I'm honoured to have been included on Clutch Magazine's List of 100 must-read books by black women authors. Definitely in great company - other books listed include Sula (Toni Morrison), Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston), The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives (Lola Shoneyin) and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou). Check it out at the link below :)
‘Precious’ is a tale of mothers and daughters, of a struggle with racial identity and a journey to find a sense of belonging. Precious Williams was just ten weeks old when her Nigerian mother arranged for her to be fostered by a 57 year old white woman, beginning a story of growing up black in a white community, of struggling to find an identity that fits, of deciphering a childhood full of secrets and dysfunction. Precious’s talk will include readings from her acclaimed autobiography and an audience Q&A session followed by book signings. To book, email email@example.com, or telephone 020 7525 1570.
Dispatches from our Festivals around the worldHome » 2012 » September » Precious Williams: The warmth of Nairobi people
PRECIOUS WILLIAMS: THE WARMTH OF NAIROBI PEOPLE
September 16, 2012 · by hay-festival · in Nairobi
Precious Williams is the daughter of a Nigerian princess who was brought up by a white foster mother in West Sussex, England. Her memoir is Precious.
‘Ben Okri said of last year’s Storymoja Hay Festival, ‘Iit’s an almost magical experience to be here.’ I disagree – it’s not almost magical, it is magical to be here.
It’s my first time in Kenya and my first taste of Nairobi is the relentlessly cheerful street-hawkers weaving through traffic and trying to sell us everything from squirming puppies to vibrant chiffon scarves. Arriving at the Storymoja Hay Festival I’m dazzled by the enthusiasm (and politeness) of the dozens and dozens of schoolchildren milling around the National Museum grounds. One young woman runs up to me and asks me if I’m Precious from the Academy Award winning movie. I tell her I’m not that Precious, I’m another Precious. I hear her murmur to her friend, “They made her look sooo different in the film”.
A young man in a smart school uniform asks me to sign a copy of my book for him. Only problem is there’s no sign of my book at the festival’s book stall. Bloomsbury, my publisher, shipped copies several weeks ago but they’re not here. Will they not be on sale at all then? “These things take time,” I’m told. (The books appear the following day and appear to have sold out within a few hours. Nobody can say Kenyans don’t read books).
If I had to describe the vibe of the festival in two words I’d choose the words authenticity and accessibility. It’s almost as if there is something missing – the self-consciousness and the slight (or not so slight) pretentiousness you often encounter on the UK literary scene. Not a sign of that here. At the Storymoja Hay, in a single afternoon, you’ll see school kids under the tutelage of a local artist called Boneless, practising dance steps to blaring hip-hop under the blazing mid-afternoon sun. And members of Nairobi’s gay community discussing their lives. And Jung Chang chilling in one of the lounges, wearing a huge floppy hat and a warm smile.
Favourite moments for me are a panel where Nigerian writer Jekwu Anyaegbuna says of writers too concerned with winning literary prizes, “If they are not shortlisted, what will they do? Go and commit suicide? ” And Lola Shoneyin’s session where she tells us, “Sometimes you meet random people who are so mental that you just have to put them in a book.”
The people we meet in Nairobi, random or otherwise, are no madder than people anywhere else in the world. But they are far warmer.’
They are labelled "looked-after children" but it might be more accurate to call them "written-off children". There are about 65,000 children in care in Britain today. A care system branded by an all-party report as riddled with weaknesses, with residential care "not fit for purpose" for children who go missing.
Although his parents urged him to study medicine, Jimmy Weiskopf dropped out of college and in the 1970s moved to Colombia, where he eventually began to focus on a different kind of elixir. The New York City native became an early advocate for the hallucinogenic plant mixture ayahuasca. For centuries, Amazonian Indians have been drinking ayahuasca, also known as yaje a combination of the ayahuasca vine, tree bark and other plants to achieve a trancelike state that they believe cleanses body and mind and enables communication with spirits. Weiskopf, who has published a 688-page tome about ayahuasca, was once among a tiny coterie of foreigners using the potion, but these days he has lots of company. (Read "Colombia's Drug Extraditions: Are They Worth It?")
Word of ayahuasca's healing properties has brought a growing number of New Age tourists from the U.S. and Europe, some of whom pay thousands of dollars to stay at jungle lodges where Indian medicine men guide them through all-night ayahuasca rituals. Sting and Tori Amos have admitted sampling it in Latin America, where it is legal, as has Paul Simon, who chronicled the experience in his song "Spirit Voices." "It heals the body and the spirit," says Eustacio Payaguaje, 51, a Cofán Indian shaman who regularly treks to Bogotá to lead weekend ayahuasca ceremonies in the city. "It is medicine for the soul." (Read "The Year in Medicine 2008: From A to Z.")
But as the subtitle of Weiskopf's 2004 book, Yaje: The New Purgatory, suggests, ayahuasca is not for the faint of heart or stomach. Drinking a few ounces of the sludgy brown liquid usually leads to a violent purge from both ends of the body. Beat Generation novelist William Burroughs, seeking to get high on Colombian ayahuasca in the early 1960s, described hurling himself against a tree and barfing six times. At a recent ceremony on the outskirts of Bogotá, most of the 40 participants packed sleeping bags, water bottles and rolls of toilet paper. Sting, in a Rolling Stone interview, made clear that ayahuasca is no party drug. "There's a certain amount of dread attached to taking it," the singer said. "You have a hallucinogenic trip that deals with death and your mortality. So it's quite an ordeal. It's not something you're going to score and have a great time on."