British-Nigerian-American author Sarah Ladipo Manyika has written short stories and essays published in Granta, the Guardian, the Washington Post and Transfuge, among others. She is the author of two novels, In Dependence and Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun. Manyika serves as board chair for the women's writing residency Hedgebrook and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Her third book, Between Starshine and Clay: Conversations from the African Diaspora (Footnote Press, January 31, 2023), is a collection of interviews with Black thinkers, including Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, Wole Soyinka and Michelle Obama, on topics such as race, decolonization, systemic inequalities and the climate crisis.
Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:
One-of-a-kind conversations with inspiring and diverse figures of our age brought to us by an author whose skill and friendship with each allow us to see the person behind their public profile.
On your nightstand now:
Who's Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Andrew S. Curran. This book provides a fascinating window into the origins of racism.
Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami. I'm really enjoying this book for its simplicity and its upbeat approach to the craft of writing.
What Is Africa to Me: Fragments of a True-to-Life Autobiography by Maryse Condé. It's been many years since I first read Condé's novels so I'm excited to be returning to her work and this time through autobiography.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Any of the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren. What's not to love about a girl who does exactly what she wants when she wants?
Your top five authors:
Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, John Berger, Lucille Clifton and Wole Soyinka.
These are all writers that I admire for their language, for their courage and for the way their works have enriched the literary canon.
Book you've faked reading:
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. J'ai lu un tout petit peu en français, just enough to fake having read the whole thing.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Toni Morrison's The Nobel Lecture in Literature, 1993 published by Knopf in a pocket-sized red book. This is such a profound meditation on the complex truths surrounding narrative--its dangers and its power.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Roy DeCarava: A Retrospective. DeCarava was such an incredible photographer of people. I particularly love the tenderness with which he captures people's necks, arms and hands. This book accompanied a 1995 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, with photos spanning the late 1940s to the 1990s.
Book you hid from your parents:
As a child, I remember reading the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome with a flashlight under my bedcovers when I was supposed to be asleep.
Book that changed your life:
Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present. Edited by the great Margaret Busby. This fat, thunking book, bursting at the spine with stories from across centuries, nations and literary genres, was a revelation to me. Prior to reading this book, I didn't know that there had been so many stories written by Black women. This first anthology and the subsequent volume, New Daughters of Africa, in which I'm thrilled to have a piece, are my literary taliswomen.
Favorite line from a book:
"...where blackberries grew, tasting so good and happy that to eat them was like being in church. Just one of the berries and you felt anointed." --Beloved by Toni Morrison
Morrison's word work is, quite simply, sublime.
Five books you'll never part with:
Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present. Edited by Margaret Busby
James Baldwin: Collected Essays. Toni Morrison selected the contents for this volume.
The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution: A Cookbook by Alice Waters
Lucille Clifton: How to Carry Water, Selected Poems edited with a foreword by Aracelis Girmay
Home by Toni Morrison
These are books that I frequently re-read or reference.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Blindness by José Saramago. This is a powerful, ever-timely story about power, greed and courage and how individuals and governments respond to crisis. It is, at its core, about what makes us human.
Five favorite book titles:
Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Tastebuds by Yemisi Aribisala
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous
Why Do You Dance When You Walk by Abdourahman A. Waberi