Africa in Our Lives: Ainehi Edoro

Ainehi Edoro is a new Assistant Professor at UW-Madison in the fields of African Cultural Studies and English. Edoro teaches and conducts research on African literature, political theory, and literature in social media. She is also the founder and editor of Brittle Paper, a leading online platform dedicated to African writing and literary culture. In this AFRICA IN OUR LIVES, Edoro discusses Brittle Paper and why she feels African literature is so important.   

Ainehi Edoro, founder of Brittle Paper and UW-Madison Associate Professor

Field of Study:
African literature

Benin City, Nigeria

What brought you to Madison?

The opportunity to teach in one of the best institutions in the country.

Tell us an interesting fact about you.

I am an online publisher. In 2010, I founded what has become Africa’s go-to website for news on literature and literary culture, Brittle Paper.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time growing up in Nigeria? 

I loved buying books from roadside used-book vendors. These unsung men and women selling books displayed on bare earth overlaid with tarp sustained me through my teenage years when I began to develop an avid love for reading. It’s how a teenage girl from a poor, working class Nigerian family could afford a rich and expansive reading experience. These book sellers would have everything, from books written in Edo language to 18th century British poetry. One of my most memorable finds is George Eliot’s, Middlemarch, a novel that still has a special place in my heart.

What inspired your passion for African literature?

African literature is pretty amazing, and I wanted to be able to convey what was amazing
about it.

Tell us about your experience developing Brittle Paper and why you chose to devote the blog to African literature. 

Brittle Paper has been a remarkable 8-year journey. When I decided to make the switch from a general interest literature and philosophy blog to an Africa-centered literary site, the idea was to provide a space where African literature and literary culture could thrive. I wanted a meeting place for African writers and lovers of African literature. I also wanted to create a place where we could speak about African literature openly and freely without feeling bound to a certain kind of discourse of erudition and respectability. I wanted readers to see how fun, sexy, and cool African literature really is, and I think we have succeeded in nurturing such a space.

What do you think is the biggest challenge African writers face on a global scale?

Publishing infrastructure. Western cities—New York, Paris, London—are still the mecca for African writers. There is this perception that if you don’t get your work published by big publishing conglomerates located in the west, you don’t get a chance at being successful as a writer. We need to change that narrative by providing training opportunities for writers, investing in independent presses located on the continent, and building innovative pathways for distribution.

What is the most important message you try to convey to your students regarding African literature?

African literature is a treasure trove of formal and aesthetic innovation.

What book should everyone read?

Everyone should read Jennifer Makumbi’s, Kintu. It’s a dark family drama that spans generations. It might very well be the next Things Fall Apart!

What should African Studies alumni look forward to in regard to your current and future research? 

They should look forward to a good mix of writing about African literary form and aesthetics, in addition to writing on literature and social media.

Published by Aberdeen Leary