BOOK’D| POETRA ASANTEWA

Poetra Asantewa, as Ama Asantewa is known is a Ghanaian poet, writer and performing artist. She is an alumnus of the acclaimed Farafina Writing Workshop hosted by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. You can listen to her work here.

Poetra Asantewa interview on Afoma Umesi

In this interview, she discusses making reading a part of her daily routine, her connection to classic literature and the one book that changed her perception of mental illness. Enjoy Poetra Asantewa’s interview.


1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and Invocation to Daughters by Barbara Jane Reyes. I’m almost always reading two or three books at a time.

2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?

I have always been a reader, largely because of my father and uncle – who both had home libraries; reading was part of my childhood culture. The first book I remember ever reading by myself was actually a series of 24 books from the Peter Rabbit series by Beatrix Potter that my aunt gave to my brother and I as a New Year gift when I was five or six.

The first book I remember ever reading by myself was actually a series of 24 books from the Peter Rabbit series by Beatrix Potter that my aunt gave to my brother and I as a New Year gift when I was five or six. Click To Tweet

3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)

If I’m still struggling by the third chapter, au re voir – language is way too *layered* to be subjecting your readers to a-hard-to-grasp-formulaic experience.

language is way too *layered* to be subjecting your readers to a-hard-to-grasp-formulaic experience. - @poetra_asantewa Click To Tweet

4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?

I read daily, it’s become part of my routine – in the mornings and before bed.

5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?

I’m very married to my bed, so mostly that’s where I do my reading. I would say that the weirdest place I have ever read a book would be underneath my bedroom door as a child. Although, I had a curfew, I always wanted more time to read, so I would lie at the mouth of my bedroom door and read with the light seeping through from the living room.

6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?

A good book introduces me to new worlds and reintroduces me to old stories via new storytelling. It is empathetic, makes me feel and sympathize even when I don’t relate to it. A good book is brave, breaks the rules and still wins my heart.

A good book is brave, breaks the rules and still wins my heart. - @poetra_asantewa Click To Tweet

7. Who are your favorite authors to read?

I have a new favourite every other month. Current favs are– Miranda July, Carmen Maria Machado, Koleka Putuma and Clarice Lispector.

8. What is a book or who is an author you wish more people knew about/read?

Elif Shafak, Amu Djoleto’s Money Galore (I’ve read this book at least three times, and each time I was glad it existed), and José Eduardo Agualusa.

9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?

I always end up re-reading a book when I listen to it. So paper & E-book wins.

10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?

Fiction relies on non-fiction. Non-fiction feeds on fiction. A never-ending ouroboros. I love both.

Fiction relies on non-fiction. Non-fiction feeds on fiction. A never-ending ouroboros. I love both. Click To Tweet

11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)

Contentment; it’s like being in a happy place and I never want the moment to end. And then I get inspired to create something that will make someone feel just like that. And then I get depressed when it doesn’t happen right away.

12. Do you reread books? Why?

Usually, I don’t. I haven’t reread a book in a long time. But the last time I reread a book it was because I had forgotten parts of it and needed to remember to judge the book again.

13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?

Elif Shafak’s Honor.

14. What was the last great book you read?

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.

15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?

Poetra Asantewa interview on Afoma Umesi

José Eduardo Agualusa’s My Father’s Wives, Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu.

16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?

Not embarrassed to have read, I just really disliked Last King of Scotland by Giles Fodden.

17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?

Nostalgic. My father had a Shakespeare collection – both the books and the movies. We watched and read and used to have conversations about it. I associate it with my father, besides that, doesn’t do much for me now.

How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature? Nostalgic. My father had a Shakespeare collection – both the books and the movies. - @poetra_asantewa Click To Tweet

18. How do you feel about book clubs?

I’ve never been part of a book club, although the idea of it is very communal, and communal is always good. I’ve however been a part of several discussions on books and short stories and I’ve always loved the space to compare and fangirl and deconstruct a piece of writing.

19. What book(s) have remarkably changed your perspective on a given subject or life in general and how?

When I was 14 or 15 I read Sidney Sheldon’s Tell Me Your Dreams – the only picture of mental illness I had at that time was dirty looking and spaced-out men and women on the streets of Accra. That book not only fascinated and educated me on mental health as a young girl, but it also introduced me to a completely new subject – multiple personality disorder.

Tell Me Your Dreams felt like it had been well researched, it felt like the author CARED about the subject at hand, and most importantly she succeeded in transporting the reader into the head of the protagonist. And it’s a valuable approach I caught on to early as a reader  

 20. How do you choose books to read?

Recommendations from people whose opinion I value, what’s trending just to know if it’s worth the noise, good blurbs still influence me etc.

 21. What books are currently on your to-be-read list?

Ha! I’ve lost count. But currently, Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

 


Poetra Asantewa Interview - Afoma UmesiAma Asantewa Diaka is a poet, writer and performing artist from Ghana who is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing at the School of Arts Institute in Chicago.
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Book’d is a weekly bookish interview series seeking to foster conversation on books and reading. Read our last interview with author Sharlene Teo here.