Last week a collection of poetry and fiction from LGBTQ African writers was quietly released. “Walking the Tightrope” features work from writers across the continent and the Diaspora. It took a long time to get published, as initial calls for submission asked for poetry, but popular demand caused the selections to be widened to include prose and photography. This suggests that there is an interest, or at least a supply of works by LGBTQ Africans telling their own stories. “Walking the Tightrope” is the latest addition to the growing number of works by African writers that focus on gay stories and issues.

 

Penalties targeting LGBT Africans

(The LGBT Update)

Back in 2007, Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko won the Caine Prize for African Writing with her Jambula Tree,” a story about lesbianism. Arac de Nyeko was hailed for tackling a subject about which most Africans have been in denial.

 

The first “Queer Africa” anthology of new and collection fiction won the Lambda Literary prize and was so successful that there will be a second one; the call for submissions just closed last month.

 

Somali-British author Diriye Osman highlighted the intersecting struggles of gay and lesbian Somalis in his collection of short stories, “Fairytales for Lost Children.”

 

Last year, Chinelo Okparanta released “Under the Udala Tree,” a coming of age story about a lesbian girl set in Nigeria during the civil war. On the most popular African literary sites, there will usually be one or two stories featuring LGBT themes.  

 

Clearly, LGBT fiction from African writers is on the rise. The existence of such works of literature is a testament to the bravery of writers, some of whom may face risks regardless of their sexuality. The African continent still has a long way to go to fully accepting and respecting the rights of LGBT individuals. This growing body of fiction could be a step in that direction; it can show that the pen is mightier than the sword and aide in raising awareness and empathy among African readers.

 

Do you think LGBT African fiction can help mitigate homophobia in African countries? Leave a comment below or let me know your thoughts on Twitter @rafeeeeta