Namwali Serpell is a Zambian writer currently teaching in the US. She was born in 1980 in Lusaka, and has made a prominent name for herself in the African writing sphere. She is my hero, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about her, and her new book.
Serpell was educated in the United States, having moved there when she was 9 years old with her family. She is a Yale and Harvard almnus, with a PhD in American and British fiction. Serpell is the first Zambian to win the Cain Award for African writing (She won in 2015 with her submission of ‘The Sack’) The “sack” of the title, according to Serpell, derives from a terrifying dream she had at 17, “and I didn’t know if I was on the inside or the outside”. It also has political implications: “I was studying American and British fiction, and [another graduate student] was studying African contemporary fiction, and her theory was that any time you saw a sack in African literature, it was a hidden reference to the transatlantic slave trade. I was kind of writing my story against that.”
Namwali has graced many prominent spaces with her writing and wit, including the The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and
The Guardian. Now, she is on tour to celebrate the release of her new darling (highly anticipated by me!) “The Old Drift”.
On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called the Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis.
In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, an Old Drifter named Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles his fate with those of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This error sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between these three Zambian families, as they continually collide over the course of the century, into the present, and beyond.
From a woman covered with hair and another plagued with endless tears, to forbidden love affairs and fiery political ones, to homegrown technological marvels like Afronauts, microdrones, and viral vaccines – THE OLD DRIFT is a gripping, unforgettable debut novel. (Taken from this website)
The Pre-Pub praise for the Old Drift is nothing but positive and reassuring. The book is available for pre-order in the US and the UK, and we here at home cannot wait for it to hit our shelves. Namwali Serpell is my icon because she has proved to the little girl inside me, that it is possible. Often we are told that we should be the ground-breakers, the first ones the achieve what only we can achieve. But in Namwali I find confidence, and hope, that I can do the same. That the little girl who quietly dreamed of writing for the world to see, sharing the stories only I could tell, could be like Namwali. Writing this now for you, in my own small way is a stepping stone towards that goal.
I hope in Serpell we Zambians see another child from home that we can be proud of, that we can support and love unconditionally. She is my icon, and I hope yours too.
Namwali will be coming to Zambia to talk about The Old Drift as part of her book tour. She will be in Zambia on the following dates:
14th June | Lusaka Book Club
19:00hrs Lusaka, Zambia
15th June | Bookworld Manda Hill
14:00hrs Lusaka, Zambia
We hope to read and discuss her work soon!
Muskaan Saxena is a homegrown, Lusaka based writer. A writer of short stories, poetry and reviews, she is a passionate lover of Literature and Langauge and an aspiring author and playwright. She can best be described as a creative, outgoing flower child.