Jalada Africa publishes Ngugi wa Thiong’o fable in 33 languages

Translation Issue cover

Pan-African writers’ collective, Jalada Africa has published the short story, Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ: Kana Kĩrĩa Gĩtũmaga Andũ Mathiĩ Marũngiĩ by eminent author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o in over 30 African languages; effectively making it the single most translated short story in the history of African writing.
Ituĩka Rĩa Mũrũngarũ is a previously unreleased fable by the revered scholar and author and serves as Jalada Africa’s Translation Issue: Volume 1. It is a vast body of collaborative work by professional and amateur translators plus language enthusiasts from 14 African countries.

The story is available at www.jalada.org in Kikuyu, Ahmharic, Dholuo, Kikamba, Lwisukha-Lwidakho, Ikinyarwada, Arabic, Luganda, Kiswahili, Afrikaans, Hausa, Meru, Lingala, IsiZulu, Igbo, Ibibio, Somali, isiNdebele, XiTsonga, Nandi, Rukiga, Lugbarati, Shona, Lubukusu, Kimaragoli, Giriama, Sheng, Ewe, Naija Languej, Marakwet plus French and English.

The aim of this unique four-month-long project was to generate renewed interest in publishing in local languages and increase access to locally relevant content. It comes hot on the heels of Jalada Africa’s September 2015 anthology, The Language Issue, which celebrates language through fiction, poetry, spoken word, visual art and essays, in 23 African languages as well as English, French, Polish and Mandarin.

Despite long-running conversations on the need for publishing in indigenous languages on the African continent over the past five decades, writing and translations remain minimal and the little that exists continues to rapidly decline. Since our Languages Issue, we’ve deliberated on the best ways of making writing in our languages a continuous activity. We were convinced the previous anthology did not capture all the facets of languages we were interested in. There are millions of speakers in African languages and not many writers in African languages. Why? Can this be changed?” – Jalada Africa.

The Translation Issue is a confirmation of the boundless possibilities in literature and digital publishing. Jalada Africa believes that language is a reservoir of the past, a motif of the present, and a tool for imagining futures.

“The cruel genius of colonialism was to turn normality into abnormality and then making the colonized accept the abnormality as the real norm…Mother tongue first; then add to it, as necessary, that’s the way of progress and empowerment. So [Jalada’s] actions will empower Africa by making Africans own their resources from languages – making dreams with our languages – to other natural resources – making things with them, consuming some, exchanging some. The moment we lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea. The moment we accepted (or being made to accept) that we could not do things with our languages was the moment we accepted that we could not make things with our vast resources.” – Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Jalada Africa intends to periodically publish a new volume of The Translation Issue featuring one story of no more than 3000 words that’s been previously unpublished. Much like on Volume 1, writers and translators across the continent shall be invited to submit and edit translations in their African language of knowledge and/or study.

The ultimate goal is to have each story translated into 2000 African languages.

For more information or queries:
Moses Kilolo // Jalada Africa, Managing Editor
+254 727 476 071

Press reviews of Lesleigh books


It’s really encouraging (and enlightening) to get feedback from readers and critics. Here is what the Star and the East African had to say about two of our titles.

A romance out of place amid songs of the seventies : Belonging in Africa by Jo Alkemade


An anthology diverse in theme, content : Fifth Draft

If you are a critic or blogger and you’d like to read and review any of our books, kindly get in touch with us info@lesleighkenya.com for reviewer’s copies.

Books available at The Magunga Bookstore. The prices are very smiley-friendly.

Should women writers and authors glam up?

Sexy legs in black high heel shoes

Everybody says first impressions matter. So we will just throw it out here. Can your clothes sell your books? Can a woman who cares about her hair and makeup more than is considered necessary sell more books than plain Jane? These two questions should be considered silly from this point till the end of the post (because we are not so superficial *ahem* over here) but we must all agree that they raise a point that we all like to ignore.

Most women writers are team natural and like to look a certain stereotypical way. They want to look creative. They want to look like they did not put too much thought into what they are wearing. Rough on all edges. Clean dirty. Shaggy dadas with deep spirits and hungry souls and sad eyes. No? No. Okay.

Women in other creative careers go an extra mile to sell themselves and their products. Models. Musicians. Actresses. They have great talent to rely on but they have teams upon teams to make sure they look absolutely fantastic.

Chrissy Teigen (forget literary credibility here and just focus) released a cook book recently and her photo on the cover makes her look as edible as the little food (by Kenyan standards) on it.  Pre-orders by her fans made the book a No.1 new release on Amazon even before its release. It also debuted at No.1 in the New York Times bestseller list. And the averagely hot, trendy, swimsuit model is planning on doing a second book already. People like to look at her and now by extension they like to look at her book(s). She is capitalising on something here.

Then… Chimamanda and her fantastic sense of fashion. Where do we even start because that woman never ever looks like she was caught unawares and did not have time to get something sewn for her immediately? We will finish this paragraph knowing that her appearance has contributed to her success in a big or small way depending on your judgement of talent and literary merit.

In 2014 at the Port Harcourt literary festival in Nigeria, a member of the audience at a panel discussion was scandalised by how some of the female Africa 39 authors were dressed. She said they did not put any effort and it was a shame that they did not “consider” what to wear before “parading” themselves in public. They were celebrities at that time. They should have looked like celebrities. But they “just looked shabby.”

Below is a list, dear literary mama. Miss I Ron Care. We will just drop some random names here and you decide…yay or nay?

  1. Taiye Selasie
  2. Khloe Kardashian (hihihihihihihihi Strong Looks Better Naked)
  3. Enhe…Kylie and Kendall Jenner (Yes, the shudrens wrote a sci-fi novel that flopped but hey… where is yours?)
  4. Good old Jilly Cooper
  5. Jhumpa Lahiri
  6. Lily Mabura
  7. Gillian Flynn
  8. Yvonne Owuor
  9. Patricia Cornwell
  10. Chimamanda
  11. Kathy Kyuna (hihihihihihi)
  12. Jackie Collins
  13. Terry Gobanga
  14. Zadie Smith
  15. Muthoni Likimani
  16. Ukamaka Olisakwe
  17. Marilyn Monroe (Just google and see)
  18. Kuki Gallman
  19. Caroline Nderitu
  20. Check check yourself



10 reasons ‘why’ publishers ignore you

A lot has been said by publishers and writers about submissions and responses to queries and all those things. But even after writers being told off by publishers about their ‘bad’ writing that does not warrant any form of response and the writers swallowing their pride, going back to their work and trying again…the publishers still do the ‘I can’t see you’ dance. Why?

  1. Mr. Publisher does not check his email.
  2. Mr. Publisher checks all his email and marks all of it as read.
  3. An auto response or a standard email is still a response Mr. Publisher. They have them in America. Well, Mrs. Writer this is not America *insert o-belly-belly-o laughter*.
  4. Mr. Publisher does not like your poetic, liberal, shocking, immoral first sentence. And why are you trying to be clever when you know Mr. Publisher does not read anything else except his inventory for text books and he therefore can’t tell good fiction from a decimal point?
  5. Mr. Publisher has ‘peoples’ he wants to ‘work’ with and you are not those ‘peoples’.
  6. You have ideas? No! No! Stahp! Headache for Mr. Publisher!
  7. There is no money to respond to queries neither is there money to read submissions neither/nor is there money to publish you because the government is really taxing Mr. Publisher. No money!
  8. Kenyans do not read at all at all at all at all at all at all at all at all at all…
  9. You are not as talented as you think you are. You still need a few more years (on top of the ten 10 years of writing you already have) and…experience in the ‘publishing arena’ of course *shifts eyeglasses*
  10. You are trying too hard and fast. Mr. Publisher does not like it hard and fast. Kuja polepole.

Now that you know…please free yourself from the idea that it is only the ‘big’ houses that can make your dream come true. If they say no, find another way. Do it yourself if you have to. Others have gone before you and succeeded.

“No fear, destination darkness.” – Rasmus –

“There is light at the end of the tunnel.” -An Idiom-

Review of Tim Grahl’s Webinar by Jo Alkemade



The other day, I attended a one-hour free webinar presented by Tim Grahl, author of Book Launch Blueprint, The Step-by-Step Guide to a Bestselling Launch and similar books. Tim spent the first 50 minutes answering participants’ questions regarding the best way to launch their books, and the last 10 minutes promoting his own books.

I signed up for the webinar feeling somewhat skeptical. The title reminded me of How to Become a Millionaire in 10 Days—overblown promises preying on people’s hopes and dreams without a chance of delivering on them. I was wrong.

Tim is a pleasant speaker who strikes a sincere note. The questions he discussed were definitely in the realm of those both new and seasoned authors might ask, ranging from: “Are audiobooks worth publishing?” (Yes. Apparently this is a fast-growing market) to “What is the best way to connect with new readers?” (A complicated matter with no one definitive answer, but many things to try).

I was particularly interested to read Tim’s shortlist of the five most common mistakes made by authors which hamper their own book sales:

1. No belief in their own book

2. No enthusiasm for their own book

3. No plan to promote the book

4. Not starting soon enough with promoting

5. Not maintaining momentum

I found myself guilty of no. 2, and immediately understood Tim was right: I am undermining my success with my lackluster attitude! Whoa! But… no. 2 is also a direct consequence of no. 5, which does not apply to me in the least. In fact, I have been working with published editions of Belonging in Africa since 2012, so there is no question of giving up too soon. I love my book, I am delighted by the transitions it has gone through to reach its current totally cool state, but I am also worn thin from being so intimately involved with the story for this many years. I definitely feel ready to shift my focus to new, challenging, fresh writing projects. Finding a balance is my challenge.

What I took away from the webinar is that selling books is complicated. There are no simple solutions that work for the personalities of every author and their various book topics. It was also good to be reminded that trial and error is the only way to move forward. I picked up some new ideas which I will be sure to try. And I do feel newly energized by Tim’s enthusiasm for the subject of book selling, which proves his point.



Always the Money


Empty as a pocket


No person in their right mind ever woke to an aha-moment shouting “I’m going to be rich! I will write a book!” The reality is, unless their name is Stephen King or Madonna, an author will be lucky simply to break even with their publishing adventures.

Lesleigh and I have put any thought of making money on “Belonging in Africa” out of our minds for now. Publishing, promoting, advertising… we are consistently as thrifty as we can. Because we want to keep the selling price as low as possible. Because we want readers. Lots and lots of readers. We would give the book away if we could.

But here’s the problem: this is not a sustainable strategy. Even the most frugally printed and marketed book costs money, which must be recouped if the venture is to continue. If authors and publishers are ever to be able to quit their day jobs and focus fully on the writing… a great deal of money must be made.

We are not there yet. But we dream big.


♥   Jo

Lesleigh author Jo Alkemade revists Nairobi ahead of her March 13 book launch

It has been different, coming back to Kenya this time. For the first time since my school days in the 70s, I am here not solely to enjoy the many joys of this amazing country, but on a mission: to promote Belonging in Africa. As a writer who works alone, and a person who generally lives a solitary life, I am bracing myself for activities that are far outside my comfort zone. Excited, yes. Anxious, definitely.


Lelseigh's Nduta and I at the August 7 Memorial Park.

Lelseigh’s Nduta and I at the August 7 Memorial Park.

I look at Nairobi with different eyes now. The traffic gridlock that has all but paralyzed the streets of the city has had consequences. Where downtown used to be the place everybody gathered (Thorn Tree Café! Movie theatres! Bookshops!), it is now a place to be avoided. Malls and entertainment have sprouted up in residential areas. Those who live in Karen, Westlands or South B, rarely venture beyond those boundaries.

So how should a book best be united with its potential reader?

Let’s talk on Saturday February 21st at my first Meet the Author event at the August 7th Memorial Centre in the Nairobi CBD!


Meet the Author!

MEET THE AUTHOR series 2 square FB finished

Lesleigh Kenya is pleased to welcome all of you to meet the author of Belonging in Africa, Jo Alkemade, as she tells us a bit about her book and her journey in writing it- a perfect chance to get the copy of the book and have it signed!

Saturday February 21, 2015

August 7 Memorial Park


Directions to August 7 Memorial

August 7


Saturday February 28, 2015

Pawa 254

5.00- 7.00PM

Directions to Pawa254 pAWA 254


Saturday March 7, 2015

Silole Villa

From 2.00pm

Directions to Silole

The best way to get to the villa is through the Masai Gate (south end of the Nairobi National Park; follow the signs). Otherwise drive down the Magadi Road on your way to Ongata Rongai, turn first left off the tarmac (signboarded to Nazarene University & Masai Lodge). Then just keep going to the end of the murram road (6 km) until you reach Masai Lodge.  The turn off to Silole Villa & Silole Cottage is on the right immediately before the Masai Lodge Gate. If coming by public transport, as soon as you get off the matatu/bus there are very nice and reasonable cab drivers and bodas who can get you to Silole.



And Change Beckoned

Jo with book

Holding my copy of BIA

I am Jo, a middle-aged white woman author who lives in a tiny rural community in the high desert of New Mexico, USA. I write – and do pretty much everything else – in silence and solitude.

Linda and Nduta, my agents/publishers at Lesleigh, are young Kenyan women, passionately engaged with the burgeoning Nairobi art scene, on the verge of launching careers and lives in that crazy high-energy metropolis.

On the surface of it, you’d be hard pressed to find a less likely partnership.

But the truth is, we are in razor-sharp alignment: my book Belonging in Africa should be published, read, and discussed in Kenya.


Nduta and Linda

We started by seeking publication via the traditional route of established publishing houses, but were soon forced to acknowledge defeat as we wilted under their stranglehold on the book market.

Unchallenged positions allow terms to be dictated with impudence, leaving authors voiceless, and even locking out agents (legally contracted representatives!) altogether.

One day the three of us woke up in our various corners of the world, and cried: ENOUGH! We stood tall, shook off the shackles of dinosaur practices, and committed to forging a new way.

The book is here. Lesleigh is bringing much needed change to a fossilized publishing establishment. Change is happening.