Sad news in the writer’s world. Binyavanga Wainaina, a deeply influential Kenyan writer and LGBTQ activist, has passed away at age 48, according to NPR. He was the founder of Kwani? a literary magazine and loose collection of Kenyan writers that bounded together to foster creativity, passion, and fostered the work of Kenyan young writers. He also won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002 and became widely known for his written piece, “How To Write About Africa”, cheekily instructing Western writers how to do just that. The full piece is below:
“In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.”
Image Via The Star
It was first published in Granta and became a sensation, often used as a descriptive shorthand to show the laziness Western writers use when approaching Africa in their work. The author came out as gay in 2014 and since then, had been an outspoken for LGBTQ rights. He publicly revealed his sexuality in an essay titled “I Am A Homosexual, Mum” a piece often hailed as extremely brave considering homosexuality is illegal in Wainaina’s country of Kenya. The piece earned him widespread recognition, including a nod from Time, who named him as one of the most influential people in 2014.
Unfortunately, the next few years were not kind to him. Wainaina suffered a stroke in 2015 before he was diagnosed with AIDs in 2016. Wainaina continued to push ahead, announcing he was getting married in 2018 but succumbed to his illness nonetheless on May 21st, 2019. For his part, Wainaina announced he did not fear death and was the happiest he could have been due to finding love.
Image Via BOMB Magazine
Wainaina is truly was one of the most influential writers, not just in Kenya, but to the world. His passing will be very much missed, robbing the world of a great talent far too early. Nonetheless, his work will live on through the community that supported him, carrying on his legacy of love.
Essence magazine will once again become a fully black-owned publication for the first time in almost two decades. Richelieu Dennis, the founder of Sundial Brands, a personal-care products company, is set to acquire the publication, though the sale has not yet gone through. Dennis intends to “serve and empower women of color. This will give Essence a platform and a voice to serve its consumers, which are women of color. They have allowed us to invest into the business so that we can bring in the infrastructure and resources.”
Richelieu Dennis. | Image Via the New York Times
According to a statement from the magazine, Essence will keep its executive team in place, which is entirely made up of black women, including president Michelle Ebanks. Dennis intends to give the executive team an ownership interest in the business as well.
In the statement, Ebanks said:
The acquisition represents the beginning of an exciting transformation of our iconic brand as it evolves to serve the needs and interests of multigenerational Black women around the world in an even more elevated and comprehensive way across print, digital, e-commerce and experiential platforms.
Essence has been in publication for 48 years as a monthly lifestyle magazine focusing on fashion, pop culture, music, and black life, holding a majority-black audience. The magazine holds an annual music festival in New Orleans—Essence Fest—which was featured in 2017’s Girls Trip with Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish. It was headlined last year by powerhouse musicians Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, and Chance the Rapper.
Melody Spann-Cooper, chairwoman of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, welcomed Essence’s return to an all-black-owned company, saying:
I am a believer that when we own our media companies they represent an authentic voice. We have an opportunity to control our media and tell our own story and that is often muted when traditional media companies that represent the African-American culture are owned by someone outside of an African-American’s hands it loses something. This is historical.
Dennis was raised by a single mother who read Essence, and his four daughters also read it. “I’m very focused on giving back, investing and growing my community. This is a continuation of my quest to do that.” Essence‘s motto is “Black women come first,” and Dennis intends to live up to that motto.
Now is the time of year when eating feels a non-stop Olympic event. From traditional dishes to first times at trying new plates, now is the time to have a little fun in the kitchen and get, dare I say, artsy.
Image Via Amazon
Of course, leave it to Vogue to help us enjoy food in a fashionable way. As one of the biggest magazine publications in the world, the masters at Vogue have recently released a brand new book, Food in Vogue, containing notable images and writing on food from their pages over the years.
Image Via Vogue
Renowned photographers like Irving Penn and Tim Walker are shown in a way that is more stylized than mouthwatering, but the photos are beautiful and inspiring nonetheless. Jeffrey Steingarten is a long-time food columnist for Vogue who also graced the book’s pages. He also graces the judge’s table on the popular show Iron Chef America.
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying the effect Hefner’s work has had on both the literary and publishing worlds. In memoriam of Hugh Hefner’s life and career, we’ve put together a list of some of the most notable authors and interviews published in Playboy to prove that yes, some people really do read it for the articles.
I had so much fun making the featured image that I couldn’t not also make a full cover. Enjoy. / Image Via The New Yorker, Photoshopped by yours truly.
If you’ve got a subscription to Playboy, be sure to check out the Playboy Archive for digital copies of magazines ranging from 1954 to 2007.
1. An Interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image via Wikipedia
In 1964, just after he had won the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat down with Alex Haley for a series of interviews, which were then edited together for the magazine’s January 1965 issue. The interview is the longest interview King gave to a publication. Ever. King speaks of his observations of the Civil Rights Movement (at that point) and the first time he remembered experiencing racism. He was forced to stand on a bus, not too dissimilar to Rosa Parks’ story, which later inspired him to stage a bus boycott.
Vonnegut first appeared in Playboy in a 1973 interview. Most notably, though, the magazine was the first to publish an excerpt from Armageddon in Retrospect, Vonnegut’s first posthumous collection. The collection features several new short stories, a letter Vonnegut wrote to his family during his time as a prisoner of war in World War II, drawings, and a speech written shortly before his death.
During the first years of Playboy’s life their budget only allowed for reprinted stories, and in 1954 they published a serialized version of Fahrenheit 451. ‘The First Night of Lent’, Bradbury’s first original story for the publication in 1956, was among the first previously unpublished stories the magazine sent to print.
Atwood’s first foray into Playboy was in 1991 with the publication of ‘The Bog Man’. ‘The Bog Man’recounts the discovery of a 2,000 year old man during a trip between a Canadian student and the married archaeology professor she is in love with. Atwood’s other works published in Playboy include The Bad News (2006) and The Age of the Bottleneck (2008).
Published in 1971, Marquez’s short story ‘The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World‘ is about a ridiculously handsome dead body that washes up onto shore and enchants an entire village. If you’re unfamiliar with Marquez’s work, I absolutely recommend A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.
8. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels
Image via Ian Fleming
According to John Cork, founding member of the Ian Fleming Foundation, “by 1960 Ian Fleming, James Bond, and Playboy magazine became a nearly synonymous cultural force, truly united with Playboy‘s publication of [Fleming’s story] The Hildebrand Rarity.” Fleming’s 11th book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was published simultaneously as a hardcover in Britain and serialized in Playboy from April to June 1963.
Dahl’s only non-children’s book, My Uncle Oswald, was based on ‘The Visitor’, a story written for and published in Playboy in May of 1965. You wouldn’t think a beloved children’s author would fit in with the publication but Dahl describes main character Oswald as “the greatest fornicator of all time”, so. Dahl’s first original story for Playboy was ‘A Fine Son’, published in 1959.
Heller refers to his short story ‘Yossarian Survives’(published in Playboy in 1987) as a lost chapter of Catch-22. The story describes Yossarian’s training at Lowry Field Air Force base in Denver, Colorado. Fans interested in reading this ‘lost chapter’ can find it in Catch As Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings.
Palahniuk is no stranger to getting published in Playboy, but I’m including him for a reason very close-to-home. When I was twelve-years-old, rifling through my best friend’s stepfather’s magazines, I found what would eventually become one of my favorite short stories. Palahniuk’s controversial short story ‘Guts‘was first published in the March 2004 issue of Playboy. ‘Guts’ is part of Palahniuk’s short story collection Haunted: A Novel.
12. Hunter S. Thompson, father of Gonzo journalism
Image via Rolling Stone
‘The Great Shark Hunt‘graced Playboy‘s pages in 1973 and was later published in a book of autobiographical essays of the same name. Over his career, Thompson’s work appeared in Playboy on a number of occasions.
In the January 1984 issue of Playboy, Capote retold some of the most outrageous stories from friend and playwright Tennessee Williams’s life. It wasn’t the first time Capote was featured in the magazine. He was also the subject of a 1968 interviewabout his writing career, the role of Jewish writers in the American literary scene, and his views on capital punishment.
14. An Interview with Joyce Carol Oates, author of 56 novels, and a lot more.
one of the most prolific writers in America. Her critics even complain that she writes too much. She has written more novels than Nobel laureate Saul Bello, more short story collections than John Updike, more books of essays than Norman Mailer, more words of poetry than Emily Dickinson and more plays than Chekhov. Critic Harold Bloom considers her “our true proletarian novelist.”
Featured image via The New Yorker, improved via my own photoshop abilities.
Last Sunday, September 17th, countless authors, publishers, poets, and publications descended upon Brooklyn Heights for the annual Brooklyn Book Festival, featuring stalls, discussion panels, and readings.
Brooklyn Book Festival / Image Via Brownstoner
It can seem overwhelming when you consider (or see with your own eyes) the sheer number of both writers trying to get their start, and of journals and magazines looking for submissions. We want to make it a little easier, so we’ve rounded up some of the best literary journals present at the festival and where you can find them. Even if you’re less about writing and more about reading, all of these journal publish both online and in hardcopy. They all feature amazing new writing from around the world!
Hailed as ‘beautiful, compelling, irresistible’ by Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz, this stunning publication features fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Diaz added ‘Slice will knock you right out. In the best way possible.’ The submission window opens again October 1st.
Many amazing writers have had their work appear in Tin House, including Dorothy Allison, Stephen King, Miranda July, Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Pablo Neruda, Sharon Olds, Donna Tartt…the list goes on and on…and on. But don’t let that deter you! You too could be among the greats. Tin House often runs themed issues and are accepting submissions now for their beautiful online and print journal under the theme ‘Candy.’
A Public Space is an independent magazine of literature and culture founded in 2006. They partner with Grey Wolf Press to publish books by contributers and are accepting submissions from October 15th to April 15th. They publish both online and in glorious hardcopy.
One of the most respected fiction journals in the USA, ASF aims to publish ‘work by emerging and established voices: stories that dive into the wreck, that stretch the reader between recognition and surprise, that conjure a particular world with delicate expertise—stories that take a different way home.’ They publish triannually, and are open for submissions all year round.
Belladonna is a feminist avant-garde collective founded in 1999. Since then, they have published over 300 female writers with the aim of promoting writing by women. Join their mailing list for news of their next submission window!
Black Sun Lit are looking out for the little guy, aiming to introduce, promote, and support both emerging and experienced authors whose work has little representation—or minimal exposure—in a reading world largely governed by commercial publishing.
Electric Literature’s website states their mission is “to expand the influence of literature in popular culture by fostering lively and innovative literary conversations and making exceptional writing accessible to new audiences.” Electric Literature is “interested in [non-fiction] pieces that examine the intersection of the literary experience and other creative endeavors: film, fine art, music, video games, science, tech, architecture, etc.”