By Paul Chika Emekwulu
On one hand, if we say that writing a book is not necessarily about what we were taught in school, the phrase “not necessarily” is there to protect the interest of those things we weren’t taught in school.
On the other hand, if we had said that writing a book is not necessarily about what we weren’t taught in school, the phrase “not necessarily” is there to protect the interest of those things we were taught in school.
The phrase “not necessarily” is of interest because it is doing a job. It is needed because it is there to represent the interest of most school books, and a few general interest books in form of novels etc. in addition to general interest books sold in bookshops.
There wouldn’t have been a need for this article but for incessant utterances from people recently at a bank, and a business center in my hometown. The later and the most recent encounter took place just a day before my trip to the Anambra State Ministry of Education, Awka. It was time for the state’s yearly book review that places books in all its nursery, primary, vocational and secondary schools.
You can be a part of this book review process as an author or as a publisher. I decided to participate as an author. In a previous review I participated as a publisher.
Now, in preparation, I visited my usual business center. It was there that I ran into a young woman who said she was a teacher at a local neighborhood primary school in town. She caught a glimpse of some of my correspondence as they were being printed off the computer and started asking questions about book adoption. She said that the mother is a writer and had in the past participated in a previous book review exercise in Anambra State. She wanted to know my areas of interest as far as the book review exercise is concerned. I told her that in my letter of intent to participate in the book review process, among others I submitted for review, two books about the Igbo Language.
Her next question was: “What’s your discipline?”
I’ve heard this question umpteen times, not once, not twice, the most recent at a bank and now at a business center.
“Writing a book shouldn’t necessarily be about discipline,” I said. People always relate writing a book to one’s discipline in college or university. What a wrong mindset! At times writing a book is about what should be, it doesn’t matter who is writing.
On American TV I’ve seen a nine year old boy talk about a cookbook he has written. The title of the book is Cooking with Justin Miller: Recipe for Kids (And Parents) and the author is Justin Miller. When this was happening, Justin was still in grade school not even high school let alone high school or university. Young Justin didn’t study Home Economics or Catering.
On the young woman’s part she said that her mother’s major in the university was Linguistics and so did three of her mother’s friends. Her mother is probably the only one among the three who presently has written a book or ended up being a writer.
In this part of the world we are not used to children writers or juvenile authors. So, to most of us writing books should be the preserve of adults. To her and perhaps some other people, if you majored in Linguistics, the next assignment is writing an English or an Igbo novel as the case may be. My reaction is different. Non sequitur (Doesn’t follow).
Let’s at this point consider these premises:
Premise no. 1:
Who among us will not like to see his or her name on the front of a book as the author? The answer is most, if not all of us.
Premise no. 2:
Who among us will not like making a living writing books? The answer is probably most, if not all of us.
Premise no. 3:
Who among us will not like to write themselves out of poverty? The answer to this question is probably not different.
Premise no. 4:
Who among us will not like to avoid 9-5 job and proceed to early retirement so that when most people are retired and tired you will be retired but not tired? The answer is nobody.
Now, if the answers above are true, why is it that we don’t have all kinds of books (fiction and non-fiction) in our bookshops and in our libraries?
Let’s follow the above up with an assumption which actually is another premise, the fifth premise. The premise is that the public is reading what is being written and what is being published. In other words, a strong reading culture exists. If this last premise is true, the result is a book galore because the literate community is busy churning out books in different fields. Unfortunately, that is not presently the situation of things.
Why is this argument going on? It is going on because Nigerian publishers, unlike their US counterparts for example, are not aggressive enough in encouraging book writing in different areas of the society. It is going on because people always relate writing a book to one’s major in college or university. It is going on because we attach too much importance to paper qualification, that writing books now becomes solely a matter of what we were taught in school.
With only what we were taught in school it is difficult to write more books and when we don’t write more books it becomes even more difficult to have books of general interest. It is my strong belief that in addition to other factors, the absence of general interest books is one of the main reasons why the reading culture has deteriorated so much.
Based on this argument therefore, who should write a book on the popular African time since African time is not a syllabus item in any school subject at primary, secondary or university level? It probably only mentioned in passing and not treated as a full-fledged topic or syllabus material. Presently, there are no books on African time. So, which discipline does African time belong to? Management? If so, why is it that there is no book on the topic of African time?
Is it because, for most, if not every African family, African time is the last-born child and that is why we cuddle it so much, that is why we love it so much, and that is why there is no book on it because nobody talks bad about that loved so dearly.
Anyway, I still believe very strongly that writing a book is not necessarily only about what we were taught in school but also about what we weren’t taught in school. On the back of that, at times, writing a book is a matter of what should be. It doesn’t matter who is writing.