana. 2014 Jeanine Michna-Bales.
When the torture had ended, the negress, all bloodied, was untied and made to stand up. She was in a ghastly state: foam bubbled from the two corners of her mouth, a cold sweat bathed her face. Her chest rose with effort as she let out indescribable groans. Two negroes held her up.
The Irishman Hinclay, ashamed of what he had done, slipped to the back of the camp and disappeared.
As soon as Elsie could speak, she cried out, struggling:
-Let me go! I ll die me! I ll go throw my head in the canal! Let me go!
It is common for all slaves, in moments of great vexation, to threaten their masters with suicide. The former understand well that it is in the interest of the latter to put a stop to this plan, which the negroes themselves have the least desire in the world to execute.
But for a long time now, Monsieur D- had warned his slaves that the first of them to utter this threat would be forced to go through with it in spite of themselves. In hearing the words wrested from the miserable Elsie by her torture, the planter approached her, frowning.
-What did you say? he demanded, full of anger.
-I ll die me! the slave exclaimed again.
-Repeat that! cried her master.
-Yes! repeated Elsie while vainly trying to escape the grasp of those holding her. Yes, I go kill me and my baby!
Monsieur D- grew livid, went inside the plantation house for an instant and came out almost immediately with a pistol in each hand.
-Let go of her! he said to the slaves holding Elsie. They obeyed. The negress took off running as fast as she could towards the canal.
Many of her friends were prepared to follow her; Monsieur D- stopped them with a word:
-Stay there! No one move!
All the negroes looked at each other with dread.
The planter marched quickly, close on her heels.
The canal was a fairly long distance from the plantation house; by the time Elsie arrived there, she had calmed down a bit, and, what s more, the instinct of self-preservation had awakened in her; she stopped.
The foot of her master pushed down on her head and sent her back into the middle of the canal. Finally, the miserable slave did not reappear.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she perceived her master advancing towards her-his pistols still in his hands. A glacial shiver ran down the young woman s spine; she suddenly remembered all the cruelties for which they reproached the planter; she covered her eyes as if to escape a terrifying nightmare.
-Ah, well! said Monsieur D-, who arrived at that moment.
The slave did not respond, but she glanced at the greenish water of the canal with terror, and turned away in horror.
-Hurry up! said her master in a ferocious voice. You threatened to throw yourself in the water, and I m waiting.
-Mercy! Elsie murmured then, letting herself fall to her knees on the levee, holding out to the planter her pleading hands.
-I am fed up with these foolish threats. I want it known that they do not intimidate me. Go on!
The planter approached, and the butt of his pistol grazed the negress s forehead. The glacial touch of the steel made Elsie jump; she stood suddenly and found herself face to face with her master. The physiognomy of the latter was so somber and so fierce that the poor woman drew back a step. Monsieur D-, his arm still extended, advanced one step to match hers. The slave stepped back again, but she was on the edge of the levee; her foot missed, and she slipped into the canal, letting out a terrible cry.
She disappeared for an instant into this miry water, but her efforts soon brought her back to the surface, and, with all the energy of despair, she tried clinging to the grass of the bank; but the foot of her master pushed down on her head and sent her back into the middle of the canal. Twice Elsie s utmost efforts brought her back to the shore, and twice her executioner shoved her back into the depths.
Finally, the miserable slave did not reappear. The bubbling of the blackish water indicated the spot where the unfortunate woman still struggled in her death throes at the bottom of the bayou. Then, the canal stilled, regaining its sickly green appearance, and it was done!
The planter put his pistols back into their holsters, and calmly returned home where his dinner awaited him. He seemed uneasy. He did not believe his conscience to be stained by any crime, but he found himself one slave the poorer! That was it!
The same night, the grocer Hinclay heard a knock on his door. He had already been in bed; he cautiously peeked out the window to see who had come to disturb him at that hour.
A large negro stood facing the house.
-Mouch Hinclay, said the negro in a gloomy voice, Elsie . . . she dead! Watch out! It me, de n g Jim, who tell you dis. Adieu!
And the slave disappeared into the darkness.
The next day, Monsieur D- searched in vain for his negro; Jim had left the slave quarters.
A week later, in the middle of the night, the Irishman s house went up in flames. Negroes and even farmers from five or six neighboring plantations came to aid the grocer, but no one could find Hinclay or his wife near the burning house. Still, they tried with all their might to put out the fire, the flames of which they finally extinguished before the house was completely ruined. And then they entered the Irishman s grocery, whereupon they found two bodies stretched out near the counter: it was the Hinclays. Their faces were livid, eyes coming out of their sockets, and their necks were ringed with a black mark, showing clearly enough that they had been strangled.
Otherwise, nothing had been disturbed in the grocer s store, and one could see that theft had not been the motive for the crime.
Jim s name spread quickly through the astonished crowd.
Monsieur D- was equally convinced that Elsie s husband was responsible for the death of the Irish couple. He knew the boundless energy of his slave, and the planter, in spite of his own indisputable nerve, began to fear for his own life. If Jim had so cruelly taken his revenge upon Hinclay, what ever could await the killer of poor Elsie?
Monsieur D- returned home posthaste, and, disturbed all the way by even the least noise, threw fearful anguished glances in every direction.
He entered his room and, counter to his habit, closed all the doors and windows, but not before inspecting every corner. Just as he was getting into bed, Monsieur D- suddenly blanched. Trembling, he stopped as if petrified: His frenzied eyes were fixed upon the bedpost above his head.
The handkerchief that Elsie wore in her hair on the day of her death was nailed with a dagger to that bedpost. There was nothing to misunderstand: it was a death threat addressed to the planter.
He knew the boundless energy of his slave, and the planter, in spite of his own indisputable nerve, began to fear for his own life.
The very next day, all the nearby residents formed a hunting party to find the runaway, le n gre marron . Over fifty hunters, armed to the teeth, followed by many slave-catching dogs, spread out through the cypress forest across a twenty-mile radius. Yet it was impossible to track Jim down. Authorities in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes were warned of a runaway negro capable of murder and arson. His description was given, and a 250 reward was promised to whomever could capture the criminal or reveal his whereabouts.
These efforts were futile. For three months there was no news of Jim.
Even so, Monsieur D- was not lulled into a false sense of security. He knew that a rebel negro was capable of anything. Fear of even the most horrid torture would not stop him from seeking the vengeance he desired. And so the planter was on guard night and day.
One evening, as he returned from his usual inspection of the slave quarters, he was stopped by a little mulatto boy, who said:
-Massa! Me saw Jim!
-Jim? said Monsieur D-, reaching for his holsters.
-Yes! Me see him real quick! Him slide thru da canes just like a snake. Me hid hind da tree yonda, an him no see me.
-Good! said Monsieur D-, bringing the little mulatto boy with him so that he would not speak to anyone else.
The planter called the overseer and gave him his instructions. The overseer returned to the quarters, and with no pretense of alarm resumed his usual task of surveying the property. Then, when the quarters were calm, he slipped away to the yard of the plantation house where the planter waited with two or three of his most trusted slaves.
Three hours passed without a sound to interrupt the silence of the night, but soon enough they heard, near the wooden fence surrounding the yard, a scraping noise so faint that it might have been mistaken for the whistling of the breeze through the trees, or the fluttering of a night bird s wings. At that instant, there appeared above the fence a large black head. Each of the lookouts held his breath, frozen in his hiding place.

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