Author: Ugandans are not reading enough

Ugandan novelist Goretti Kyomuhendo (L) reissued her 20-year-old novel Whispers from Vera (R) in August 2023.

Summary:

  • Goretti Kyomuhendo, a Ugandan novelist and director of the African Writers Trust, has written four novels. She expresses concern over the limited interest in literature in Uganda, attributing it to issues like skills, finances, and distribution challenges. Kyomuhendo advocates for making books more accessible and fostering a reading culture, suggesting initiatives like a monthly “stop and read” day.

Goretti Kyomuhendo, the accomplished Ugandan novelist and founding director of the African Writers Trust (AWT), boasts a collection of four novels.

Her literary works include “Secrets No More” (1999), which clinched the Uganda National Literary Award for Best Novel in the same year. “The First Daughter” (1996) marks her debut publication, followed by “Waiting,” released by The Feminist Press in New York in 2007 and later translated into Spanish in 2022. Additionally, “Whispers from Vera” was initially published by Monitor Publications in 2002 and later republished in August 2023 by AWT.

Kyomuhendo expresses concern over the seemingly low reception of literary works in Uganda, attributing it to a deficiency in skills, financial constraints, a lack of distribution networks, a weak reading culture, and the prevalent preference for lucrative educational books by publishing firms.

In her words, “Publishing is a business, and for the sector to progress, it necessitates adequate resourcing in terms of financing and skill development.” Addressing the critical role of distribution in the book sector, she emphasizes the importance of reaching readers through bookstores, libraries, book fairs, and e-commerce platforms like Amazon.

Regarding the tepid enthusiasm for reading, particularly fiction, Kyomuhendo asserts that cultivating a reading habit from a young age is essential. She criticizes the current school system for emphasizing reading solely for exams, fostering a habit that prevails among many Ugandans. To change this, she advocates for a shift in mindset towards reading for pleasure.

The National Book Trust of Uganda notes that educational books have witnessed the most growth in the publishing industry. To improve the reading culture in Uganda, Kyomuhendo suggests making books more accessible through public spaces like libraries and promoting reading as an exciting activity. She proposes initiatives such as designating a monthly “stop and read” day, creating conducive reading spaces, and organizing engaging reading activities with author participation.

Kyomuhendo’s novella “Whispers from Vera” narrates the tale of 29-year-old Vera, determined to find Mr. Right after several failed relationships. As a high-achiever, Vera strives to balance a husband, a family, and a successful career. The story unfolds when she meets Eric, a charismatic corporate executive, bringing elation to Vera’s life. Kyomuhendo reveals that the novella has been well-received, and she is currently working on a sequel.

Additional Report by The EastAfrican

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